Pianist Lang Lang Chosen as UN Messenger of Peace
China’s superstar pianist Lang Lang became a United Nations Messenger of Peace on Monday, a role he called more important than his music because it can help improve the lives of children around the world through education.
Being a Messenger of Peace is the highest honor bestowed by a U.N. chief on accomplished individuals in any field. Lang Lang, 31, said he was “really awed” by his new role and the responsibility that comes with it.
"Last night, I couldn’t sleep thinking about it," he said at a news conference. "Playing concerts — it’s one thing, but to give back to the society, I think is even more important as a human being."
He joins 11 other prominent world figures who advocate on behalf of the United Nations as Messengers of Peace, including Stevie Wonder, Michael Douglas, George Clooney, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, primatologist Jane Goodall and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
Lang Lang, who has been a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, for 10 years, said it is “a great honor” to be the first Messenger of Peace from China.
"China has become a very important global player," he said. "I think especially the next generation of Chinese — we would like to be much more open to work with different parts of the world, and I think the U.N. gives me the perfect platform to start looking into that."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Lang Lang will focus on a key U.N. priority: Getting 57 million children around the world who are currently not receiving an education into classrooms.
Two weeks ago, Lang Lang met Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old advocate for girls’ education and survivor of a Taliban assassination attempt, and said he was “deeply touched by her mind and by her way of feeling about the world.”
"In the future, if she needs me, I would love to help her," he said.
Lang Lang said he will continue work with the foundation he started five years ago to train talented students to be future musicians and creating easier access to youngsters with no music background.
"Children and music are my passion," he said, adding that he hopes to expand the foundation’s work in the U.S. and the rest of the world, including China.
Ban said Lang Lang first became interested in piano “as a three-year-old watching Tom and Jerry cartoons.”
He is now “one of the most exciting and accomplished musicians of our time,” performing with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and China.
After accepting a pin and certificate from the secretary-general, Lang Lang treated the crowded news conference to Chopin’s Waltz Number 1. He said he chose the composition to honor the occasion because it’s a beautiful piece that brings “wonderful joyful feelings.”
"So for me, I think it was a good piece to wake everybody up," he said.
Begged for an encore, Lang Lang wrapped up the press conference by playing a new Chinese piece that said “has a cool name — Sea Weed.” [x]
LL Cool J, NWA, Chic Among 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Nominees
Singing for peace: UN ambassadors launch CD to bridge cultural, generational divides
“We wanted to speak about peace in a way other than our speeches, which some people say are a little boring,” Simona-Mirela Miculescu said ahead of the launch of the Ambassadors Sing for Peace album, a compilation of songs promoting world peace, hope and togetherness performed by five United Nations Ambassadors and youth choirs.
“This is a beautiful synergy between diplomacy and music, and we’re very happy that we created this synergy” said Ms. Miculescu, who is the Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN.
“In troubled times like this, I think absolutely every kind of peace message has to go out. I hope when listening to this CD people will be aware of the fact that peace starts with each of us,” the Ambassador added before stepping on stage for a practice session of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” prior to yesterday’s launch and live performance at UN Headquarters in New York.
The album also includes “What a Wonderful World”, “Paix Sur La Terre” and eight other popular tunes and one original, all sung by Canadian Guillermo Rishchynski, Cape Verde’s Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima, Eduardo Ulibarri of Costa Rica, and Marlene Moses of Nauru.
“We tried to come up with unique ways to present these songs so it was a little more of a world music view than the standard pop rock covers,” said Gary Fry, Emmy Award-winning composer who arranged and provided artistic direction for the album.
For example, he chose a Brazilian Machado rhythm on the ABBA song, ‘I Have a Dream’.
For the background vocals, instead of several singers, Mr. Fry used children’s choirs and high school singers from the Chicago area, where he is based.
“They were so excited,” he said about the young singers whose voices appear on the CD. “Children are the hope of the future for peace so it just makes sense to have linked between generations for this project.”
Asked about the greatest challenge of working with politicians turned temporary rock stars, Mr. Fry said: “Their schedules.”
He added, “The great thing is every time they got together, they were so joyful, so enthusiastic about the music. In their day to day routines, they are often dealing with very tough issues… I hope everyone can see how much nicer the world could be if everyone just treated it like a big jam session.”
The final CD is the result of “the right organizations and the right people” coming together, said Ms. Miculescu whose idea sparked the project.
The Ambassador, a former pop rock band singer in a Romanian student band Symbiosis, rediscovered her love of music while singing and playing with colleagues in Iraq.
The project is sponsored by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation as part of its 40th anniversary celebration, with additional support from the SAE Institute.
“Today is just the beginning,” said Yin-Chu Jou, Artistic Director at the Foundation in reference to the CD launch. The team is looking to identify other performance opportunities, and other ambassadors have expressed interest in participating in a second album.
The CD is being made available at the UN Bookstore, as well as on iTunes, Amazon and other major international digital and online sales hubs. Proceeds from the album will go to support youth assemblies organized annually at the UN by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation.
Asked about a possible live concert in the General Assembly Hall, Ms. Miculescu laughed and conferred with her diplomatic and artistic colleagues: “Well, I wouldn’t say no but we are kind of shy.” [x]
Stradivarius hometown in Italy gets violin museum
The northern Italian town where Antonio Stradivari and other master violin-makers worked will open a new museum celebrating the instrument.
Cremona will inaugurate the Museum of the Violin on Sept. 14. In a recreated violin-maker’s shop, visitors can watch how the instruments are hand crafted. They can admire creations of Stradivari and other famous Cremona violin-makers, the Amati and the Guarneri families, with the instruments in protective showcases, and hear violins being played.
Museum director Alessandra Villa told a media preview Thursday the place is a musician’s “dream come true.”
Violinist Antonio De Lorenzi likened playing a 300-year-old Stradivarius to painting a fresco with a palette of many varied colors — the instrument rewards the musician with greater possibilities for sound intensity and musical coloration. [x]
96-Year Old Man Pens Love Song to His Late Wife & Studio Surprises Him by Recording It ProfessionallyWhen Green Shoe Studio in Illinois advertised for video entries for their singer-songwriter contest, they weren’t expecting an entry like the one they got from 96-year old Fred Stobaugh of Peoria. Fred wrote a song which paid tribute to the love of his life, his recently deceased wife Lorraine who he had been married to for 73 years. He sent the song, titled “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” in a big manila envelope to the studio and didn’t expect to hear back.Jacob Colgan of the studio was so touched by the letter that he called Fred up and told him that he was going to professionally record the song for him. “A Letter From Fred” is a short documentary that tells this touching story in more detail and shows Fred hearing the song he wrote after it was recorded by professionals.
Swiss horn blowers blast away world record on mountain
More than 500 Alpine horn players blew away the world record for the largest ensemble of people playing the instrument on Saturday in the Swiss region of Zermatt, home to the Matterhorn mountain.
The musicians, clad in traditional Swiss costume, gathered on the Gornergrat ridge, more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level, to perform a piece specially composed for their wooden horns.
The 508 players broke a record set in 2009, when 366 musicians took part in a concert.
The instrument, known as an alphorn and traditionally used for herding animals, can be up to four meters long. It has to be propped up on the ground and its player usually has to stand up to sound it because of its size. [x]
Musicians climb mountain to give free concert
A Colorado professor and student hiked over 14,000 feet to the top of Longs Peak and gave a free concert to climbers. [x]
Planning on being cremated and want to do something jazzy with your ashes? Turn them into a playable vinyl record.
Singer/songwriter Matthew Mole made South African chart history Monday by becoming the first local artist to enter the iTunes album chart at No 1 with his debut album.
The 21 year old from Fish Hoek, Cape Town beat off stiff competition from international superstars Jay Z, The Rolling Stones, Michael Buble and Robin Thicke, local DJ/producer DJ Kent as well as the world’s biggest compilation series NOW That’s What I Call Music to top the chart.
The album, The Home We Built, produced by Matthew Fink (Shadowclub, Tailor, Nakhane Toure), is already attracting keen international interest on both sides of the Atlantic where he has already been chosen as Record Of The Day in the UK and A&R Worldwide’s ‘Artist Of The Week’ in the US.
Mole said: “It was such an amazing thing to see the album at No.1 on the morning of its release.
“All thanks to the overwhelming support received from everyone! It’s great to know that people are loving the album.”
Karl Anderson, owner of Mole’s record label Just Music, added: “We’re absolutely thrilled for Matthew as this is a remarkable achievement for a new artist.
“It’s an exciting time as iTunes has changed the face of the South African music industry and given independent labels and artists direct access to their fans.” [x]
To a kid, making music can seem very mysterious, but the fundamental love of playing around with different sounds and listening to how they sound when strung fluidly together is something every musician and composer discovers first in childhood. “I wanted a toy that allowed children to discover for themselves how music was actually made.”
Elephant playfully duets on piano blues number in Thailand
Here’s a version of the 12-bar blues you haven’t heard before, because it was played in part by an elephant. Sure, Peter the elephant was hitting some wrong notes, but that’s what his duet partner was for, right? The musically inclined pachyderm is one of many at the Elephantstay village in Thailand. It’s clear by both Peter’s head bobbing and his other elephant friend’s booty shaking that they’re blues fans, but we’d like to see some Elton John rocked on that piano next.
Amazing 16-Year-Old Girl Created a Beat for Jay-Z’s New Album
Canadian teen Ebony Oshunrinde, who aptly goes by the moniker WondaGirl in the studio, has just finished the 11th grade. She’s also just been credited as a producer on “Crown,” a track on Jay-Z’s new album “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”
Her story is insanely inspiring and impressive: after watching a video of Jay-Z and Timbaland working in the studio together at age 9, she began to download music software and teach herself how to use it by watching YouTube tutorials. “I wanted to do the exact same thing that [Jay-Z] did,” she recently told the Star. When she was 14, she made it to the quarter-finals of Toronto’s Battle of the Beatmakers. (FOURTEEN. I didn’t even know how to make a grilled cheese when I was 14.) She won the title the following year, because she is incredible, and went on to sign an exclusive management deal with Black Box.
According to Ian Stanger, a representative with Black Box, “It’s amazing to see somebody with that much talent working as hard as she can to make the most of it at such a young age. It’s her work that people should be paying attention to, not the fact that’s she 16.”
And her work is exactly what people have started to pay attention to. Earlier this year, Oshunrinde sent the beat to her friend Travis Scott, a young rapper and producer. He happened to be in the studio with Jay-Z when he received it — and when he told her that the cut had made it to the album, she thought he was joking.
"Usually that kind of thing doesn’t happen to 16-year-olds," she explains. No, Ebony, it usually does not.
So you’re about to fly, but your plane is stuck on the tarmac.
It’s really hot—because the airport in question is in Vegas. Minutes turn to hours. People are starting to go crazy, and a couple of people have passed out. What do you do? If you’re like the people on this flight, you break out into a singalong of “I Believe I Can Fly.” Which, incredibly, makes the whole wait kind of worth it.
Tickets not touts: new ticket-finding service operates at face-to-face value
A service that enables fans to buy unused tickets at face value or less is going from strength to strength following the recent launch of its mobile phone apps.
An aggregator for spare or unwanted tickets, Twickets helps put the power back in punter’s hands by connecting eager ticket buyers with genuine sellers, instead of ticket touts liable to hike up prices.
Creator Richard Davies devised the service after becoming frustrated with the extortionate ticket prices charged for apparently sold-out events. To use the service, fans need to download the Twickets app (available on iOS or Android devices) or follow the company on Twitter (@Twickets), where available tickets are advertised within helpful sub-categories.
Since launching in November 2011, Twickets has seen its Twitter follower count jump to 25,000 across its accounts, and nearly 50,000 users download its apps. The service has recently rolled out in Italy and has plans to extend to Toronto and New York, as well as introducing a Windows 8 mobile app.
The service not only bypasses the touting middle man, it also demonstrates an ideal of compassion and altruism. According to Davies: “We often get people giving tickets away and that’s actually what inspired Twickets in the first place. As for freebies, since then we’ve had them for the Olympics, the League Cup Final, the Six Nations, Mumford & Sons and One Direction, among many others.”