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Savion Glover: the best on tap

Okay, now I'm a believer. When some friends invited me to check out a tap dance performance at the Hollywood Bowl last night, I started thinking about all the half-finished projects I could be working on instead ... but I acquiesced, they dragged me along, and my mind was blown. It was young tap legend Savion Glover, who at the tender age of 34 has been hailed as not only the best tap dancer alive, but according to the late, great Gregory Hines -- his mentor -- the greatest there has ever been. At 16, he starred in the movie Tap with Hines, then spent five years as a regular cast member on Sesame Street. He's come light years since then, but we couldn't resist posting this classic clip of a teenaged Savion tapping (and rapping) with Snuffalupagus:

Since then, he's spent years stomping the boards on Broadway, and recently begun a series of amazing collaborations with a jazz quartet and with classic orchestras -- which is what I saw him do last night. To a guy like me, with zero rhythm in the leg region, it's impressive enough to be able to tap a million miles an hour and still create an articulate beat; it's on another level entirely to be able to extemporize with a classical orchestra, and somehow weave the deceptively simple noise of a metal shoe-tip tapping on a wood floor with the nuances of the woodwind, brass and string sections. Here's a recent clip of Savion, collaborating with another classical ensemble:

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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