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About Summer Muse

Really, there’s no deep meaning behind my name. I’m the Summer Muse because I started writing here during the summer, I absolutely adore music, and I often lose myself in my musings. I take walks with my dog, read Yahoo! Finance news, chase seagulls, and am an absolute master baker... of pecan pies. I hope to one day be a New York Times Bestselling Author... or an astrophysicist. I haven't decided yet.
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How To Soundproof A Room

There are many reasons to soundproof a room. Maybe you want to block outside ambient noise. Maybe you want to soundproof your home office to block out your kids as they shout and bang into things. Or maybe you don’t want to disturb neighbors as you turn your speakers and subwoofers up. Whatever your reasons, soundproofing a room is useful and can be fairly easy to do.

The simplest solution is to seal up all the openings in a room. If there are any cracks in the wall, be sure to seal them with caulking. If there are any vents in the room, sound-baffling materials such as foam insulation should work. Insulation works for outlets and other small openings in the room as well. Windows also let in a large amount of sound. If you don’t need to use the windows, you can install drywall over it with insulation between the glass and the drywall. If you need to use the window, then hang heavy curtains over the window, and when the curtains are in use, make sure the openings at the sides are as small as possible, fastening them down if you wish.

Soft materials absorb sound much more efficiently than do hard materials. So the installation of carpets is more practical than tile or hardwood floors. There are special acoustic ceiling tiles that help to block the sound between floors. Carpeting or foam wall coverings work well.

Soundproofing not only keeps sound out, but it also improves the overall sound quality of the room. This is important if you are creating a home theater, recording studio, or music room. If you want to have any of these rooms in your house, I would recommend soundproofing the room while you’re at it. You won’t regret it!

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Garage Band: A Classic App

If you’ve ever owned a Mac, then you’ve probably used, or at least heard of, the application known as GarageBand. It’s there, on every single Apple computer, for your use. On a rainy day, when there’s nothing for children to do, they plop themselves down in front of the computer and discover that they can make music—without any instruments or equipment. They just have to use GarageBand. It provides hours of entertainment for the kids, and hours of relief for the parents. Not that adults don’t enjoy using the application too.

GarageBand has moved from being an application solely found on the Apple computers to an app for the iPhone and the iPad as well. It is a very popular app, if truth be told. Often ridiculed for the tunes produced, the application is quite practical. When my brother was a young boy, he would spend hours on GarageBand, combining sounds and instruments, recording his voice, and even playing his clarinet. He produced an album, albeit an extremely amateur album, but he was very proud of his work. And it did sound good! I have become well acquainted with the application through my brother’s enthusiasm, and so recognize various sound sequences that come pre-made in the app. Because of this, I have recognized music produced on GarageBand featured in local commercials aired at the movie theater. It’s very practical. If you have even the slightest ear for music, it is not difficult to make a simple and short tune for musical accompaniment. It won’t cost any money, and you won’t have to deal with any copyright issues. That makes it perfect for companies that are just starting up and are on a tight budget. Music certainly aids in the advertisement of a product, and GarageBand can provide that music.

It really is amazing what you can produce using GarageBand. Here is a great example of GarageBand-produced music in action:

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Nokia Design Contest Winners’ Designs Actually Produced

In 2008, a contest was set before artists and designers. The challenge was to design headphones based on a song title. The contest, entitled the Nokia Music Almighty Headset Competition, has spurred the creation of numerous unique headphones.

A particularly inspired design came from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The headphones, called “The Graveyard Shift,” features zombies, tombstones, werewolves, and other aspects of horror. The adornments flow together seamlessly, creating a very natural and aesthetic feel to the headphones.

Another memorable design is that of G Smith, inspired by Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock.” The sleek silver headphones are a work of art, transforming the wearer into a being reminiscent of a robot.

Another exceptional design comes from R. Kelly’s song “I Believe I Can Fly.” Designed by Rodshakur, the “I’m Flying” headset design evokes images of angels, of the snow-white wings of a dove, or perhaps of the Greek god Hermes. They flash electric blue sparingly along the inside, and golden pipes and trumpets adorn the earpieces. This headset is truly a heavenly creation.

Another two designs were produced, bringing the total number of winners to five. Maria Lecanda created the “Free Willy” headset, inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There.”

Rufige Kru’s “Dark Metal” inspired the final headset. It is called the “CF Flex” headset, created by Mr. G.

Over 8000 designs were submitted over a three-month period. The amount of creativity and ingenuity these entrants have shown is inspiring. Only one headset for each winning design was produced, to be displayed by Nokia, and then to be given to the designer. But numerous people have expressed interest in these headsets, albeit displayed as works of art rather than used for listening. It makes you wonder if there will be more to come for these unique designs.

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Music Between the Generations

There have always been great chasms separating generations, but none so much as right now. We live in the era of technology, the Technocratic Age, and we youngsters are eager to adopt new technologies. The older generation, namely our grandparents, has more trouble with them. Perhaps they don’t want them, perhaps they don’t like them, perhaps they don’t understand the need for them. But the fact remains that while the younger generation embraces new technology, the older generation keeps its distance.

I don’t claim that technology is the sole perpetrator of creating the chasm, but merely of widening it. Music can be a great dividing force.

When was the last time you saw an elderly man rapping along with Pit Bull? When was the last time you saw a high school student belting out one of Andrea Bocelli’s operas? I’m not saying that this never happens, but in general, the elder generation sticks with classical, opera, etc., while the younger generation sticks with pop, hip-hop, rap, etc.

When my family goes to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a birthday, my grandfather always breaks into song before we sit down to dinner. He is a very good singer, to tell the truth, but his style clashes with all of his grandchildren’s preferences. My younger siblings all groan as he begins to sing, and they all shout loudly in efforts to drown him out. All in good fun, of course.

It is true that music preferences vary greatly among all types of people, but the greatest difference lies between age groups, between the generations. There will always be something separating the generations. This time, it’s music.

I have to say, though, that classical music and younger people can mix well. Seriously. Check out Chris Mann from “The Voice” :

Rap and older people can mix too. Seriously. Case in point, Betty White”

Music can also be a uniting force between the generations too.  We just have to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and give it a try!

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Music’s Effect on the Brain

Has music ever cheered you up? Has it ever helped you remember something you forgot? It probably has, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it likely will. Music has the ability to affect your brain in many different ways, from enhancing your workout to boosting your immune system.

One useful side effect of listening to music lies in the recollection of memories. When you listen to a song you know well, you might be reminded of a certain time, place, or memory. That memory had been forgotten, but when you heard the song, it came rushing back as if it were yesterday. We all have unique ways of remembering things. Personally, when recalling a memory, I have a single image, a snapshot of the memory in one moment, and the accompanying worded explanation. But I have that single image. When I listen to Frou Frou’s “Let Go,” I remember a majestic mountain range, captured through the windshield of an old van, the snow-capped peaks complimenting the song’s lyrics of absolute beauty. The song retrieves a memory that I can only remember when I hear the song. As I write this, I am listening to the song. I have to, to remember. Many of my songs have the same effect. Perhaps my method of recalling memories is unique to me, but I doubt it. Listening to music you know stimulates a region of the brain known as the hippocampus, which handles long-term memory storage. So if you’re having trouble remembering something but can remember what song you were listening to at the time, then your best bet is to listen to that song.

If you’re starting to feel stressed or ill, music could be the cure. Music has been proven to boost the immune system. Slow, soothing music is known to decrease stress, as it decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol. Fast, upbeat music is known to increase the level of antibodies in your system, effectively boosting your immune system. I know that listening to Afrocelt’s “Persistence of Memory” eases the tension of the day, relaxes me. And Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” always puts a smile on my face. Next time you’re not feeling your best, a nice upbeat song might be the perfect thing for you.

Music can help you decrease anxiety and keep yourself from choking up when placed under pressure. Humorous, light-hearted songs decrease anxiety and are perfect for before meetings and presentations. Some such songs are Weird Al Yankovic’s “Fat,” some of Jonathan Coulton’s or They Might Be Giants’ songs, or Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” These songs distract your brain and make you laugh enough to keep you from choking up or freezing.

When exercising, listening to music can increase exercising strength. It can help you run, swim, or bike faster for longer. Fast-paced music distracts your attention, while at the same time pushes your heart and muscles to work harder and at a faster pace. Music makes exercising much more enjoyable, and much easier.

The delivery system for this music must be quality if you want the best results. But you can’t tote around a boombox when you’re running or swimming. No, for that you need an MP3 player. And that means headphones. But not all headphones are adequate for such things. Many are ill-fitting, and fall out as soon as you start moving around. Velodyne’s vPulse in-ear headphones have ear adapters for all ear sizes, providing the user a perfect seal for balanced sound and ensuring they stay put. This makes them ideal for exercising, and for all occasions, really. If you want these effects of music, you need the right headphones.

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In A Vacuum: Silence

A vacuum is space that contains no matter. Outer space is a vacuum, more or less. We can create artificial vacuums here on earth. The strange thing about a vacuum is that sound cannot travel through it. So, if something big out in space explodes, in a supernova, you can see it, but you will never hear it. If you’re in space, and a bomb goes off near you, you may feel the heat wash over you, but you won’t hear it.

The reason that sound can’t travel in a vacuum is that there aren’t any particles to carry the wave. Sound waves are longitudinal waves that must have a medium to travel through. They cannot transfer energy from particle to particle because they are spaced too far apart, and the energy cannot jump from particle to particle.

Whenever you see a movie that takes place in space, listen to see if they’re following this law of physics. Much of the time, if there’s an explosion, they add sound effects, when in reality it’d be silent. Take the newer Star Trek movie, for example. When people are pulled out into space after part of the ship was destroyed, everything was silent. That is how it should be. Next time you’re watching a space movie, listen intently to your sub and speakers, and see if the filmmakers got it right.

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The Ukulele Craze

Perhaps the ukulele craze is limited solely to high schools, but I watched, amazed, as various people, sometimes completely unexpected people, brought ukuleles to school. I thought that maybe none of them could actually play, and were still just learning. But no. They all played extraordinarily well. I have no explanation for the sudden boost in popularity of the instrument, only that I have thoroughly enjoyed it, as have my peers.

I’m sure you’ve all heard a ukulele before. They’re not uncommon. But to see them in such abundance is fascinating. I have come to love their unique sound. It’s actually quite beautiful to me. But why now? Why have they returned so suddenly, and with such force?

In 2003, Hawaiian musician Israel Kanakawiwo’ole’s medley of “What a Wonderful World” and “Over the Rainbow” rekindled interest in the ukulele as the song reached #12 on Billboard’s Hot Digital Tracks chart. Yes, that was nine years ago. This song got the ukulele going again in 2003, but why is it so popular right now?

In 2010, Glee’s Matthew Morrison covered Kanakawiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow” as the final song of season one. It was very successful, and many people, especially teenagers, fell in love with the ukulele. I certainly did.

Soon thereafter, ukuleles began appearing everywhere. It turns out that the ukulele is actually quite simple, and can be learned with relative ease. So the instrument began appearing everywhere, and I enjoyed listening to “Over the Rainbow” between classes and at lunch throughout the school year, that beautiful tune reverberating around in my head for days on end. And it didn’t get annoying! Everyone has such different styles of playing that the song didn’t seem repetitive, which is a blessing, I assure you.

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Rubens’ Tube: Writ in Fire

Probably the coolest way to see sound waves is with fire. In 1905, German physicist Heinrich Rubens invented the Rubens’ tube, or the standing wave flame tube. The Rubens’ tube demonstrates acoustic standing waves through fire.

The Ruben’s tube is a length of pipe that has evenly-spaced holes along the top and is sealed at both ends. One seal is attached to a speaker or frequency generator while the other seal is attached to a propane tank. The tube is filled with gas, and the gas that comes out of the holes is lit on fire. You can now see the sound waves, etched into the air by way of fire.

If a constant frequency is used, then the inside of the tube will have a standing wave, and will create points with oscillating pressure and points with constant pressure. The flames will be lower at the points of oscillating pressure because less gas will escape through the holes in the tube. Naturally, the flames will be higher at the points of constant pressure.

Having a standing wave is cool, but not nearly as much fun as playing music into the Rubens’ tube. Take a look, it’s really quite enjoyable:

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First, There Was Highway Hi-Fi

Did you know that in the 1950s, you could buy cars with special record players installed? Dr. Peter Goldmark invented the Highway Hi-Fi in 1955, and Chrysler agreed to install them in their cars. In order to allow for longer playing time, and therefore less time changing the record, Goldmark slowed the rotations to 16 2/3 rpm, which is one half of the Long-Playing (LP) speed. He also shrank the record to 7 inches in diameter so that it could fit into a car’s glove compartment. However, this required the record to contain three times as many grooves per inch as the LP.

Goldmark developed the ultra microgroove record, but was afraid the turntable might not work in an automobile. Once he balanced it properly, however, the turntable could withstand sudden stops, cobblestones, potholes, etc. Chrysler went ahead with production, advertising the Highway Hi-Fi as a wonderful new innovation. But they had installed it in Dodges and Plymouths, which have different suspension and other characteristics than the Chrysler line. The machine made terrible noises, jumped grooves, and did everything that it wasn’t supposed to do. But Goldmark pulled it off, and was able to develop a Hi-Fi system that worked in these cars. The press conference was a success. All seemed well, the cars were certain to sell.

But it didn’t take off. Complaints abounded about the way the record players worked. Chrysler and Columbia Records failed to do the proper marketing by not advising prospective customers how to acquire additional records. Dealers stopped stocking the cars with Highway Hi-Fi, and Chrysler relaxed its promotion.

 The Highway Hi-Fi disappeared from the highway, but appeared in homes. The record-changer manufacturers liked the idea of the 16 2/3 rpm record that they included the new speed in their changers “so you can take home your Highway Hi-Fi.”

The interesting thing is that hardly anyone knows about these Highway Hi-Fi record players. Just as the youth of today may not have heard of or seen an 8-track player, which was largely popular in automobiles in the 1960’s. Later, cassette tapes became more popular, not only in cars but in personal/portable tape players. Eventually we were all in awe of the CD players in cars (and WOW, a 6-CD changer!). Now, that is all old news in the age of MP3 players. What’s next? Who knows. We sure have come a long way from Highway Hi-Fi.

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