Archive for Language and music

Record-high operatic pitch?

Zachary Woolfe, "Hyper-High Notes", NYT 11/10/2017:

I wrote this week about the highest note in the history of the Metropolitan Opera, an A above high C currently being sung by Audrey Luna in Thomas Adès’s “The Exterminating Angel.” In my brief rundown of high-note history, I referred to the French soprano Mado Robin “shrilling” up to a high B flat; my infelicitous phrasing got called out by some Mado fans, one of whom was kind enough to send along a couple of her highlights. Recorded live, this is, my reader tells me, a French version of one of the big Miliza Korjus showpieces from the 1938 MGM musical “The Great Waltz.” Its climax takes her up to what I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) is quite a lovely sustained B flat, half a step above Ms. Luna’s achievement.

If the cited youtube clip has not been juiced, Mr. Woolfe is indeed wrong — the note in question is a (quarter tone above) a sustained B6, around 2006 Hz.

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Mnozil Brass speak Mandarin

Listen to these Austrian fellows introduce themselves in Mandarin (from around :50 to around 2:00):

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Serious earworm infection

I had heard "Let Me Love You" by D J Snake featuring Justin Bieber many times on the radio and was intrigued by several things:

1. Who / what is D J Snake?

2. In what way is the super famous Biebs "featured" on a record by a D J named Snake?  In other words, what was the nature of their collaboration?

3. Above all, who was making that manic, beyond yodeling sound in the background (was it Biebs? D J Snake? somebody else? a machine / instrument?), and how were they making it?

So I went looking for a music video in hopes that I might be enlightened.

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Sorry, my Chinese is not so good

Music video by a trio of English musicians singing about learning Chinese:

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Whistled language

In "Transcendent Tonality" (11/5/15), we examined this topic a couple of years ago.  That post focused more on the philosophical and ethereal aspects of this type of communication, although it also introduced some of the basics of interhuman whistling and its congruence with melodic musicality.

Additional research takes us further toward understanding the linguistic, neuroscientific, and evolutionary biological dimensions of articulate whistling, as reported in this BBC article:

"The beautiful languages of the people who talk like birds:  Their unusual whistled speech may reveal what humanity’s first words sounded like." (David Robson, 5/25/17)

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Rapaganda

The Chinese government has grown mildly addicted to the use of rap for disseminating propaganda.  I'm going to call this new variety "rapaganda", but I am not the first to do so.  The use of this portmanteau word might have started here:

"Chinese Communist Party Modernizes its Message — With Rap-aganda" (China Real Time Report, WSJ, 12/29/15)

WSJ's China Real Time Report just used it again:

"Video: China’s New ‘Rap-aganda’ Tells You What President Xi Cares About " (3/10/17)

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Silent Night

Dave Cragin asks, "How did 平安夜 come to mean Christmas Eve?"

Now that's a good seasonal topic if ever there were one.

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Advances in tuba-to-text conversion

My dad accidentally texted me with voice recognition…while playing the tuba

(h/t Chris Waigl)

[Update: Mark Liberman suggests this might be some artful fakery. See: "Another fake AI failure?"]

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Trump's granddaughter recites Tang poems

Donald Trump's granddaughter (Ivanka Trump's daughter), Arabella Rose Kushner, does a remarkably good job at reciting two Tang poems.

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Bob Dylan's poetry and the Nobel Prize

A. E. STALLINGS says: "At the news that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature, poets, at least judging from my Facebook feed, were either very much pro- or very much con- (often along generational lines), delighted or outraged…"

I found I fell into neither camp. At first, I was pleased to hear the news, and judged the Nobel committee's view of Dylan to be exactly right: although his early recordings suggest he could hardly win prizes as a singer, guitarist, or harmonica player (don't confuse being strikingly different and new with being highly skilled), he did deserve to be considered seriously as a significant 20th-century poet. So I started with no negative feelings at all about the decision.

And then I looked at some of his lyrics in written form to see if I could find good evidence to cite for this, and found that even my favorite songs looked truly feeble on the page. I responded to some of them when they were originally sung; but looking at them now, I couldn't find anything of high poetic quality at all. And mentally putting them back in their musical context didn't help.

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The sounds of Eurasia

A concert entitled "Sounds of Eurasia", held in a church, by a youth orchestra I'd never heard of from somewhere in the -stans region of Central Asia, admission being free and unticketed. It didn't sound too great. But I saw a flyer for it at local shopping center on Saturday, and the event was scheduled for that very evening. I showed the flyer to my friend Carol and we decided (since we could hardly complain about the price) that we would be adventurous and risk it. I wasn't confident; I stressed that in the worst-case scenario we might be in for a a slow and painful lesson teaching us only that Central Asian music was a cacophony of strange whiny-sounding horns and out-of-tune one-stringed bowed instruments and was not for us. "Doesn't matter; you can stand almost anything for an hour or so," she said, gamely insisting we should go.

Boy, did we ever misunderestimate. The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TÜRKSOY is stunningly good. It was an amazing evening.

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Rapping Karl Marx in China

In Sixth Tone, Fan Yiying has written an article that leaves me reeling:

"Hip Song Gives Karl Marx Good Rap:  Theme music for a Marx-focused television show is a hit with Chinese youth."

The video of the song is posted here (unfortunately, you have to wait 40 seconds to get through the ads). And here is the audio:

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Chinese-English rap

Thorin Engeseth writes:

I am a big fan of the English musician Tricky, who recently released an album with a song on it called "Beijing to Berlin".

According to an email his marketing team sent out:

The enigmatic voice on the single's A-side, "Beijing To Berlin," belongs to the Chinese rapper and producer Ivy 艾菲. Tricky explains: "I was in Beijing for a show and I met this guy who managed her. She's so different! So raw! The strange thing is, I've had the track for a while but I only just found out that she’s not rapping in Chinese. I ain’t got a clue what language it is. I have no idea. It might be completely made up but whatever it is, it sounds wicked."

I'm attaching a link to a video of the song here. I know very little about the languages of China, and am wondering if this song (a rap song) could just be in very heavily accented English, or is she making sounds up as she goes?

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