Thursday, October 16, 2014

This is your BRAIN on GUITAR!

In a 2012 study in Berlin, Germany, researchers hooked up 12 guitar players to brain scanners and learned some pretty amazing things. They had the guitarists all play the same piece together (ie. like a big guitar band), and what they saw was that their brain waves synchronized together while playing the piece. Even more interesting was the fact that their brain waves actually synchronized slightly before they started to play (like they were all coming to starting gates of a race at the same time).

Being more of a keyboard/piano player myself, I wonder what the brain scans would look like for musicians playing other instruments playing the same piece of music. What if you had a full band with different instruments, say piano, guitar, bass, drums and maybe a horn section? If they were all playing the same piece with the same notes written out would their brains synchronize as well? Or is there something different about guitar player brains as a recent article in The Open Mind suggests.

I do agree with the article when it claims that that guitarists often tend to be the more creative musicians. Maybe its the years of trying to emulate and outdo guitar solos from the all the guitar virtuosos from the last 40-50 years starting with Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, BB King, Jimmy Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Slash and a host of others. When you are trying to play what you hope is an exceptional guitar solo (or any instrument for that matter), at some point you let go of your conscious mind to see where you're creative brain waves will take you on their own. I know myself I have written some of my very best pieces of music when I forced myself to not think about what I was doing, but instead just let my hands and fingers go where they wanted. Sometimes our best path to discovery of any kind is to let go and see what floats back into our being from the universe (I'm getting a bit spiritual here I know, no apologies :)).

To learn more about the Berlin research please check out this article on The Open Mind website: The Open Mind: This is Your Brain On Guitar

Stop back this weekend for an update on how our visit to the John Lennon Education Bus went this week - in short it was pretty amazing but we'll have more details and pictures to share. For now have a great Fridayyyy (almost) and will be back this weekend with our next post.

Love, Music & Laughter,

~Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Thursday, October 9, 2014

BBC Music releases one of the coolest cover songs ever!

The BBC, one of the most well known and trusted sources for news and information, has jumped into the music business with BBC Music, and to celebrate they have created one amazing rendition of "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. With proceeds going to the BBC's Children in Need charity, the song features an amazing cast of artists including Sir Elton John, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Lordes, Sam Smith, Kylie Minogue PLUS Brian May from Queen rockin' the guitar. They were joined of course by the legendary songwriter and Beach Boy himself, Brian Wilson who appears twice briefly during the entertaining 3 minute video.

The recording and video feature 27 different artists and is backed up by the 80 piece BBC Orchestra. The artists participating range from pop to rock, and classical to opera (yes opera!) - together they've created a very heart-warming rendition of the Beach Boys classic.

Here's a link to the Forbes article where I first discovered this: Elton-John-Lorde-Pharrell-and-more-help-launch-BBC-Music-initiative-with-Amazing-Beach-Boys-Cover-Video

The Guardian takes it one step further by giving us the lowdown of exactly who is in the video and when plus giving us their performance rating of each performer (does this now count as an Olympic charity single since we have scores or maybe at least a shot on The Voice or American Idol :)). The Guardian - BBC-God-Only-Knows-Cover-Every-Performance-Reviewed-and-Rated

And now for the video itself, check it out and see if you don't agree its one of the coolest cover songs and videos you've ever seen:

That wraps it up for today kiddies - I'll be back soon with another post as soon as I dig myself out of my "to do" pile of fun sitting on my desk :) Have a great day and be sure to play some extra music tooooday!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014

John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Brings Unique Music Experience to Schools

For 17 years, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus has brought music recording and video production experiences to students all over the USA with their high-tech (and colorful) bus. With the assistance of three on-board engineers, students learn how to write, perform, record, and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries and complete a broadcast quality music video – all in a single day. Boy what I would have done to have experienced something like this when I was in school! Endorsed by John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, the bus is also supported by long list of corporate partners including Apple, Sony, Yamaha, Gibson and many more

From the LennonBus.org website:

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is highly adaptable, and is designed to provide students, their schools and communities with performances, demonstrations, remote recordings, and studio sessions customized for their needs, levels of experience and interest. The bus travels the country visiting schools, musical and technology conferences and events, and partners with newspapers and other media to host Battles of the Bands with the national winner selected online

I recently learned that the tour bus will be visiting a school just 10 minutes from where we live, so we are hoping to get a up close glimpse of what they are doing and will do another post about it.

I can remember very clearly the time period when John Lennon passed away. I was playing in a wedding & club band called "The Sound Of Gold" and we played many Beatles songs with the band leader Mark Tully taking the Lennon parts and me doing my best with the McCartney parts (my voice was definitely still developing then :)). I remember we played a New Years Eve event just 3 weeks after he passed and performed a tribute to Lennon with a heavy dose of Lennon influenced Beatles songs along with some Lennon solo tunes. To this day I still perform "Imagine" whenever, wherever I can. This song along with "Let There Be Peace On Earth", perfectly embody what each and every person in this world need to fully embrace, one by one. I can only hope that through music, arts and other non-violent means we can slowly move towards this end for the human race.

I'll leave you with the song that John Lennon is most remembered for.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people, living life in peace..

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I hope you have a wonderful day and stay tuned for some more fun posts coming this week on "how music can help you!" :)

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Monday, September 29, 2014

Heard any good Babylonian Love Songs Lately??

Believe it or not, there was most definitely music in ancient times. While written records and notations telling us exactly what the music might have sounded like don't exist, there were enough clues left behind to let us know that music did indeed exist. Stef Conner is a performer, composer and musicologist who is working with a group that recreated an ancient lyre and is trying to reverse engineer music from the 2nd millennium BC. Originally from Sussex, England, Conner has performed across multiple continents to critical acclaim all along the way. With a PhD in composition, she has studied jazz, classical and many other forms of music. Her training and worldly musical experiences have definitely helped prepare her for what many would consider an amazing challenge: How to write music that sounds like what ancient music would have really sounded like

Conner was able use her skills and knowledge to make the long leap from modern folk music to possible ancient love songs by teaming up with Andy Lowings, and the Gold Lyre of Ur Project. This project actually built a replica of a 4,550-year-old Mesopotamian gold lyre and asked Stef to compose music for the lyre. When asked how she attempts to best write compositions that might sound something like ancient Mesopotamian music, Conner states:

"I propose to look for features that recur frequently in living music linked to Mesopotamia. The point is to look for the most consistent features in a widely dispersed collection of music. The most commonly occurring will be those most likely to have been features of Mesopotamian music, either because they have been preserved through musical lineages branching out from Mesopotamia, or because external influences have caused them to be invented over and over."

Last year, Conner and the Gold Lyre of UR Project recorded the results—an album of contemporary music, sung in Babylonian, called The Flood, which will be out December 2014.

We originally learned about Stef and her ancient music project via Slate Magazine - Babylonian Music Recreated . To reach Stef Conner directly you can go to her website Stef Conner - The Lyre Ensemble .

I'll leave you with a short video clip from the Gold Lyre of Ur Project which by the date appears to possible before Conner was involved. Some fascinating pictures of ancient artifacts straight from British and other museums along with some ancient sounding melodies. Please enjoy and we'll see you for another post very soon!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Music helps teacher speak again after brain surgery

Allison Woyiwada is a music teacher from Ottawa, Canada, and had literally taught thousands of elementary school students in her 28 year career. In 2012, she was diagnosed with an brain aneurysm which required a very delicate and risky surgery. When she emerged from the surgery, her family quickly realized that she had lost most of her motor and speech skills. Two months after the surgery she basically had the skills of toddler, unable to even put two words together.

Then a miracle happened. Her daughter was pushing Allison in a wheelchair through a hospital waiting area and saw a piano. She wheeled her mom up to the piano and then something amazing happened. Allison started to play the piano, and not just any song. She began to play the Beethoven Sonata sheet music that was sitting on the piano at the time. Her daughter and everyone around was absolutely astonished. Allison soon began working with a music therapist who used a method called "melodic intonation therapy" to help bring back her speech. Today, just two years after the surgery, Allison is almost fully recovered and is once again teaching music and even sings in French, German and English.

Stories like Allison's never cease to amaze me. Once again, musical therapy has proven to be a sometimes miraculously tool when someone is up against something seemingly insurmountable. For the full account of Allison's amazing journey and recovery thanks to music, I invite you to check out the newly published book entitled "Allison's Brain" by author Robert McMechan found on Amazon.com right here: Allison's Brain - Amazon.com

I first learned of this story through CBCNews and CBC Radio in Ottawa. Here's a link to the CBC Radio story in Ottawa by Anna Maria Tremonte Allisons Brain Documentary

That's our inspirational story of the week, and I hope you liked it as much as we did. We'll be back tomorrow night with a new post, and if you've got an inspirational story to share please let us know about it. Thanks and goooood nite all!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

85% of all Music Sales in Japan are CDs - Yes in 2014!!

I was just amazed as you may have been reading this. Normally the Japanese are ahead of the technology curve on most things, but it seems there are a number of factors keeping the CD alive and well in this Asian isle. Apparently the digital rights issues have not been worked out quite as well over there as in the US. Two of the biggest music streaming companies, Spotify and Rdio are not yet launched in Japan. That combined with the fact that it seems the culture there really still likes to have a physical souvenir in the shape of a CD case and booklet with their music. Tower Records, the huge music chain that went out of business in the US almost 10 years ago, STILL is alive and well with 85 stores in Japan with annual sales around 500 million. On one hand all this seems very strange to us in the US, however CDs apparently still account for 40 percent of all music sales world wide.

So I guess I'll hang on to my supply of Vincent James "One More Night" CDs and see if there's a way I can get them shipped and sold over in Japan. We are planning a trip there sometime next year so I'll have to find a way to stash of box of CDs for the visit :)

To read more about this very interesting CD phenomena check out the full article in this weeks Forbes Magazine at 85-Percent-of-Music-Sales-in-Japan-are-CDs

I'll leave you today with a fun novelty tune from way back in 1980 when vinyl records still ruled the day. Take a walk back in history with The Vapors and "Turning Japanese":

Have a great nite and will be back tomorrow with another ppppost!

Music, Love & Laughter

~Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com www.Facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Apple and U2 - "Songs of Innocence" not so Innocent!

So it seems about a week ago, Apple and U2 decided to band together and release their new album "Songs of Innocence" to the masses. Far from being a traditional release, they instead decided to "give" the album away to the 500 million or so ITunes subscribers on the planet. Seems like a great promotional idea doesn't it? Well maybe 5 years ago it might have been, but now it just seems like a last ditch effort for a once iconic band to stay relevant, AND what has now become a complete PR disaster.

I was a huge U2 back in the day, when the band and their music stood for something a lot more important than making money. Songs like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", "Pride (in the name of Love)" and "New Years Day" were all about our human struggle and crying out for a better world. But with U2 and the marketing company pocketing a reported $ 100 Million dollars to "give" their music away, it seems the Bono, The Edge and the boys have really lost their way. If U2 really wanted to actually GIVE their music away as a true gift, they wouldn't have felt the need to concoct such an enormous payday for themselves in the process.

I also wonder if Apple would have stooped so low if Steve Jobs were still with us. The other side of this is Apple should have known better than to force free music downloads on the world, at a time when people just don't want downloads anymore. Whether we like it or want it or not, we are in a music streaming world now - the masses have spoken, so now we music creators need to adapt to this new paradigm. Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, and surely would have seen that the U2 download push promotion was a bad idea, and crafted a more creative way to get the buzz Apple was seeking.

Here are just two of my favorite U2 songs from back in the day. First there is "Pride (In the name of Love)":

And then there's "New Years Day":

There was also "With or Without You" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" from the Joshua Tree album in 1987 and "Beautiful Day" from 1993 and "Desire" from 1997. These were all great songs, but I'm having trouble latching onto something that stands out in the last 10-15 years. Instead of a crazy publicity stunt to try and stay relevant, what U2 needs is to go back to their musical roots. Try writing about what really matters in the world, and then deliver that message with the same passion they started out with. I realize that for many artists this is an extremely difficult, if not impossible task. Because of their success, their lives and fortunes have changed so much and its hard to remember what it was really like in the beginning. All we can do is hope Bono and the boys find their way after this incident and manage to come back with a song that really inspires us once again.

NOTE: I tried to find the new U2 album "Songs of Innocence" in my ITunes player and it seems to be hidden very well (or maybe I just need to update to a newer ITunes :)) . Oh well, I'll just head online to stream a few songs and hope that maybe there's still a nugget of greatness among the new U2 tunes.

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com