Tag Archives: music

Just Sing a Song! (Or Write a Poem, Or Draw a Picture…)


This little song, “Sing,” first written for Sesame Street in the early ’70s, spawned many covers and gained lots of popularity–and for good reason! It’s one of my favorite “kid-friendly” songs because it has a great message, not only for kids, but for artists of all sorts. Check out the lyrics, below:

Sing a song
Sing out loud, sing out strong!
Sing of good things, not bad;
Sing of happy, not sad…
Sing a song
Make it simple to last your whole life long!
Don´t worry that it´s not good enough for anyone else to hear;
Just sing…

Sing a song!”

The bolded section above is the most important part of the song, for me. “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear; just sing.” We singers–and for that matter, all of us artists/creative people–can get so wrapped up in worrying whether our gifts are “good enough” for the world that we strangle the creativity within us. It’s hard to put aside criticism and the fear of other people’s judgments, but it’s far worse to never even be creative for your own sake. “Sing” is a simple reminder to just enjoy our creative gifts, whatever they might be, and not to worry about what other people will think of our efforts.

Do you have a favorite song, quote, etc. to inspire you when you get discouraged about your creativity? Share it with me in the comments!

Spiritual Metal: Gamelan Music

My studies of music have been windows into various cultures, and the style of music I’m writing about today is no different. I first learned about this in my “Music Cultures of the World” class in college, and it was easily some of my favorite music to learn about.

A Gamelan Crash Course (Figuratively Speaking)

Gamelan (pronounced “GAH-meh-lahn”) music comes from the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia, and is based on defined musical scales, such as Pelog and Slendro, that differ significantly from Western scales. The word “gamelan” can reference both the type of musical ensemble that plays this music, and the style of music that said ensemble performs. A variety of different instruments, ranging from flutes and vocals to drums and all sizes of metallic gongs, make up the ensemble.

To Westernized ears, this music can sound more like people dropping pans in a busy kitchen at first. But, in reality, each gamelan song is a complex orchestral work, with each instrument built and tuned specifically to fit within its particular gamelan ensemble and no other. It has also influenced world music–even composers like Claude Debussy and John Cage brought in some of its concepts in their music!

The history of gamelan music is intertwined strongly with the spiritual traditions of the various cultures living in Indonesia, to the point that you pretty much can’t talk about gamelan without involving faith, and vice versa. Gamelan music is used in so many ceremonies and rituals, but it’s also broadcast on radio–it’s an integral part of
Indonesian life. It is, quite simply, a form of worship music, used to speak to the gods and invite them into human presence.

Gamelan Styles with Examples (Videos)

There are two broad categories for gamelan music. Javanese gamelan, featured in the first video below, is generally smoother, calmer, reverberant, rhythmical/flowing…it’s almost like being inside a giant, harmonic clock. Balinese gamelan sounds more “exciting,” with a harder, ringing metallic sound and faster, more complicated rhythms that don’t necessarily adhere to the clock-like, echoing steadiness of Javanese styles.

A third style, Sundanese gamelan, is from West Java, yet sounds slightly different from the Javanese style–to my ears, it tends toward the ringing metallic tones from Balinese gamelan. Check out the videos below to hear these styles:

Javanese gamelan

Javanese gamelan with dance performance

Balinese gamelan

Balinese gamelan (with some Javanese influences around 2 minutes in)

Sunda Javanese gamelan

Sundanese gamelan

To Learn More

Gamelan music @ Wikipedia
Javanese Gamelan Music Notation
Balinese Gamelan Rhythms
History of the Word “Gamelan”
American Gamelan Institute

Creativity Boost: Be Around Creative Folks Like Yourself

On November 18th, I had the unique pleasure of singing with a massive choral and orchestra group at Gardner-Webb University–we presented an evening of classical music the likes of which I hadn’t done since my college choir days. And boy, was it an evening of creativity and art! I was nearly bowled over with it!

I really didn’t expect to be so moved or touched by performing with this amalgam of musicians, and yet I was; I was up there singing my heart away, feeling for all the world as if I was in my element at last. I had come in dressed for performance like always, and some part of me viewed the event as “business as usual,” but it certainly wasn’t! With almost 400 people packing the stage for the choir/orchestra numbers, I felt myself part of a large, well-oiled musical machine, and it was ELECTRIC.

I got home, kinda dazed, after the performance, and wondered over my reaction for a little while. The thought that kept coming back was: “I was around people like ME!” All of the performers were classically trained musicians like me, and this was a collegiate performance, much like the ones I enjoyed being in during my own college years. I had gotten in touch with a part of my musical soul which had lain dormant, likely, since that time. It felt so good to know that other people were as passionate about music as I was, and were experiencing music in the same way. This group musical experience sparked a mini-tidal wave of creative musical ideas, which I’m still happily riding.

Want this kind of experience for yourself? Here are some ways you can find other artsy people like you, no matter what art you make and enjoy:

  • Post on social media accounts about wanting to find creative/artistic people. Make it shareable, and others WILL show interest. Through this kind of post, you can find people both in your area and around the world!
  • Check with your local Arts Council to see if they have or know of any local arts groups and when they meet. (Do a Google search for “arts council of [your city]” and it should bring some results up.)
  • Start up a blog or small site about your art form; search for other small blogs and sites on your topic, and email the owners about affiliating or link-exchanging. That way, you can make connections and friends! (Good free blog/site creation: Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress)

Glasses Off: 4 Delightful Fine Arts Sites

No matter what kind of art your heart revels in, you can turn to the Internet, much as I do, for both inspiration and information. Whether you dance from your heart or sing from your soul, paint or sculpt with all your energy, or bring characters to life from your mind, here are four sites you’ll enjoy browsing:

Do you make art? You can make your own free art website here, and explore others’ websites to find kindred spirits!

Musicians and music lovers of all sorts will enjoy this site, which allows you to discover music you might like based on a specified mood.

DanceSpirit Magazine
Learn what’s happening in the world of dance, from dance tutorials to health information and getting a dance job.

This site is a great links resource for learning more about drama/theater–it lists sites about theater history, stagecraft, the acting industry, and much more!

My Favorite Video Game Music

Loving both video games and music as I do, the genre of video game music has drawn me since I was a child. Over the years, I’ve found that many video game tunes have stayed with me and become part of my music collection; music from video games has also been a way to bond with fellow players as we share about which music we like.

Today, I present to you my collection thus far, retrieved in the form of Youtube videos arranged alphabetically by series (with a small miscellaneous game section at the end). Click through and enjoy!

(Currently, I have music from these game series: Animal Crossing, Beatmania, Castlevania, Chrono Cross, DDR, Digital Devil Saga, Everybody Loves Katamari, Final Fantasy, and Super Mario. I know there’s plenty of other great video game music out there, but these are most of the ones from my collection so far 😀 )

Animal Crossing Series

K.K. Bossa – Animal Crossing for Gamecube

Marine Song 2001 – Animal Crossing: Wild World!

Neapolitan – Animal Crossing: Wild World!

The Roost – Animal Crossing: Wild World!

Beatmania & DDR Series

Sphere (Tatsh feat. K. Nayuki) – Beatmania IIDX

XEPHER (from Beatmania or DDR? No one can agree; I saw this–or a version of it–played on a DDR game)

The Legend of Max – DDR Extreme

MAX FOREVER – Flash Flash Revolution

Sakura – DDR Extreme 2

Can’t Stop Fallin’ in Love – DDR 5thMix

Exotic Ethnic – DDR 6thMix

Butterfly – DDR 3rdMix

Chrono Cross Series

The Girl who Stole the Stars – Chrono Cross

The Girl who Stole the Stars (amazing live musicians cover)

Radical Dreamers – Chrono Cross

Time’s Scar – Chrono Cross

Final Fantasy Series

Battle with the Four Fiends – FF4

Cosmo Canyon – FF7

Gold Saucer – FF7

Looking… (this is called Ahead on Our Way here) – FF7

Main FFVII Theme

On the Other Side of the Mountain – FF7

Aerith’s Theme – FF7: Advent Children

Suteki Da Ne – FF9

Not Alone – FF9

Terra – FF9

To Zanarkand – FFX

To Zanarkand – Final Fantasy Orchestra (AMAZING :D)

Hymn of Fayth – FFX

1000 Words – FFX-2

Super Mario Series

Water World Theme – Super Mario 64

Wing Cap Theme – Super Mario 64

Star Cove Theme (Cosmic Cove Galaxy Theme) – Super Mario Galaxy

First Battle with Smithy – Super Mario RPG

Forest Maze – Super Mario RPG

Second Battle with Smithy – Super Mario RPG

SMRPG Boss Battle

SMRPG Ending

Other Game Series Music

Bloody Tears (Piano Arrangement) – Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (Rey Tang, pianist)

Divine Identity – Digital Devil Saga

Blue Orb – Everybody Loves Katamari

Disco Star Prince – Everybody Loves Katamari

Wind’s Nocturne – Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete

The Forest of Hope – Pikmin

Still Alive – Portal: The Orange Box

Crazy, Funny, and Just Plain Weird: Experimental Music

Music is not just about melodies, rhythms, and harmonies, nor it is only about songs that sound “pretty.” Sometimes, you just have to push the boundaries of what most folks think of as “good music” to develop something wildly original.

That’s what experimental music is all about–using standard musical techniques in the pursuit of comedy, combining music and visuals together for a new experience, remixing songs or melodies together to create new melodies, and even arranging random “non-music” sounds into music. Take heart: if the music you make fits into this category, you’re in great company! Here are a few examples, gathered from around the Internet:


This whimsical remix of songs from the Disney film Mary Poppins is oddly catchy!

Experimental choral madness, indeed! How can random sounds be music? When they are arranged like this!

John Cage, arguably the 20th century master of experimental music, offers this musical experience, recombining, rearranging, and composing this piece out of many different types of harmonies from other songs.

HILARIOUSLY weird video (and really addictive little dance tune), featuring comedian Ken Shimura’s character “Baka Tono-Sama.” “Ai~n” translates loosely to “Did I Do That?!” (1990s Steve Urkel, anyone?)

2:15 of strange electronic music and even stranger bovine visuals.

SILLY He-Man music video…must be seen to be believed. (If this isn’t experimental music applied in a comedic audiovisual way, I don’t know what is!)

Haunting and ethereal–“weird” in the best way!

Non-Video Sound Clips

Pop Danthology (SoundCloud)
Cool mashup of all sorts of pop songs from 2012–revisioning music in a really cool way!

Mythic Morning: Choral Works II
Collection of Danish composer Per Norgard’s avant-garde, post-modern choral music.

Malaysian Composers: Leong Yoon Pin
As of this writing (October 2013), this online radio showcases Leong Yoon Pin’s experimental instrumental music.

More Weird Music Resources

John Cage on Experimental Music
Experimental Music: Wikipedia Article
FreeMusicArchive: Experimental Music
Weird Music History (because today’s music is yesterday’s experimental sounds!)

The Oldest Song in the World

How old is the traditional Western music scale? Well, according to the discovery of “the oldest known song” on a few clay tablets in the Middle East, it’s a lot older than musicologists once thought! Check out the videos below to hear this haunting melody from 1400 B.C.-era Syria:

The Oldest Known Melody (lyre portrayal)

And here’s a MIDI version of the tune:

The Oldest Song in the World (MIDI version)

The first person to translate this song, Prof. Anne Kilmer, discovered it in 1972 after years of research and work on clay tablets unearthed in Syria during the 1950s. One of the tablets, written in the Hurrian language, contained complete words, music, and performance instructions; she found that it was a religious hymn to the moon god’s wife, Nikal, and was likely sung with accompaniment provided by a harp. Many people have since recreated it using modern musical notation and instruments, as the first embedded video above demonstrates.

This discovery changed much in the study of music history; it proves that “Western” music scales predated ancient Grecian culture, which was previously thought to be where modern music got its start. Amazing, huh? (And even more amazing, we can actually experience a tune from so long ago, hearing it just as its original listeners did!)

Further Reading

Amaranth Publishing Article
The Oldest Song in the World: WFMU’s Beware of the Blog

5 Wonderfully Weird Musical Instruments

As many traditional instruments that exist in worldwide music, from violins to gamelan gongs, from timpani drums to shakuhachi flutes, there is an even wider world of musical instruments out there–the gorgeous and strange, the “wonderfully weird” combinations of music and sculpture into fantastic (and playable) pieces of art.

OddMusic.com chronicles many strange and beautiful instruments from around the world. Here is just a small sample of these inspired creations:



If you’re a fan of classic 1950s sci-fi films, you’ll recognize the theremin’s spooky, slightly warbly sound. Played with two hands that never actually touch the instrument itself, the theremin uses electrostatic fields around its double antennas to create that unsettling tone. Move your hands within the two fields to control the pitch and volume of the sound, and soon you’ll be expertly weirding your friends out. (Note: the theremin was and still is actually still being built and played today in music outside of film soundtracks. There are actually “thereminists” that play professionally, because the instrument can be used to play actual melodies as well as provide a few spine-tingling notes.)

More about the Theremin at OddMusic.com



The Rumitone is a musical instrument you can get into–literally! Like a cross between church bells and a playground sculpture, the variously-sized hollow metal cylinders whirl slowly around the player as he or she strikes their sides with mallets, creating a soft wind-chime-like sound. The player can also blow across the tops of the cylinders or bow across them for different sound effects. Playing the Rumitone is as much a dance as it is a musical performance, melding audio and visual into one lovely, ethereal experience for the viewer/listener.

More about the Rumitone at OddMusic.com



Who ever thought of combining the traditional Irish bodhran drum with an Australian didjeridu (also spelled didgeridoo)? Barry Hall, the inventor of this hybrid instrument, did! You can play it as a drum with hands or a small stick, as the bodhran is played, or you can blow into the side of the circular hollow frame of the drum to produce the haunting low tones of the didjeridu. Or, if you want to get really fancy, you can do both at the same time, combining melody with rhythm in one handheld instrument!

More about the Didjbodhran at OddMusic.com



Whenever you need a 20-foot-long horn, look up the windform–the Australian sculptor Garry Greenwood created this musical sculpture completely out of leather, and it’s perfectly playable! (The flared end of the horn kind of reminds me of a phonograph… :D) It may not sound much different from a regular big horn, but it’ll be a new experience to play a horn that’s as long as a boat!

More about the Windform at OddMusic.com


Sea Organ

You won’t be able to pick this instrument up and take it with you, but you can sit on the shore in Zadar, Croatia, and listen as the ocean water itself plays this cunningly crafted set of stairs. Designed and built by Nikola Basic in 2005, the air holes in the top step of the sea organ take in air as the waves push it toward shore, and the hidden set of pipes underneath the stairs produce soft, breathy tones tuned to work together even while played randomly by nature. The random nature of the notes evokes an orchestra tuning up before a concert, and the notes perfectly accompany a peaceful day by the water.

More about the Sea Organ at OddMusic.com

More Weird Musical Instruments

Explore the rest of OddMusic.com’s Weird Musical Instruments Gallery and find your next favorite sound. Who knows, you might even want to seek out and play some of these instruments yourself!

Finding New Music: 4 Sites to Explore

If you’re like me, sometimes the good ol’ Top 40 list can get a bit boring, and you end up wanting new music to listen to–or you want to hear music first without having to buy the track and end up hating it. Thankfully, there are websites out there which cater to us musical explorers; the following list are sites I’ve happily explored. And believe me, your music collection will thank you!

musicovery Musicovery.com is responsible for exposing me to about 15% of my music collection. It gives you a little interactive module which lets you visually choose between various moods of music (Energetic, Dark, Calm, and Positive), and between all sorts of genres. You can even choose a blend of different moods–for instance, clicking the little graph somewhere between Energetic and Dark will likely get you a thrumming trance track, whereas clicking the graph between Calm and Positive will probably get you a lovely, soft instrumental piece. Try it out!
soundclick SoundClick is one of those nifty little sites that helps indie artists share their music, but it also serves as a way to find songs that aren’t available anywhere else, no membership required. Search through the genre lists to find new favorites, or check out the “Hot on Soundclick” list to find out what others are listening to. (This is where I’ve found most of my video-game-music collection, as well as some beautiful trance and driving techno songs.)
soundcloud SoundCloud is kind of like SoundClick’s big sister, because it has more than just music on it–it’s also got podcast-like audio featuring comedy, audiobooks, business and technology talks, and even educational audio. It’s kind of like an auditory TED, in that way. Though you have to be a member to access anything, it allows members to repost audio clips they like to their “stream,” which means that you can find it again easily later. (I’ve found several wonderful song mashups through this site, since there are several different users who specialize in sharing mashups.)
newgrounds Newgrounds’ Audio Portal is an unusual place to look for music, since Newgrounds is usually known for flash videos of all sorts. But here, you can find lots of different musical genres, plus remixes and experimental tracks of all sorts (including voice acting!). (Though the audio player seems not to like Firefox (keeps crashing), I still found some cool remixes, including a techno mix of “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean that is AMAZING.)