Nov
03
2010
6

What is a glass harmonica?

glass harmonicaWhat would you think of a musical instrument variously accused of causing nervous disorders, domestic squabbles, premature deliveries, ‘fatal disorders’, and convulsions in animals? The musical instrument was even banned from a German town by orders of the police for ruining the health of people and disturbing public order (a child died during a concert).  [more...]

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Jun
22
2010
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Which songs feature Marmite in their lyrics?

marmite-loveMarmite is a sticky dark brown British yeast-based salty spread. Unlike its Australian rival Vegemite, which has inspired some professional love/hate Vegemite songs, the Marmite songs appear to be amateur productions—although some of them do have rather poignant or even disturbing lyrics. UK YouTuber Sheepstar15 sings lovingly about the “small brown jar” that helps her [more...]

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Jun
18
2010
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Which songs feature Vegemite in their lyrics?

vegemite-loveThe iconic sandwich spread Vegemite, beloved by generations of Australians, features in the lyrics of several popular songs. The first song about Vegemite was the jingle used on advertisements for the spread, although I can’t remember hearing or seeing this ad even though I grew up in Australia. I don’t doubt that the jingle was [more...]

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Mar
19
2010
2

What did Sadie’s “Sam” turn out to be?

banksy-sadieAustralian pop superstar Johnny Farnham rose to fame in 1967-68 with a massively-successful song Sadie, the Cleaning Lady (video). No other song by an Australian artist had done so well on the Australian charts during the 1960s. Although the song is musically unadventurous, it launched Farnham’s career. The video is in black and white, because [more...]

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Feb
17
2010
6

Where did Johnny Cash's Scottish ancestors come from?

Easter Cash, Fife, Scotland: Did Johnny Cash's ancestors live near here? (Photo by Iain Gillespie, CC-BY)In the 1670s a young Scotsman called William Cash sailed to the New World and set up home in Virginia.  Nine generations later his direct descendant, country music star Johnny Cash, wanted to explore his ancestry. He crossed the Atlantic in the other direction, to visit the part of Fife once known as the “lands [more...]

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Feb
17
2010
1

What is the history of the Abbey Road Studios?

Abbey Road Studios. (photo by Misterweiss PD)The news that EMI are selling the Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded the majority of their records, led me to do some research on the history of the building in which the studios are located. Number 3, Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, London, was built in the 1830s. Number 3 was called Agnes [more...]

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Feb
10
2010
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Do organs have to be tuned?

Tuning caps and slides on the world's largest pipe organ (photo by anne.oeldorfhirsch - CC-BY)This article is not about human organs (but if you think your organs need tuning, Quezi's pseudoscience department has a link for you). No, it's about pipe organs. Of course, pipe organs must be tuned when they are installed, but do they need retuning? The pipes just sit there in a big, substantial housing, so [more...]

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Feb
09
2010
1

What is a hemidemisemiquaver?

Fugue in G minor, BWV 1000, by J S Bach (photo by Jorge Franganillo - CC-BY)What is a hemidemisemiquaver? Does it help to add hyphens: hemi-demi-semi-quaver? Maybe that suggests that something small. It is! It's the British musical term for what the Americans and Germans call a 64th note. And since occasionally 128th notes occur, they are called semihemidemisemiquavers or quasihemidemisemiquavers. A demisemiquaver is, of course, a 32nd note, and [more...]

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Jan
27
2010
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Did Mama Cass Elliot choke to death on a ham sandwich?

Photo by WordRidden - CC-BYCass Elliot was the heavyweight of the 60s group The Mamas And The Papas in more ways than one. She had a fabulous voice and tremendous stage presence, but was also seriously obese. Cass died on 29 July 1974 at the age of 32 at Flat 12, 9 Curzon Place, Mayfair, London—the same flat where [more...]

Oct
04
2009
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How Can I Find Any Musicians in My Family History?

Musicians at a square dance, ca 1939 (Flickr Commons nckr)You got your musical chops somewhere. But in which branch of the great family tree of your ancestors did the musical talent first make itself known? There are a number of very good sources for searching back several generations or more to find musically talented folk who were part of your family’s heritage.   The [more...]

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