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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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Maroon 5 – “One More Night”


On June 25, 2012, Maroon 5 released its latest music video. Frontman Adam Levine stars in the video, portraying a boxer with a seemingly happy family life. But discontent lurks beneath the surface, as hinted at early on in the video by Minka Kelly’s, the protagonist’s girlfriend’s troubled frown. Scenes of Levine, Kelly, and their baby daughter contrasts cuts of Levine’s hands being wrapped and training in a boxing ring.

When Levine leaves for a boxing match, Kelly starts packing her bags. Cheers erupt as she packs, and Levine wins the fight. But when he returns home, triumphant, he finds her gone. When she left, she took not only herself but their child as well. All that remains for him are trifles,  trophies and pictures, a jump rope and a single goldfish.

All his training and hard work paid off in his career; he became the boxer he wanted to be. But he lost everything he loved, all that he held dear. The video ends with a sorry picture, of a lonely man in an empty apartment, a solitary goldfish in a fishbowl.

“One More Night” may be a metaphor for Levine’s own life. Celebrities often have a very hard time balancing their professional lives with their personal lives. Usually they neglect one in favor of the other. This can be their undoing.

The song “One More Night” and its music video pose difficult questions, ones that celebrities are reluctant to ponder. Is fame and fortune worth giving up your personal life? Can there be a balance between professional and personal lives? With Levine left sitting alone in a sad, empty house, the band’s answer is sorrowfully clear.


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Fourth of July Fireworks

We’ve all seen them. They’re absolutely amazing. They’re beautiful, loud, and brilliant. But do you know what makes the colors so vibrant?

The answer: various metals and compounds. It’s amazing, really. The colors created by these metals are so vibrant and alive, they’re mesmerizing. To produce red, the most intense color can be created using strontium or strontium carbonate (SrCO3), but a more mellow red can be achieved using lithium, lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), or lithium chloride (LiCl). For orange, calcium is the ideal metal, or the compound calcium chloride (CaCl2). For yellow, sodium or sodium nitrate (NaNO3) works the best. To produce a vibrant green, you would use barium or barium chloride (BaCl2). For a dazzling blue color, copper or copper (II) chloride (CuCl2) is perfect. Either cesium or cesium nitrate (CsNO3) make a brilliant indigo. Potassium, its compound potassium nitrate (KNO3), rubidium, or its compound rubidium nitrate (RbNO3) create a vibrant violet color. For a luminous gold color, the best compounds are charcoal, iron (Fe), or lampblack. And finally, to produce the brightest white, you can use titanium, aluminum, beryllium, or magnesium powders.

Certain elements, when added to the fireworks, can create cool effects. Zinc, a bluish white metal, creates smoke effects. Antimony creates white firework glitter effects. Phosphorus burns spontaneously in air and creates a glow-in-the-dark effect when used in the firework’s fuel. Titanium can be burned either in powder or flake form, and produces silver sparks.


The chemical composition of the fireworks is a mixture of 70% saltpeter (potassium nitrate), 15% charcoal, 10% sulfur, and 5% compounds that produce the color. To make a brightly burning ground firework, just mix these together in small amounts in a paper towel, add the color of your choice, and light it up! Stand back, of course, and make sure there’s nothing flammable nearby. These homemade fireworks won’t explode, but they’ll produce very brilliant colors in a fierce, and very hot, flame. Enjoy the Fourth of July!

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The Loudness War

Once in a while, my brother drives the car. And when he’s alone, he turns the music up. Really, really, really loud. So when I got in a few days ago and turned the car on, I was greeted by an almost palpable blast of sound. Needless to say, I jumped out of my skin. It’s depressing that some music is so… bad… that the volume has to be cranked up in order for the experience to be even marginally enjoyable. Maybe they’re drowning themselves out.

With the growing popularity of CDs in the 1990s, albums increased their loudness. Believing, mistakenly, that consumers preferred songs that were louder, they digitally mastered them to increase the volume. When they reached the maximum peak level of analog recordings, they turned to signal processing techniques such as dynamic range compression and equalization. As a result of these techniques, the loudness of music has been steadily increasing over the years.

Dynamic range compression, however, can cause clipping and distortion, which is entirely undesirable in music. These modern recordings sacrifice sound quality to loudness. Really, when I buy music, I want to actually hear it as it was meant to be, not distorted. If you have some good quality speakers, then you don’t need to turn the volume up to hear the song, and the sound quality will be much better.

The increasing loudness has happened somewhat gradually, which allows for consumers to adjust to it. They get used to the loud music, and so even when the recording itself is normal, without extreme loudness, the consumers do it themselves. Like my brother. Unfortunately, many people, especially children, have damaged their hearing due to the loudness war. We expect our ears to be ringing after a concert. But after a car ride? That’s not right.

Now, with digital downloads predominant in music sales, the loudness is controlled by normalization technology such as ReplayGain and Apple’s Sound Check. But those who have already had their hearing damaged, or at least become used to the sheer volume level of modern recordings, will continue to crank the volume up.

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Slow It Down

It sounds ethereal, like a chorus of underwater voices, singing of their sorrows. It is beautiful, melodic, and, unbelievably, Justin Bieber. Yes, I know. Justin Bieber does not have the ability to sound like that. But he can. With help, of course.

Bieber’s haunting tones are the products of the phenomenon called 800% Slower. It’s the original song, just played eight times more slowly. It might not seem like much, but if you think about it, a 4-minute song becomes a 32-minute song when slowed down by a factor of eight.

Bieber’s not the only one who’s been subjected to this treatment. Songs from various artists from all genres have been popping up all over the Internet. Surprisingly, every single one sounds strangely beautiful in its own way. Even Miley Cyrus’s song “Party in the USA” sounds amazing, and that’s saying something.

Slowed down 800%, Bieber’s song “U Smile” becomes a song fit for an epic tale, a voyage across the ocean, a hero’s journey. It becomes hauntingly beautiful.

… Justin Bieber? Who would’ve thought?

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Peter Gabriel’s Back to Front: So Live Tour

Beginning in September, world-renowned musician Peter Gabriel will be touring North America for the 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking, iconic album So. Called the Back to Front Tour, Gabriel will begin in Canada, continue on to the East Coast, then the West Coast. Some tour dates are as follows:

2 October HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA

5 October Planet Hollywood Showroom, Las Vegas, NV

6 October Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA

9 October Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA

Gabriel will be performing the album So in its entirety, along with some of his biggest hits. The tour will feature Gabriel with many of the band members he toured with 25 years ago during So‘s debut tour.

The album begins with “Red Rain.” He wrote the song after having a recurring dream in which he swam in a blood-red sea. The lyrics portray a sense of vulnerability, especially the words, “I come to you, defences down, with the trust of a child.” Peter Gabriel links the songs of the album together with the wandering stranger Mozo, who he conceived originally as the concept for a movie.

His most popular single, “Sledgehammer,” appears as the second song of the album, famously using the shakuhachi. It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on 26 July 1986 and number four in the UK singles chart. The music video for “Sledgehammer” holds the record of nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards. As of 2011, “Sledgehammer” is the most played music video in the history of MTV.

Tracks 3-9 are as follows: “Don’t Give Up” (feat. Kate Bush), “That Voice Again,” “In Your Eyes,” “Mercy Street,” “Big Time,” “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37),” and “This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds).”

Released in 1986, So charted at number 1 in the UK album chart, and number 2 on the Billboard 200 in the US. It is certified triple platinum in the UK and 5x Platinum in the US, and it is ranked at #14 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “Top 100 Albums of the Eighties.” So is also included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Peter Gabriel’s Back to Front: So Live Tour is a must-see. As it is the 25th anniversary of So, it may be the last time he plays the album in its entirety. If you are a Peter Gabriel fan, you can’t miss it!

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Defining the Doppler Effect

Have you ever noticed the way sound changes as it passes by you? The sound of a car horn as the car drives past? Notice how the pitch changes? This is what is known as the Doppler Effect.

The frequency of the sound waves determines the pitch. Sound travels at a constant velocity of 340.29 m/s, but since the wavelength of the sound wave can change, so can the frequency. When an object is stationary, the sound waves that emanate from the object all have the same wavelength, and so therefore have the same frequency. But when an object is moving, the wavelengths of the sound waves moving in the same direction as the object shorten, resulting in the a higher frequency. You perceive this as a higher-pitched sound. After the object passes you and begin to move away, the wavelengths lengthen, resulting in a lower frequency and pitch.

The Doppler Effect is the sound of this transition from high to low pitch as a result of the object’s movement. The same concept applies to breaking the sound barrier. When an object moves at 340.29 m/s, it is traveling at the speed of sound. Once it moves faster than the speed of sound, the waves overlap, resulting in constructive interference. This is what creates a sonic boom.

When one begins to understand how sound works, it becomes evident that sound is not always what it seems. Suppose you’re driving, and your favorite song comes on the radio. You begin singing at the top of your lungs, at a note you perceive to be 465 Hz. But a passerby hears the note at 473 Hz. What you perceive to be 465 Hz is as true as the passerby’s perception of it being 473 Hz. The same sound can be perceived in an infinite number of ways, depending on the motion of the object and the one perceiving it. So really, sound comes down to perception.

Of course, only in relation to pitch. The loudness and timbre are not controlled by motion. The speaker controls that.

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Part 2 of Our Unique Instruments Feature

Enjoy our continuation of our unique instruments feature. It’s been fun to learn about these rarely seen and heard instruments.

6. Serpent
The Serpent is an ancient wind instrument related to the modern Baritone, Tuba, and Euphonium. The mouthpiece is very similar to that of a trombone or Euphonium/Baritone. When played softly, it has a firm yet serene timbre. At medium volume, the Serpent produces a robust sound that sounds like a mixture of a tuba, bassoon, and French horn. When played loudly, it can produce unpleasant sounds that are similar to animals in distress. The Serpent has a range from C below the bass clef to at least a half octave above middle C. While the Serpent is historically made from wood, modern Serpents often are made from materials such as synthetic foam resins, fiberglass, plastic, and paper maché.

7. Shakuhachi Flute
The Shakuhachi is an end-blown flute tuned to a pentatonic (5-note) scale. The design of the mouthpiece consists of a slanted edge that enables the player to control the pitch produced by altering the angle at which the flute is being blown. This produces a slight change of intonation—a swelling or bending of notes distinctive in the traditional music.
By various fingerings—covering the holes partially—and by controlling the angle of mouthpiece, all twelve tones of the western chromatic scale can be achieved.

8. Surbahar (half size)
A traditional Surbahar is, in essence, a bass sitar. It is tuned anywhere from four steps to an octave lower than a regular sitar. The half size Surbahar plays like a sitar, and because of the shorter neck, it’s tuned like a sitar as well, but it’s about 3/4 the size of a regular sitar. The tiger profile carving on the bottom gourd is a knee-rest, so the Surbahar can be played while sitting in a chair rather than the traditional crossed-legged style.

9. Waterphone
A type of atonal acoustic instrument, the waterphone produces an ethereal, haunting sound that serves to create a mystical or mysterious tone. Richard Waters invented and created the waterphone out of a stainless steel resonator bowl with bronze rods of varying lengths and widths along the rim of the resonator bowl, and a cylindrical neck with a handgrip. The resonator contains a small amount of water to produce the ethereal sound. Many movies have utilized the waterphone because of its strange and beautiful quality of sound. Some of these movies include Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Matrix, and The First Emperor.
The waterphone can be submerged in water, and has successfully been used on different occasions to call whales. It can be played either with a bow or superball mallets.

10. Windform
The Windform is a playable leather horn that is six meters long. Tasmania’s Garry Greenwood mastered the art of sculpting leather. He uses a wet moulding technique, creating organic forms such as the human form and Tasmanian plants. His love of music has given rise to wind, stringed, and percussion instruments reminiscent of Tasmanian life, medieval music, and theatrical masks and costumes.

Some of these are such beautiful pieces. It is interesting that we have probably all heard the waterphone in a movie and probably didn’t know. The most common of these would be the sitar, a sound that many of us can easily recognize. Have you heard of any of these instruments? Played them?

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10 Most Unique Instruments – Part 1

10 Most Unique Instruments – Part 1

1) Celestial Harp
Built by Robin Armstrong, the Celestial Harp is a 72-string harp based on the circle, square, and spiral. A large instrument, the musician must move around it to play, or multiple musicians must play it. The strings can be played in any manner—plucked, strummed, hammered, played with a slide, etc.
The original idea for the Celestial Harp was to play a person’s horoscope musically. The Celestial Harp embodies the dream of expressing the spirituality of the heavens musically. It brings together the Zodiac, the Pyramid, the stars in the sky, the Solar System, and the I Ching. The sound of the instrument varies greatly due to the styles of the people playing it and its vast musical versatility.

2) Didgeridoo
The didgeridoo is a wind instrument created by the Australian Aborigines 1,500 years ago. Authentic didgeridoos are constructed from hardwood, usually eucalyptus or a natural bamboo, naturally hollowed by termites. They remove the bark, trim the ends, and shape the outside. They then apply beeswax to the mouthpiece to provide a seal when played.
Traditionally, only men can play the didgeridoo. Women do play, but only informally, and it is strongly discouraged. In the South East of Australia, the gender prohibition is most strongly adhered to. The Aborigines of the South East consider the playing of a didgeridoo by a non-indigenous woman “cultural theft.”
In 2005, a study in the British Medical Journal found that regularly playing the didgeridoo strengthens muscles in the upper airway, and so helps to reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Only after the player learns the circular breathing technique do the muscles begin to strengthen.

3) Fire Organ
The fire organ uses the laws of thermoacoustics to produce sound. The pyrophone, like traditional pipe organs, has one pipe for each note and is activated by a piano keyboard. The sound that originates from the fire organ is created by the temperature difference across a set of channels in extremely close proximity. Propane flames on one end and liquid nitrogen on the other maintain the temperature of the fire organ.

4) Glass Armonica
Benjamin Franklin built the first glass armonica in 1761 after hearing water-filled wine glasses played in 1758 in England. Franklin stacked 37 bowls horizontally along an iron spindle, which a foot pedal turned. The player’s moistened fingers touching the rims of the bowls creates the sound. Franklin recommended using powdered chalk on the fingers to produce a clearer tone. The glass armonica made it possible for ten glasses to be played at once, which is impossible with the standard musical glasses.

5) Kaisatsuko
Invented by Yuichi Onoue of Tokyo, Japan, the Kaisatsuko has two strings with a hand crank that spins a nylon wheel to vibrate the strings. These vibrations produce the constant drone sound of the strings. The wheel operates as mechanical bow. The sound can be altered by different techniques and musical styles. Although there are no frets, slide techniques work well to give the Kaisatsuko the sound of a traditional Asian instrument.

Have you ever heard of any of these? Come back tomorrow to learn about 5 more unique instruments!

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Noise-Cancelling Headphones: How Do They Work?

Noise-cancellation—a common enough term. We’ve all heard about it, and it seems like a perfect idea. But how do noise-cancellation headphones actually work? They don’t just merely block the sound—that’s what regular headphones do. So how do they do it?

It all comes down to sound waves. The headphones contain microphones that capture the sound waves as they reach your ear, and then electric circuitry generates an “antinoise” signal. This signal is an inverted copy of the original sound wave, which then travel together into your ear. The waves interfere with each other, called destructive interference, and no sound reaches your ear.

So why bother? It seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it? Regular headphones do a pretty good job of blocking the sound. Even if your surroundings are loud, you can just turn your headphones’ volume up, right? Well, yes, of course you can. But when you’re sitting on an airplane, trying to sleep next to the roaring engines, and you have a choice between turning up the volume—greatly—and cancelling the noise entirely, what would you choose?

Personally, I have no need for noise-cancelling headphones. I’m not constantly around loud noises, so normal headphones are enough. But then again, I live in a small town. Perhaps someone in San Francisco, or New York, or Los Angeles would find the occasion to use them much more than I would. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Another alternative is the happy medium—noise-reducing headphones, like our vPulse In-Ear Headphones, that still block a great amount of ambient noise. They don’t require batteries, are lighter, and, of course, are much less expensive, while retaining very good quality sound. While the noise-cancelling headphones and the regular headphones have their own niches, the noise-reducing headphones are perfect for any occasion.

Then again, next time I’m on an airplane, I think I’ll be yearning for the noise-cancelling earphones all the same.

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