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On Sad Music

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"The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don't know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they've been listening to the sad songs longer than they've been living the unhappy lives.” – Nick Hornby, High Fidelity Therein lies the rub. Why do so many of us actively seek out the “comfort” of a sad song when we're down? If we were people that made sense, we wouldn't use music to make our melancholy deeper. Somehow, our instincts overpower that basic logical equation. Sadness, one of the central, eternal wellsprings of music, fulfills a strange function in our listening habits. We don't desire unhappiness, but when it's thrust upon us, we desire the intensification that a sad song brings. The range of explanations is vast. On the spiritual side, musician Nick Cave believes it to be in tune with an innate longing for divine wholeness in all people. If you're looking at science, Ohio State University Professor David Huron theorizes that coaxing out a rush of the hormone prolactin is pleasurable without real consequence. There doesn't have to be only one answer, but in any case, it can be hard to articulate just why feeding the fire of your terrible, endless heartache feels simultaneously good and bad. There's the idea of playing with a tooth that hurts. Despite the pain receptors telling us "Ouch, ouch. Please stop," we can't resist poking at it with our tongue. But consider that when your mouth is free of pain, you're rarely even aware of your teeth. Is it possible then that emotional pain is a way of feeling more alive and aware of our existence? Because there's nothing like the stir of musical drama, from Bach's Chaconne to Death Cab for Cutie, to imbue your day-to-day with a little meaning. But maybe that's a little on the masochistic side. Maybe instead, songs of constant sorrow have a social function. It is, after all, a singular experience. Both rage and love require a target, and happiness is a content feeling that doesn't have the urgency of burden. But sadness, well, you can be sad all by yourself. That's tough in a society where your emotional trouble isn't something you can acceptably share (at least until the invention of social media). If you answer the basic question of “how are you?” with a brutally honest “miserable,” expect an awkward moment. Most people aren't looking to hear that. The melancholy song, then, is a helping hand in the absence of real people. It can help us decode the vagaries of our sorrow, and when that happens, it's as if someone finally understands – even better than we do ourselves. The old saying “misery loves company” is supposed to refer to your bummer of a friend bringing everyone down with him. When it comes to the sad song, even though it can be hard to tell sometimes, it means that you are not alone.

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Bands Read Books, Too

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Music and literature are just two different ways of telling stories. So it makes sense that many musicians have translated books into song, from Bob Dylan’s "Highway 61 Revisited," which retells Abraham’s moral dilemma over killing his son in Genesis, to Death Cab for Cutie's “Meet Me on the Equinox,” which recounts Bella’s lip-biting dilemma over dating a vampire in Twilight: New Moon. While most people have heard of the Bible before Bob Dylan, music like The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” (based on the 1870 novella by Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch) popularizes otherwise obscure book titles. So when musicians reuse phrases like “Venus in Furs,” the line of influences is strung along and preserved in a new medium. This recycling of material shouldn’t be seen as lack of creativity but rather creative reinvention. After all, Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, which inspired Metallica’s song of the same name, was based on the 1623 John Donne poem, yet it still exists as separate, valid piece of art. And J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy that is referenced in Led Zeppelin songs like “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Ramble On” and “The Battle of Evermore” is inspired by Norse mythology, containing an ancient mystique echoed through Led Zeppelin’s mandolin and other early instrumentation. Many songs are as inspired by contemporary life as they are from past literature, as reality and fiction often mirror each other. Thom Yorke explained that Radiohead’s “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” is based on Alice’s dread of opening unknown doors in Alice in Wonderland, reflecting his own feelings at the time. Similarly, Brandon Boyd wrote Incubus’ “Talk Show on Mute” after watching muted talk shows on a plane and wondering whether TVs watched us while we watched them: a “Big Brother Is Watching You” nightmare fitting of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel about complete government control. The strange yet frighteningly familiar concepts that early 20th century science fiction writers imagined have been reasserted by modern bands in music that is similarly strange yet familiar. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four inspired Radiohead’s “2+2=5,” Muse’s “Resistance” album and David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” record (including “Rebel Rebel”), amongst others. The theme of artificially induced happiness through the perfect pleasure drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is the topic of The Strokes’ “Soma:” “Soma is what they would take when / Hard times opened their eyes.” Bands today also cover modern books, like The Decemberists’ “Song for Myla Goldberg” about the author of 2000’s Bee Season and “Calamity Song” with accompanying video (directed by Michael Schur of Parks and Recreation, The Office and Saturday Night Live fame) influenced by David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Authors and songwriters share a talent for artistic narration, so it’s only fitting that they should borrow from each other. The Vitamin String Quartet has transposed the music of some of these literate bands a step further into complete musical emersion, narrating the lyrics through notes while keeping the sensations intact. The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan.

Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Twilight: New Moon (2009) Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico Available at iTunes and Amazon

Say Your Prayers, Little One: The String Quartet Tribute to Metallica Available at iTunes and Amazon

Baroque Tribute to Led Zeppelin Available at iTunes and Amazon

Strung Out on OK Computer: The String Quartet Tribute to Radiohead Available at iTunes and Amazon

New Skin: The String Quartet Tribute to Incubus Vol. 2 Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to Muse Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to David Bowie Available at iTunes and Amazon

String Quartet Tribute to The Strokes Available at iTunes and Amazon

Vitamin String Quartet Performs The Decemberists Available at iTunes and Amazon

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Available Now! Vitamin String Quartet Performs Modern Rock Hits 2011 Vol. 1

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VSQ Performs Modern Rock Hits 2011 Vol. 1 highlights some of the year’s biggest rock tunes so far with propelling string arrangements that burst with energy. Hear the raw rock foundation of Foo Fighters’ “Rope,” the pop melodies of Death Cab for Cutie’s “You Are A Tourist,” the riveting innovation of The Strokes “Under Cover of Darkness” and more as violin, viola and cello rock out with sophistication. Tracklist:
  1. You Are a Tourist - originally by Death Cab for Cutie
  2. The Cave - originally by Mumford and Sons
  3. Under Cover of Darkness - originally by The Strokes
  4. Helplessness Blues - originally by Fleet Foxes
  5. Just Stay Here Tonight - originally by Augustana
  6. Rope - originally by Foo Fighters
Available now at iTunes Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Performs Modern Rock Hits 2010 Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Sneak Peek: VSQ Performs Modern Rock Hits 2011 Vol. 1

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Available next week, VSQ Performs Modern Rock Hits 2011 Vol. 1 highlights this years biggest anthems so far including tracks from Augustana, Death Cab for Cutie and Foo Fighters. If you're reeling for some smooth, soothing tunes to fill your summer nights, you'll hit the mark with this album!

Check out a clip of VSQ performing The Cave:

The Cave from VSQ Performs Modern Rock Hits 2011 Vol. 1 1.You Are a Tourist - Originally by Death Cab for Cutie 2.The Cave - Originally by Mumford & Sons 3.Under Cover of Darkness - Originally by The Strokes 4.Helplessness Blues - Originally by Fleet Foxes 5.Just Stay Here Tonight - Originally by Augustana 6.Rope - Originally by Foo Fighters Be sure to check out: The String Quartet Tribute to Death Cab for Cutie Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Foo Fighters, The Shape and  Colour of my Heart Available now at iTunes and Amazon Vitamin String Quartet Performs The Strokes Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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This Week In History

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1964: The Rolling Stones arrive in New York City for their first U.S. tour. The first date of the tour lands on June 5th in San Bernardino, California.

1969: Jimi Hendrix appears on the cover of Rolling Stone, which is sold at a reasonably priced 35 cents.

1970: The Kinks' Ray Davies makes a 6,000 mile round trip from New York to London to record one word. Davies changes the word "Coca- Cola" to "Cherry Cola" on the bands forthcoming single 'Lola' due to an advertising ban at BBC Radio.

1977: The BBC announces a ban on the new Sex Pistols single "God Save The Queen" saying it is, "in gross bad taste." A warning is issued to radio stations stating that playing the single would be in breach of the Broadcasting act. The single reaches No. 2 on the UK chart.

1984: Wham! have their first No. 1 hit with "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go".This George Michael-written jam was inspired by a note Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley left for his parents. Ridgeley originally intended to write "wake me up before you go" but with "up" accidentally written twice, he wrote "go" twice on purpose. “Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo” was Michael’s own contribution. 1985: Prince & The Revolution start a three-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart with Around The World In A Day which features everyone’s favorite song about a hat, “Raspberry Beret.” 1997: Singer Jeff Buckley’s body is discovered floating in the Mississippi River. A passenger on a tourist boat spotted the body near the southern tip of Mud Island in Memphis, Tennessee. The singer/songwriter had disappeared during a spontaneous night swim a week before on May 29th. 1998: Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell, announces she is quitting The Spice Girls saying, "This is because of differences between us. I am sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best." The group’s 1997/1998 reunion tour grosses more than $70,000,000. 2005: White Stripes singer Jack White marries girlfriend, British model Karen Elson, (a red head, of course), in a canoe on the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil. 2008: VSQ favorites Death Cab For Cutie are No. 1 on the U.S. album chart with their sixth release, Narrow Stairs, which features the lead single stalker anthem “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Be sure to check out: The String Quartet Tribute to The Rollings Stones Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Jimi Hendrix Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Jeff Buckley Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to The White Stripes Available now at iTunes and Amazon Ghost: The String Quartet Tribute to Death Cab for Cutie Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Best Upcoming Summer Releases

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Summer is almost upon us and many of VSQ’s favorite artists are releasing albums just in time to make our backyeard BBQ playlists. Here are the best of early summer’s album releases. Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’ – May 10 Saadiq’s follow up to his excellent 2008 release The Way I See It promises to be a bit harder and slightly less funky than its predecessor, as Saadiq says that he’s “moved out of the Motown thing” and created an album with “edge.” Stone Rollin’s release date was pushed back several times last year, but Saadiq promises that the album’s May 10 drop is the real deal this time. You can stream the album in its entirety, courtesy of NPR. Lady Gaga – Born This Way, May 23 Much of Gaga’s third studio LP was written during her 2009/10 Monster Ball tour, and Gaga says the album is “much more vocally up to par with what I’ve always been capable of. It’s more electronic, but I have married a very theatrical vocal to it. It’s like a giant musical-opus theater piece.” We totally feel that. For proof, check the eponymous lead single/video here. My Morning Jacket, Circuital – May 31 “Holdin’ On to Black Metal,” the lead single from MMJ’s forthcoming release heavily features a children’s choir. It seems safe to assume then that Circuital will be as experimental as MMJ’s 2008 release Evil Urges, which only took us 15 listens to really fall in love with. Death Cab for Cutie, Codes and Keys, May 31 Death Cab worked their way up the west coast for Codes and Keys, recording in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. So it makes sense that the album explores the concept of home and displacement. (Check out the lead single “You Are a Tourist”). Still, the band says the album is more “fun” than 2008’s weepy Narrow Stairs. Expect more synth, strings and experimental electronic action than we’re used to from Death Cab. Bon Iver, Bon Iver – June 21 Finally! It feels like we’ve been waiting for the follow-up to Bon Iver’s debut LP For Emma, Forever Ago…well, forever. It’s actually been four years, which has been enough time to raise the levels of anticipation for this release as high as singer Justin Vernon’s haunting falsetto. Tracks from the self-titled sophomore release include "Calgary", "Perth" and "Michicant". The album was recorded in Vernon’s home state of Wisconsin, three miles from the house he grew up in. Be Sure to Check Out: VSQ Performs Lady Gaga Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Death Cab for Cutie Available at iTunes and Amazon

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Valentines Day VSQ Mixtape & Contest!

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It's February and love is in the air. Well, depending on who you talk to. For those of you who turn your nose up, scroll to the second part of this post for something a little less sappy. For the rest of you hopeless romantics, keep reading for a special treat for your Valentine. Nothing creates a romantic mood better than a few of your favorite love songs - done VSQ style. So we've put together a smashing playlist of our favorite tracks to get your juices flowing. Light some scented candles, spread the rose petals and let VSQ do the rest. Download Valentine's Day Playlist Tracklist:
  • All You Need Is Love - The Beatles
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
  • Fell In Love With a Girl - The White Strips
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
  • Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want - The Smiths
  • California Love - Tupac
  • Just LIke Heaven - The Cure
  • Crown of Love - Arcade Fire
  • The One I Love - REM
  • Soul Meets Body - Death Cab For Cutie
  • Jack and Sally Montage - Nightmare Revisited


VSQ Valentines Day Contest!

We believe that Valentine's day shouldn't discriminate. That's why we have four albums stock full of string quartet love songs for every type of lover. Whether you prefer spikes or feathers, lace or leather, we've got the Valentine's Day soundtrack for you! Want to win a copy of your favorite VSQ Valentine's Day album? All you have to do is create your own iMix of your favorite VSQ love songs! Whoever creates the bext iMix will win the Valentine's Day CD of their choice: Valentine's Day Massacre: The Emo Anti-Valentine's Day Collection The Rock N' Roll Valentine's Day Collection The String Quartet Tribute to Valentine's Day My Metal Valentine How to enter: 1. Create an iMix on iTunes with your favorite VSQ love songs. 2. Leave a comment below with a link. Please make sure to let us know your email address! Extra Entries: 1. Follow us on Twitter and RT us about this contest 2. Become our fan on Facebook 3. Subscribe to our blog feed Good luck!

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VSQ Employee Mixtape #5: Customer Service Dept.

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Chrissy H. came to CMH as a lowly intern and has since blossomed into a Customer Service superstar. Not only does she have a winning personality, but has the musical taste to e all your purchases are the right ones. Her mix-tape is a surefire winner with everything from the eclectic to straight up dance pop. If you ever see her boppin’ around Los Angeles, buy her a drink and she’ll sing you a song. She’ll try not to sing out of key. 1. Van Morrison - And It Stoned Me from String Quartet Tribute To Van Morrison Download buy CD 2. The Roots - The Seed from String Quartet Tribute to The Roots Buy CD download 3. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 from String Quartet Tribute to The Flaming Lips download buy CD 4. Get Your Hands Off My Woman from String Quartet Tribute to The Darkness download buy CD 5. Hello, Goodbye from String Quartet Tribute to The Beatles download buy CD 6. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Ohio from String Quartet Tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young download buy CD 7. 2Pac - California Love from String Quartet Tribute to 2Pac buy CD 8. Death Cab For Cutie - Sound of Settling from Ghost: The String Quartet Tribute to Death Cab for Cutie download buy CD 9. David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust from String Quartet Tribute to David Bowie download buy CD 10. Kanye West - Flashing Lights from The String Quartet Tribute to Kanye West download buy CD

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