Last.fm has released their annual charts for users, I’m not surprised that Hinds topped my artist, album, and track charts. I was super obsessed with them last summer. Still love that album, but maybe not quite that much, although I am listening to it again while I write this post.
The report shows me listening the most on Sundays, which is kind of surprising because I do a lot of music listening at work, but not too surprising because I’m also quite often listening to new music on Sundays to prep for my radio show on Mondays if I haven’t been quite as on top of it as I would like to be, which is most of the time. 77% of the music I listened to last year was new-to-me (or at least newly scrobbled to last.fm from me, which is virtually the same thing at this point).
This session covers the types of needs users have, how discovery tools can help or hinder, and some discovery beyond the basic catalog.
Discovery in a library context happens in the discovery tools (catalog, next-gen layers, web-scale tools, external collections, etc.). A discovery tool that works for music will work well for (almost) anything. Just because a service works well for simple things or known items doesn’t mean it will work well for more complex resources.
Music searches may be a cluster of queries that can but not necessarily overlap. They could be known contributors/creators, but could also be forms and genres not necessarily covered by basic search facets.
MLA has created a document for music discovery requirements in 2012. The primary audience is not music catalogers, and it describes the characteristics of materials and their importance in discovery. It focuses on bibliographic records, but they recognize that the future of discovery will need to include authority data. There is also an appendix with a spreadsheet with some suggested MARC mappings.
Uniform titles are the way music cataloging has identified works for collocation. There is a long list of fields that contain this information, and often the differentiation is buried deep in subfields.
Compilations need to have their content notes displayed and indexed.
They use WorldCat Local for local/global holdings, their classic catalog (Voyager) for local holdings (what they usually push to users for music discovery), and Summon (articles, ebooks, streaming, A/V), as well as their music databases web page of links.
They are implementing Blacklight for a bento box approach (beta interface). They have the single search implemented, but won’t have the bento aspect until next year.
She is serving as the music library representative on the implementation team, and has been able to contribute feedback about the kinds of searching and facets that they need. One that they are most excited about is being able to search by the publisher number or record label catalog number.
[There were lots more examples of how Blacklight is working with music catalog records. Check the slides (when they are posted) and read the proceedings for more information. I kind of zoned out because it wasn’t the information I needed.]
Some of you may know that I enjoy singing in choirs/choruses/chorales these days, even doing a solo every now and then, but I’ll bet few of you know that I was too shy to sing in front of most people until my second year of college. Most of my college friends could sing pretty well, and many of them were in the university chorale or the chamber choir. I loved singing, but I was too nervous and shy to audition, as much as I wanted to. Somehow, they convinced me to take a voice class. Not private lessons, but with a small group of students and one teacher, all at once.
This was safe for me to start out in. We sang everything together, until our final, and that was the first time I’d sung for real, alone, in front of anyone. It was terrifying! But it also gave me the courage to go through the audition process the next year, and I was in the chorale for the second half of my college career.
Since then, I’ve sung with Sacred Harp groups, church choirs, community women’s choruses, and a university women’s chorus (I still sing with two groups that fit in the last two categories). It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I sometimes marvel at how a person who was too shy to sing in front of a handfull of friends can now stand on stage and sing in front of hundreds of strangers.
In college, I was obsessed with singing low. I was proud to sing the alto part, and one of my fellow altos and I would frequently try to hide with the basses until our director made us go back to our section. For me, alto meant harmony and something interesting. Soprano seemed, well, boring.
These days, I sing first alto or second soprano, depending on the group and the arrangement. And the strange thing is, I’m finding that the low notes aren’t as much fun anymore, and sometimes are rather uncomfortable to sing. My voice, as women’s voices do, has been changing and maturing over the years. When I moved over to the second soprano section in my community women’s chorus last year, it was the first time I acknowledge that shift to anyone, including myself. It was a bit of an identity crisis at first, but I’ve come to embrace it.
Back in that voice class in college, my instructor called me a “chicken soprano,” and she was right. I could sing higher than I was willing to (or brave enough to) back then. Now I know I can, and I have quite often. The strange thing is, I can feel my voice changing. I started noticing this on octave leaps that would take me up to the C above middle-C, and beyond. They didn’t feel strained anymore — I just thought it, and then sang it with confidence.
My ear is much better. I have a good sense of certain notes and placement and intervals, although I couldn’t tell you what a perfect fourth or a major seventh sounded like to save my life. Those names never stuck with me. But, I can sight read pretty well, if you give me a starting point, and back in the day I had to hear it a few times before I could follow along.
So, I’m moving into my upper range, and it feels fine. But also weird. Sometimes, I can’t trust my sense of place anymore, because what feels like a G may be something else entirely now. My voice breaks are shifting, or maybe I’m just not as aware of them anymore.
This makes me feel less certain. Unbalanced. And it doesn’t help that I’m turning 37 this year.
Back to that voice class and the instructor who told me I was a chicken soprano… she also told us that women’s voices hit their peak maturity around age 37. To my 19-year-old mind, that seemed like a future so distant I couldn’t even imagine it, and now I’m here. Or nearly there.
People talk about how turning 30 wasn’t as big of a deal as turning 31. I get that. For me, as a woman and a singer, I think this 37th birthday is going to be more significant than either of those previous milestones. I’m just not sure if I’m ready for that to happen yet. Luckily, I have about six months to figure it out.
I’ve never sung in a collegiate a cappella group, and have no idea what it’s really like. That being said, I do have years of choral group experience to draw on for comparison. But, do you need any of that to enjoy the movie Pitch Perfect? No. Just a good sense of humor and an appreciation for modern pop music.
In case you haven’t heard of it, and I’m not surprised if you haven’t, there’s a new movie out called Pitch Perfect. It’s about college a cappella, the first year college experience, and taking risks.
It’s also fiction, so don’t take it too seriously. The boy gets the girl. The troubled youth defeats her inner demons. The underdog wins. Typical movie with a happy ending.
The real thrills came from the music. It was fun! Simply fun! Like the performances we saw on the three years of NBC’s The Sing-Off, there’s nothing quite like watching/hearing a group of singers using only their mouths and voices to perform creative arrangements of pop songs.
Simply put, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect. It was funny without being gross, and touching without being melodramatic. Go see it. It’ll be worth the ticket price.
This past weekend I went to my fourth RavenCon, the local science fiction slash fantasy slash gaming slash podcasting slash writing slash whatever convention. As I was getting ready to head over to the hotel for the first day, I reminded myself that there would be a lot of “attempts at conversations with socially awkward people” and I shouldn’t be too put off by this. As it turns out, there were far fewer of them than what I encountered at my first RavenCon, in part because I now have a “tribe” of folks that come regularly and with whom (for the most part) there are no awkward conversations.
In fact, I spent very little time participating in the con programming, and far more time talking with friends about anything and everything. So, I can’t really say whether this was a good RavenCon or not, except that for me, it was fantastic and more fun than I expected.
The Holiday Inn Koger Center renovated the lobby since last year, putting in a bar and lots of conversational seating groups. This became our default gathering space around meal times or between panels. At any given time, if I wandered out there, I’d see at least one person that I knew and wanted to hang out with.
I also found myself living the mantra of “where I am now is where I want to be.” Often when I am at conferences or conventions with many options of things to do and people to do them with, I will end up feeling like the option I didn’t choose would have been better, regardless of whether that is true or not. This time around, I managed to enjoy myself with most everything, at least, until the end when I was too tired to enjoy much of anything that wasn’t my bed and a darkened room.
It’s 2011, and these are the albums of 2010 that I’m still listening to on a weekly basis.
I haven’t listened to every album that was released last year. Who has the time? I have, however, listened to quite a few of the 2010 releases over the year, both out of personal interest and for the local community radio station where I volunteer.
There were quite a few surprise favorites among the bunch. Surprise in that I didn’t expect I’d like them, much less become obsessed with them and continue to listen with great pleasure months later. So, with that, I bring you the top unexpected favorite album of 2010.
Released in the UK last year, the album made its way to US shores in February this year. I saw the press releases due to my work with Blogcritics, but nothing about them made me think this would be an album I’d enjoy. However, when I saw it on the “to be reviewed” shelf at the radio station in April, I gave it a cursory listen and decided it might be worth giving more attention.
Eight months later, I’m still listening to it, and count it among my go-to albums for when I need energy and a happy mood. Black has successfully melded synthpop, creative lyrical songwriting, and addictive hooks. This is no flash in the pan album/artist — there’s potential for longevity and continued freshness in Black’s sound.
Marina Diamandis released her debut album in March, but I didn’t notice it until a friend sent me a link to the video for “I Am Not a Robot.” This sparked my interest enough that when I had the opportunity to review it for the radio station, I gave it a few spins. It’s still spinning on regular rotation in my personal library now.
The album is chock full of pop hooks, delivered by a woman who’s vocal range and technique is impressive in this age of female pop stars who are more popular for their paparazzi photos than their musical talents. She frequently belts out higher notes that make my cats cringe when I attempt to sing along. Marina can hit them with ease. I cannot. This is probably why she’s a huge UK pop star and I’m some shmuck writing music reviews.
I can’t remember how I first ran across this album — whether it was one I picked to review for the radio station or one that a music director handed to me thinking I’d like it. Regardless, I found myself listening to Phantogram on repeat for a week or so in May, and few things will make me happy in the way I am when I hear the first few bars of “Mouthful of Diamonds.”
Sarah Barthel’s sweet and pure vocals are a nice balance to the rough (and often bizarre) vocal delivery from her partner, Josh Carter. The arrangements are a meld of synthpop, hip-hop, and singer/songwriter folk/pop. It’s similar to Dan Black, but a little more digitized and dirty.
Jennifer Knapp – Letting Go
I reviewed this for Blogcritics back in May, and you can read the full review if you like. In brief, this is her best album to date, and well deserving of a listen for anyone who enjoys thoughtful lyrics, strong female vocals, and music that straddles the line between acoustic and electric folk-pop.
The Like – Release Me
From what I understand, this is nothing like their earlier releases. The album has a 60’s girl-group sound with a modern attitude, similar to the Pipettes.
Indigo Girls – Staring Down the Brilliant Dream
Of course I have to include this in my list, but mostly because I’ve been a long-time fan of the group. This is a live album, and serves both as a gift to fans and as an excellent “best of” album to introduce the group to new listeners. I gave it a full review in August, if you’re interested in reading more.
Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup – “We No Speak Americano“
I discovered this song when a friend linked to a video created by Irish step dancers Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding doing their hand dance to this track. I watched the video countless times before researching and discovering that the track is an international hit. Even without the hand dancing, it’s still one of my favorite dance tracks of 2010.
The Richmond Folk Festival got its start five years ago when the National Folk Festival was hosted here from 2005-2007. The first year I could attend was 2008, but it happens that the RFF coincides with my undergraduate homecoming weekend, and it was a reunion year for my class, so I opted to do that instead. The following year I went to homecoming again, but this year I decided that it was time to check out the festival instead.
The festival starts on Friday evening and runs through Sunday evening. There are seven stages scattered throughout the riverfront area, including two on Browns Island. The terrain is helpful for blocking sound between the stages so that concurrent performances aren’t interrupting each other. The performances are scheduled in a slightly staggered manner, and many of the artists have repeat performances on a different stage and time/day, so in that regard the festival organizers are making sure that everyone has a chance to see the performances they want to see, which is pretty handy considering that more than 190,000 people attended this year.
I was particularly thrilled to hear and meet some of the Sacred Harp singers from Sand Mountain, Alabama. They performed on one of the stages on Saturday, and thanks to some friends, I had a seat in the second row. Then on Sunday, as I was walking through the festival, I stumbled upon them holding a somewhat impromptu (not scheduled but sanctioned by festival organizers) open sing, and was able to join them for the last four songs.
The most entertaining performance award goes to Capoeira Luanda. They showed amazing strength, flexibility, and focus in their demonstration of this African-influenced Brazilian dance/game/martial art. Here’s a video that someone shot during the Saturday evening performance I saw:
The two other stand-out performances I saw were Benedicte Maurseth and Andes Manta. I have heard recordings of the Hardangfele, or Hardanger fiddle, but it wasn’t until Maurseth explained the construction that I understood why it sounds like two people playing when it’s only one. The fiddle has a set of strings under the ones that are touched by the bow which resonate when the string above them vibrates. She played some trance tunes that were so hauntingly beautiful that I felt a little lost when the music ended. Andes Manta are group of brothers who perform traditional Andean music, including flutes, panpipes, and several stringed instruments. I could have listened to them for hours.
One of the aspects of the folk fest performances that I particularly enjoyed was the educational component. I walked away from most performances with a greater understanding of the context, culture, and technical aspects of the music. Getting some education with my entertainment is a nice bonus.
Unfortunately, because I volunteered about 8 hours of my time at an information booth, I missed quite a bit of the festival (minus what I could hear from one of the nearby stages). While I enjoyed helping out, I think next time I will try to pick a volunteer shift that doesn’t overlap with quite so much of the performance times.
The folk fest is admissions-free, but they do suggest a $5 donation per person per day. There are people carrying bright orange five-gallon buckets all over the event, asking for donations from the people attending, but on average, they collected less than $0.40 per person this year. Thankfully, they are able to get sponsorships to cover the rest of the costs of the festival, but there’s some concern that the festival may have to scale back or start charging an entry fee if they don’t get more donations in the future.
So, if you’re in the Richmond area next October and you are looking for something relatively inexpensive and fun to do, please be sure to check out the folk festival!
This live album includes many of the band’s popular tunes, and serves as a “best of” recording much better than any compilation of their past studio work could attempt to do, mainly because as precise and flawless as the studio recordings can be, they do not convey the energy contained in a live performance, which is a significant part of their appeal. [more]
…Duarte outlines the elements that make up an effective presentation design, and provides many real-world examples of these elements in action. She does not give too many details on specific tools and functions within particular slide presentation programs; instead, she provides the reader with the design theory needed to create an effective presentation. [more]
Beginning with the post-relationship celebrity breakdown of “So What,” P!nk tells stories of substance abuse, co-dependency, and emotional/physical abuse. Alternatively cursing her lover and also pleading with them to not leave, she explores the complexity that led to the broken ending that began the album. [more]
The visual enhancements, for the most part, are not noticeable unless one is obsessively familiar with every detail of the original format, and in most cases, they stand out only against scenes that did not clean up quite as well.
This weekend, I’m back in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for Homecoming weekend at my alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University. In fact, I am writing this courtesy of the as-yet-not login-required computers in the university library.
Except for the addition of a few more computers, and a small DVD collection where the reference books used to live, the library looks much like it did when I was a student here ten years ago. I think the chairs might be new. They’re more comfortable than I remember.
Not that I remember many details of my college years. That’s the problem I’ve been noticing as I wander around, wondering if the person walking past me was a classmate or if they just look like someone I know. Even the people I’ve met who remember me are fuzzy in my mind. How did I know them then? Did we have a class together? Did we have mutual friends?
I’ve kept in touch with many of my college friends, but we were a small class, so I was acquaintances with most of the rest of them, or at the very least, I knew their name and what they looked like. And, I interacted with students in the other classes which came before and after me. All of this makes it difficult for me to remember just how I knew the people I am reconnecting with now.
In addition to all that, I’ve changed since college. Physically, I’ve put on a great deal of weight, I wear glasses, and my hair is much shorter. Socially, I’m more adept and personable (I think), and I’m less rigid in insisting that my views/philosophies are the only right ones.
I may not remember my old classmates in great detail, but I can’t assume they have as fuzzy memories of me. How do I convey who I am now when the ghost of who I was then still lingers?
Why do I feel that is important? It’s not as though we are a part of each other’s lives anymore and I need their acceptance in order to survive socially. I have gone on for 10 years without them, thankyouverymuch, and I can go on another 10 just the same. However, there is a part of me that craves acceptance, and no matter how much I grow stronger in myself, I still want everyone to like me.
I hope I’ll have gotten over this by our 20 year reunion, but for now, I should head over to the soccer game and see who’s there. Maybe if I show some school spirit it’ll make me seem more like one of them.
I’ve decided that one way I can keep this blog from being just a “look at my latest review/article on Blogcritics” blog would be to do monthly summaries rather than individual posts right after each article is published. Here’s the first installment.
The second track is the album’s lead single, “Ghost,” and it’s easy to hear why that was chosen. The song’s pulsating beat and repetitive chorus are addictive and likely to be club favorites. “I’m Not Scared” follows with a relentless grind and power rock chords that touches the musical soul and compels the listener to crank up the volume a little bit more. With the attitude and energy level of the album set within the first few tracks, the band takes a moment to give the listener a breather before launching back in with the electronic wave assault prevalent in most of the rest of the tracks.
An aspect of the show that I find very appealing is the relationship between Laura and Rosemary. Early on in the series, they addressed the social perception that the only reason why two grown women could care about each other is because they are romantically linked (“Arabica and the Early Spider”). With that bigoted and misguided stereotype thrown out the window, Ferris and Kendal set out to develop their character’s friendship to be something deeper and stronger than what is usually shown on an episodic dramedy television series. The interplay between the two went from merely comedic to the kind of inside joke humor that happens only between very close friends.
It’s difficult to peg this album into any particular genre. There are elements of folk, pop, and even touches of the wall-of-sound aspects of electronica, although no processors are used in the creation of the music. And, just when you think you’ve got a label, with gusto she throws in the ragtime-style song “Hard to Say.”
That’s all for now! As you can tell from my sidebar, I have a few items that I’ll be working on this next month, although one is for a print publication due out later this year or early next year.