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9 Tracks With Facts: An Independence Day Playlist

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Your guests will delight in these American classics, and you can serve them bits of musical Americana, one song at a time.

1. "Star-Spangled Banner," Jimi Hendrix

Fact: Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame) now owns the white Stratocaster guitar on which Hendrix performed his famous rendition of the National Anthem at Woodstock.

2. "America," Neil Diamond

Fact: This was the theme song for Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign.

3. "American Pie," Don McLean

Fact: Your guests will already be aware that the song was inspired by the tragic deaths of musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, also known as “The Day The Music Died.” But throw in a lesser-known tidbit: Don McLean was a 13-year-old paperboy on that day and learned the news the next morning when he opened his morning stack of papers and saw it on the front page.

4. "Firework," Katy Perry

Fact: The inspiration for the song came, in part, from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The passage that inspired her:

"…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"

5. "Pink Houses," John Mellencamp

Fact: In 1984, MTV bought a pink house in Indiana to give away as a part of a promotion associated with the Mellencamp single. In addition to the house, the winner received a pink Jeep full of Hawaiian Punch and Mellencamp grilled and jammed for her and some friends at her housewarming party.

6. "American Girl," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Fact: The band recorded the track on the 4th of July, 1976.

7. "Living in America," James Brown

Fact: Many know it as Apollo Creed’s anthem from Rocky IV (get the MF Balboa/Creed t-shirt here) but they may not know that, despite being unfamiliar territory for Brown (singing a song someone else had written and doing so specifically for a film), it earned him a Grammy and was his second biggest hit—second only to “I Feel Good,” which he recorded 20 years earlier. Another fun tidbit: Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody version of this number entitled “Living with a Hernia.”

8. "God Bless the U.S.A.," Lee Greenwood

Fact: A crowd-pleaser from its inception, when Greenword first introduced the song into his shows, he featured it in the middle of the show simply because it was new. After two weeks, the audience reactions to the songs forced Greenwood to move it to the end of the show as his encore. In his own words, “I couldn’t follow it.”

9. "The Star-Spangled Banner," Whitney Houston Super Bowl XXV version OR Beyonce 2012 presidential inauguration version

Fact: Everyone was in a tizzy when we learned that B lip-synced her inauguration version of the anthem, but the oft-praised 1991 Super Bowl performance by Whitney Houston was also pre-recorded. Whitney sang, but the microphone was off and the audience, both in Tampa and at home, heard a taped version. Bottom line: they are both amazing. Take your pick. You can’t go wrong, here.

Whitney:

Beyonce:


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New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists
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Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

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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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