Saturday, January 22, 2011


We saw this great presentation at school called Rachel's challenge. The program is in memory of Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed in Columbine. The program is designed to challenge students to be kind to their classmates and gave them several challenges, one among them being to set goals and write them down. Apparently, their is a famous study with Yale graduates that found that those who wrote down their goals were way more successful than those who didn't. I decided to write down some goals and I am taking it slow because I only want to write down goals that seem attainable. Most of them I will keep to myself, but one goal I did write down was to get involved with charity work in some capacity. Cali and I decided to start with Harvesters. We are interested in Harvesters because of the backpack programs at our schools, where students take home food for their families over the weekend. Cali likes helping a program where she can see the impact in the lives of her kids.

Tuesday we went to Harvesters for the first time. They had us work on sorting cans in various bins. The guy who worked their was pretty funny. He went around telling us which types of food went into each bin. Then he would tell us about the ridiculous mistakes people often made when sorting and that the consequences for those mistakes was getting made fun of after you left. It was fun work because we got to move around and work with other people. It's the type of work where you can see that you have accomplished something which is always rewarding. There were lots of kids their including one of my former students working with the boy scouts. Cali was pretty sure she saw one of hers as well. We actually got some exercise for once which was also nice after being cooped up in the house with all the snow days. We liked it enough that we are heading back next week.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tempo Changes

I remember being so excited the first time I heard "A Day in the Life" from Sgt Peppers. What makes this song so great is all the tempo throughout. It is not very often that pop music writers decide to make changes in tempo or even use interesting time signatures like 5/4. Cali and I spent some time listening to K-Love, the Christian music station, figuring out how some of these songs might be less monotonous if they were in 5 instead of 4. The Beatles did some of these great tempo adjustments pretty frequently and there have been a few groups that followed their lead:

On New Years Eve we went to Joel and Traci's to play some Rock Band. This may sound stupid, but when you play this game you find out which songs really do "rock". Everybody gets into these songs and everyone sings along (Weezer still rocks by the way). Anyway, one of my favorites from the game is the Franz Ferdinand which totally has the best slow down tempo change:

I've totally gotten into the tiny desk concerts on NPR. They bring in some great bands to sing in their studio and have made the videos available on youtube. The Avett Brothers were fairly recent guests and the first song they performed on this video is one of my favorites (although I wish they had taken a little longer to tune their instruments up). At the end they do a great accelerando:

Amanda turned me onto this next one. I have been a Radiohead fan for a super long time, but for some reason I never bought In Rainbows. I think sometimes you just need a break from a band for a while. Anyway this next song is in 5/4 (Christian producers please take note).

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Slow Build

I was listening to this song by Mumford and Sons and realized that I am a big fan of the slow build. This song starts soft until the crescendo midway through. My experience with the slow build is that it tends to emerge out of repetition. They hammer it home as the energy builds. It's also a nice touch to soften it up for the ending.

Playing songs for people is always tough because you are always way more excited about the music than the other person. They are normally like "yeah this is pretty cool" and then try to talk to you about some other subject, but you are like, "wait wait check this part out is really good". I think this is especially true of songs that have the slow build, becuase you can sense them getting impatient and you are like "no wait it gets really good just hold on. It like crescendos and then there is this part where it is really loud". I am paraphrasing of course, other people probably sound way more intelligent when they are describing the music. It's normally better to play it cool and act like you don't care if they are paying attention or not. This next song has a long wait time for the slow build (if you are super impatient it starts about 5 minutes in):

Classical music has of course been doing the slow build for years. I remember first hearing this next one when I was in high school. I was so excited because when it started on the CD you could almost not hear what was happening. Sometimes the range on classical music is so great it is difficult to to listen to in recorded form. You constantly have to adjust the volume nob. We performed this piece (Enigma Variations) when I was in college and Cali said it moved her to tears. Apparently, when I saw her after I said something cynical about the crying (sorry Cali):