Tag Archives: music

What is a shofar?

what-is-a-shofar

A shofar is a horn that is polished and has openings at the top and bottom. Traditionally a shofar is made from a ram’s horn and is used for Jewish religious purposes and come in a variety of sizes. The blowing of the shofar is incorporated with synagogue services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A shofar can not ever be made of a cow horn or calf horn because this goes against the worship of the Golden Calf which is condemned in the Torah. A shofar also can not be made from any animals considered un-kosher because the shofar is used primarily for Jewish ceremonies.

Any person of the Jewish faith may become a shofar blower. A shofar blower is called a Tokea, meaning “blaster.” A Tokea usually quickly learns that it takes less effort top blow the shofar by vibrating the lips and blowing on the side of the mouth. Blowing a shofar is similar to blowing a trumpet and be quite a job on certain days of observance, for example, the shofar is blown 100 times to signify the new year on Rosh Hashanah. On the day of Sabbath, the shofar is not used to prevent the Tokea from bringing the shofar different places which would constitute work. And if Rosh Hashanah falls on the day of Sabbath the religious observance with the shofar will take place the next day.

Good care must be taken of the shofar to avoid damage because a damaged shofar will not produce the proper sound, especially if there are holes in it other than the two intended ones. The shofar can become warped from moisture caused from people blowing in it.

Jewish people are supposed to be inspired or made aware that spiritual matters are to take place when the sound of the shofar is heard.

What is dance?

what-is-dance

Dance is the art of moving the body usually to a beat, rhythm or music. Many cultures around the world perform dance as a form of emotional expression, exercise, idea expression, or story telling in either a social, spiritual or performance environment. Dance can also be considered non-verbal communication between humans, animals or insects such as the movement patterns in mating rituals typically called “mating dances.”

What defines or constitutes dance depends on accepted cultural and social norms and on artistic, aesthetic and moral standards. The definition of dance can range from virtuoso techniques such as the ballet to functional movement (such as folk dance or ball room dance). There is also martial arts kata that’s compared to dance, and some sports such as figure skating, synchronized swimming or gymnastics. Inanimate objects such as the wind through leaves or the tides of the ocean could also be considered a form of dance.

Dance happens in many forms and has many styles and genres. There are classical dance styles such as the tango or the waltz, group dance routines such the electric slide or square dancing, there is street dancing such as break dancing or flash-mob, interpretive dance such as that in Africa or the Ballet to mention a few. The reason for the act of dancing can vary as well; it can be for ceremonial, social, for exercise, for entertainment in front of an audience, participatory, to tell a story or just for fun. The dance moves themselves can be random without significant meaning or have symbolic meaning or represent unspoken words as part of a story or performance.

It is not really possible to determine when dance became part of human culture because it does not leave behind any physical attributes like cave paintings, stone tools or ancient hunting instruments do. However, as far back in recorded history as we can understand, dance has been an important part of human culture for rituals, ceremony, celebrations, entertainment, story telling and tradition. There are even Bhimbetka paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings dating back as far as 3300 BC depicting figures dancing. Of some of the oldest methods of dance were those used to tell stories of myths. Dance was likely also used to express feelings towards the opposite sex and for mating rituals before spoken or written language had developed, not unlike the dance rituals that animals still perform today. Dance was also used to pass down stories from generation to generation before the use of writing. Other uses for dance may have been as a way to enter trance states to perform healing rituals. This form of dance as a precursor for healing rituals is still used in many cultures today.

Contemporary dance can be linked to dance historical dance moves of ancient times and many dance moves that are considered new and fresh are actually recycled dance moves with different choreography. So as long as people exist and for whatever reason the act dance is performed, dance will go on as an important part of human culture.

What is a ballad?

what-is-a-ballad

A ballad refers to a form of verse that tells a story typically set to music. Ballads such as this will usually have few characters, may include dialog, dramatic plots and have action. Ballads are derived from dancing songs of the medieval chanson balladée or ballade. Until the 19th century, ballads were very similar to the popular poetry and song or the British Isles from the later medieval period and substantially used across Europe and later in North Africa, Australia and the Americas. From the 18th and on, composers and poets used the musical form to produce lyrical ballads. There are numerous ballad folk songs, some notable ones include “John Henry,” “Robin Hood,” “The Fox,” “Clementine,” and “The Ballad of the Tea Party.” In the opera, a ballad is used to recount the plot’s backstory. Later in the 19th century a ballad took on the meaning of a popular slow love song, especially in the pop or rock genre.

What is an organ?

what-is-an-organ

Without the use of any modifiers, an organ is wind instrument with a keyboard for the musical notes to be played and foot pedals. When the keys on the keyboard are pressed it produces wind through timbres, which are called stops. These are arranged in four different family groups: flutes, strings, reeds and principles.

The instrument called a barrel organ is one that in some of its incarnations, provides music in clocks. Typically a barrel organ is a small pipe organ with a pinned wooden barrel that is turned by a crank. This is to provide both air and to rotate the barrel and its pins across keys that get engaged. One type of barrel organ is a bird organ which is meant to be used with caged birds, intended to make the birds sing.

There are also electronic organs, this is pipeless keyboard organ with many of the features found on a pipe organ. An electronic organ is able to play chords, sustain tones and crescendo and decrescendo on sustained tones. Many electronic organs have a variety or timbres to choose from similar to pipe organs. Electronic organs also combine pickups or transducers to create sound.

Another type of organ is a fairground organ. Fairground organs are used on merry-go-rounds or carousels. The original type of organ that was used for this purpose was a barrel organ, however later organs more like a piano player was developed. A generic term for instruments that vibrate freely with a keyboard and a reed that vibrates freely is a “reed organ.” Some instruments considered reed organs are concertinas, accordions or “mouth organs” more commonly known as harmonicas. A stream organ, also known as a calliope, is an instrument that uses a pinned cylinder and steam whistles to produce sound.

Other uses of the word organ refer to parts of an organic body, such as the lungs, liver, kidney or heart or an organ can refer to a newspaper, paper, journal, periodical, magazine, newsletter, gazette, publication or mouthpiece.