Spotify poses a threat to top music sites

Pandora has been the chosen online radio station among the vast majority in the U.S. for quite some time. Now, a new competitor from Europe has crossed over to America — Spotify. Spotify made its debut last year in the summer and contains music from record labels such as Sony, Universal and Warner Music Group, as well as independent labels. It was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. Its headquarters are in the United Kingdom but also has offices in New York and Paris. Currently, 10 million users are registered and three million are paying. The company is powered by The Echo Nest, and its Playlist API powers the stations. It allows users to stream all the music they desire without charge for six months. The program initially launched in Europe  in the fall of 2008, and others could only get access to the app by invitation. As like Pandora, the radio station does come with limits such as various advertisements and the inability to have it on your mobile without paying for it. Spotify differs from Pandora in many ways, another being that there is not a limited number of skipping tracks. The restrictions will no longer apply if one chooses to upgrade to a premium plan. For $10 a month subscribers will be able to use the service on Android-powered phones and some, but not all, BlackBerrys. They will be allowed to sync an iPad through the app and can cache their favorite songs and listen to them while  offline. Twitter and Facebook can also be used with Spotify to share with friends the music one is listening to and vice versa. If friends are interested in an artist from another friend’s page they have not heard much about, there is an artist page, which will allow users to read a biography of an artist and provide similar songs within the same genre. Spotify has millions of songs to choose from, so searching for a favorite singer should be fairly easy. Some of today’s most popular artists can be found within the database. If someone is searching for a song by Pink, for example, Spotify allows the user to listen to her instead of taking the user to a similar artist like Katy Perry, as Pandora would. Since the days of Lime Wire and Napster are long gone, Spotify produces a better and legal alternative by giving access to free music instead of piracy. As of now, the verdict is still out on which companies will offer the best online music....

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Orchestra sends soothing sound

By Elissa Thompson Trumpets, flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trombones and so much more played together in perfect harmony Feb. 28 in Walton Chapel. The university’s Wind Ensemble hosted a concert in which they performed five pieces, including a 17-minute-long piece by David Maslanka. The group consists of 37 musicians, including the conductor, Nils Landsberg. The first song they played was called “Shepherd’s Hey” by Percy Grainger. “It was written in 1918, and it is believed to be the first work for a concert band to include piano in its orchestration,” Landsberg said. It was lively, and the orchestra seemed to enjoy playing it. “The Seal Lullaby” by Eric Whitacre, was the second song. It was originally supposed to be part of the soundtrack for an animated movie based on Rudyard Kipling’s The White Seal. Unfortunately, this beautiful, moving piece never made it because DreamWorks decided to make Kung Fu Panda. The next song was a two-movement piece by Shelley Hanson called “Dance with Winds.” Before it started, more than half of the musicians got up and left. Landsberg said, “That was a chamber work that was only for 12 winds and two percussionists. We like to incorporate chamber works as often as we can because it really exposes the individual instrumentalist and pushes them to strive harder for great music making.” After a quick intermission, the orchestra came back and performed a piece by William Schuman called “Chester, Overture for Band.” The last song was the most inspiring. It was a 17-minute piece called “Give Us This Day” by David Maslanka. While the title comes from The Lord’s Prayer, Maslanka got the inspiration for this piece from Buddhist philosophy. “The idea is that in order for the world to survive, everyone must find their inner self and find deep mindfulness within themselves,” Landsberg said. The first movement had almost a mystical, dark sound to it. “You notice in the first movement, it’s this very mysterious (song) with lots of interesting textures being created with plucking piano strings and hand bells being added to the sound texture. But then there are moments of glory and then it resolves back down to this tiny speck and then all of the sudden, boom, the second movement, which is very intense,” Landsberg said. Freshman music education major Akil Everett plays the tenor saxophone in the ensemble and has been playing for 15 years. He said playing with the group is inspiring and requires hard work, but there are many dedicated individuals who are involved. “I really want to compose,” he said. Everett plans to focus on film scoring after guaduation. Freshman Christian ministry major...

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Hunger Games series sets mood for Central Texas Book Club

A new book this semester will be introduced during the 2012 UMHB Central Texas Book Club meeting. The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins will be discussed by Professor of  English Dr. Brent Gibson and Associate Professor in the College of Christian Studies Dr. Mike Robinson. Sigma Tau Delta is hosting the gathering, March 20, and refreshments will also be provided. All of the campus is invited to attend the event from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lord Conference Center. For those who do not have the book already, a paperback edition is for sale at the campus bookstore. Gibson gave a few details about what people can expect while in attendance at the discussions. He said, “Dr. Robinson and I will each give a talk about the book. After that will be a question-and-answer discussion about either what I noticed about the book or what someone else has noticed. I am going to start off by talking about some general things about the book, like its genesis and the way it was conceived….We will focus on the main character and what she is like.” Since department chair of English Dr. Jacky Dumas has taken over the book club, he has decided to choose readings for the students that have deep meanings. He said, “I have really been working on enticing the students to look at books that have a multi-disciplinary     focus.” Dumas explains how the new books for the book club are chosen each semester. “We take recommendations from faculty, generally the (English) department and students. We cut it down to a list of books that the students are interested in, and that’s usually our strong constituency of the students, so we want to pick things that will apply to them,” he said. Around the university, The Hunger Games is a favorite among many and is rapidly increasing in popularity through word of mouth. Junior Christian ministry major Kaitlin Burks is a big fan of the book. She is interested in attending the event if her schedule permits. She said, “I wanted to read the (books) when suddenly everyone started talking about them and getting excited about the movie. My best friends could not stop talking about how amazing they were and how I really needed to read them. It took me what felt like forever to actually get my hands on it.” Burks also said the book is very alluring and even tempts those who are not regular readers. “What really surprised me was that my friends who absolutely hate reading loved reading this book,” she said. “The author wrote them so well that it’s easy...

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Pop culture is theme for student art

The annual student art competition has come and gone, but the art still lingers. “Red Riding Hood,” “Dazed and Confused” and “Katy Perry,” along with many others can be found on display in the second floor of the library. Senior studio art major Joanne Cervantes won the competition with her artwork entitled “LJ Whiteleg.” She recently made a dramatic change in her creative style after having artist block for a year, so the victory was satisfying to her. “The reason I felt good about winning this time is because this work is so different from what I have done before.  My heart is really in this 100 percent,” she said. “I could have done my old style, but my heart just wasn’t in it. So for me to win first place in this new work, it just solidified in my mind that I am moving in the right direction. And it’s gratifying to see that other people can see what I see in it.” Cervantes described finding her inspiration in unusual things. “I see the beauty in junk. I wanted to do drawings from life. So I go out to the farm, and I just get around the horses, and work with whatever’s there. And to me that’s beautiful. It’s a very unpretentious environment, so there’s a lot of beauty in that. Just whatever’s around me,” she said. For sophomore Christian ministry major Jennifer Settles, the artwork is a refreshing change of scenery while doing studies in the library. “They should have this up here all the time because I like looking at it. I guess I just didn’t realize how many different kinds of art there is. Whenever I need a break from my studies, I can just gaze into the art,” she said. This year 75 pieces were entered, and only 29 were accepted for the competition. Submissions were open to anyone who is currently enrolled in an art class or who has taken an art class within the past year. First, second and third places were awarded, along with honorable mention. Professor and Art Department Chair Hershall Seals had encouraging words for those whose work is not on display. “The competition is always risky if you have your ego involved, but everyone has to understand that one judge’s opinion is one judge’s opinion. And you just have to be stubborn enough to keep entering, and eventually something will be accepted for exhibition,” he said. Cervantes, whose art is often misinterpreted, explained that fear can never be an option for any aspiring artist. She said, “Don’t ever be afraid to look stupid because you’re probably going to...

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Musician pours out soul in lyrics inspired by religion and politics

An abrupt lyrical volcano comes flowing out with lava consisting of social injustice and spiritual doubts. With hot pains bursting through, solo singer and song writer, David Bazan, sang his viewpoint of religion and social politics at a campus concert. Former band member of Pedro the Lion, Bazan is an indie rock musician with hit albums titled Curse Your Branches and Strange Negotiations. Even though he is not technically classified as a Christian artist, Bazan writes about the spiritual journey and deep theological struggles Christians face today. With soulful songs that penetrate deep and resonate with young amateur artists today, the singer, whether he knows it or not, is inspiring up-and-coming lyricists. Associate Professor and department chair of music Dr. Mark Humphrey is a believer and is impressed with Bazan, who commits to telling his truth in a deep and powerful way. Humphrey said, “No matter what angle he approaches  … from, I always know that his lyrics are going to be thoughtful. He’s going to approach it. He’s not just going to throw things out. He’s going to think things through.” The concert started with the artist playing two songs. With a combination of sweet melody and piercing words, the music is hard to swallow.  Each lyrical bite had to be taken one by one. After Bazan’s performance, there was a Q-and-A interview done by Humphrey. Through the questions, the audience learned of the singer’s struggles of being raised by evangelical parents and slowly walking away from his faith as he progressively matured into an adult. Even though it was a grieving point, he still holds Christianity near and dear to his heart because it was a part of his childhood. He said, “I still feel a kinship with these people. I care for what happens in that world.” As music fans and interested listeners hear his songs, they notice a common thread that brings the whole message together. Bazan said he “aims to set the imbalance of justice in society…. We’re trying to tell the truth about something, and that’s provocative.” One of the many strange things Bazan noticed is the attention he receives from the Christian audience. Christianity Today magazine named Curse Your Branches as one of the best Christian records in 2009. Junior church music major Jonathan Mayo entered the session knowing only a few things about Bazan but walked away with a better understanding of writing lyrics. He said the event “gave a deeper meaning when writing songs….You can have that little snippet of something that you really love, and you can turn it into that song that has deep meaning.”...

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What would you do if you awoke married to Tatum?

As it turns out, it takes more than Channing Tatum’s good looks to make a movie worth seeing. Unfortunately, for theaters full of eager women who undoubtedly dragged their boyfriends to see The Vow on Valentine’s weekend, that’s about all the film had to offer. Like most chick flicks of today, it was the classic tale of boy, played by Tatum, meets girl, played by Rachel McAdams. Boy inevitably falls in love with girl and the two get married. In an unexpected turn of events (for anyone fortunate enough to have not seen the trailer a dozen times), an accident leaves McAdams unable to remember her current life, including her husband. As Tatum attempts to reconnect with his wife, he realizes that in her mind she is no longer the person he married, but a former version of herself. While it is somewhat on the heartwarming side to see him pursue her despite this serious complication, the new (or old, if that’s how you want to look at it) McAdams turns out to be a pretty unlikable character, and it kind of leaves you wondering why the poor guy wants to stay with her at all. And then there’s the acting. Both Tatum and McAdams play virtually the same characters in The Vow as they do in all of their other films, which is fine, except that Tatum never quite hits the mark in any of them. Throughout the film, it becomes apparent that it isn’t as much a love story as it is about self-discovery. This is a nice idea and a refreshing diversion from the typical romance. However, it’s not exactly what audiences full of couples on Valentine’s dates are looking for. It’s not the mushy gushy, feel good kind of thing that makes you want to cuddle up next to the one you love. In fact, it is actually a little depressing. The whole thing seemed so set on reminding viewers not to take love for granted that it ended up being kind of scary. I mean, we all know anything can happen, but we don’t go to the movies to think about the possibility of our soulmates losing the memory of who we are. After a series of ups and downs (mostly the latter), the very last scene of the film  leaves viewers with a small glimmer of hope that perhaps love does prevail in the end. But after everything, it almost doesn’t feel like quite enough. It may have been the lack of chemistry between the actors or poor writing, but two minutes before the credits and a line of text telling me the...

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