MUSIC TO YOUR EAR PODS

This article will speak (or “sing and vocalize”) about popular music. You know, the form of music that is within the world of what’s new, what’s popular, and the state of where it fits within this society we live in for real, rather than through a virtual reality avenue.

There are a lot of choices of where one can get access to music. Depending on one’s preference, there is no shortage in where to find the tunes to keep one amused with.

There are many basic formats to the stance of music that’s available at this time; Rock/pop, country, rhythm and blues, jazz, classical, and so on. There are various versions to these form of music, many times blended or presented in a hybrid form. (Progressive Rock, Urban Country, Latin Hip-Hop, etc. etc.) Of course, the personal tastes of all said music depends on the person who consumes it and where they stand within their own lives.

Since the turn of the 20th century, the way to hear music was through a live performance, followed by recording transcribed on phonographs, as well as through media, mostly on radio. Over time, that extended through other forms of recorded media, from magnetic audio tapes, compact disks, digital files on MP3 and its many offshoots, and leading up to the ol’ internet where any kind of music could be found, along with the musical artists that could showcase what they want the public to hear, enjoy, and even possibly buy recordings of! This is important to those that desire to become well known within their leagues a.k.a. “become famous”. A band or individual artists making it big in the music biz would be able to present their music online to those that could hear it for the first time or for its last.

Before the internet, the recorded media of music could be obtained through a retail establishment better known as a “record store”, were a retailer would offer thousands of titles on the widest known form of media, be it records (known known as “vinyl”, named after the type of material these records are created, magnetic audio tape from cassettes, 8-track tape cartridges, or even reel-to-reel 1/4” tape. Then came the compact disks, (CDs) that nearly killed 12” records.

Finally, there is digital, an audio based format that can’t be seen physically but can be heard. This format is one of the most popular forms of audio since one doesn’t have to “build” it on any fixed physical element.

Apple paved the way for this digital format with its iPod devices, a sound player where one can carry thousands of sounds in their pockets. Here, musical sounds of any type can be heard where one roamed. When it came to voice, there was the talk program that wasn’t found through the radio. This gave birth to the “podcast” because one can hear this talk show through their iPods, as well as the many audio device knockoffs that came and went.

But music remains and rules! And no matter what kind of music is preferred and desired, it’s out there for those to enjoy, share, buy, sell, and even trade. The list is endless.

What makes collecting music appealing is finding a specific recording of a song, an album, a specific artist or band that performs the music, and so on. Yours truly who has a small yet impressive collection of music mostly on records/vinyl, would always be on the lookout for a specific song or collection of songs. I would prefer the best known medium to where the song would likely exist on, but at times, any format would be OK! Just as long as the recording it at its maximum audio quality, I would take the media and keep it until a better recording would be discovered, if that would occur at all!

To give one example, I was looking for a novelty record recorded by The Nutty Squirrels. This “band” consisted of a pair of squirrels that would sing in a high pitched tone of voice that would be backed up by a jazz band while the squirrels would sing scat vocals; nonsense words such as “hmmm”, “doo-wee”, or the title of their biggest hit “Uh-Oh”. (To give a brief background, The Nutty Squares was a creation of jazz musicians Don Elliott and Granville “Sascha” Burland that performed the jazz music and provided the vocal played back in a speeded up tone, cashing in to the popularity of Ross Bagdasarian’s Alvin and the Chipmunks.)

Anyway, I was seeking this album for years. I used to score through record collecting shows, garage and estate sales, and even look inside of garbage cans to find this album. No such luck! That is, until I did an online search for the sounds extracted from this album. Sure enough, I found them. So now on my Apple Music/iTunes account, I have every single album The Nutty Squirrels ever recorded! And I found them all within a twenty-four hour period versus the years(!) of searching for a physical album. And if I do find such an album, I’ll grab it! Until then, it’s a whole load of MP3 audio files to keep this fan amused!

As to what’s popular, the best way to hear the songs that were the “hot hits” of the day was to tune to any radio station that programmed what’s known to the public as “Top-40” and what the radio industry just calls Contemporary Hit Radio, or CHR. These stations would program the 40 top songs as listed on the Billboard magazine music charts. Many communities have their own version of a top-40/CHR station where one can hear what was at its peak of popularity. And this type of radio programming portal was very active from the latter part of the 1950’s right up to the turn of the 21st Century.

Today, although some of the legacy stations that were around at the time of the top-40 heyday (KIIS-FM in Los Angeles is an example) are still around, their programming isn’t limited to the “hot-hits”, but their format of music and the artists it comes from this era remain on the air.

But music as a whole holds a very long shelf life. Many people prefer the music that they knew of while in their formative years, and still stick to that era. If you were first aware of music during the so-called “grunge” period of the 1990’s, then you still latch on to those sounds. If one was a fan of the heavy metal a.k.a “headbanger” sounds from the 1980’s, then you still have that type of music programming into your music portals. And the list goes on.

However, not all music keeps its popularity over time and tide. Music from the Big Band era (1930’s through 1950’s) has lost some of its luster since those that grew up with those sounds during its active period are either very old or are deceased. And unlike rock ‘n roll from the 1950’s that eventually replaced it, it hasn’t been passed down over the generations. On a side note, those that grew up with rock from the 1970’s did pass those sounds to their kids or those younger people within their domain. And many of those younger ones did attach themselves to those sounds! I recently saw a teen aged girl (age 15?) donning a reproduction design of a Led Zeppelin t-shirt c.1977. Compare this to me as a fifteen year old wearing a t-shirt with a likeness of Ben Bernie on its front side. Then again, I wouldn’t mind wearing a shirt with a photo of Glen Miller holding a trombone on his shoulder as he was seen within his publicity pictures. Then again, I can only speak for my musical and fashion tastes.

So no matter what one desires to hear or hear again, the notion is the same. It’s all about the music no matter what it is, where it is, or how it’s consumed. As long as there are notes, it’s the tunes that make it all happen. Just put another dime in the record machine…

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Pasadena’s A Noise Within theater continues its run of August Wilson’s RADIO GOLF, a drama about an influential real estate developer that desires to renew a local community in his native Pittsburgh while running on the ticket for mayor, and the struggles he must face based upon his business partner’s actions and a man living in the neighborhood for generations that stand in the way of progress.

The physical setting is an area known as “The Hill District” or simply “The Hill”, a collection of neighborhoods populated by the local African Americans community. It’s 1997, a period where many urban cities were undergoing a phase of post-modern civic renewal, building structures consisting of newer housing and retail outlets normally found in suburban landscapes. Christian Telesmar plays Harmond Wilks. He’s a college educated man running a real estate business he inherited. He becomes involved with a new development in his district that will feature a housing complex complete with such retail outlets as a Starbucks coffee house, a Barns & Nobel Booksellers and a Whole Foods grocery outlet. Harmond also has his eye on running for Mayor with the possibility of becoming the first African American to hold this post in Pittsburgh, with his wife Mame (Sydney A. Mason) serving as his campaign manager. Meanwhile, his best friend and golfing buddy Roosevelt Hicks (DeJuan Christopher) holds interest in this development, in addition to a local radio station serving the American American community. But there is something blocking their progress, a dilapidated and broken-down house owned by Elder “Old Joe” Barlow (Alex Morris) who lived in the area for generations. It’s a story of how a man that wants to do well for his community has to face a series of situations that make his work more complicated than he realized while attempting to “keep it real”.

This play is part of the ten part cycle that playwright August Wilson created during his career in the realm of theater. This chapter is its latest period wise (1990s), as well as serving as his final work. (Wilson completed this play in the middle 2000s, and died in 2005). In this production, the cast of five players that are featured in this piece including Matt Orduna as Sterling Johnson, a local contractor that wants to assist in this development while keeping his notions of protecting The Hill, performs within their method of stage and artistic harmony. The drama it presents is more of an urban practice setting rather than a domestic version of such. (Family fights are never implied!) It also presents how the American American community is rising to stand for itself, in spite of the fact that they (unintentionally) must cater to the white community. (Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble are labeled as upscale retail outlets usually found in such communities with a demographic considered as “white”!)

But race isn’t the real measure here. Its the level of understanding of what serves as ideal to those that may benefit. As such, this play presents itself as a blend of an upbeat and down ridden mood piece of stage theater. There is good to Harmond’s intentions in saving his neighborhood from blight, while attempting to please those that live and dwell with it.

As to the production aspects, Sibyl Wickersheimer’s set design shows Harmond’s office space as serious, complete with the standard office pieces found in real estate offices and political campaign headquarter locations. Mylette Nora’s costuming also reflects these aspects with Harmond and his colleagues dressed up smartly and professional while Old Joe and Sterling are more “working man” down threaded. Most importantly, Gregg T. Daniel’s stage direction makes it all happen with its cast. The five stage artists show how something that links between urban gentrification and saving the neighborhood for its people can become great theater. And this play falls within this category to its maximum stance.

PS…The title of this play connects itself to the hint of a radio show that speaks about the game of golf, very much akin to a “podcast” of today’s landscape whose topical matter is all about hitting the links with a golf club and ball along a green fairway. A “hole-in-one” indeed!!

RADIO GOLF, presented by and performs at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, until November 13th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. Special “talk back” sessions featuring the ensemble cast will take place following the performances held on Friday, November 4th and 11th.

For ticket reservations or for more information, call (626) 356-3100 or via online at http://www.ANoiseWithin.org


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