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Tag Archives: music

Wordless Wednesday

Some things just leave you speechless.

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How to get stuff done

  1. Go to a public place, preferably where caffeinated hot beverages are served.
  2. Drink a hot beverage.
  3. Play John Mayer’s album Battle Studies (or music of equivalent mellowness) through noise-reducing headphones, thereby creating for yourself a private world of focused concentration.
  4. Start.

The rest will take care of itself. Take it from someone who knows.


-Benevolent Siren

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Velodyne Supports the Community: Music Matters Family Festival


The Surf Spot in Pacifica, CA will be holding its first annual Music Matters Family Festival September 23, 2012. 100% of the proceeds will go to Music Matters in Pacifica. MMiP is a new program of the Pacifica Education Foundation that advocates and raises funds to support the instrumental music program for 6th through 8th graders in the Pacifica School District.
 The Surf Spot is hosting performances by The Refugees (Tom Petty Tribute Band), Curt Yagi and The People Standing Behind Me, 5D and Green Room Music. There will be a special guest deejay. Doors open at noon and there is a $5 admission – 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Pacifica’s Music Matters Foundation.We hope you and your families can come out and support children’s music programs, while enjoying the fun  lineup of bands, games, food and drinks! Velodyne has donated a few “swag bags” that Curt Yagi & The People Standing Behind Me will be giving away. You could walk away with a pair of vPulse in-ear headphones that retail at $99!

Good swag for a good cause!

Surf Spot Restaurant. 4627 Coast Highway. For more information on Music Matters in Pacifica visit

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It may be September, but I’m listening to Christmas music anyway.

Why? Because Christmas music is lovely, and it’s finally starting to get cool in Massachusetts (from whence I am now blogging). As I haven’t lived through an East Coast winter in a decade, the cool seasons are a single unit in my sense memory; cool weather simultaneously means Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And since Halloween music is goofy and the soundtrack to Thanksgiving is usually just a chorus of killjoys reminding me that the pilgrims were actually jerks to the native people, Christmas music is my go-to source for cool-weather jams.


This kitten in a Santa hat doesn't stop being cute just because it isn't December.


Here are 5 beautiful Christmas-y songs that are good enough to listen to all year long.

  1. River, cover by Sarah McLachlan
  2. All That I Want by The Weepies
  3. O Holy Night as performed, a capella, by ‘NSYNC
  4. Better Days by The Goo Goo Dolls
  5. Where Are You Christmas by Faith Hill (from Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas)


Who else out there is bucking society’s oppressive rules regarding seasonal song selection? Can I get an amen?


-Benevolent Siren

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How to work through the pain of a breakup…

…A band breakup, that is. When your favorite musical group parts ways or retires, a very real grieving process starts to take place. And darn it, you should grieve. You know who isn’t sad when their favorite band goes away? Robots, and no one else.


Anyway, here are the 5 stages of grief seen through the lens of a band breakup.

  1. Denial.  Do you find yourself saying, “REMluvr67 must be misinformed. What does the moderator of an R.E.M. fan message board know about R.E.M. breaking up??” If so, you’re in denial. Don’t worry, this won’t last; the band frontperson will confirm the rumors soon enough. All you have to do at this stage is go about your day until the official news sources start reporting the band’s demise.
  2. Anger. How dare the artist in question do this to you? Doesn’t he/she/they know that you NEED THEIR MUSIC TO SURVIVE? They clearly must not have considered the consequences to you personally. Jerks. You should boycott the fan message boards and temporarily stop listening to their music in protest.
  3. Bargaining. Incessantly inundate the band’s official Twitter feed with requests for one last show. Inform the Internet ether that you’ll donate your kidney if they’ll just do one last studio album. Yell at the Internet about it all you want. You’re going through something here, and if your friends care about you, they’ll listen. (Or ignore you. You’ll never know–it’s the Internet.) After your 50th tweet or 8th status update (whichever comes first), let yourself fall into step 4:
  4. Depression. Make a playlist of the band’s saddest songs. Title it “END OF THE WORLD” and listen on repeat. Curl up on your bed clutching one of their albums, sobbing “whyyy??” over and over. Feel sorry for yourself. Wallow. Wear sweatpants. Eat ice cream. Don’t shower. Maybe take a mental health day. Make sure to put a cap on how long you allow yourself to do this, though; maybe make it a long weekend.
  5. Acceptance. This one takes some doing, and it’s the hardest, but it’s also the most gratifying. After you’ve handled your depression, set aside a block of time to hold a vigil. Collect all your band memorabilia in one comfortable and private place, invest in a killer pair of headphones, and make sure everyone knows you’re not to be interrupted. (Also, if you’re inclined to wear eye makeup usually, maybe don’t during the vigil. You’ll want to be sob-proof.) Listen to their entire discography in order, taking time to remember all the times in your life that each song/album got you through. Remember the first time you saw them live. Remember the bad breakup that had you crying onto their metaphorical shoulder as you listened to that one song on repeat. Remember the happiest they’ve ever made you. Bring up the memories methodically, allow them to take you back to each moment in succession, and live briefly in the emotion of those moments. Smile. Cry. Breathe deeply. Write, if you’re so inclined. And then remind yourself that you’ll always have those memories, and the music that scored them.

And if that fails, tell yourself they weren’t that great anyway. Sniff.


-Benevolent Siren

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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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Must-Hear Song of the Day: Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind

It’s practically against the law to be in a bad mood during the summer. The sun aggressively blocks out negativity in favor of pool parties, BBQs, and boardwalk rides. Even if you’re dealing with some Issues, the mandatory joie de vivre that accompanies July and August will sweep them under the rug–at least until September rolls around.


That’s why Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind is the perfect summer anthem. As I explained in an earlier post, this song is so catchy and upbeat that you’d never guess it’s about crippling drug addiction. An overwhelmingly cheerful chorus of “doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo” coats the tragic lyrics in an impenetrable layer of joyful mania, and it’s impossible to be anything but happy when you sing along. Whether or not your summertime smiles are masking a darker truth, this song is a choice accompaniment for all your picnics, beach days, and volleyball tournaments. (That’s what people do in the summer, right?)




-Benevolent Siren

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What should be done about illegal music downloading?

Recently, David Lowery of The Trichordist penned a thoughtful, impassioned and well-reasoned response to NPR’s All Things Considered intern Emily White, who stated on her employer’s blog that she engaged in illegal downloading and filesharing. Lowery laid out the anti-torrenting argument as well as I’ve seen anyone do it, highlighting its negative impact on the future of the music industry and the devastating effects it has on the >99% of music artists that aren’t dominating the radio waves. That said, I’m not sure any quantity of cogent arguments will be enough to fix this problem. Here’s why:

Simply put, people are motivated by incentives and disincentives. The incentives to download illegally are obvious; it’s free, easy and fast. The disincentives, which include a (very remote) chance of legal ramifications, poor audio quality and a moral tangle, are not always strong enough to overcome the incentives. In order to affect behavior on a large scale, one must manipulate incentives and disincentives.

This brings me to the practical side of this debate: assuming the goal is the elimination of illegal downloading, which disincentives should be magnified, and which incentives tempered? Just as crucially, whose job is it to do this? Looking at the dis/incentives laid out above, those who are losing money due to illegal downloading (i.e. the entire music industry) have a few options. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but without all the cool dragons and stuff:

Option A: Reduce the incentive to download illegally by making it harder. In other words, take away the widespread availability of illegal mp3s by targeting filesharing sites. This option has been explored by the government as well as the music industry; Metallica (followed by large record companies and other industry leaders) famously sued filesharing platform Napster in 2000, while the US Justice Department brought Megaupload to its knees in January of this year. Alas, this hasn’t stopped illegal downloading, and new sites will continue to crop up as long as filesharing continues to be profitable (i.e. forever).

Option B: Increase the legal risk of illegal downloading. This has been tried too; according to the New York Times, the industry sued thousands between 2003 and 2008, but ended up losing money due to litigation fees despite collecting handsome fines. Plus, making an example out of a few did nothing to stop the many; illegal downloads continued, and the industry gave up this approach in 2009.

Option C: Bring morality to the forefront. This is what David Lowery does masterfully in his article, and it’s what ads such as the one below attempt to do. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the message hasn’t really hit home on a wide enough scale to make a difference. I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples of money trumping morals, and the reality is it would take, at the very least, a much more well-funded campaign of these ads to make anyone feel genuine remorse for their torrenting transgressions.

Option D: Add a new disincentive. Surprise: the industry’s trying this one too. As of July 2011, internet service providers such as Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have joined the fight by threatening noncompliant customers with numerous warning notices and slower service (info via NYT). I personally know someone who’s been on the receiving end of one of these warnings, and so far it does appear to have made an impact on her. Still, it remains to be seen whether this will be effective enough to save the bottom line of the music industry. I’m personally not very optimistic. Unless these warnings are consistently backed by more concrete consequences, which they aren’t as far as I can tell, my guess is they won’t have enough clout to overcome the allure of unlimited free music.


The moral of the story is this: the industry has explored a wide variety of avenues in its attempts to eliminate illegal downloading, with largely discouraging results. Maybe the next step is to look for a new revenue model. This would be a dramatic and painful paradigm shift in the music industry, but those happen all the time in response to new technology and consumer activities. Instead of fighting the tide of illegal downloading, the music industry might do well to evolve new ways of monetizing its product. For instance, artists can preempt illegal downloads by offering name-your-own-price high-quality MP3s on their own sites, generating a high volume of site traffic (which can be monetized with ad revenues). Also, while Kickstarter success stories aren’t the norm, the site can still be a powerful way to get projects off the ground. Finally, while touring revenues for smaller artists aren’t very profitable in their current form (as David Lowery explains), live music in some form might prove to be a better source of income if the model is reexamined.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m inclined to think the onus of change will ultimately fall on the shoulders of those who stand to lose the most money. And the sooner the music industry embraces the tides of change, the better its chances of remaining relevant–and therefore, profitable.


Benevolent Siren

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