Category Archives: Music Technology

Lost in Music of the 80’s: The Buggles, Madness, and Mood

I have a certain affinity for the music of the early 80’s and the dawn of the music video era. The new wave era on balance will not be remembered for the virtuosity of the musicians nor the sophistication of the music, though it’s noteworthy to mention that The Police, Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Pretenders, and The Tubes were born of that time. Yet there was an energy and excitement that captivated the music world back then.

The disco age was dead. Punk rock had shaken the music world out of its doldrums, but had faded as brilliantly as it had emerged. More importantly, music has the ability to connect us to other times in our lives.

I’ve also had the privilege of speaking to music therapists regarding the connection between music and mood. In the simplest sense, even a non-trained musical ear knows that certain (major) chords or sounds seem “happy,” while others (minor chords) evoke sadness or are more appropriate for horror movies. Of course, their science goes well beyond those basic theories, allowing breakthroughs with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, and Autism.

That brings me to yesterday.

I was having a bad day – No particular tragedies, just a series of life’s little aggravations. Then, while strolling through the grocery store, a tune played from the speakers above. The recognizable intro to “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. It was the 1st video ever played on MTV back in the day, and the video production levels were so primitive that there was an innocence that permeated the music videos of that era. The song “Our House” by Madness followed. From what moment forward, my day and my attitude changed for the better.

What music changes your mood?

Music Rule #1: Accessibility

When I’m not writing and speaking about the benefits of music education, I serve as the Shouthshore Territory Manager for S.M.I.L.E., Inc. in New Orleans, a 1-stop provider of home technologies (home theater, surround sound, whole-house audio and video, structured wiring, security, etc.). We spend a lot of time with contractors and excited, soon-to-be homeowners. Of all of the services and products we offer, by far we spend the greatest amount of our time discussing and planning easy access to and availability of music.

Audio speaker locations, iPod/iPhone docking stations, volume controls, satellite and digital radio, you name it. Every conceivable permutation of access to music is planned – And why not?

Music & the Quality of Life
The truth is that beautiful cabinets, granite countertops, and crown moulding might impress your friends, but how much do they improve your quality of life compared to access to music? As digital technology has made access to our favorite music more accessible, we are realizing how to incorporate that concept into the design of our homes.

Accessibility Applied to Music Education
The same concept applies to the practicing musician. I always advocate that guitar players keep at least one guitar out on the guitar stand rather than in the case. If your instrument is easy to pick up and play even in 5-10 minute intervals, you’re more likely to practice more often.

Technology: Opening the Door to Music Participation

Tod Machover, a composer, inventor, and educator, has a real understanding of the power of music to transform lives, and in making music accessible through technology. He believes that participation is essential to reap the benefits of music. In this video from the TED website, he discusses his thoughts on music participation and his work. Dan Ellsey, a 34 year-old musician with cerebral palsey and Adam Boulanger, a technology expert give a vivid illustration of how technology can help us overcome challenges and adapt to the needs of the music participant.