Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Why Playing Guitar This Summer Can Teach You About Science

Having Fun with Music

Summer is a great time to have fun and learn something at the same time. For those days when the heat is just too much, staying inside can be good for practicing a hobby or starting something new. Have you always dreamed of songwriting? What about playing guitar? Learning a new instrument or writing a song may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are tons of resources online that can not only teach you how to do these things but also help with understanding the science behind music.

Link Between Music and Science

There’s a whole lot of science happening in the process of making music! From the vibrations of guitar strings to creating melodies and harmonies, you can pick up a lot about physics just from plucking or strumming notes. Once you start experimenting with your chosen instrument, it becomes easier to see why music is a helpful tool in education. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to remember facts when they are incorporated into a clever song.

This short TED-Ed animated lesson by Oscar Fernando Perez and Chris Boyle illustrates just how much you can learn about physics through playing the guitar.

So, the next time you see a guitar imagine how its parts work together to create the sounds you hear, the vibrations you feel and the melodies and rhythms you play. Science is all around us! And it doesn’t have to stop just because it’s summer.

Resources Online

Here’s a short list of some interesting videos to watch on the connection between music, science, the brain, and even spiders.

The Science Behind the Arts: The Maths Behind Music
How playing an instrument benefits your brain
Spiders Tune Their Webs Like A Guitar 

Are you learning something musical this summer? Write us in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest. We’d love to know!

Poetry, Popularity, and the Spoken Word

Marine Corps Cpl. Juan M. Caraballo reads poem from “The Essence of a Young Poet."

Marine Corps Cpl. Juan M. Caraballo reads a poem from “The Essence of a Young Poet.” (Public Domain) [via Wikimedia Commons]

If we were to discuss poetry vs prose in terms of contemporary popularity, prose would win. Take a walk through a library or bookstore and you’ll usually find a small section of books of poetry peeking through the sprawling aisles full of books of prose.

But what if we looked at poetry a little bit differently?

Poetry isn’t simply words in a book. Poetry is words spoken aloud, poetry is words spray-painted on a wall, poetry is words in a greeting card, poetry is a posting on Facebook, poetry is words vocalized in a song.

When we perceive poetry in this light, we begin to understand just how popular poetry is.

Reading poetry aloud, or hearing someone speak poetry, assists in understanding the work’s deeper meaning. It allows the reader and listener to hear all the sounds, rhythms, patterns, and intonations in the poem. These things are just as important as the meaning of the poem itself.

Consider how poetry spoken aloud impacted cultures throughout history.

In ancient Rome, poetry was the literary vehicle of choice. Some poets’ works were written and read, but mostly, ancient Roman poetry was spoken aloud in private or public gatherings. This is the way poetry reached the masses. It was how poetry assimilated itself into Roman culture. The likes of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid were the superstars of their day!

Ancient Chinese poets of the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279) and Han (206 BC – 220 AD) dynasties are still revered as the greatest Chinese poets. During their time, their poems were performed for royalty and beautifully scribed on scrolls that were housed in the emperors’ palaces. How did the common people discover these masterpieces of literature? The spoken word, passed to and through communities, memorized and loved.

During the Renaissance, the plays of William Shakespeare drew enormous crowds at the famed Globe Theatre. His works resonated with the elite and with the common folk. Are his plays considered to be poems? No, they are not—but his dramatic oeuvre is replete with poetic devices. Let us call his plays “poetical.”

Poetical…much like the lyrics of songs we listen to every day.

Listen to a favorite song and consider the figurative and sound poetic devices found in the lyrics. What do you hear? Imagery, alliteration, metaphors, similes, personification, repetition, assonance, consonance, meter, rhyme? How do these devices impact the meaning or message of the song? How do these devices, along with the meaning of the lyrics, make you feel? Are the lyrics written as verse, as lines of poetry? What meaning do the lines hold separately; what meaning do they convey together?

This is a great activity to engage reluctant students of poetry. Poetry on a page offers quite a different experience than poetry spoken aloud, shared, heard. Listening to songs in a classroom setting—or hearing the lyrics aloud in spoken word—can transform students’ perspectives on this time-honored literary form.

Celebrate National Poetry Month during the month of April with poetry in any form. Help students discover and love the poetry in their world! Gain inspiration from the SKS Spotlight of the Month.

Explore the Music and Cultures of the Ancient Silk Road

“Caravane sur la Route de la soie – Caravan on the Silk Road”, 1380, by Cresques Abraham via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

Silk Road Ensemble

The Silk Road Ensemble, a collective of musicians who explore connections across cultures and disciplines, believes that “exploring our differences enriches our humanity”. Watch video of the Silk Road Ensemble performing traditional and contemporary music from various regions along the ancient Silk Road (trade routes across the Asian continent linking China with the West). 

You can learn more about the peoples and cultures of contemporary societies in the Silk Road regions with the CultureGrams video gallery. In this clip, a musician from Pakistan discusses cultural traditions and classical music. Here, a musician from India discusses the devotional nature of classical music in the Indian tradition. Explore different Chinese musical instruments and styles here. Learn more about the process of becoming a musician in China in this clip.

Music from the Silk Road from Smithsonian Folkways

Smithsonian Folkways helps listeners explore music that can be found today in countries that were part of the ancient Silk Road. Tracks include Chinese pipa (lute), Persian santur (a hammered dulcimer), Mongolian horsehead fiddle, music of the Kyrgyz mountains, and a Turkish Sufi hymn.


“Seidenstrasse – Silk Road” via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Map it

Can you name some of the present day countries that were part of the ancient Silk Road? Explore this interactive map from UNESCO and learn more about the history of countries and cities that were once part of ancient Silk Road trade routes.

Honoring Blues Great B.B. King

When B.B. King passed away on May 14th I was heart broken, although I guess I shouldn’t have really been surprised. His health had been deteriorating more rapidly as the complications from diabetes had begun to take its toll on him, a battle that had lasted for the last 20 years of his life. His passing made me pause and recollect the times I had seen B.B. in concert over the years, none more so than the first time I saw him in Pensacola, Florida in 1978–in a cafeteria.

There was no stage, no special lighting, no big stadium amplifiers, and no stadium seating; just your typical expansive school cafeteria with a low white acoustic ceiling, one wall filled with windows revealing the parking lot outside, and institutional brown metal chairs set up in rows that could have just as easily been set up the previous night for a monthly PTA meeting.

And there was no grand introduction. Before the show, several people behind the scene (I wouldn’t have called them roadies) set up a small collection of box monitors for their microphones, guitars, and drums, along with a couple of small PA speakers for the audience. Minutes later after the stage was set, B.B., along with his band, walked in and plugged in their instruments, thanked the audience for being there, and ripped right into “Caledonia.” For me, at the age of 21, witnessing this was highly unusual. Not that long before, I had attended concerts by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin at 20,000-seat arenas, replete with gargantuan sound and lighting equipment that could fill 20 semi tractor-trailers. But there was B.B. and his simple sound equipment and cafeteria lighting, set up just 30 feet in front of me. He sounded better than any concert as I had ever attended.

No living blues or rock guitarist was like B.B. Watching and listening to him play his guitar, (“Lucille” as he had called it starting in 1949) with his signature string-bending, vibrato style, was a force of nature as far as I was concerned. And that’s not to underrate his singing. His growling voice, punctuating every important syllable, made him stand out from similar rock and blues guitarists. The fluidity and ease by which he played both his guitar and sang was unmatched, and his ability to mesh both seamlessly, as if neither could  be separated from the other, will always be indelibly etched in my memory.

And what can you say about B.B. King’s legacy that hasn’t already been said? Blues legend: check. Guitar innovator: check. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee: check. “King of the Blues”: check. Blues Hall of Fame: check. Presidential Medal of Freedom: check. B.B.’s influence on other musicians in both the blues and rock and roll is immeasurable and the list of great guitarists who he influenced is numerous: Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and the list goes on.

You can learn more about B.B. King and Blues music in eLibrary. To get an idea where B.B. came from, growing up amid humble beginnings in cotton country in Arkansas and becoming one of the most accomplished blues and popular music guitarists of our time, eLibrary’s transcript and audio of the 1996 NPR Fresh Air Interview with B.B. King by Terry Gross is instructional. Here King reminisces about his first guitar, growing up and working on a cotton plantation, and at the age of 19, moving to Memphis to pursue a musical career that would eventually spanned 70 years.

There are more resources associated with B.B. King and Blues Music below, but first  check out this vintage 1969 video of B.B. playing “Just a Little Love“.

ProQuest Research Topics:

B.B. King
Blues Music
Rock and Roll

eLibrary Browse Topics:
Musical Instruments
Musical Styles
Notable African Americans

eLibrary’s Music Resources

Piano Research Topic

Piano Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

If you are a music teacher looking for instructional materials for your class, or if you are a student conducting research on a music-related topic, why not start with eLibrary? eLibrary has information on just about any musical topic you can imagine. We have Research Topics on musical styles such as Bluegrass, Opera, Country, Hip-Hop, Folk and Blues. eLibrary also has Research Topics on various musical instruments, ranging from Banjos, Guitars, and Drums to Xylophones. eLibrary is also a great source for profiles of musicians, conductors and songwriters.

Beyonce Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Beyonce Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Tony Bennett Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Tony Bennett Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary












And if you are one of those people who is downloading illegal music from the internet, you might want to check out our Music Piracy Research Topic! eLibrary’s music publications range from Rolling Stone to the Hutchinson Dictionary of Music. So, from Michael Jackson to Mozart; from Beyonce to Beethoven; from Little Richard to Liberace, let eLibrary’s music resources help you learn more about the world of music.

Just a few of the Music Publications available from eLibrary:

American Music Teacher                          DK Eyewitness Music

American Record Guide                           Guitar Player

Bass Player                                                  Jazz Makers: Vanguards of Sound

Billboard                                                        Music Week

Canadian Musician                                     Opera News

Ella Fitzgerald Is Born, 1917

"Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947." Photo credit: The Library of Congress / Foter / No known copyright restrictions

“Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947.” Photo credit: The Library of Congress / Foter / No known copyright restrictions

The “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz gem. Her three octave vocal range made her music sound effortless and smooth. Overcoming hardship and discrimination in her life, Ella was able to make a name for herself in jazz. She worked with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman to name a few. Born April 25, 1917, Ella is celebrated for both her contributions to music and her ability to penetrate a predominately male music scene. In the 1940s, she was considered one of the greatest scat singers in the world, and in her lifetime, won 13 Grammy awards. SIRS Renaissance and SIRS WebSelect include quality content about Ella’s life, her music, her struggles and her legacy. Biographical articles and websites about Ella included within these SIRS databases provide historical context and engaging visuals. The official www.ellafitzgerald.com, included in SIRS WebSelect, is a comprehensive collection of Ella’s most notable achievements. It puts a spotlight on not just Ella as a musician, but Ella as a person. As Ella Fitzgerald once said, “It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”