Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Eagle Has Landed

Space shuttle Atlantis arrived home just before dawn this morning, ending thirty years of NASA shuttle flights. The wake-up song for the astronauts on the final day of this last mission was "God Bless America" by Kate Smith. Wake-up song? That's right, for every space shuttle mission since the Apollo Program in the 1970s, the capsule communicator back on earth has selected the music that is transmitted to the shuttle to act as an alarm clock for the astronauts. Music for this mission included songs by Coldplay, Beyonce, Kool and the Gang, and ELO, among others. Head over to the NASA website to check out more details about the artists selected, and for great video coverage of the shuttle as it orbited earth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Soundtrack

The wildly popular Harry Potter series began humbly in June of 1997 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone, as it is known in the US) was published with an initial print-run of only 500 hardback copies. This Friday, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, the final film adapted from the series, will be released in theaters across the country. For those of you who can't wait, the soundtrack was released today.

As anyone who loves music or film knows, the soundtrack plays a critical role in capturing the mood and flow of the story. This score, written by Alexadre Desplat, is no exception. Even the song titles act as a kind of "spoiler" for the action that will be seen on the big screen this Friday.

Desplat is the final of four composers to score the films, following Nicholas Hooper, Patrick Doyle, and John Williams, who scored the first three films and came up with the original and memorable musical themes heard throughout the series. David Yates, the director of the final films, says that Desplat included "Hedwig's Theme" (by Williams) during any moment in the film that felt nostalgic or relflective of the past. But the bulk of this score is exciting, new material composed to fit the dark mood and the intense action. Desplat was resposible scoring huge battle scenes, the deaths of major characters, true love, and new beginnings for characters that millions of people have grown up with and have grown to love.

While you are counting down the minutes to the release of the final film, stop by Polley Music Library to check out soundtracks from the Harry Potter series, and even some sheet music to play at home!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Itsy Bitsy Bikini

Sixty-five years ago, on July 5, 1946, the modern bikini was invented by a French engineer named Louis Reard. (A similar garment had been worn by the Greeks and Romans for athletic purposes, so Reard's invention is the modern version). Reard expected the tiny swim suit to have the same impact as the US atomic tests on the Bikini Atoll, that had just occurred, hence the name bikini. The bikini was first worn in public a few days later, on July 11th. The itsy bitsy garment was slow to become fashionable. Bridget Bardot helped. And in the US, the 1960 song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" is credited with helping to make the bikini fashionable.

The song about a shy girl too afraid to be seen in her new swim suit was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. The original release by Brian Hyland in June 1960 made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1960. Several other singers, including Connie Francis, also sang it. And the rest is history.