2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life

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Bob Dylan’s legacy preserved by billionaire

thA Dylan archive comprising 6,000 items including lyrics, photographs, correspondence, films and recordings has been acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa for an estimated price of $15-20 million.

It’s taken two years to catalogue and digitalise everything and it will now be available in the Helmerich Centre for American Research as a resource to academics and hopefully attract more tourists to Tulsa to view it alongside Woody Guthrie material and Native American Art.

Included in the material are unfinished songs and early drafts of others. There are 80 hours of outtakes from the 1967 film “Don’t Look Back” and an old wallet which contains Johnny Cash’s phone number, Otis Redding’s business card, and a letter from George Harrison congratulating Dylan on his album Nashville Skyline.

Mr Zimmerman is ensuring that he won’t be forgotten. And rightly so. He could easily have got the Nobel Prize instead of Leonard Cohen for his poetic lyrics.

Photograph from Daily Telegraph

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Can’t get you out of my head, oh no

stick_figure_listening_to_music_1600_wht_2378If you’ve ever found yourself haunted by a recurring tune in your head – when you’re not wearing headphones – then you’ve probably got an ear worm.

Typically you might be hearing Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t get you out of my head” or the Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody“.

Scientists have now worked out why  songs like these tend to stick in your mind. It’s because they share similarities with nursery rhymes such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Researchers at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London have analysed 100 of the most annoyingly persistent songs from the last 50 years as named by 3,000 people.

The ear worm chart was dominated by Lady Gaga (well not for me as I’ve never listened to any of her pretentious output).

They compared the ear worm tracks with 14,000 other songs including songs by Britney Spears (Toxix) and Madness (One step beyond) and found that they haunted people through a mixture of the banal and the unusual. So the trick is to write songs that are generic enough to be easily recognised and too distinctive to be ignored.

A quick rhythm and more jarring leaps between notes were two other factors. For example the riff to Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water or In the Mood by Glen Miller.

The researchers think that their findings might be useful to advertisers who want tunes to stick in your mind long after you first heard them.

Well maybe. In the meantime here are the top most annoying earworms:

  1. Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
  2. Can’t get you out of my mind by Kylie Minogue
  3. Somebody that I used to know by Gotye
  4. Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5
  5. California Girls by Katy Perry
  6. Alejandro by Lady Gaga
  7. Poker Face by Lady Gaga

So you’ve been warned. Ignore these tunes unless you want an earworm!

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Music designed to make you work harder

head_gear_500_wht_2011The recent upsurge in the sales of vinyl hasn’t impressed everyone. Although said to be richer and more lifelike  than digitally produced music, an American technology boss claims that that’s what’s getting in the way of productivity.

Focus@Will has developed a form of streamlined music which they claim is based on neuroscientific principles and is scientifically optimised to help you focus.

They say it helps people to concentrate and think more creatively at work. They have cut out distracting frequencies and structured the songs so that they blend into each other without any jarring interludes.

The company has produced a study that claims that the music significantly sharpens listeners focus and persistence and gives mood a boost.

Researchers have argued for decades about whether or not music helps workers to be more effective.  Certainly during the last war the BBC presented Workers Playtime as part of the war effort to boost morale and productivity and it seemed to work as it was kept on until the mid-sixties.

Trying to prove that a particular genre of music or even an individual tune improves performance has been more difficult. Some results show that certain music e.g. a slowed down Mozart sonata, can improve spatial ability whilst a speeded-up version of it interfere with reading. According to the company’s science director, Julia Mossbridge, it depends on the characteristics of the music.

She recruited over 900 subscribers and tested them to see if they responded best to silence, ordinary music, or streamlined music. The listeners were examined using psychological games on their perseverance, visual attention, verbal memory, and logical and creative thinking.

The streamlined music seemed to have a strong impact on creative thinking with smaller effects on persistence, concentration, and mood.

Music helps boost mood and arousal but if the listener devotes attention to it any gain in cognition induced by increased mood and arousal is lost” according to a paper she published on arXiv.

Unfortunately everyone tested had already signed up to the streaming service so they might not have been representative of the population at large and that might have influenced the results. Also there was a massive dropout rate with only 50 people sticking it out to the end.

Having listened to samples of the music, or in some case sounds, I don’t blame them. Not very inspiring and lacking soul, You can hear them for yourselves here if you scroll down to the better of their web page.

And it’s not the first time music has been used to try and improve productivity. The Musak company (probably best know for its elevator music) began customizing the pace and style of the music provided throughout the workday in an effort to maintain productivity (a technique it called “Stimulus Progression“).

This music was programmed in 15-minute blocks, gradually getting faster in tempo and louder and brassier in instrumentation, to encourage workers to speed up their pace. Following the completion of a 15-minute segment, the music would fall silent for 15 minutes. If you can stand it listen here.

This was partly done for technical reasons, but company-funded research also showed that alternating music with silence limited listener fatigue, and made the “stimulus” effect of Stimulus Progression more effective. There was however a backlash as workers objected to being “brainwashed“.

Its popularity declined in the 1960s to be partly replaced by foreground music, much beloved by restaurants, fashion stores, retail outlets, shopping malls, dentists’ offices, airlines, and public spaces. Now there is a backlash against that with stores such as Marks & Spencer stopping playing music in their stores.

So fashions come and go but I think music will continue to play a part in our working lives and very to influence our shopping habits – as I posted here.

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Remembering the Astoria Ballroom in Rawtenstall, Lancashire

Walking round the Farmers’ Market in Rawtenstall yesterday and playing hide and seek with my grandson I suddenly spotted these mosaic tiles on the edges of a large planter.

I realised it was a tribute to the old Astoria Ballroom. If I’d seen the plaque first, commemorating the mosaic being opened by Bobby Elliott – a Burnley lad who drummed for The Hollies – I would have realised.

So here are tributes to some of the bands which played there from dance bands to The Hollies, The Four Pennies, the Spencer Davis Group and The Who (but no mention of the Walker Brothers). I remember it well from playing there. Happy days!p1040283p1040284 p1040285 p1040287 p1040288



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Vinyl has best sales for 25 years

P1030382More than 3 million vinyl records were sold last year, the highest number since 1991, and the ninth consecutive year of growth.

And the best-selling artists were:

  1. David Bowie with Blackstar
  2. Amy Winehouse with Back to Black
  3. Various artists, Guardians of the Galaxy Mix 1
  4. Radiohead with a Moon shaped pool
  5. Fleetwood Mac with Rumours

A new generation of music lovers is learning the sensual pleasures associated with vinyl and record sleeves; retro record players are everywhere, and supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s are selling a selection of vinyl too. Events like Record Store Day help too.

Streaming however continues to grow with a billion audio streams recorded in one week recently and accounts for more than a third of British music consumption .

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2 Shades guest at 41st Xmas Concert in Worsthorne

Last weekend saw the 41st Annual Christmas Concert by the choir and friends at St John the Evangelist Church in Worsthorne, near Burnley, Lancashire. There were two performances – on Friday evening and on Saturday afternoon.

The children’ choir from the local primary school also performed as special guests on the Friday night. The programme was directed by Martin Waterson and our friend Tony Cummings was the compere. P1040079 P1040081 P1040082







The first half of the concert comprised songs from the full choir with soloist Caroline Taylor, Paul Jennings (a monologue) and Ken Hollas plus the children’s choir.

Then 2 Shades of Grey performed opening with “Scarlet Ribbons“. Tony Cummings joined in for “Rocking around the Xmas tree‘ and two Everly Brothers songs. On the Saturday performance they substituted “Have yourself a Merry Little Xmas” for the Everly’s songs.P1040108







































P1040092P1040085 P1040108To round off the first half the choir performed “World in Union“. During the interval a collection was made for the Water Aid charity and calendars featuring local photographs by the late Peter Hartley were sold to raise money for Pendleside Hospice.

After the interval the choir performed a cantata by Joseph Martin “A Winters Grace” which incorporated readings from the bible, read by Fr John Paul and familiar carols.

Christmas really does start in Worsthorne!