Feelings • Tacos • Guerilla Uke • Prayer • Care • Palmer
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This photograph was featured on a site called The Fork Travels, in their photo competition for last month. It is captioned Ukulele in the mountains, by Macala Elliott, with no other information. The file name includes India and Himalaya, though, so that gives an idea of the general location...
Once more, with feeling
Yorkshire-born Vancouver-based physicist turned ukulele entertainer Ralph Shaw, opened his latest newsletter with an interesting piece about emotion and music. Here is an edited excerpt:
"I was twenty-one years old and had been playing the five-string banjo for a year and a half. I thought I was pretty good. A middle-aged woman was watching me. At the end of the song she approached, put a dollar bill in my case and looked me in the eye. She said, "You're very good, but you don't play with feeling."

It felt as if the ground beneath me was falling away but she kept my spirit afloat with her kind eyes and some encouraging words. She told me I had the technique down and if I could put more feeling into my music it could reach new heights. The memory of that dear woman has stayed with me ever after and completely changed how I approach my music. She made me understand the importance of putting feeling into my work."
This carries over from last week's piece about ABC TV's Catalyst programme and the strong connections music makes with the emotion, movement and memory functionality of our brains.
An article on the BBC Future site consolidates some of that information, describes the commanding role of music in the lives of the Congo's BaBinga people and makes reference to another article about scientifically measured human responses to music, which have been labelled 'skin orgasms'...

"One major component seems to be the way the brain monitors our expectations, says (neuroscientist) Psyche Loui. From the moment we are born (and possibly before), we begin to learn certain rules that characterise the way songs are composed. If a song follows the conventions too closely, it is bland and fails to capture our attention; if it breaks the patterns too much, it sounds like noise. But when composers straddle the boundary between the familiar and unfamiliar, playing with your expectations using unpredictable flourishes (like appoggiaturas or sweeping harmonic changes), they hit a sweet spot that pleasantly teases the brain, and this may produce a frisson."
More about that here!  
Will Play for Tacos
Whilst touring in the US late last year, Australia's popular uke-wielding hit-making singer/songwriter Vance Joy was filmed trying to earn himself a taco. That's because there's a taco stand in Texas that has a carefully worded policy allowing ukulele players to earn one free taco per song, with a few resonable conditions attached. One of the conditions is that you play the taco stand's sacred uke after tuning it to perfection. Click here to have a read of the policy (language warning) and watch Vance try his luck!
Having played this song close to one million times myself, I noticed that Vance is playing it in a different key. This makes sense as he uses a baritone in the original and has simply plonked the same chord shapes onto this GCEA uke (noted with slight disdain).

Ukulele Ladies Plus a Couple of Blokes
A St Kilda (Melbourne) based group has launched their guerilla musical performing campaign: simply turning up, whipping out their instruments and playing a few songs wherever they may be - bar, restaurant or bistro. Sounds like a good idea and in the inner city and musically-minded St Kilda, it will probably work a treat.

Daughterly Care is an in-home service especially for elders and those with dementia, based in Northern Sydney. As well as general care, many of the carers engage their clients with music, including playing ukulele for them. Some of their wonderful stories are here.

I Say A Little Prayer, recorded by Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin amongst others, is one of my faves and works really well on uke. Burt Bacharach's comprehensive musical knowledge and skill brought a very accessible jazz styling and complexity into popular music of the 1960s. As one example in this song, the time signatures vary throughout. To quote Wikipedia:
The verses of "Prayer" are constructed of 2 successive measures of 4/4, a measure of 10/4 (using 4/4 + 2/4 + 4/4), and 2 final measures of 4/4. The chorus is in 11/4 (using 4/4 + 3/4 + 4/4).
Because of this, I've done a different songsheet layout to give you a better idea of what chord goes where and for how long. Chords in brackets with no strum indicator go for one 4/4 bar each. Playing along with Dionne singing the song (in the same key) helps immensely.
Interestingly the Wikipedia entry also mentions that the song was written from the viewpoint of a woman who's man has gone to Vietnam and she's praying that he returns safely.
Amanda Palmer: Ukulele Anthem
Witness Amanda Palmer and her Ukulele Anthem on an outdoor stage amongst the Sydney Opera House sails, wrapped and anchored by strips of white fabric flapping in the not insubstantial breeze. Musically and even lyrically it's not the catchiest song going around, but it IS powerful, like Palmer herself. The location, staging and weather are thus perfectly matched to it.
Mondegreen of the week - some people I know have thought, for several decades up until last week, that 'cheer up sleepy Jean' in Daydream Believer was 'cheer up sweet Regine'.
Thanks to those who recognised the WIUO's song - Valerie by Amy Winehouse

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