I don’t know too much about Paraguay, beyond the fact that I want to visit it. The country is less of a mainstream tourist destination than its neighbors, Brazil and Argentina—which makes it all the more appealing to me. And after learning about the “Los Reciclados” orchestra,” I want to go there even more.

Just outside of Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital, is Cateura, a slum built upon a garbage dump. To give its young residents a hopeful alternative to the poverty and strife around them, local music teacher Favio Chavez started a youth orchestra—where every instrument is handmade from trash from the landfill.

Cellos are crafted from oil drums, flutes from water pipes. But what’s most astounding is how good these instruments sound. Check out the video below to see how Chavez and “Cola,” a trash picker, create the instruments, and hear the kids play—it’s truly amazing!

(Landfillharmonic, a documentary about the orchestra, is scheduled to be released next year)

The Infinite Jukebox

infinite jukebox

Do you ever get fixated on a song and listen to it over and over again…especially when you’re at work…and all your friends probably know about your embarrassing song obsession from seeing it in their Spotify feeds? I’m definitely guilty of that—especially with super-poppy or ridiculous songs. Like Beyonce’sВ “Countdown.” Or Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” (Like, ever.) Or Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen.”

So I was really amused—and wowed—when I stumbled upon The Infinite Jukebox, a project developed by Paul Lamere, a director at a music intelligence company in Somerville, MA. Its tagline pretty much says it all: “For when your favorite song just isn’t long enough.”

The program basically analyzes a song beat by beat. Then it figures out other places within it that sound very similar, where it can jump to. The result: The song can play forever in a seamless loop.

Even cooler: the Jukebox creates a pretty, color-coded diagram for each song. Every color block represents a beat and its timbre. The arcs show the different places where that beat can jump. So, as you listen, you can follow the path your endless tune takes.

Listeners can submit the music they want to hear. I loved how most of them fell into the pop/ridiculous realm: R. Kelly’s “Ignition (remix),” Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” And, of course, one of my favorites: “Call Me Maybe.”

What are you going to put on an infinite loop?

(Bottom three images viaВ Paul Lamere‘s blog, Music Machinery)

Music Love: Gaby Moreno

gaby moreno

In less than a week, I’ll be in Guatemala. But despite my efforts, I still don’t have a strong grasp on Spanish. During the past few days, I’ve been trying to cram in as much as I can, and was thinking that it might help to listen to some Spanish music. (Especially since I’m plugged into Spotify all. day. long. at work.)

As luck would have it, while browsing through NPR’s First Listen albums, I stumbled upon an artist I’m really loving. And she just happens to be Guatemalan.

While I can’t understand most of Gaby Moreno‘s lyrics (though I’ve been translating some!), I can’t stop listening to her new album “Postales.”В She has a gorgeous, soulful voice that’s so authentic and full of emotion. Plus, many of her songs have a quirky, bluesy, folky sound that’s similar to other female artists I love, like Regina SpektorВ and Jenny Lewis.

NPR is streaming Moreno’s album for a limited time, and I’ve embedded the second track, “Tranvia” here. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

(Photo via NPR)

I’ll Be Seeing You

This afternoon, I came across the coolest cardsSan Francisco print maker Niki Baker illustrates song lyrics, carves them onto rubber stamps and emblazons them onto paper.

I love the cards depicting Cat PowerPhil Phillip*’s “Sea of Love” В and The Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” В (It doesn’t hurt that I’m big fans of both of those songs!)

But my favorite design is of Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The outside of the card says, “I’ll be looking at the moon” and the inside says, “but I’ll be seeing you.” SoВ forlornВ and sweet!

i'll be looking at the moon


(Image via Foreign Spell’s Etsy shop; found via Scoutmob)

So Ready for the Weekend (The Countdown Is Over!)

Happy Friday! I’m so glad it’s the weekend–this week has seemed especially long, for some reason.

I’ll admit, when I need a quick energy or motivation boost at work, I’ll put on Beyonce’s “Countdown.” The rhythm is so infectious! And yeah, there are times when I’m listening and thinking of my own countdown until the weekend. So I was thrilled to discover this amazing video via Shoko’s blog. A super-talented 16-year-old donned a Snuggie and filmed a shot-by-shot remake of Beyonce’s video. Watch them side-by-side below. The kid certainly has attitude–and some serious skills!

What are you up to this weekend? I’m watching a roof-top Spanish movie with my sister tonight (only two weeks until I depart for Guatemala–I need to soak up as much of the language as I can!) and going to ballet. (I’m actually performing in a show next weekend and have had rehearsals all month!)

Have a good one!

(Thanks to Shoko for first posting the video!)

What’s the Soundtrack of Your Life?

Last week, I stumbled upon an interesting project via NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog: The Guardian‘s “Six Songs of Me” initiative seeks to understand why music is so intertwined to human culture and why we love the songs we do.

To get to the root of these (and other) questions, they’re asking people to name songs that best answer these questions:

  • What was the first song you ever bought?
  • What song always gets you dancing?
  • What song takes you back to your childhood?
  • What is your perfect love song?
  • What song would you want at your funeral?
  • Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.

You can submit your answers here and browse and listen to others’ responses. The Guardian‘s “Six Songs of Me” blog also spotlights answers from music bloggers and famous musicians. While I don’t quite understand how they’re going to make sense of all the data they collect, the responses are a lot of fun to read. (What’s especially nice is that almost all the answers are well-known pop songs and not pretentious, obscure tracks!)

Of course, I had to answer the questions, too. Here are my responses:

  • What was the first song you ever bought? Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill”–I think that was the first album I actually purchased with my own money. I was 11 or 12 years old and I cringe at what I was unknowingly singing about.
  • What song always gets you dancing?В Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”–it reminds me of dancing at my sister’s wedding!
  • What song takes you back to your childhood? Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” brings me back to the jazz dance classes I took as a kid!
  • What is your perfect love song? John Lennon’s “Woman.” Seriously, find me one woman who wouldn’t want to hear those words from the person they love.
  • What song would you want at your funeral?В Israel Kamakawiwo’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Pretty, uplifting and optimistic for a bleak occasion I don’t even want to think about it!
  • Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you. “Call Me Maybe.” Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Um, just look at this blog–every other post is about much I love my hometown. No other explanation needed. 😉

What would be your songs?

(Image fromВ audioklassiks viaВ bippityboppityboo)

So Ready for the Weekend! (So Call Me, Maybe?)

Happy Friday! I know what you’re thinking: “How many ‘Call Me Maybe’ videos is this girl going to post?” But this one is worth watching, I promise–and the perfect way to top off the work week! YouTuber Steve KardynalВ donned a bikini and a cheap women’s wig, went onto Chatroulette and lip synced “Call Me Maybe” to unsuspecting users. The results are hilarious–and totally gave me the warm-fuzzies.

Enjoy your weekend! Got any fun plans? I’m going to a few ballet classes, as usual, and dim sum on Sunday. (Yum!)