WTF Fun Fact 13738 – McCartney & Lennon’s “Primrose Hill”

Last week, a new song titled “Primrose Hill” hit the music scene, causing quite a stir. It wasn’t just any release; this song came from James McCartney and Sean Ono Lennon. That’s right, the sons of the legendary Lennon-McCartney duo from The Beatles have teamed up to create music.

James McCartney, the son of Paul McCartney, and Sean Ono Lennon, the son of John Lennon, have certainly inherited some formidable musical genes. The collaboration draws inevitable attention due to their famous last names. “Primrose Hill” delivers a dose of nostalgia, wrapped in a modern melody, that pays homage to their fathers’ iconic sound.

Like Father, Like Son?

James and Sean bear more than a passing resemblance to their fathers, which only adds to the allure. Sean, born in 1975, embarked on his musical journey in the 1990s. His career has been eclectic, collaborating with his mother, Yoko Ono, and various artists like Cibo Matto. His recent work, as per Rolling Stone, offers a “genreless wash of instrumental music.”

Two years younger, James McCartney began by contributing to his parents’ music projects in the late 1990s. However, his solo career didn’t start until the following decade. On Instagram, he revealed that “Primrose Hill” was inspired by a vivid childhood memory in Scotland. He describes the song as a journey to finding a significant other, wrapped in the warmth of a summer’s day.

Critical Reception and Family Support

Paul McCartney, proud of his son’s work, promoted “Primrose Hill” on his Facebook page, sending his best to Sean Ono Lennon. Despite the heavyweight last names, the song’s performance on Spotify was modest, with less than 40,000 listens in its first five days.

While it’s easy to be skeptical about children of celebrities leveraging their lineage, this collaboration feels different. “Primrose Hill” isn’t trying to shake the world; it’s more about connection and continuity. It stands as a tribute to a storied family history in music, reflecting the gentle spirit of James’s father, Paul.

Echoes of the Past on Primrose Hill

The collaboration between James McCartney and Sean Ono Lennon is not just a musical novelty. It is a continuation of a legacy. While they navigate the giant shadows cast by their fathers, they also carve out their own niches in the music industry.

Their work begs the question: What does it mean to follow in such famous footsteps? For James and Sean, it seems to be about respect for the past but also making their own artistic statements. “Primrose Hill” serves as a bridge between generations, inviting listeners to appreciate the roots of its creation while enjoying the fresh fruits it bears.

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Source: “A new Lennon-McCartney collab has dropped — but this time, it’s by the Beatles’ sons” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 13649 – God Bless America

Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” is a continuous benefactor to youth in New York City. Written in 1940, this iconic song’s royalties were dedicated by Berlin to a special fund.

Named the “God Bless America Fund,” its sole purpose was to support America’s youth, with a particular focus on the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City. Over the years, this fund has channeled over $10 million into local scouting groups, significantly impacting young lives.

God Bless America Supporting the Scouts

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, led to a renewed popularity of “God Bless America.” As the song echoed across the nation, royalties surged, directly benefiting scouting organizations in NYC. Victoria G. Traube, a trustee of the fund, noted that annual royalties, typically exceeding $200,000, were expected to triple that year. This increase meant more resources for scouting programs, especially in the poorest neighborhoods of New York.

Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City have been beneficiaries of this fund. They’ve historically used these funds to expand programs into underserved communities and offer opportunities to disabled and troubled children. Activities like nature hikes, cookouts, and educational field trips are just some examples of how these funds have been utilized.

A notable aspect of this support is the commitment to inclusivity. Over a year ago, the “God Bless America” fund trustees requested both scouting groups to confirm their non-discriminatory policies, including attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Both groups affirmed their commitment to inclusivity, with the Boy Scouts of New York actively working to reverse national policies against gay scout leaders.

Berlin’s Enduring Impact

Irving Berlin’s decision to donate his song’s royalties was more than a financial gesture; it was a commitment to American youth’s future. Linda Emmet, Berlin’s daughter, reflected that her father viewed children as the country’s future and believed in supporting them.

Berlin’s involvement with scouting wasn’t just financial; he was actively engaged on the boards of both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, highlighting his dedication to these organizations.

As “God Bless America” continues to resonate across the nation, its impact on New York’s scouting programs grows. Plans are underway to use these funds to help children, including scouts, cope with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. With at least nine troop leaders lost in the tragedy, the need for support and healing is evident.

Berlin’s vision extended beyond a single song or moment in time. His commitment to America’s youth, especially in fostering outdoor education and life skills through scouting, has left an indelible mark on generations. As “God Bless America” plays on, its royalties will continue to fund adventures, learning, and growth for countless children in New York City, ensuring that Berlin’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of America’s youth.

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Source: “Irving Berlin Gave the Scouts A Gift of Song” — NYT

WTF Fun Fact 13573 – Blackbird Violin

Have you heard of the Blackbird Violin? It’s quite a specimen!

This instrument is not crafted from traditional wood. The Blackbird Violin is made of stone. And it challenges preconceptions about what materials are suitable for creating musical instruments.

The Blackbird Violin: Transcending Material Boundaries

Violins, with their delicate curves and polished surfaces, have been honed by centuries of craftsmanship. The Blackbird, however, has rewritten the narrative.

The stone violin – made of black diabase – raises questions about tonal qualities and sound production. But also showcases the adaptability of human craftsmanship. A seemingly rigid and unyielding material has been transformed into a delicate instrument capable of producing beautiful melodies.

Crafting a violin from stone presents myriad challenges. The density and weight of stone are inherently different from wood. Traditional violins rely on the natural resonance of wood to amplify and project sound. Stone, being denser, doesn’t possess the same natural acoustics.

Yet, with meticulous design and precision, the creators of the Blackbird have found ways to ensure that it doesn’t just produce sound, but that its music can rival that of traditional wooden counterparts.

Resonance and Sound Quality: A Stone’s Tale

One might wonder, does the Blackbird produce a sound that is dramatically different from a wooden violin? The answer is multifaceted. Yes, the material does influence the sound quality, but not necessarily in a negative way. The stone, with its unique density and composition, offers a distinct sound profile

. Notes played on the Blackbird have a crispness and clarity that sets them apart. The tones are rich, and the sound can be hauntingly beautiful, offering a fresh acoustic experience for both the player and the listener.

The Origins of the Blackbird Violin

Also called the Black Stone Violin, its construction is based on drawings by Antonio Stradivari (Stradivarius). However, it has some special modifications that allow it to be played. The instrument was designed by the Swedish artist Lars Widenfalk and named “Blackbird” after the bird (and its coloring).

Beyond its sound, the Blackbird is a work of art. Its creator did not just aim to make a functional musical instrument; he sought to craft a masterpiece. The stone, with its natural patterns and textures, gives the violin a unique appearance.

This violin proves that even the most unconventional materials can be transformed into tools for artistry.

Does this mean that we’ll soon see orchestras filled with stone cellos, granite flutes, or marble pianos? Perhaps not immediately, but the Blackbird stands as a testament to human ingenuity, suggesting that the materials we’ve yet to consider might someday find their place in the concert hall.

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Source: “Blackbird” — Lars Widenfalk

WTF Fun Fact 13497 – “Weightless,” The Most Relaxing Song

Every so often, a song stands out for its ability to profoundly affect listeners. One such track is “Weightless” by Marconi Union. This is widely known as the most relaxing song ever. But what makes it so uniquely tranquilizing?

The Creation of “Weightless”

The British ambient music trio Marconi Union collaborated with sound therapists when composing “Weightless.” Their objective was straightforward: to create a song that would induce a tangible state of relaxation in listeners. The track wasn’t just randomly composed; every element was intentionally selected to produce a calming effect.

The Science of Stress Reduction and the Most Relaxing Song

Research has shown that music has a direct effect on our physiological and emotional states. Fast beats can elevate heart rate and blood pressure. Slower, more mellow rhythms typically induce relaxation.

In a unique study, neuroscientists wanted to determine the most relaxing songs and how they influence stress markers. Among the tracks tested, “Weightless” stood out, reducing anxiety levels by up to 65%.

Sonic Components of “Weightless”

So, what components of “Weightless” make it an aural sedative? Here are a few:

  • Rhythm: The track begins at a tempo of 60 beats per minute and gradually decreases to around 50. As listeners sync with this rhythm, their heart rate and blood pressure drop, inducing a state of calm.
  • Tonal Arrangement: Harmonious patterns and lack of sudden tonal changes mean the brain doesn’t need to predict or process any jarring shifts in the music. This reduces the brain’s cognitive load, leading to relaxation.
  • Bass Frequencies: Deep, resonating undertones create a soothing atmosphere.

The Most Relaxing Song is Not Good Driving Music

The effects of “Weightless” were so potent that some participants in studies reported feeling drowsy. As a result, people were advised not to listen to the song while driving. This speaks volumes about the song’s relaxation capabilities; it can be likened to the effects of certain medicinal interventions.

The original track spans over eight minutes, a deliberate choice. This extended playtime allows listeners to sink deeper into relaxation as they become more immersed in the soundscapes. The ebb and flow of its harmonies gives listeners time to truly disengage from any immediate stresses and focus solely on the music.

“Weightless” also incorporates the gentle sounds of nature. The distant chirping of birds and the soft murmuring of water both contribute to a soundscape that recalls tranquil natural settings, further promoting relaxation.

The Power of Expectation

There’s also a psychological element to consider. As “Weightless” gained fame as the most relaxing track, listeners approached it with an expectation of calm. This priming can enhance the song’s effects. If you believe something will relax you, it’s more likely to do so.

Want to see what effect is has on you? Have a listen:

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Source: “Weightless by Marconi Union: ‘World’s most relaxing song’ used to calm patients before surgery” — The Independent

WTF Fun Fact 13479 – Taylor Swift Makes Seattle Rumble

During two Taylor Swift performances in Seattle on July 22 and 23, 2023, an unexpected phenomenon occurred. Swift’s fans, through their sheer enthusiasm and collective dance movements, generated seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.

The discovery, made by seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, brings new meaning to the power of music and fan engagement.

Taylor Swift vs the “Beast Quake”

The local seismometer detected the activity produced by Swift’s fans, comparing it to the famous 2011 “Beast Quake.” The Beast Quake refers to the seismic activity triggered by ecstatic Seattle Seahawks fans. This occurred after Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown in an NFC wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints.

Swift’s performances didn’t just shake the ground – they also broke records. Swift sold out both nights in Seattle. 72,171 fans attended the Saturday show, surpassing the previous venue record of 70,000 set by U2 in 2011.

Although this incident is extraordinary, it’s not unprecedented. Concerts have sporadically registered seismic activity. Notable instances include a 2011 Foo Fighters concert in New Zealand and a 2022 Garth Brooks concert at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. However, seismic magnitudes from these concerts weren’t reported at the time.

The Power of Music

Caplan-Auerbach, a geology professor at Western Washington University, was first alerted to the Swift comparison through a Pacific north-west earthquake group she moderates. Upon scrutinizing seismic data from both concerts and the 2011 NFL event, she noticed striking similarities. “I grabbed the data from both nights of the concert and quickly noticed they were clearly the same pattern of signals,” she told CNN.

Despite the minor difference between the NFL event and the Swifties dancing, Swift’s fans still managed to outdo the Beast Quake. The seismic activity caused by their continuous cheering and dancing was twice as strong as that of the Beast Quake. Caplan-Auerbach shared that the shaking “absolutely doubled” that of the Beast Quake.

While the ground-shaking cheer after the Seahawks touchdown lasted for just a moment, the energy driven into the ground by the dancing and cheering Swift fans (in addition to the music) generated seismic activity for a more extended period.

Swift’s Seattle concerts exemplify how her fans’ passion and engagement can literally shake the ground. As Swift’s Eras Tour continues, who knows what other records – or seismic readings – her dedicated fanbase will break.

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Source: “Quake it off: Taylor Swift fans generate seismic activity during Seattle shows” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13470 – An Underwater Concert

Would you attend an underwater concert off the Florida coast? It certainly sounds unique.

The Florida Keys hosts an annual Underwater Music Festival. Hundreds of divers and snorkelers dive into the ocean to listen to an underwater concert advocating for coral reef protection.

An Underwater Concert for Conservation

The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, primarily focuses on promoting eco-conscious diving. It takes place at Looe Key Reef, a region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This is situated around 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Big Pine Key. The sanctuary, established in 1990, spans a whopping 3,800 square miles (9,800 square kilometers). As a result, it protects the expansive barrier reef running parallel to the 125-mile-long (201-kilometer-long) island chain.

Participants of this unique festival are treated to a breathtaking view of Looe Key’s vibrant marine life and coral formations. They swim amongst the oceanic beauty, all while listening to an aquatic-themed playlist broadcasted under the sea. A local radio station pipes the music underwater through waterproof speakers suspended beneath boats stationed above the reef.

Playlist of the Deep

The festival’s curated playlist is a collection of carefully selected water-themed songs. During the concert, classics such as the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Fins,” and the theme from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” echo through the water. These tunes punctuate the silence of the sea, interspersed with informative diver awareness messages. The goal is to provide a fun and engaging way to educate attendees on the steps they can take to minimize environmental impacts on the world’s coral reefs.

The ocean becomes a stage where costumed “mermaids” and other characters add visual flair to the concert. The resulting spectacle combines education with entertainment, set against the unique backdrop of the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef.

Local radio station 104.1 FM and the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce organize the four-hour musical extravaganza. So, it’s clear their commitment to conservation and creativity is the driving force behind this immersive, educational, and eco-friendly event.

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Source: “Underwater music show in the Florida Keys promotes awareness of coral reef protection” — Associated Press

WTF Fun Fact 13461 – CPR Playlist

Hopefully you’ll never have to access the CPR playlist on Spotify, but it’s handy to know it’s there when you need it!

The life-saving rhythm of music

Picture this: you’re in an emergency where someone’s life hangs in the balance. The heart has stopped. The breathing’s ceased. Panic sets in. What do you do? For some, the answer may just lie in the beat of their favorite song.

In an innovative move, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has turned to music as an unexpected life-saving tool. They’ve curated a Spotify playlist with songs that have the perfect tempo for CPR compressions. The goal? To empower everyone, not just medical professionals, to perform effective CPR.

If you’ve taken a CPR course, you know that timing is everything. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a rate of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute during CPR. Keeping this rhythm, though, can be challenging in the heat of the moment. Enter the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s “Songs to do CPR to” playlist on Spotify.

A playlist with a purpose

This playlist isn’t about entertainment. It’s a practical, life-saving tool. It features 47 popular songs, each one maintaining a tempo of 100 to 120 beats per minute (BPM). This rhythm perfectly mirrors the ideal rate of chest compressions during CPR.

The list brings together classics like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and modern hits such as “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. The idea? By associating the rhythm of these familiar tunes with the pace of chest compressions, anyone can deliver effective CPR.

Hands-only CPR is simple. It involves hard and fast chest compressions in the center of the patient’s chest. This helps maintain blood flow, providing much-needed oxygen to the brain and other organs during cardiac arrest. Matching these compressions to the beat of a familiar song can help maintain the rhythm. But remember, always dial 911 first!

Changing the game with a CPR playlist

The NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s playlist isn’t just a clever idea. It’s a life-saver, literally. By combining music with medical knowledge, they’ve given us a unique and memorable tool to use during cardiac emergencies. The best part? It’s not just for the trained professionals. Anyone can use this playlist to guide their CPR compressions, potentially saving a life in the process.

The use of a Spotify playlist for CPR training is a game-changer. By making CPR more accessible and memorable, it shows us how innovation can transform the way we learn life-saving skills. And who knows? The next time a favorite tune plays, you might be tapping your feet to the beat of a life-saving rhythm.

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Source: “‘Songs to do CPR to’ playlist could be a lifesaving soundtrack” — Washington Post

WTF Fun Fact 13365 – The Copyright to “Happy Birthday to You”

For decades, the familiar tune of “Happy Birthday to You” was under strict copyright protection. That meant that any commercial use of the song required permission and a fee. This was the case until 2015.

The origins of “Happy Birthday to You”

The melody for “Happy Birthday to You” was composed in the late 19th century by sisters Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill. Originally known as “Good Morning to All,” the song aimed to greet children in a classroom setting.

In 1935 the Clayton F. Summy Company registered the melody and lyrics of “Happy Birthday to You” for copyright. This copyright protection granted them exclusive rights to the song. Technically, this restricted its public use without obtaining a license or paying royalties. As a result, countless public performances and recordings of the song required legal authorization.

Over the years, “Happy Birthday to You” became an iconic cultural staple, sung in homes, schools, restaurants, and even movies. Despite its widespread use, the song’s copyright remained firmly in place.

Ending the Happy Birthday copyright

The extent of the copyright’s reach became a topic of curiosity and controversy. In 2013, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson sought to produce a film about the song’s history but was required to pay substantial licensing fees to include the song. Intrigued by the song’s copyright status, Nelson embarked on a legal battle to challenge its validity and uncover the truth behind this enduring musical monopoly.

In 2015, after years of legal proceedings, a federal judge ruled that the copyright claim to “Happy Birthday to You” was invalid. The court determined that the melody and lyrics of the song had long been part of the public domain. This released the song from its decades-long copyright imprisonment.

According to the Hollywood Reporter (cited below) Warner/Chappell Music, the company that held the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You,” agreed to pay a $14 million settlement in 2016. This settlement came after a class-action lawsuit challenged the validity of the copyright and sought reimbursement for years of licensing fees paid.

Entering the public domain

The resolution of the lawsuit marked a turning point, not only in the financial aspect but also in the recognition that the song rightfully belonged in the public domain. It allowed people worldwide to freely sing and share the timeless birthday anthem without any further encumbrance of licensing fees.

The release of “Happy Birthday to You” from copyright restrictions marked a significant milestone. It ensured that the song could be freely performed, recorded, and shared by people around the world.

Following the court ruling, Warner/Chappell Music faced a wave of legal claims seeking reimbursement for years of licensing fees paid. In 2016, Warner/Chappell Music agreed to settle the class-action lawsuit. They paid a $14 million settlement, finally closing the chapter on the decades-long copyright controversy.

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Source: “Warner Music Pays $14 Million to End ‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Lawsuit” — The Hollywood Reporter

WTF Fun Fact 13363 – The Oldest Musical Instrument

Deep within the recesses of a German cave, researchers came across a remarkable artifact in 2008—the world’s oldest musical instrument. It was a flute made from a vulture’s wing bone. This extraordinary find dated back approximately 40,000 years.

Discovering the world’s oldest musical instrument

In 2008, archaeologists exploring the Hohle Fels cave in southwestern Germany unearthed a treasure that would rewrite the history of music. During their search, they stumbled upon the remnants of a bone flute. After the researchers carefully reconstructed it, they revealed the astonishing craftsmanship of our ancient ancestors.

They’ve also traced the flute’s origin back to the Upper Paleolithic period, during a time when early humans roamed the Earth. Radiocarbon dating placed the age of the flute at approximately 40,000 years old. This makes it the oldest known musical instrument ever found. It even predates the development of agriculture and the invention of writing! That really says something about the importance of music in our lives.

The flute’s construction

The flute, made from the hollow wing bone of a griffon vulture, exhibits remarkable craftsmanship. Moreover, the flute’s smooth surface bears the unmistakable signs of intricate carving and polishing, serving as a testament to the skill and dedication of its ancient artisan. The creator carefully fashioned the bone with several holes, allowing for the modulation of sound by covering and uncovering them.

Experts have analyzed the flute’s acoustics and confirmed that it possesses the ability to produce musical tones. And they say the presence of carefully placed finger holes indicates that our ancient ancestors possessed a fundamental understanding of sound. Not only that, but they were capable of manipulating it to create melodies. This information provides some fascinating insight into the human capacity for artistic expression.

Rewriting history with music

The discovery of the world’s oldest flute not only expands our knowledge of human history but also highlights the enduring impact of music on our lives. This serves as a reminder that music has always held a special place in the human experience, bringing joy, solace, and a means of creative expression across civilizations and ages.

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Source: “35,000-year-old flute is oldest known musical instrument” — LA Times