Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two musical projects putting a spin on the norm

I have been all over the place for the past few weeks - planning for DNA Day, then for our first annual fundraising gala. It has been a wild, but wholly professionally fulfilling, past month. I've seen all kinds of things that have inspired me to post something but I haven't had a chance till now. Perhaps this combined "why-music-is-awesome-and-can-change-the-world" post will be more powerful anyway.

As you've probably figured out by now, most of my blog fodder comes from my daily commute to and from work listening to NPR. I really should link them on here. Anyway, this comes from two different stories I heard on the station over the past couple of weeks.

One features Ben Folds (formerly of Ben Folds Five and the epically depressing song Brick that you may remember from the late '90s). Folds decided to compile an entire a capella album of his greatest hits after seeing a YouTube clip of an Ohio University a capella group covering Brick.

Not surprising, considering how the All Things Considered segment described Folds' stage shows:
His dynamic live shows often found Folds leaping on top of the piano, dividing the audience down the middle, and conducting them in two-part (and sometimes even three-part) harmony.

Folds broadcasted the news that he was compiling an a capella album, selecting performances from different university a capella groups across the country via YouTube submissions. The results are pretty impressive, and while I typically shy away from a capella (it reminds me of my younger days and that group from Where in the World is Carmen San Diego...) this could be something to buy on iTunes.

Ben Folds, while depressing at times, could really stand to be livened up and I bet a bunch of peppy and talented collegiate a capella groups could be just the ones to do the livening. Wonder if they covered Rocking the Suburbs on the album... (awww man! Sure don't. Ben?! What happened?)

One album I DEFINITELY downloaded, right away after hearing the piece was the Songs for Peace album - a compilation by a group who call themselves Playing for Change who edit street performers worldwide into one track of a popular song.

Anyway - video of Stand By Me goes viral, producers continue to record mashup-type songs performed by street performers around the world, and they eventually create a CD.

My favorite thing about being in Paris and London were the street performers. There were sidewalk artists and musicians on the street. One girl drew The Birth of Venus in colored sidewalk chalk only to have the effort be washed away by the next rain or street cleaning. One guy played the saxophone by the Thames while balancing on a rope he'd tied between two trees.

In Paris, I heard the Beach Boys and blues standards in the Métro and a bunch of Chilean guys played Hotel California on a pedestrian bridge crossing the Seine. I'm sure I'm idealistic and silly for thinking so, but the idea of bringing these performers from all over the world together shared songs really resonates with me. Singing along with an overplayed Eagles song in Paris may have been cheesy, but it was one of the best nights of my life.

...I'm pretty sure it was the best night because I felt connected to people in a completely different continent because the late July evening was beautiful, the stars were out, the breeze was blowing, the Eiffel Tour was glittering... and we - a mishmash of nationalities, ages and backgrounds - all knew the words to the same damn song.

I love social media at times like this. Watching a YouTube video and listening to some .mp3s won't exactly replicate the feeling of that night on the Seine or those Métro rides, but they will certainly do 'till I can get back out there again.

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