Category Archives: music

My Concert Catastrophe-How to Survive Live Concerts

By Anahi Terrazas

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4.5 minute read]

Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, concert-going was one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve been to multiple concerts over the past couple of years (my favorite arguably being the One Direction concert). One of my favorite artists is also Harry Styles, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that he would be performing during Super Bowl weekend in Miami.

As soon as I heard he would be performing in Miami, I bought tickets—mind you, I didn’t know anyone that I could go to the concert with, so I messaged a girl that I had met at the Women’s March and added on Instagram weeks prior to the concert. It turned out that she was also going to be attending the concert and didn’t have anyone to go with, so we made a plan to meet up at the venue. The concert was approximately a 40-50 minute drive from where I was attending school prior to transferring to USC.

The concert was at 8 pm, but it was open seating, so to get a good seat you had to arrive early. I got there promptly at 5 am the day of the concert. I had driven from Parkland, Florida to Miami. The venue was built specifically for Super Bowl weekend and it was basically on an island that did not have any parking, so in order to arrive you had to park somewhere in downtown Miami and Uber to the venue (this is an important detail for later). I very excitedly arrived at Miami and by around 6:15 am I was standing in line with my friend from the Women’s March.

Standing in line outside the venue at around 6:30 am

While waiting in line, everything was seemingly normal; we made friends with the girls in line with us and chatted about how excited we were. However, when the clock hit 7:30 pm and we still weren’t allowed into the venue, I started to question what was happening. We were eventually led into the venue at around 8:30 pm, and though I was incredibly tired because I had been awake since 4 am, the rush of being able to see Harry Styles perform kept me from getting too impatient. Mark Ronson, a DJ, was the first opening act and by around 10:30 pm, Lizzo, the second opening act, started performing.

My view of the stage once inside the venue

Though I had been to many concerts before, I had never experienced the main act starting so late. After Lizzo’s performance, time passed and there was still no sign of Harry Styles getting on stage. At this point everyone in the pit started to get dehydrated because we had been standing so long without water. People started to ask security for water and question why it was almost midnight and Harry Styles had yet to perform.

View from the pit

Nevertheless, the people around me and I kept our hopes up because it was Harry Styles’ birthday the next day, so we assumed that he was waiting until midnight to perform in order to celebrate his birthday. In fact, once the clock hit 12 am fans started to sing “Happy Birthday” when suddenly, the screen in front of us flashed a message saying that the concert was canceled due to extreme weather and that we had to be evacuated.

Announcement telling concert-goers we needed to evacuate
Continue reading My Concert Catastrophe-How to Survive Live Concerts

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.

Continue reading Music: the Universal Language

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.

Continue reading How I went VIRAL on TikTok