As we take another look into the New American Songbook, KMUW's Zack Gingrich-Gaylord revisits an example of how the poetry of hip hop is a lot more broad than some people realize.

Virtual Bands

Oct 27, 2015
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Virtual bands are a thing.

I’m talking about real bands with real songs, but represented as animated cartoon characters. Virtual bands have been around for generations, starting with Alvin and the Chipmunks in the late '50s. The Archies were a band on TV, as were Josie and the Pussycats and Jem and the Holograms. These were all television studio creations, as is Dethklok from Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse series. Some virtual bands, though, seem instead to have been imagined by the musicians themselves, and they are capable of very interesting things.

Public Domain

Ninety percent of what I know about New York City comes from hip hop. My personal map of the Big Apple bears very little resemblance to the Rand McNally accordion—in the place of the orderly and angled streets and avenues are lanes and grooves carved by a DJ’s stylus. Brooklyn is called Bucktown, and the Bronx is oversized, spilling over into Queens and Manhattan. Staten Island is always Shaolin, with the great tower of the Wu-Tang Clan casting shadows across the entire scene.

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I’ve always enjoyed the music in video games. It's often an important part in setting the tone, whether it’s a happy, jazzy anthem in Sonic the Hedgehog, or an ambient, moody piece from Silent Hill.

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I can’t imagine two people as different as Neil Young and Donald Trump, so when The Donald recently used Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” as a campaign song, I wasn’t too surprised by Young’s unequivocal negative reaction. R.E.M. also had a tune appropriated by Trump, much to the chagrin of the band. It turns out that presidential campaigns of both parties have been asked by artists to stop using their songs.

What happens when hip hop gets weird?

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On this week's Musical Space, Mark Foley recognizes a movement that helped radio stations become a lot more creative.

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This week in the New American Songbook, KMUW's Zack Gingrich-Gaylord looks at how one building block of hip hop can reach a lot further than you might think.

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Human ears are most sensitive to frequencies around 2,000 to 5,000 cycles per second. That’s the most useful range for hearing human speech.

But music can encompass sounds down to about 20 cycles and up to 20,000. We just can’t hear the highs and lows as well as the middle. Strangely, the louder the music, the better we hear the lowest and highest sounds. In fact, we get the fullest spectrum of sound as close as possible to the threshold of pain.

The process of making a song radio-friendly seems pretty straightforward: Replace an offending word with either a euphemism or simply nothing at all.

But determining which words are offensive turns out to be more subjective than you might expect. Beyond the obvious words that we all know are impermissible on air, other occasional edits include references to sex, drugs, guns and even the verbs associated with these topics.