Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

Welcome back to another GeekMom playlist! It’s another great mix with a little something for everyone. There’s a little superhero, British history, video games, and inventive music.

This week’s list can be found here to cure all of your weekend boredom…well, at least an hour of it. If you like the weekly playlist, let us know!

Do you want to see another kid friendly list? Do you want to see a DIY list? What about a summer science list? If there is a theme you want to see, put it in the comments below!

Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

This week the GeekMom playlist is more of a mix-tape… with a little The Cat in the Hat (or kitten in the ukulele; really you could take your pick) thrown in. Please be careful when viewing the list—the Garfunkel and Oats songs are not entirely child or work appropriate (okay, they are not at all appropriate). But, we hope you will enjoy our list nonetheless.

This week’s playlist and all of our playlists can be found on our YouTube page. Have a great weekend.

Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

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The GeekMoms are blinding you with science in the video playlist this week!

Do you want science videos? We have the periodic table, animals, music, and a rapping sign language interpreter (because, why not?).

You can find the video with the Popsicle stick experiment and more in this week’s video playlist.

We have several playlists for you on our YouTube channel:

Jazzy World Tour Shows Kids Music and Culture From Around the World

Main Menu Map © The Melody Book

Main Menu Map © The Melody Book

A year ago I wrote about a pre-school music app called A Jazzy Day. The app became a favorite of my son and featured cute cartoon cats who learned all about the instruments in a jazz orchestra by visiting the big band in New York City. A sequel, Jazzy World Tour, has recently been released and my son has been enjoying playing this new offering for the past few weeks.

Jazzy World Tour moves away from the linear story mode of its predecessor and broadens its educational reach. Rather than learning just about musical instruments, Jazzy World Tour introduces geography and cultural studies as players travel between countries from the main menu (a map of the world) and see each nation’s instruments as part of a wider cultural experience. Seven countries are available to explore: The USA, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Egypt, Kenya, and India, and each country has three options to explore with (learn, play and create).

The Play Tab in Egypt and the Create Tab in Australia © The Melody Book

The Play Tab in Egypt and the Create Tab in Australia © The Melody Book

The “learn” tab introduces some basic objects that teach players about the culture of the chosen country. These include a selection of musical instruments, local wildlife, famous buildings, foods, religious deities and more: The India selection includes a lotus flower, the Taj Mahal, a cobra, a sitar and Ganesh. Each of these objects is drawn in a colorful cartoon style. Tapping it brings up a short, simple paragraph explaining what it is with the object’s name spoken aloud, this is very helpful for certain words you may not have encountered before. The “play” tab brings up a single screen in which many of the items found in the “learn” tab are brought together to form a picture of that country along with local music forming a backdrop. Tapping each image animates it. Many of the musical instruments will be represented, so by tapping around the player, can create music from that location. The final tab is “create.” Here players can use animated stickers to create scenes (either still pictures or short animated videos) which can then be added to their “travel book” as they visit the different countries; they can also be instantly shared via social media, emailed or saved to the device. The Travel Book is accessible from the main menu and serves as a sort of scrapbook of the player’s experiences as they travel the world.

Naturally, an app like this cannot go into great depth for each of the countries it includes, however the scenes and items from the different cultures are great for young children only just learning about the way in which places and people differ. The app is bright and engaging, the animations are often funny (my son fell in love with the emu in the Australia section which would run off screen and then slip back on a moment later) and the learning is subtle. In choosing not to have a linear story mode, the app does feel like something is lacking when compared to its narrated predecessor. As it is, the app feels a little disjointed from my perspective. However, my 3-year-old loves jumping from country to country making as much noise as possible.

The Learn Tab in India © The Melody Book

The Learn Tab in India © The Melody Book

Jazzy World Tour is a great addition to your app collection and is great for kids beginning at pre-school age and ranging up to middle school as their reading skills increase and they can move from using the app as a musical sticker book to reading the information about different cultures by themselves. I’d love to see more countries opened up on the map and hope that we might see such an expansion one day as there are so many great cultures left to explore.

A copy of Jazzy World Tour was provided free for this review. It is available on the Apple Store costing $4.99/£2.99 for the complete game, or you can download a “free” trial edition featuring just one country, and buy the rest of the map as individual expansions costing 99c each.

History Geek: 1930s Week

Image By Lilianna Maxwell

Image By Lilianna Maxwell

Swing dancing! The creation of Superman! Adagio for Strings! Radio Plays! Migrant Mother photojournalism! Heath bars! The Wizard of Oz! Monopoly!

The last few weeks I’ve been preparing for and directing a History Through the Creative Arts Camp about America during The Great Depression. Originally history was written down by conquerors who took political power. This legacy continues in history textbooks that think that war and politics are the most important parts of history to study. I disagree. I think history is the whole human experience during a time period. Of course, this makes it tough to design a children’s summer camp that only lasts five days. So I turn to passion.

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Rebecca explaining something with lots of hand movements…. Image By Lilianna Maxwell

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Tasting historic recipes each day. Image By Rebecca Angel

Passion makes for great teaching. I’m passionate about the creative arts, culture, and social justice. So that’s my focus on history. And when students learn why certain songs were written, when the photographs were taken, how the plays were created, they learn about the power struggles during that time and place. I run the week by having the campers sing, dance, write, eat, sew, and create their way through the time period.

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A student talking about their own research. Image By Lilianna Maxwell

I also asked for help. During the week of camp there were other adults bringing their expertise (geeky excitement) to the campers. Plus, the kids themselves taught each other. My daughter ran the camp newspaper, “Typewriter Talk,” with the campers taking turns being reporters for the day. Another student of mine asked if I was covering Europe during the ’30s. I wasn’t getting into the details of the start of World War II with this camp. She asked if she could do a five minute presentation each day because she thought it was really important for everyone to know this stuff. Sure!

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Campers taking their parents on a tour of camp. Image By Rebecca Angel

What I wasn’t covering in active learning, I put out on display. In the space I use for camp is a huge wall for push-pins. The other counselors and I fill this wall with all the things we found out, but couldn’t squeeze into the time allotted. Scientific achievements, slang terms, maps about the Dust Bowl (then and what’s happening now!), details on the stock market, the 1936 Olympics, weird advertisements, and lots more. My daughter created a display on photojournalism. My son did one on the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP—he pointed out it sounded like a sound effect). There were puzzles and written activities available during downtime where the answers could be found on The Wall. Whoever completed a sheet got a tiny harmonica (so they could sound like hobos around a campfire…) or candy created during the 1930s.

In the spirit of the '30s, I asked the kids to wear the same clothes everyday (washing was encouraged) and they worked on making outfits for Friday's party. Image By Lilianna Maxwell

Sewing clothes for Friday’s party. Image By Lilianna Maxwell

I’ve run many history camps over the years, but this was the toughest to research; so many aspects made me cry. A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness—and a Trove of Letters—Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression is one example of trying to get to the heart of The Great Depression. I read some of it to the campers. I focused on the positive things of sharing and kindness, but the fact that people were so grateful for so little during this time—is enough to make the tears flow. (I kept myself in check during camp.)

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Family history as decorations. Image By Rebecca Angel

I’ll write a few more posts about aspects of camp I think you might enjoy: games, comics, movies, and radio plays. If anything, I encourage everyone to do one of the projects during camp: Research your own family history. The campers presented how their families got through the hard times of the 1930s, and there were some great stories. My own grandfather was a newsboy in the lower East side of NYC.

I could write so much more because everything was so cool! I hope I inspire you to get geeked about history! Here’s a video of the swing dancing each day:

Moshi Audio Mythro Earbuds: Finally Earbuds For Small Ears

Grey Mythro earbuds by Moshi Audio. Image used with permission.

Grey Mythro earbuds by Moshi Audio. Image used with permission.

I haven’t been serious about earphones since studying broadcast production in college. I haven’t had to. Most of the time, we listen to music or audio books on the computer or in the car and everyone listens. But since tablets and smart phones are commonplace now, even in our house, we have also been looking at earphones that work with all our devices. Within days of my husband wearing out his second pair of earbuds, Moshi Audio provided a review sample of their new Mythro earbuds. The earbuds are a personal headset with a built-in mic that can be used with phones and other devices.

It is difficult for me to find earbuds that work in my ears. Most fall out because my ears are so tiny. For example, the standard iPod buds don’t even fit in my ears at all. I have used my kid’s earbuds in the past because they came with an extra small bud tip, but I can’t use them on a continual basis or he would complain. The Moshi earbuds are the first earbuds I have found that actually stay in my ears.

Specs for the Moshi Audio Mythro earbuds.

Specs for the Moshi Audio Mythro earbuds.

Size: The sizes of earbud attachment are fairly standard to other earbuds. As usual, I use the smallest size at 11.1 mm. The medium is 12.3 mm and the large is 13.6 mm.

Shape: The shape is what makes these earbuds unique. The back end of the piece that fits in your ear is angled to have a more snug fit in the ear. An added bonus to the angle of the ear pieces is that you don’t have to look at the buds to see which one goes in which ear, you can do it by feel. Because of the shape, this is the first set of earbuds that I can wear while exercising and not have to worry about them falling out.

Mic:  I haven’t received any complaints while using it for phone conversations, even in the car.

Durability: I use these all day. They are plugged into my phone in the car in case I get a phone call, and I use them in my phone at night to listen to audio books while going to sleep. I also use them during the day with my computer while I am writing to cut out the outside noise.  I have been in this routine for over two months. My last three sets of earbuds under these same conditions broke within the two month time frame, but the Mythro earbuds have held up just fine.

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The Moshi Audio Mythro earbuds have been wonderful. I have nothing bad to say about them. They fit, they are comfortable, affordable, sound great, and have a nifty little strip that holds the chord in a bundle when they aren’t being used.  If they break I will definitely get another pair. They can be purchased from the Moshi website or Amazon for $30.

*A pair of earbuds were provided for the review*

Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

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Summer vacation is here! Or, it is looming in the not-so-distant future. Either way, kids are getting edgy and are requesting video suggestions to keep them entertained for a few minutes. So, this week’s video playlist features videos the GeekMom writers’ kids enjoy.

GeekMom Video Playlist for the week of June 6. Videos include a singing bird, Lego cartoons, music, NASA engineering, how to make a rocket, and Pokémon Minecraft. All of these videos are for the kids.

GeekMom Video Playlist for the week of June 6. Videos include a singing bird, Lego cartoons, music, NASA engineering, how to make a rocket, and Pokémon Minecraft. All of these videos are for the kids.

This week’s playlist and all of the previous weeks can be found on our YouTube channel. You can also find an up-to-date playlist of all of the GeekMom’s Game of Thrones Season 3 Recap Tea Party episodes.

Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

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Ballads, brains, board games, and booze are on the menu this week on our weekly video playlist. As usual, the weekly playlist is brought to you in feature-film length as a gift to you for weekend viewing. Here is a sampling of videos from this week’s playlist.

A Halo medley on violin and piano was somehow not what I was expecting when I found this video, but the production value and musicianship are both excellent.

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Geeks, Music, and Lyrics

Image by Keith (TheBigTog)

Image by Keith (TheBigTog)

(This was my very first post on GeekMom waaaay back when. It eventually ended up on Wired as well. I’m still writing and performing all my geeky songs!)

Take, take, take me away.
I’ll drink whatever you put before me.
In this world I can’t stay.
Only the faerie can cure me.

“Mortal Slave” by Camelot’s Destruction

As a singer/songwriter, I’ve been told by other musicians to never share your inspiration. Let the audience decide what the songs are about. I agree for songs about love and life, experiences the listener can put themselves into. But what about a song about the perils of having an evil wizard as an ex-boyfriend? Or one about creating a clone to take over your life while you have outer-space adventures? Those songs need explaining.

Several years ago a friend emailed me his really cool dream. I turned it into the start of an urban fantasy novel. It still languishes on my hard drive. But this isn’t about failure, instead, that never-finished book sparked a whole new facet of my musical life.

In the novel-that-will-never-be, there is a teen girl who I wanted to be wearing a band t-shirt. Considering her character’s love of rebellion, I decided this band should be from the forbidden realm of Dreamtown. But what would the band be called? Something dark, but over the top, like most band names I make fun of. I came up with Camelot’s Destruction.

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Prom Night Memories: The Good, the Bad, and Tears for Fears

Rebecca Angel with high hopes on prom night.

This post was published on the original GeekMom site, then published again on Wired, and now it’s back here! I can’t get enough of these stories, so please add your own!

Do geeks go to prom? In fiction, it depends on the gender. Geek guys rarely go, unless they are the comic relief. Geek girls can often have the “Cinderella” dream happen and become the belle of the ball.

But that’s fiction. What about in real life?

I recently shared my prom story with the community of geekmoms and a few dared to tell about their own:

I asked the guy I liked to my prom, even though he was a junior, and my friends thought I was weird. However, I was convinced he would ask me to be his girlfriend that night…then hoped it would happen the next day. We went to NYC to see Nine Inch Nails, but couldn’t get in the club because we weren’t 21 (even though we paid for the tickets). I was so disappointed. He didn’t ask me to be his girlfriend at all that weekend, and I found out later that was because he already had a girlfriend, but thought it was fun to lead me on anyway. Damn, younger men! - ME

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Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

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This week, the GeekMoms were watching record-breaking videos, gaming videos and more. To save you from losing time searching for the geeky videos from this week, these videos and several others (along with the playlist from last week) can be found on the GeekMom YouTube channel. Here are a couple of the featured videos from the playlist.

Kay pointed out this video which holds the Guinness World Records™ record for smallest movie. The pixels are individual atoms. The video annotation includes a link to an explanation of how it was made.

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“Tesla” by They Might Be Giants is Educational and Awesome

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“Tesla” is featured on the band’s 16th studio album, “Nanobots.” Image: They Might Be Giants/YouTube.

They Might Be Giants are still rocking the science theme with Nanobots, the group’s 16th studio album. It has a total of 25 songs, but only one of them pays homage to the great Nikola Tesla.

Tesla” is definitely not my favorite TMBG video, but the subject matter and lyrics are fantastic. John Flansburgh and John Linnell run through some of Tesla’s achievements and then ask the burning question, “How can that knowledge be tamed?”

Yeah, don’t expect an answer, but the newly posted video for “Tesla” is certainly worth two minutes of your time. Check it out below.

Nanobots is available now.

Commander Chris Hadfield Sings Space Oddity

As “a last glimpse of the World,” Commander Chris Hadfield recorded a revised version of “Space Oddity” by David Bowie on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Watching it put something in my eye. That’s all I have to say about that.

After spending five months on board the ISS, and becoming the first Canadian Commander of the ISS in March,  Commander Hadfield is due to return tomorrow after a very successful mission.

My Panic Attack Survival Kit

Superman Quote / Image: Dakster Sullivan

Image: Dakster Sullivan

I suffer daily with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve tried medication in the past and it just didn’t work for me. So, when I need something to bring me back down to earth, I look to various things to help me. Here’s a list of a few of the things I use to bring me back and get me through the day.

Dark Pug Rises \ Image: Chubbs the Wampug

Dark Pug Rises \ Image: Chubbs the Wampug

Chubbs the Wampug – I don’t have a dog, so I live vicariously through Chubbs the Wampug. Her posts range from birthday wishes to funny captions on her own photos. On more than one bad day, my first thought has been to head over to see what her latest funny picture is. She hasn’t let me down yet.

Ben 10 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I keep episodes of both on my iPod, so when I’m at work and have to get away, they are just a click away. My favorite episode so far has been Ben 10 – Generator Rex: Heroes United and TMNT episodes Metal Head and Turtle Temper. Each episode is full of laughs and easily distracts me from whatever is bugging me.

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Paul Guzzone is “Chasing the Moon” – Some New Tunes For Your iPod.

Album Cover Art  by Pamela Prichett

Illustration by Pam Pritchett
Graphic Design by 40N47 Design, Inc.

As we wander through the years of life sometimes we collect some pretty magical friends along the way. Paul Guzzone is one of the people on my list. I first told you about him back in 2011. He is a talented musician in his own right and just happens to play bass and do some producing for the Bacon Brothers Band. Yeah, the same Bacon guy who creeps you out on The Following each week and his not so creepy brother.

For years I’ve enjoyed meeting up with Paul at their concerts and hanging out with him after the guitars are packed away. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, are those hidden treasures who live and work in New York, with very little media fanfare. Their company, Triple Z Music does mind blowing musical backgrounds for TV commercials, corporate events, and many other venues.

Paul Guzzone Photo: Paul Sunday Photography

Paul Guzzone
Photo: Paul Sunday Photography

I was thrilled to find out that Paul was releasing his own album. My son and I dove into it the same afternoon it showed up in my mailbox. It’s called “Chasing the Moon” and the title track is one of our favorites. We were on our way to my son’s weekly drum lessons so of course Sam picked out all the cool rhythms and pounded them out on my poor dashboard. But it was hard not to get sucked into these songs.

Paul describes it as “soundscape meets reggae-infused pop, contemporary gives way to retro and fantasy induces romance”. I think that is a pretty good description. These songs are all about love, the loss of love, and the security of love when it all goes right. How can you not love lyrics like

“And I will carry you, when your legs are weary
I will lift you up when the water’s high
I will hold you close when the wind is howling
When the road is long, I will carry you home.”

The melodies are sometimes sweet and tender, sometimes jumpy and Caribbean  Sam actually asked me to play it again on the way home from his drum lesson and I smiled when I saw him moving along to the tunes. He said it was his version of ‘interpretive dance’. I don’t care what he calls it. I love an album I can share and enjoy with my son.

I kept having the feeling that this would be a great album to listen to while I was making dinner, or puttering around the house. It makes great driving music. Some day soon, when the winter season decides to leave Colorado, I will sit on my back porch and soak up the sun with these songs in my ears. It’s relaxing and fun at the same time.

You can listen to a sample of “I Will Carry You” on Paul’s website. Or sample each of his tracks on this page. If you are a lyric lover, like I am, here are the words to all 7 of his songs.

Move over Bacon Brothers tracks, there’s a new playlist hitting the ipod today. And it’s a gem.

STEM to STEAM: The Importance of Arts in Science

For this month’s Muse of Nerds, I quickly grabbed onto the STEM to STEAM movement (adding ‘arts’ to the technical.) Creativity is the foundation for advancement in all fields. The arts — writing, music, art, theater and dance — paired with science, technology, engineering and math, foster a relationship between both sides of the brain for maximum human innovation potential. Trying to place STEM at the top of the educational plant stifles growth.

In 1858, Friedrich Kekule published a paper that showed, visually, how atoms bond chemically. He continued to play with the design until in 1865, he put carbon as a six-sided ring (hexagon) with chains and links, which gave rise to organic chemistry. Kekule started out as an architect before switching to the new science of chemistry. The visualization of chemical bonding didn’t come out of experiments in the lab, but a daydream while riding the bus. His brain looked at chemistry with an architect’s eye.

Daniel Tammet holds the European world record for reciting pi from memory. Daniel can “sense” if a number is prime. I think it’s important to mention that Daniel has high-functioning autism because many educators tend to steer children on the Autism spectrum towards STEM fields. However, Daniel uses the arts to “see” numbers. He is a lucid writer with his book, Born on a Blue Day. The way he was able to memorize pi was by creating a visual landscape in his mind. Clearly, art and math are tied for him.

Science News had a special issue on August 14, 2010  devoted to our minds on music. It was a fascinating look at how music influences our growth emotionally and mentally. In it there was a quote from Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, “In terms of brain imaging, studies have shown listening to music lights up, or activates, more of the brain than any other stimulus we know.” That’s just listening! As Daniel Levitin, director of the music perception, cognition and expertise laboratory at McGill University in Montreal explained, “Music processing is distributed throughout the brain…and playing an instrument, in particular, is an ensemble activity. It involves paying attention, thinking ahead, remembering, coordinating movement and interpreting constant feedback to the ears, fingers and, in some cases, lips. It is one of the most complicated tasks that we have.”

How could that kind of thinking be considered extracurricula? That’s the saddest part. STEM in education is not just getting the funding for special programming, but amazing mental tasks like music aren’t even in the BASIC CURRICULUM!

This very morning I was teaching a creative writing class to some junior high students. The stories will be used to later design and program robots (based on challenges the writing students come up with). The writing students have to be creative to make their challenges cohesive with their story lines. The robotic students have to be creative in designing and programming robots. Tying the two endeavors together gives the project more weight.

Have you ever been to a science museum? Did you attend any of the fantastic theater shows? Watching a story unfold is basic human communication. Lecturing is not.

My children were taking a botany course and convinced their teacher to demonstrate their plant family identification ability using interpretive dance. Seriously. Their teacher was cool about it and let them try. They took all the information they knew about these plant families (memorizing), decided on what was the most important and distinguishable traits (critical thinking) and then came up with movements to convey the information in a clear way (innovation.) By using their full body to translate the concepts, more parts of their brain were used. Do you think they will remember the information better than if they wrote it out on a test? Can your fingers remember a song on the piano from when you were a child? Muscle memory is a powerful tool.

My husband teaches genetics and is frustrated at the lack of “creative and independent thought” the students portray. Students walk in the classroom lacking good reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. The scientists getting prizes don’t spit out what they were taught. They dream, they doodle, they hum, they dance their way to success.

Seeking Major Tom: Yet Another Reason To Love William Shatner

Earlier this week my local radio started my morning with William Shatner singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I almost crashed the car. I love William Shatner, I think he’s wonderful, and even though the man cannot sing, I love his music. It’s William Shatner! Singing! It doesn’t get to me in the same way that Paul McCartney or Don McLean do, don’t get me wrong, but I love it anyway.

Released this week, Seeking Major Tom is Shatner’s exploration of many spaced-themed popular songs — oh, and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Based on the idea that so many songs stem from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,”  Shatner goes in search of Major Tom. He is aided in this by the likes of Lyle Lovett, Brad Paisley, Peter Frampton and Sheryl Crow. I think we can certainly expect a good deal of variety from this disc. In his Rex Harrison-like manner, Shatner weaves his way through the narrative that “Space Oddity” has embedded in popular culture over the years.

You can even watch Bill talk about the project in a promotional documentary:

Alas, I did not receive a copy of this to review, it’s just currently on my Amazon wish list. My big decision now is formatting. The album is available on iTunes, CDor 12-inch vinyl. Everything in me screams to get the vinyl, but the last new vinyl I bought was “Expecting to Fly” by The Bluetones in 1996, and I exchanged that for a CD. My vinyl collection thus far consists of old musicals and Christmas music; dare I add Shatner to that collection? Regardless, this looks set to be an absolute hoot, and I think fondly on the day we were gifted with the exuberant talent of Mr. William Shatner.

Music Week: Baby’s First Jazz

My kids love jazz. We can listen to John Coltrane albums on endless repeat thanks to a single animator, Michal Levy, who explores “the visualization of sound.” When my daughter was a few months old, my husband discovered Levy’s animation for Coltrane’s Giant Steps. She was riveted.

We showed the animation to our 1-year-old and he had the same response. Every time he sees a computer screen he points at it with a “That! That!” until we play him a video, though he’s come to prefer a different Michal Levy animation, One.

I’m a visual person, so I thought that it was primarily the animations that grabbed baby’s attention. But when we listen to albums (Giant Steps in particular), the jazz has a soothing quality that captures their attention in a similar way, even still for my daughter who is now six.

If you like jazz, these animations are a great gateway for your kids.

Music Week: Music Awards Results Announced!

Thank you to all of our readers who voted in the GeekMom Music Awards. As the week comes to a close and the hardcore fans have spoken, it’s time to announce our winners!

Best geeky song of all time: Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton.


Also nominated were:

  • The Man They Call Jayne (Adam Baldwin)
  • The Captain’s Wife’s Lament (Paul and Storm)
  • The Saga Begins (Weird Al)
  • The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins (Leonard Nimoy)
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny (Lemon Demon)
  • Pi (Hard and Phirm)
  • There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Carousel of Progress)
  • Star Trekkin’ (The Firm)
  • Conventional Lover (Speck)
  • The Scully Song (Eric Snider)
  • Tomorrow’s Child (Spaceship Earth)

 

Best use of a non-geeky song in a geeky movie: Put On Your Sunday Shoes (From Hello Dolly)/Wall-E.

Also nominated were:

  • The Power of Love (Huey Lewis and the News)/Back to the Future
  • It’s the End of the World as We Know it (REM)/Independence Day
  • Sabotage (Beasty Boys)/Star Trek (2010)
  • Back in Black (AC/DC)/Iron Man
  • Iron Man (Black Sabboth)/Iron Man
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)/Real Genius
  • Daisy Bell (Harry Dacre)/2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Put on your Sunday Shoes (From Hello Dolly)/Wall-e
  • Puttin’ on the Ritz (Irving Berlin)/Young Frankenstein

 

Best kids album by an adult group: Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants.

Also nominated were:

  • For the Kids (various artists)
  • Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George (Jack Johnson & Friends)
  • No! (They Might Be Giants)
  • Snack Time (Barenaked Ladies)
  • Here Come the 1,2,3’s (They Might Be Giants)

Best theme song: Doctor Who.

Also nominated were:

  • Twin Peaks
  • Star Trek (Any)
  • The X-Files
  • Red Dwarf
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Phineas & Ferb (It’s Gonna Be a Great Day)
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Firefly

Best music group or band: The Guild.


Also nominated were:

  • Rock Chick and Science Geek
  • The Eben Brooks Band

Best male geek music act: Hank Green.


Also nominated were:

  • Jonathan Coulton
  • Paul and Storm
  • Weird Al
  • John Anealio
  • Hard & Phirm
  • Drown Radio

Best female geek music act: Molly Lewis.


Also nominated were:

  • Shakespears Sister
  • Helen Arney
  • Marian Call
  • The Doubleclicks

 

Music Week: Getting Your Music Heard: Making Use Of New Marketing Models

Some rights reserved by tim geers

If you are a musician, or any type of creative for that matter, you want to have your product consumed. In the digital age, an age where people can consume media for free and, as a result, an age with drastically shifting ways to produce and publish your content, sometimes finding the tools and strategies that will work for you can be difficult.

Some people want to publish their content with strict copyrights and old marketing models. However, in this day and age, unless you have a big record label or publisher behind you, getting that ‘big break’ can be difficult if you are unwilling to let go, take a risk and take advantage of some of the wonderful tools at your disposal that will allow you to have control and a lot of freedom over how you distribute and market your content. In my opinion, getting your music heard is the most important thing. It will be easier to make money from it if you make it easier for people to listen to and share your music.

I work with a lot of independent musicians. Most of them use some combination of new marketing tools to publish and distribute their music, plus to reach out to their supporters. Some have yet to find the perfect formula that works for them. Others have been quite successful. All of them do not regret the choices they have made because at least their music is getting heard and those who are listening are not afraid to pass it on.

Yesterday, I wrote about one of these tools: Entering songwriting competitions. As I was preparing for Music Week, I asked a handful of the independent musicians that I work with to tell me what new marketing tools they prefer. A lot of the tools that I use to distribute some of my own materials, such as Bandcamp and making use of Creative Commons, I learned from the musicians and other creatives I’ve worked with over the years.

Here is what they had to say.

John Anealio—whom I wrote about earlier this week—said:

The two tools that I have found to be the most useful are bandcamp.com and fanbridge.com.

When I release a new single on Bandcamp, I make it available for free. People only have to sign my mailing list to download the track.

FanBridge is a mailing list server. It does a great job of organizing your mail list into geographic locations, new fans, etc. That way you can send targeted e-mails to certain groups, without annoying your whole list with irrelevant information.

When I put out a new song, I let the people on my mailing list know that they can get it for free, but please let other folks know about it on Twitter, Facebook and their blog. Bandcamp has great tools for spreading that info. This has really helped to grow my mailing list. My mailing list has grown from 300 people to 1000 people in the past six months by doing this.

Fanbridge’s free service gives you 400 messages per month. So if you have less than 400 people on your list, you can send them 1 e-mail a month for free. I had to switch to the first tier of their paid service ($10 a month) once my mailing list went over 400 people, but was happy to pay it.

I like that you can search your list by area. For instance, I’m playing a house concert in Maryland in a few weeks. I can search my mailing list to give me the people that are within an x mile radius of the house zip code. I can then send an e-mail to only those people and not bother anyone else on the list.

Once a month, I make a group of the new people that joined the list. That way I can send them a welcome e-mail and ask them to check out my catalogue of music and to friend me up on the various social networks.

Glen Raphael said:

ReverbNation.com makes getting your act together online feel a little like collecting achievements in a video game. There’s so much stuff that needs to be done when you first start out – posting pictures, writing a bio, getting some reviews, posting songs/videos, accumulating a fanbase, linking up the things you need to link to, announcing shows…that it can be a little overwhelming. So they give you a progress bar and tell you what you should do next, and as you do it your “Progress” numbers improve and you “climb the charts” relative to other performers so there’s a competitive aspect too.

For instance, as I look at my profile right now—http://reverbnation.com/glenraphael—right now it tells me:

“Your Profile is 78% complete. After you Add/Link to Blog you will be 84% complete.”
“Your Promotions are 13% complete. After you Promote on Facebook you will be 26% complete.”

I’m also told that my rank is #174 in “New York Folk” and that I still need to “mobilize my street team.”

Noah McLaughlin said:

I very much like bandcamp.com, but my use of online music distribution is quite limited compared to many other musicians I know. I just need a place to post my music where I can point interested parties—friends, family, Song Fighters and folks from SpinTunes. The integration with Facebook is very nice from Bandcamp: Post the link to the song and it automatically creates a miniplayer in Facebook; I wish G+ had that feature. I like that Bandcamp’s interface is simple but flexible, though the “upload music first and then create an album” process was counter-intuitive for me at first.

Another service I’ve begun to explore is Jamendo.com, which has many more tools and facilitates a wide cross-section of listeners with its built-in “radio” feature.

Also, rockin’ it kind of old-school, I know quite a few Song Fighters who use Spud’s Amazing Website machine: http://www.cybertoys.org/

Tom Giarrosso of the Boffo Yux Dudes said:

While we have hundreds of songs and bits up on our Bandcamp, there’s not much up on ReverbNation, MySpace, or the streaming sites because I’m notoriously lazy.

We have a Facebook page that links to our Twitter, YouTube and Bandcamp feeds, as well as the main blog BYD365 project. That blog is a little stalled at the moment, but I think I’ve still averaged a bit a day over the year.

One thing I’m a big fan of is the ‘Touch it once, send it everywhere’ philosophy. The more you can cross link to other platforms, the better your overall reach will be.

So any Twitter posts show up on the Facebook page, and the blogs, and MySpace and other pages. You’d go mad trying to keep up otherwise.

As an aside before I continue, I think you need to be careful how much you cross-post the same content to various platforms, especially if you have the same core group of followers at each place. Otherwise you risk having your posts looking like spam. Even though the people who have ‘Liked’ my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and have circled me on Google Plus are mostly distinct groups of people, I seldom cross-post. Not only does this prevent the people who do follow me on each platform from becoming weary of my content, it encourages people to follow me on all places so that they don’t miss out on stuff.

Along that same vein, it is also very important to take some time doing the social part of social media and social networking. Take time to talk with those who are following you. Pay attention to the things they are posting. Build some form of relationship with them. If you take the time to care about them, they will care about you and be more willing to consume your products.

Mick Bordet said:

I’m another one using Bandcamp and finding it hard to beat at this level. Over on the Lunacy Board website, we’re trying out MusoPress, a WordPress theme that is custom-designed for music sites and integrates with Bandcamp, YouTube and other services. It is still early days, but it is fairly simple and works well for what we’re doing at the moment.

I haven’t investigated FanBridge beyond a cursory glance, but I know a couple of people who do use it and it produces good results.

We did have an album up on Jamendo for a while, but I took it down for two reasons: 1) Because of the quantity of MySpace-like ‘friend’ requests only looking to plug their own albums; and 2) Because we had a review on there that was pretty nasty and contrary to all the other reviews that affected the album’s overall ‘score’. It was particularly annoying because the person who left the review was supposedly not even interested in our genre of music, prompting the question “why review an album that you have no other reason to listen to?”

I’d recommend taking a look at Steve Lawson’s website too. He’s a solo bass player who has embraced the ‘Pay as much as you like” and house concert model, as well as being heavily involved in the ‘New Music Strategies’ group. He has written a lot about engaging with music fans and making a modest career in music.

Errol Elumir of Debs and Errol said:

I don’t know if I can add to the conversation much because I just started our new band a month ago and our first album isn’t even out yet, although the recording is done! HUZZAH!

As someone starting out, however, marketing presses on my mind a lot. And there is so much just to set up!

Getting a website going, finding a theme that fits your site, finding the right plugins to put on your site, finding a good mailing list, setting up a Facebook page, setting up pages on the myriad of music sites, finding all the music sites.

And with the musical landscape cluttered with social media sites like neon lights in Vegas, how does one get others to listen? I get tired talking about myself this much to my friends.

And so I’m trying desperately to think creatively to get new people just to listen. Of course, there is nothing to listen to yet, but hey. We’re almost there, stay on target.

At least I know the demographic that I may appeal to, so I’m trying this and seeing if it works:

  • A daily webcomic – I think it will be hard to mesh a site to be both a comic and a music site, but hey, may as well try.
  • A text game – Yes. I want to make video games for our band.
  • Google Hangout Concerts – Because they’re fun.
  • YouTube cover requests.

Deborah Isaac of Debs and Errol said:

Our “model” of marketing really comes down to a few points:

1) We collaborate with fans and try to keep our fans as involved as we can with our projects.
Actually, I’d much rather call them “friends” than “fans” because “fans” sounds unbalanced and impersonal and creates an “us vs. them” space which doesn’t really fit us. We would rather have a two-way street than throw things at them.

Here are a few ways we have done this with the CD we’re releasing in a few months:

  • We held a contest asking fans to suggest song titles and then had everyone vote on their favourite, which we then fleshed out into a song that will appear on the CD.
  • We put out an open call for fans to record clips that we will edit into one of the songs.
  • We’re fan-funding.

A few other ways:

  • We’ll take their input and turn it into comics (sometimes bringing them on as guest characters).
  • We’ll take their song suggestions and add to our repertoire.

2) We keep it transparent (aka real!).
People genuinely want to know the ins and outs. When something great happens, we talk about it. When something not so great happens—like, if I’m having a really tough time recording and go a little crazy and Errol comes over and washes my dishes—we’ll talk about that too. It’s human, way more realistic and infinitely more interesting than presenting a one-dimensional cardboard point of view. The comics are a great tool for this, so are blogs, vblogs, tweets, etc.

3) We don’t force it.
Well, we try not to, but like everyone else we’re learning. We have never sat down together and thought “how can we get more people to listen to our music?” We didn’t decide to create a comic because it was a great marketing tool; Errol just thought it would be fun. It just also happens to be a great marketing tool.

Often, marketing just happens alongside what we’re doing anyway. For example, including clips of fans on our CD will make them far more likely to say to their friends, “Look, I’m on this CD, you should check it out!” As part of our fan-funding package, we will do YouTube covers or write songs for fans who donate a certain amount. That means our fans feel special and we add another song into the mix. That also means more videos which will potentially reach more people.

In other words, most of our marketing isn’t done for the sole purpose of marketing. We try our best to market in ways that don’t feel like marketing at all, so it won’t turn people off.

Of course, we’re still a fairly new band. We’ll see if this ends up working, but so far so good!

Paul Potts said:

I am pretty much a complete part-time amateur and although I’ve been playing guitar on and off, mostly off, for quite a few years, it’s only in the last few three or four years that I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually sing a song while accompanying myself. I’ve written five or six original songs to date. It’s a very, very part-time endeavor for me, and I’m mostly someone who spends that limited time with headphones in my home studio recording or mixing rather than performing live. It’s a goal of mine to do more of the latter and especially to find some local folks to collaborate with.

I’ve done approximately zero promotion with the exception of a few tweets and Facebook posts and some podcast chats. I know almost nothing about it. One thing I have learned is that videos seem to be very important. It seems so far to be the case that ten times more people will circulate and share a video than they will an audio track. You can make a video really easily. My cover of Today’s the Day by Inverse T. Clown took me very little time, just an hour or so.

By comparison the Bandcamp page of the song shows about zero plays.

Something else I want to continue with is collaborating with more of you—recording parts for your songs or vice-versa. I haven’t done this yet but the plan is actually to upload all my source tracks for every complete original song. What’s the worst that could happen? No one will do anything with them. So I wasted a little bandwidth and disk space. Those things are becoming vanishingly cheap.

My license of choice is Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, but people might have different opinions about that.

Heather Miller said:

If you are keeping track of the things that come up over and over as good things, then yes, I’m a big fan of Bandcamp and Twitter and also Reverbnation and Steve Lawson’s philosophies. Also Derek Sivers has a great blog and ebooks. So does Bob Baker and Ariel Hyatt.

One thing that seems fairly obvious and yet sometimes still surprisingly underused/poorly used is YouTube. It’s so easy to make, post and share videos these days that I am rather shocked when I come across a musician who doesn’t have even one video! There are definitely the people who really finesse YouTube and have high quality stuff and a great regular “show” and following, but I really believe that if you want to play out and about, you’ve got to have at least one video that you can share with promoters/fans! And include your website address in the video! You never know when or where it’s going to be posted and therefore not shown with any and all of the information you may have put in the description box on YouTube. But please, also fill in the description box with something! And use the tags!! I’ve had more than one musician complain to me that people can’t find their videos on YouTube, or that YouTube is “broken” when people try to search, and when I ask them if the video has their name in the title and/or tags, they don’t. Argh!

http://soundcloud.com/ is a site I haven’t used all that much yet, but it’s rather like Bandcamp, I think, and I know a lot of the musicians I play on my show have used it to send me tracks. It has a feature where listeners can leave comments on specific parts of a song, and their comments pop up as the song is played, at least on the Soundcloud site, because you can also embed a player. Not 100% sure what the difference/advantage it is to Bandcamp, but another good resource.

http://noisetrade.com/ is an interesting one where you can give your music away for free in exchange for an email address, and it encourages people to tell their friends about you and leave tips. There have been times where you were required to suggest an album to 5 friends in order to get the free album; I don’t know if they are still using that model.

http://www.thesixtyone.com/ turns music listening into a game. You get points for listening to songs and giving the songs “hearts”, and they come up with different “quests”, like listening to the newest uploaded songs, or listening between the hours of 1am-3am, etc. The interface is kinda pretty but sometimes a little confusing to me.

If I was touring, I’m sure I would use http://www.artistdata.com/us/ more. It allows you to enter your tour dates in one place and to update on something like 30 sites at once. You can also schedule for it to send out messages/reminders, like “I’m playing a show at this venue tonight. 8pm.”

Speaking of scheduling, I often use http://hootsuite.com/ to schedule tweets for my radio show, so I don’t have to be distracted with tweeting while I’m on the air, and it can also send updates to Facebook at the same time.

http://www.stageit.com/ is an “online concert venue” that intrigues me, though I haven’t tried it out yet, from either a viewer or performers side of things. I guess it’s a lot like Ustream, but people have to actually buy tickets so you have a lot more control over who shows up, way, way less potential for trolls and I am pretty sure, but not entirely sure, that there are no ads.

That’s the top of my head stuff. There is so much out there!

Jeff MacDougall said:

Although I’m optimistic about Google+ use for musicians in the near future, nothing comes close to Twitter as a useful social networking tool. There are different strategies that can work that can use another social network, i.e., Facebook, YouYube, or social music platform, i.e., ReverbNation, but I feel they all need Twitter as the glue to make any of it work. Bottom line: In order for any social networking idea to work, it requires authentic posts, or tweets, to be successful. The best tool for that is still Twitter.

One thing that is missing, just a little bit, from the above conversation is live performances. A lot of people are still trying to be heard in a noisy bar or other ‘traditional’ locations. I suggest making use of house concerts. One musician who is very successful with that is Marian Call. I understand that not every one does music full-time like Marian, however, there is still the opportunity for you to do house concerts in your area. A few months ago, I interviewed Marian and we discussed her new marketing tools, including her crazy house concert schedule. If you are interested in this interview, you can listen to it and download it here.

Something that John Anealio left out was that he has done a couple remix contests. This not only gets your music heard by other musicians, but the musicians who remix your song will be bringing in new listeners. Alternatively, you can invite your supporters to remix any of your songs at any time.

Publishing your content under a Creative Commons license makes this possible, without having to worry about copyright infringement. You still own the copyrights, but depending on which license you attach to your content, your content is free to share and be used for other projects, thus increasing your listening audience. A few years ago, Jonathan Coulton and I had a good discussion about why he chooses to release his music under Creative Commons and what it means to do so. If you are interested in listening to and downloading this interview, you can do so here.

There are still loads more tools for you to use, but I think the above novel is a good starting point. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try new things. If the first thing doesn’t work, ask your supporters why it isn’t working for them and what you can be doing differently. Get them involved.

If you use any new marketing tools, what are they?

 

Music Week: Practice Makes Perfect: Entering Songwriting Competitions

Some rights reserved by Adrian F

Over the years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with many wonderful independent musicians and song writers. In the last couple of years, most of my independent music library and the independent music I’ve decided to play during my radio shows has been acquired via the entries of various songwriting competitions.

I believe that entering a songwriting competition is an invaluable tool for any song writer/musician who’s either just beginning, looking to hone their craft, needs inspiration and direction with their music, and/or who wants to have their music heard, wants their music easily distributed and wants free promotion. Unless you are super famous and are already making loads of money, which is not the majority of music makers, this is probably you.

There is a smorgasbord of songwriting competitions out there for you to either participate in or, if you are not a musician but a lover of music, for you to follow and, by following them, support the careers of the people who need it the most: the independent musician.

Song Fight
Song Fight is MC Frontalot’s old stomping grounds. The rules are pretty simple. Once a week, a new challenge, aka fight, goes up. The musician has to write a song using the title of the challenge. As an example, the title of the last fight is You Are the Heartbeat of This Office For Sure. That means, if 20 people enter that challenge, there will be 20 songs with that as their title and they will be each based on that title. Every thing else is basically up to the musician. It is that simple. There is no need to sign-up. You just record the song and submit it whenever you feel like jumping into the competition. After the deadline, songs are made available for the public to listen to and vote on. You can find out more information about Song Fight here.

Nur Ein
Nur Ein is an off-shoot of Song Fight. Held in the Spring of each year, it consists of eight rounds. Like Song Fight, each song must be named something specific. Also like Song Fight, to enter the competition, you simply submit a song to Round Zero, once the competition is announced. Unlike Song Fight, you are given an additional mandatory challenge. The timeline is also more rigorous, the submission process is a little bit different, the way the songs are scored and judged are different, there are eliminations, and more. You can find out more information about Nur Ein here.

50/90 Challenge
On the surface, this challenge seems simple: Write 50 songs in 90 days. Held between July 4 – October 1, song writers try to write and record one song, every two days, for nearly three months. Weekly challenges are also given, but they are not compulsory. They are there to help you with ideas if you hit creative wall. You can find out more information about the 50/90 Challenge here.

The RPM Challenge
On the surface, this challenge also looks simple: Write and record an album in 28 days. To be more specific, you need to write 10 songs or 35 minutes worth of music during the month of February. Once you’ve recording your album and have placed it on a CD, you mail it or hand-deliver it by to the RMP HQ. After they receive it, participants will get their own page on the RPM website. You can find out more information about the RPM Challenge here.

Frankensong
As the title of this competition suggests, you are piecing together a song. What… what? After you sign-up for the competition, you are assigned to a team. The team is given a seed track. Whoever goes first, builds on the seed track and then passes it on to the next team member. The second team member builds on the seed track, plus what the first member did and then passes it on to the next member. This is repeated until each team member has finished building upon what’s been created up to the point they receive the track. So far, this competition has only taken place once. Hopefully soon, Frankensong 2 will take place. You can find out more information about Frankensong here.

SpinTunes
Out of all the songwriting competitions, this one is my favourite, and not because I was a judge in SpinTunes 1. The reason why this is my favourite competition is because of the wonderful community that surrounds it.

Rising out of the ashes of The Masters of Song Fu, SpinTunes is a mix of Song Fu and Nur Ein. Once the contest is open, any one can register. To consider yourself officially entered, you must submit a song to Round 1. There are four rounds in total. Each round is judged and reviewed by a panel of at least five judges. Those with the lowest scores, or those who fail to submit a song, are eliminated. The number of people eliminated each round depends on how many people successfully complete the first challenge. These challenges can be topical, technical, genre-based, point of view challenges, and more. Last week, I interviewed some of the SpinTunes musicians, past and present. If you want to have a good idea of what you’ll be getting yourself into by entering this, or any, competition, you can listen to and download the interview here. You can find out more information about SpinTunes here.

 

There is one more songwriting challenge I want to bring your attention to: The Songwriting Cycle. The reason why I haven’t mentioned it above is because it does not have an official website. However, to get an idea of what it is all about, I invite you to read about the results for Songwriting Cycle #1 and Songwriting Cycle #2. If you follow me on Twitter or SpinTunes on Twitter, you’ll find out when the next Songwriting Cycle will begin.

I am sure there are a lot more songwriting competitions for you to sink your creativity into. But I think this is a good place to start, especially if you are needing an extra kick in the pants to create or need a sense of direction.

Also, don’t forget that entering these competitions is free publicity and a way for you to get your music heard, plus gain valuable feedback from other songwriters, gain possible collaborators and/or have your music critiqued by a panel of judges. Entering a songwriting competition is just one of the many new marketing tools at your disposable. Later this week, I’ll give you more tools.

 

Welcome to GeekMom’s Music Week!

Hello. My name is Cathé, and I’m a music geek. I admit to studying all sorts of instruments including (but not limited to!) piano, flute, bagpipes, and trombone. Three years as a music education major pushed me into broadcast production and ultimately into writing for GeekMom.

With this in mind, you will understand that it is an honor to welcome our readers to Music Week here on GeekMom. Since it’s GeekMom, you can expect more than just your average “here’s some music” articles. We are bringing you personal stories, interviews – with both geek musicians and GeekMom musicians, reviews, and AWARDS!

Put on your fancy gown, or your favorite geek rock shirt, settle down in front of the computer, turn up the tunes and help us celebrate music week!

Classical Geeky Wedding Music

Around where I come from (New York) the music for when the bride walks down the aisle is always ‘Bridal Chorus’ from Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, and the music when the new couple runs off is Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ (With maybe a dozen of the exact same exceptions including Bach’s Jesu Joy.)

Not my own, however. I picked a favorite classical piece that I wanted for the middle of the mass, and the choir director switched it and played it at the exit. This is a sore point for me because then I didn’t get to hear it since I was outside shaking hands during the whole thing. (I had a full classical choir at my wedding, and it was this gorgeous a capella piece with six part harmony and…nevermind.) However, it also meant that Mendelssohn wasn’t playing. Yay, for bucking tradition!

Don’t get me wrong. I love Felix Mendelssohn. And Wagner is hilariously dramatic. But why does everyone have to have the same music? What can a geeky couple choose for their classical wedding music? Depends on the mood of your wedding.

Let’s say you want dramatic. For your bride’s walk, you could choose a tune that brings to mind warrior maidens:

And for the couple’s happy trip back down the aisle to dominate the world:

If you like noble, let’s try this. You could even ask someone to do a British Accent saying:

Marriage: the final frontier. This is the voyage of the relationship (INSERT NAMES HERE.) Their continuing mission: to explore each other’s strange habits, to create new life without destroying our civilization, to boldly go where many geeks have gone before.

and the couple can go off into the universe with style:

Perhaps you’re more lighthearted. Here’s a good one to dance up the aisle with:

And the couple can usher people to the party with this:

Those are my geeky picks. Imagine a bride and groom reading this right now and needing help. Did you have some alternative wedding music? Do you have suggestions? Post them below!

A Working Ukulele – Made of LEGO Bricks

legouke

Photo used with permission: RoscoHead

We had a collision of geek passions in my household last week when the LEGO geek discovered a build that even his brother could appreciate. During his hourly daily check of Brothers Brick, LEGO Junkie thought he might have achieved geek nirvana (at least as described in our household) when he spotted an ‘ukulele crafted entirely from LEGO bricks.

A LEGO builder known as Rosco took it upon himself to emulate the curves and tunes of a real uke with LEGO bricks. I’d say he was pretty successful. The ‘ukulele is tunable (Rosco used a C-F-A-D tuning, though standard ‘ukulele tuning is G-C-E-A) and playable. Click through to hear a short clip of Rosco playing Puff the Magic Dragon on his LEGO uke.

Music is the Meta-Game

Vast amounts of time and skill are invested in video game design annually. Everything you see and hear, and every move you make in a game was first drawn, composed and spelled-out in code by someone else for our enjoyment.

When gamers geek out about the games we play, there’s usually a lot of talk about the visuals and sometimes a bit of chatter about the story, but a game’s audio is often taken for granted during casual critique. It’s true that good sound direction tends to be subtle, but it adds such an important emotional dimension to gameplay that playing video games with the sound muted can be a very different experience.

Individual sound effects, like footfalls and jangling coin-sounds, are the straightforward stuff of game audio, but what about the music? In the movies, music crescendos before kisses and screams “WOO-HOO!” during car chases for a reason. Savvy game-makers perform the same sort of emotional manipulation to make gameplay more immersive, but there’s one element the makers can’t control: The players.

As it turns out, the internet is full of multi-talented people who play video games and musical instruments with equal zeal. What happens when one worthy pastime collides with another? Filk songs for gamers!

When you think about it, composing parodies, tributes, and covers of video game music is just another way for musical gamers to replay their favorite games. In other words, VG filk music is a type of meta-game.

Non-gamers may miss some of the inside jokes, but the songs in the following playlist are enjoyable even out of their original contexts. Listen, and get your meta-game on!

Sex & The Ditty

 

Steamy songs work.

Researchers tell us that romantic songs nearly double the likelihood that single women will agree to give men their phone numbers.

And music works for those of us in relationships too. Music does a pretty good job of expressing affection, amorous intention, and other feelings that can be screwed up by mere words.

Why?

Obviously we react to music we like and to lyrics that make us feel. Music engages our bodies, often helping us move out of our heads to a more sensory level. It gets to us in ways we aren’t consciously aware of as well. In This Is Your Brain on Music Daniel Levitin describes what happens as we listen. Imaging studies show that excited nerves signal from the auditory system to activate expectation and reward centers in the brain.  In fact the pleasure we take in music causes our dopamine levels to rise and we all want more of that feel-good neurochemical.

We here at GeekMom talked over our favorite erotic tunes. We noted that it isn’t easy to separate them from love songs, because adoration is definitely a turn on. Okay, we also had to weed through our favorite sexy tunes to eliminate the exceedingly creepy, depressing, and misogynistic ones.

The more basic question remains. What music sounds sexy to you? Is it the beat, the lyrics, the overall tone? Or does it have more to do with memories you attach to the piece?

Offer your suggestions.

Here are a few of ours. Not in order and not by any means comprehensive.

1. What Kind Of Woman Is This? by Buddy Guy

I heard a blind man screaming, say

There goes a sight for my sore eyes.

2. Glorybox by Portishead

Just give me a reason to love you

Give me a reason to be a woman

3. Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins

I’ll rock you till the daylight comes

Make sure you are smilin’ and warm

4. I Just Want To Make Love To You by Muddy Waters

I don’t want you to be true

I just want to make love to you

5. Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan

Lay lady lay, lay across my big brass bed.

Stay lady stay, stay with your man awhile.

6. Wicked Game by Chris Isaak

What a wicked thing to do

To let me dream of you

7. Love Me Like A Man by Bonnie Raitt

I want a man to rock me

Like my… backbone was his own

8. I’m Wild About That Thing by Bessie Smith

If you want so satisfy my soul,

Come on and rock me with a steady roll

9. Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

I want to hold the hand inside you

I want to take a breath that’s true

10. In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett

I’m gonna take you girl and hold you

And do all the things I told you

11. Bang A Gong (Get It On) by T. Rex

You dance when you walk so let’s dance, take a chance, understand me

You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl.

12. Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

But while she’s there waiting

Try just a little bit of tenderness

13. Need You Tonight by INXS

So slide over here, and give me a moment

Your moves are so raw

14. Angel Dance by Robert Plant

Little angel dance

Come on come on and dance

15. Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye

You know what I’m talking bout,

Come on baby, let your love come out

16. Can I Stay by Ray LaMontagne

Lay with me in your thinnest dress

Fill my heart with each caress

17. Arms Of A Woman by Amos Lee

Ya, when she wakes me

She takes me back home

18. My One and Only Love by Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane

You fill my eager heart with such desire

Every kiss you give sets my soul on fire

19. You Shook Me by Led Zeppelin

You know you shook me

You shook me all night long

20. Love Me Unique by Michael Franti

Mmmm, exhale

Touch me like the blind read Braille

21. Delicate by Damien Rice

When nobody’s watching

We might take it home

22. Little Red Corvette by Prince

I say the ride is so smooth

You must be a limousine

23. Powerful Stuff by Sean Hayes

Alright now let’s turn it up

Every day do like a flower does

24. Samba da Benção by Bebel Gilberto

Put a little love

In the cadence

25. Ready For Love by Bad Company

I want you to stay

Ooh, I want you today

26. Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson

When the whole world fits inside of your arms

Don’t really need to pay attention to the alarm

27. Crash Into Me by Dave Matthews Band

Hike up your skirt a little more

And show the world to me

28. Get On Your Boots by U2

You don’t know

How beautiful you are

29. Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers

Oh my love, my darling

I’ve hungered for your touch

30. I Melt With You by Nouvelle Vague

I’ll stop the world

And melt with you

31. Boléro by Orchestre de Paris

32. Stripped by Depeche Mode

We’ll lay on the grass

And let the hours pass

33. Crazy by Aerosmith

Makes me wanna pull

Down the shade, yeah

34. Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake

Get your sexy on

Go ahead, be gone with it

35. Thirteen by Big Star

Come inside where it’s okay

And I’ll shake you

36. Father Figure by George Michael

Just for one moment

To be warm and naked at my side

37.  Inertia Creeps by Massive Attack

Recollect me darling raise me to your lips

Two undernourished egos four rotating hips

38. Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits by The Magnetic Fields

Let’s pretend we’re bunny rabbits

Let’s do it all day long

Am I the Spawn of a Tiger Mother?

My sister Margaret and me, Hong Kong, December 1994. She sported the headphones WAY before iPods made them fashionable! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Amy Chua’s latest book has certainly been causing quite a stir, hasn’t it?

I’ve come across several opinion and editorial articles on CNN.com. Ms. Chua herself has been making the rounds through the media trying to provide some clarification in the wake of a very controversial Wall Street Journal essay, which brought the world’s attention to the book just before it was published.

As a response to the WSJ article, GeekDad Jonathan Liu weighed in on his personal experiences as an offspring of Chinese immigrant parents, and his take on Amy Chua’s parenting style.

So this past weekend I picked up a copy of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I finished it last night, and boy did it strike a chord with me. Not a “Wow, that’s my life exactly!” chord, but a “Wow, even though I experienced SOME of the Tiger Mother, my Mom balanced it with western methods quite well!” chord. As Jonathan hypothesized in his post, the point of the WSJ article was to generate buzz (which it did), and sell books (which I can attest to after spending $25.95  so I could start reading it right away!). That article was only a small part of her story.  Read the book and you will learn the rest.

The book itself was a fast, surprisingly easy, read.  It took me about four hours total over three days, and I’m not usually a super-fast reader. The book is a succinct chronology of Ms. Chua’s 18 years of parenthood, with some brief family history to set the stage. You learn how she is the daughter of immigrant Chinese parents (Ms. Chua herself is not an immigrant, which to me was ironic), how she “rebelled” against her father by applying to (and getting accepted into) Harvard without his consent, and how she attempted to balance a very busy career while starting a family.

Her stories of how hard she pushed her two daughters are beyond psycho. You’ll want to hate Ms. Chua from the start. You want to call Child Services on her. You want to scream at the book! Her oldest daughter Sophia takes the pressure pretty well, but you find out that her youngest daughter Louisa, or Lulu for short, was the strong-willed one, and towards the end you see how Ms. Chua has no choice but to relent if she was going to save her relationship with Lulu.

On the other hand, you’ll be awe-inspired by the stories of how prodigious her daughters were at music. They won numerous competitions, and were invited to play concerts worldwide. The oldest daughter played piano at Carnegie Hall at age 14, the youngest daughter was invited to study violin with a Julliard professor at age 11. While there was likely some natural talent there, Ms. Chua’s incredible drive to not only make her daughters practice practice practice, but stand by their sides during the practice session, and develop practice session outlines and drills was pretty amazing. Would I do it with my own kids? No, not at all! I guess I’m too lazy. But despite how psycho I thought she was, I had to admit that took a lot of motherly dedication.

I recommend reading this book to get the full gist of Ms. Chua’s journey through parenthood. The media blitz isn’t quite doing it justice. While you’ll be in shock with much of it, there are several laugh-out-loud anecdotes, and in the end you are hopeful that she continues to accept “Western” parenting little by little.

I think she’s trying to make two things clear. First, all-out total “Chinese parenting” isn’t always the best method, especially in America. Americans aren’t wired to be automatons. Secondly, she contends that there are many positive facets of “Chinese parenting,” such as instilling a good work ethic, helping your child realize his/her full potential, and teaching children the importance of respect for their elders. If you’re a parent, reading this book will force you to explore your own upbringing, and what ideas you have for bringing up your own kids.

On a personal level, I want to share what I was expecting going into reading the book, and what I came away with.

I thought this would be like reading a book about my mother, and the way she brought me up. Like Ms. Chua’s daughter Sophia, I’m also the oldest daughter to a Chinese mother and a Caucasian father. Like Sophia I have a younger sister. Both my sister and I were also musicians; I played the violin and my sister played the cello.

After reading this book, I think my mother raised my sister and me in a decent balance of “Eastern” and “Western” (by Ms. Chua’s standards) styles of parenting.

Obviously things weren’t perfect. When I began to exhibit signs of being left-handed as a toddler, Mom wanted to “train” me with my right hand. She apparently was nervous about my being different, being a standout. Perhaps she was nervous about teaching me to eat with utensils, chopsticks, or learn to knit/crochet (her favorite hobby!). My father, one of the most sensible, reasonable people I know, convinced Mom to let me instead perfect being left-handed. For some reason, I play sports and my violin right-handed just fine.

Mom’s idea of keeping my sister and me out of trouble was to keep us (in her words) “busy busy busy.”  Music, sports, Girl Scouts. She was unfailingly strict; doing our best was expected of us always. That just went without saying. Straight A’s were expected (although I only ever earned straight As once in my life). I’m still like that now with myself. On the other hand, I was never punished for bringing home bad grades. (I knew several non-Tiger-parented kids who were!).

Similar to the book, I seemed to be the daughter who abided with whatever was cast upon me, layering on the sports, music, grades, and social life. If I complained, my parents’ steadfast stance was usually enough for me. I was good at violin, but I’d never have considered myself great. I’m incredibly grateful to my parents for pushing me to excel at violin, but not fanatically so. Parents SHOULD wring every ounce of potential they can out of their kids. My parents worked very hard to make sure I had the best music teachers, and drove me all over the state of Virginia for assorted auditions and performances. While I chose to pursue science instead of music in college, I’m grateful I was good enough at both science and music to have that choice in front of me at the time.

My sister was the rebellious one. If I was considered “good” at the violin, she was exceptional at the cello. She attended Virginia’s Governor’s School for the Arts, and played for the Guam Symphony Orchestra as a high school student in Guam. I can’t say whether it’s a consequence of her having to move from one end of the earth to the other not once but twice during high school, but her rebellion was met with less resistance. The logistics of traveling to/from potential college auditions from Guam was near impossible, and she ended up heading in a different direction than music after she graduated from high school.

In contrast to the book, my sister and I were allowed to make numerous choices with what direction we wanted to take with our music. The same went for many of the major decisions in our lives. Whatever choices we made, our parents insisted we performed to our maximum potential. They set the stage for us to succeed on many fronts: athletically, academically and with good common sense.

So…am I the spawn of a Tiger Mother? I think I am, but mildly so. I look back on my childhood positively, and I’ve found that I’m tapping into some of my parents’ tactics with my own kids. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Storm And Paul Is Their Cover Band Name

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Photo Cathe Post

They are the opening band. I have yet to throw my panties on the stage – but when I do, they will be unique and geeky. My husband introduced me to the The Captain’s Wife’s Lament and Nun Fight a couple of years ago. When I heard these songs, by two guys who have obvious musical talent, I was an instant minion.

I am of course talking about Paul and Storm. The comedy music duo has performed with Jonathan Coulton, and most recently, their own project with Wil Wheaton and Adam SavageW00tStock.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have an e-mail dialog with the musical duo. We discussed their musical roots and how they balance a hectic tour schedule with family life:

GeekMom: Were you band nerds and/or choir geeks before Da Vinci’s Notebook?

Storm: DEFINITELY. Throughout high school and college I was in show choirs, chorales, madrigal groups, plays and musicals, and above all else a cappella. I never seriously played an instrument, though, until we started up as Paul and Storm.

Paul:  Same here, though I was more a band geek than choir geek (but I did both). Always enjoyed singing harmony, and tried unsuccessfully to start a barbershop quartet in junior high school.

GM: Did you ever think you would become the geek icons you are now? Is this where you thought you would be? Do you even consider yourselves to be geeks?

S: Not even in my most spice-induced dreams did I imagine there’d ever be something called a “geek icon”, so I’d have to say “no”. But I always did have a vague sense that I’d be doing something fun and creative like we are right now, and since I’m most certainly a geek (60% geek, 30% nerd, 5% dork, 5% other), our current situation feels right.

GM: You are married? Are your spouses geeks as well?

S: Yep, happily married. My wife is a geek of the bookworm variety, but mostly she’s just really, really smart.

P: My wife, while very smart (way smarter than I, certainly), is no geek. My older daughter is, though, and proudly so. She’s plowing her way through all the seasons of Futurama as we speak.

GM: How do you balance home life with your touring and W00tstock schedules?

S: We try not to be on the road for long stretches, which helps, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Mostly we go out for extended weekends, and we also make sure to block out “sacred time” in the schedule for important family occasions.

P: It helps that, when we’re home, we’re home 24/7, especially in my case, what with two kids in school and such. It’s an odd schedule sometimes, but our families are quite used to it now.

GM: Would you ever consider writing a children’s album?

S: It would be a lot of fun, and I think about it a lot. Kids have always been attracted to our music–lots of harmony and melody, etc.–but it can put you in a tough spot when you’re an act that does a fair amount of “blue” material. Even as it is we have people bring their kids to our “adult” shows, which can be awkward. TMBG handles it really well. When they come to town they’ll often have both a kid’s show and an adult show, and they’re careful about making clear which is which.

GM: What would your Paul and Storm cover band name be?

S: Storm and Paul. Doy!

GM: You have become icons of the geek music scene. Who are your icons?

S: A lot of them are musical, like the Beatles, Weird Al Yankovic, and TMBG. But I also carry around in my head folks like Monty Python, the Muppets, Fonzie, and Douglas Adams.

P: Not to mention authors (Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, to name two); and not to get maudlin, but I count Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage as well: two guys who have been very successful being exactly who they are and doing exactly what they love.

I have high hopes of there someday being a children’s album. If there is, I will be the first to buy it for my kids. Until then, I will leave you with my most recent Paul and Storm favorite (in hopes that it will be on the Rock Band network soon): Frogger! The Frogger Musical…