Friday, November 4, 2016

Top 5 Greatest Presidential Campaign Songs

Every four years, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the United States of America come together to decry the negativity and hyperbole flooding the airwaves and to complain that election season is way too long. Then, on Election Day, we collectively give a sigh of relief to celebrate the end of the craziness.

As we approach the end of the 2016 presidential race, we thought we’d pay our respects to some of the greatest songs used (sometimes without permission or approval of the artist) during campaign events organized by candidates for the presidency. Here are our top 5:

Happy Days Are Here Again by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen

Used most famously by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, “Happy Days Are Here Again” helped convey optimism in a troubled time, when the country was mired in a deep economic depression, and when political strife in Europe and Asia suggested another war world was possible.

California Here I Come by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Meyer

Like Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 signaled a political and ideological shift in the country, which had been beset by economic stagnation and international turmoil. Reagan, in running against an incumbent, argued that his successful service as Governor of California would translate to success as President, and he would be able to lead the country in very challenging times. 

Don't Stop by Fleetwood Mac

Bill Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination in 1992 despite a contentious primary, during which he secured himself the moniker “The Comeback Kid” after losing a state he had been projected to win due to damaging revelations. “Don’t Stop” has become his theme song in many ensuing political events.

Only In America by Brooks & Dunn

“Only In America” has been used widely by a variety of campaigns, most prominently by George W. Bush and by Barack Obama. In both cases, it served as an uplifting anthem to rally a deeply divided country.

You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones

Donald Trump has run a unique campaign, channeling the frustration of millions of people who have not felt heard or represented by government. The campaign songs used by his campaign similarly reflect the dissatisfaction and anger made manifest in a highly polarized nation.

What are your favorite campaign songs? Let us know!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Top 10 Disney Songs

For decades, Disney has produced innumerable hit songs featured in their films. Beloved by children and adults alike, these songs run the gamut – fun Broadway-esque showstoppers, romantic ballads, and silly sing-alongs. These “evergreen” works will remain familiar and popular; well-written, catchy, and enjoyable both to perform and listen to, they are masterful works.

We decided to review Disney soundtracks and identify our top 10. Do you agree with these selections? Let us know!



Sleeping Beauty



The Jungle Book

The Lion King

Beauty and the Beast

The Little Mermaid

Mary Poppins

Monday, October 3, 2016

Marginally Interesting Moments in Musical History (Edition 1)

Do you remember when you were studying history in school, and how extraordinary the events and people you covered were? And, despite that, did you ever feel like your teacher had the unique ability to turn everything that was exciting and remarkable into the most dreadfully dreary and boring material? Welcome to Marginally Interesting Moments in Musical History, a continuing series of bite-sized tidbits and trivia that may or may not be apocryphal, but always fun to read!

In this edition, we’ll recount the tale of the brief encounter between the famous stride pianist Fats Waller and the notorious mobster Al Capone.

Successful early in life, Fats Waller, composer of such hits as “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” found himself on the wrong end of the barrel of a gun after a performance in Chicago in 1926. Several men pushed him into a car, and the understandably terrified Waller anticipated an untimely demise. He was taken to a building and shoved inside.

Although for very different reasons, Al Capone, the Prohibition era gangster dubbed “Public Enemy No. 1,” was similarly successful early in life. On the very evening Waller was kidnapped, Capone was celebrating his birthday. He and his goons warmly greeted their surprise (and surprised) guest, Waller, who promptly was ordered to play the piano in the room. Waller did so.

Three days later, when the party concluded, Waller departed. Very tired and perhaps a little drunk, he had nevertheless enjoyed a prosperous outing. The partygoers evidently had appreciated the services rendered, as they had provided Waller thousands of dollars in tips.

Stay tuned for the next Marginally Interesting Moment in Musical History!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Brief Introduction to Dynamics

In musical notation, dynamic markings instruct performers to play a passage loudly or quietly. Dynamics provided are relative – that is, there is not a specified volume level associated with a particular marking. There are two fundamental indications: f, or forte, and p, or piano. The forte marking means “loud,” and the piano marking means “soft.”

Very rarely will a performer be instructed to play a piece entirely at one dynamic level. By concatenating forte or piano markings, a composer imparts the level of loudness or softness. The marking ff (“fortissimo”) is louder than f, and pp (“pianissimo”) is softer than p. Continuing to link together the marking indicates more intense levels – fff is louder than ff, which is louder than f; ppp is quieter than pp, which is quieter than p. In the middle are mf, or mezzo-forte, and mp, or mezzo-piano, which indicate a moderate level of loudness and softness, respectively.

Other instructions let the performer know whether to employ a dynamic marking suddenly or gradually. “Crescendo” instructs the performer to gradually increase the volume, and “diminuendo” means gradually become softer. “Sforzando,” abbreviated sfz, tells the performer to accent a note or play a note louder. The fortepiano indication, fp, means play loudly initially, then immediately play softly.

Dynamics are very important and help provide color and interest to music. A passage ordinarily played quietly can impart a very different experience to an audience if played loudly and forcefully. It is crucial to understand dynamics to properly interpret the intentions of a composer, but it can also help a performer develop their own unique approach to interpretation when dynamics are not provided.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

10 Songs for Fall

Thursday, September 22nd, is the Autumnal Equinox – the first day of Fall. We’ve compiled our listening list! Have you?

From yearning for the changing colors of the seasons to sadness about the end of a blissful summer, here are ten songs for the onset of Fall. Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Monday, September 19, 2016

10 Piano Pieces for Beginners

Have you been playing scales, arpeggios, and other piano exercises? Looking for some actual music to sink your fingers into? There’s a lot of music out there. Some pieces are amazing to listen to, but technically challenging and beyond the reach of many pianists. Other works are easy to play, but perhaps lacking in musical aesthetic.

Here’s a list of works that are approachable, but also fun. Some will require more practice and skill than others, but none should be out of reach of pianists who are learning their craft and diligent in improving their skills: