Category Archives: entertainment

Music: the Universal Language

By Michael Neufeld

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

I get it, learning a language is difficult. Not only do you have to learn the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of a different language, but you also have to discover all of the nuances, idioms, and contexts for word usage so that the things that you say make sense and express meaning. Because learning an instrument holds many of the same challenges, music is often referred to as a language of its own. Not only must you spend time learning to play an instrument or sing, but you must learn to read and listen to it carefully to truly engage with it. There are multiple levels of meaning in music, and a lot of those levels are changed by the perception of the listener.

Photo by William Recinos on Unsplash

The main similarity between music as a language and actual spoken languages is that the content never changes. In the same way “a ball” in English is “una pelota” in Spanish, a D major chord may be called something different in a different culture. However, many cultures still recognize a ball as a round object used for playing games. In the same way, a D major chord still retains the same sound produced; it doesn’t change across cultures. Thus, when orchestras perform the works of Tchaikovsky, they will sound the same. Played with some level of variance due to the styles of each culture (think of it like speaking with an accent).

The sounds that are produced do not change much across cultures, so emotions and ideas can be universally translated. What I mean by this is, what sounds beautiful in America will often sound beautiful in Japan. What sounds bad in Germany will sound similarly bad in Mexico. A romantic song may still carry that romantic connotation in another context. A scary song can still be used to induce fear in other settings. This is the magic of music: it can carry such emotional weight across a variety of cultures and nations, and by doing so it transmits power, messages, and feelings where words cannot.

Photo by Sergio Capuzzimati on Unsplash

An example of this can be found in the popular J-Pop song, “夜に駆ける,” or translated to English, “Racing into the Night,” released at the end of 2019. I personally have a very small understanding of the Japanese language; although, I know enough to hear fragments of words or sentences, I cannot understand the entirety of a song without looking up translations. However, I can still feel the undeniable energy of a song, the compelling melodies in the vocalist and piano parts, and the emotional release during the breaks and key changes at the end. This song in particular has been on my mind since I discovered it for myself, due to its attention-grabbing qualities. Interestingly enough, this song was based on a Japanese short story by the name of “タナトスの誘惑,” or “Temptation of Thanatos.” Thanatos was the ancient Greek personification of non-violent death, likened to a god according to the mythology of the time. Here we can see how the art and ideas themselves have transcended cultures, both spatially and temporally.

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TV To Watch Over Winter Break

By Tanya Chen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Quarantine has been extremely difficult. The days seem to pass by slowly and they each feel like an endless, repetitive loop. During quarantine, I have picked up a few hobbies out of boredom. Some of these new ventures include making Dalgona coffee, baking banana bread, and learning Photoshop. As these hobbies have come and go, there is one hobby that has stayed consistent throughout the past six months: watching Netflix. In this article, I will recommend three shows that I think international students will enjoy watching and learning from. We can all watch TV shows to relax during this time, and with winter break fast approaching, I highly recommend all of these!

Criminal Minds (Genre: Mystery/Suspense; Seasons: 15; Episode Length: 40 minutes)

Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

Criminal Minds is an extremely addictive crime show. The show follows a team of FBI agents who work in the Behavioral Analysis Unit as profilers. FBI profilers are law enforcement agents who use psychology to study and investigate who the suspects behind crimes are and what motivates them. It is interesting to watch the team travel across all over the US and study a criminal’s behavior. The 40-minute episodes are always filled with twists and turns that keep the audience on their feet. However, many of these episodes are very heavy and intense, so it is good for those who get scared easily to watch this show with a friend. Criminal Minds is a great show for international students because it introduces them to many different parts of the US and teaches them about the cultures, customs, and dialects that are popular in all the different states and cities. From tracking a killer in Miami, Florida to following robbers in rural Montana, Criminal Minds is a great introduction to varying social climates of the many states in the US.

Emily in Paris (Genre: Romantic Comedy; Seasons: 1; Episode Length: 20 minutes)

Photo by Nil Castellví on Unsplash

After watching too many scary episodes of Criminal Minds, I was lucky enough to discover a show that’s a bit more light-hearted and fun: Emily in Paris. This newly released show follows the adventures of Emily, a young marketing agent from Chicago, as she travels to Europe for a new job. The audience is able to watch her learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and get acclimated to the people around her. The episodes are extremely funny and beautifully shot. I enjoyed being able to vicariously live through Emily as she explored the beautiful city of Paris. Since there are only 10 episodes, this show was extremely easy to binge and I was able to finish it in one sitting. I would recommend this show to any international student because the show does a great job of documenting how a young adult is adjusting to living in a new country, making friends, and learning a new language.

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How I went VIRAL on TikTok

By Michael Neufeld

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3½ minute read]

A little while back, I went viral on TikTok. At the time of writing this (October 2020), I have thirty-one thousand followers and over half a million likes collectively on my posts. While this isn’t necessarily equivalent to the amount of recognition creators, influencers, and the like have gotten on TikTok, but it’s certainly more recognition than I ever expected to see on the app.

A screenshot of Michael’s viral Tiktok video where he plays the Star Wars theme in a parking garage-almost a quarter million likes!

Since quarantine started, I have been creating short, seven-second to one-minute long videos and posting them on TikTok. Most of them involve me playing trombone in some sort of creative way, whether that is playing along to a popular song, “duetting” someone else’s popular video, or just finding different shenanigans to engage in with my primary instrument. I found a variety of topics on the app, such as musical humor, anime discussion, or other interests of mine, and used those to creatively approach the way I made content. Soon, I found a community of people with similar interests. I connected with jazz musicians across America, who studied at reputable music schools that I knew of. They were all on TikTok for the same reason as me: we had nothing better to do in quarantine.

Over the first few months of COVID-19 lockdown, I had a few successful videos. At first, the bland videos would average around 500 views, while the more popular ones would score a few thousand. The response wasn’t massive, but it was entertaining for me to see which videos gained more of a response than others. I then started a consistent posting schedule which set me up to gain traction. I started one video off by saying “Alright here’s Day 1 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral,” and proceeded to play Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For those of you unfamiliar with “Rick Rolling,” it is a prank that was popular around ten years ago, where one person would send a YouTube link to someone else, saying it was a link to something interesting. For example, one might have sent the link over a text accompanied by an explanation, “Hey, check out this video I worked hard on making!” The twist comes when the recipient opens the link and is sent to the music video for Rick Astley’s hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. After I played day one, I played a harmony to the first track and synced it up, so it sounded like I was playing a duet with myself. The audio at the beginning sounded, “Alright here’s Day 2 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral.” This harmonization process went on for a little over a month, and each video netted me more and more views. I broke 500 followers, which at the time felt like a big achievement.

Michael’s early attempts to go viral

I kept making videos and nothing of note happened for a couple months, aside from a couple hits that broke thirty thousand views. Then I got an idea: “I need to practice, but I don’t have a practice room available because of COVID restrictions. Because I make too much noise in my apartment, I need to go to a parking structure to get some privacy and not disturb anyone. Maybe I’ll film myself in that resonant, echoey space and see what happens on TikTok.” Within the first five videos of me playing in a high-reverb parking garage, I jumped fifteen thousand followers over the course of two days. The culprit was a video of me playing the force theme from Star Wars (or “Binary Sunset” by it’s official name). That video currently is close to hitting one million views, with almost a quarter million likes.

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