The inspirational journal of rising NYC jewelry designer, entrepreneur, violinist, and pastry chef, Yumi Chen.

NYC Jewelry Designer, Violinist, Pastry Chef, Small Business Owner, Free-Spirit, Positive Thinker!

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Posts Tagged ‘music’

From Start to Finish

Friday, April 17th, 2009


Any musician will tell you that an album is intended to be listened to straight through, in one sitting, preferably through some high-quality headphones. Why? Because it is arranged as a sort of journey, to take the listener from beginning to end.

Case in point: the latest from an Australian band, Grand Salvo, an album with the somewhat foreboding title “Death”. But don’t let the semantics deter you; this is some serious magic. Like a hybrid between the radio plays of old and a concert by a string quartet, these Aussies have story-telling down to an art.

Even if the classical conventions of the songs aren’t to your liking (the sound leans heavily on stringed instruments, particularly the acoustic bass, violin, guitar, and a harp and is accented occasionally with a xylophone and flute), the smooth, deep voice of the narrator as he weaves in and out of the songs, guiding the story, will surely win you over. His gentle and charming Australian accent can soothe the most broken of hearts and put a smile on any face.

The songs are beautiful in and of themselves, but upon further listening, you’ll start to get a sense of the story and the lyrics hidden amongst the swelling of the strings.

So do yourself a favor: turn off the TV, put down your book and sit down and listen to this album. From start to finish. And wait for the day when Grand Salvo crosses the big pond to play in America!

* photo credit: *

From the Lute to the Electric…

Monday, April 6th, 2009


I am a violinist. This may conjure up a variety of images and ideas such as large concert halls, string quartets, serious classical music, and fervent students. But it all changes when I plug my violin in to an amplifier. Suddenly I’m a rock star, I’m cool like a guitarist! I’ve recently been noticing a comeback in electrical stringed instruments. I say a “comeback” because the experimentation with these sounds and techniques began back in the Swing Era of the 1920s and 1930s.

Electric violins are popping up in more and more rock and metal bands lately, their fame rising particularly in the hands of Andrew Bird or Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band. I think many musicians use their acoustic violin with an added pickup, which, once it’s connected to an amp, makes the instrument electric. I still play my Giovanni Cavani 1921 with a L.R. Baggs pickup attached to it.

So I’m clearly partial to the violin, but let’s not forget those other great stringed instruments: the banjo, the cello, the mandolin (never mind the guitar for now, that’s an obvious one). When these instruments go electric, they’re mostly still heard in bluegrass (then called ‘newgrass’ or ‘soulgrass’), or jazz music. Yet, you will never think of a banjo the same after you hear Bela Fleck work his magic on one. I think he has forever changed the very specific identity of that instrument. I also was just introduced to Sam Bush, who is equally genius on the electric mandolin. These men play their sweet, honky-tonk little instruments like they’re electric guitars or basses; it’s just mind-blowing to watch them manipulate their sounds.

The great thing about amplifying these classic instruments is the whole new world of possibilities it opens up to both the instruments and the musicians, and to music in general. Suddenly, there really are no limits. Like any art or science, music is ever evolving, and with innovations like these, who knows where it will go next!


Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Josh Henderson | Violinist

My parents were still in school when I was born so I spent a lot of time at my grandpa’s house. He was a very musical guy, he always had lots of instruments laying around. So playing music just seemed like a natural thing to do. It kind of just happened. I started on the piano, though, and didn’t pick up a violin until I was about nine. A few years later, I went to Aspen to study at the Aspen Music Festival and that’s when it first struck me that I wanted to really be a violinist. To be in a big environment with so many good people all in one place- it was the first time I had seen or felt that. I graduated early from high school; well, technically, I kind of dropped out. But I was going straight to college so they gave me a diploma anyway. Then I finished my undergrad a year early at the University of Cincinnati and moved here to New York to study at NYU. I guess I found some loopholes. I really wanted to move to New York ’cause there’s so many opportunities. You’re just always kind of playing around, but it’s nice to have the blanket of school.

I love living here- it’s awesome. I’ve been doing some freelancing. I’m trying to be active in both fields: alternative rock kind of stuff with the violin as well as classical. The thing about musicians is very few of them have just one job: it’s always necessary to do ten million things, which I love. The good thing with music is that you always have that security blanket of teaching to fall back on, you know, to help you pay the rent. And I like teaching. I definitely would want to do more teaching later on.

But I really just enjoy playing. You might not always get paid, but you’ll always have some effect on someone. Art is a service- bringing something to someone else. At the end of the day, that’s the biggest reward.