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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: Music
May 25, 2013 at 9:57 PM

To Seattle’s homeless young people, music players matter

This drawing of the "Cutatune," an imaginary music player designed by a homeless young woman in Seattle, is one of many that will be on display in the "Music is my Life" art show in Molly's Cafe at the Henry Art Gallery.

This drawing of the “Cutatune,” an imaginary music player designed by a homeless young woman in Seattle, will be featured in the “Music is my Life” art show in Molly’s Cafe at the Henry Art Gallery this summer.

The Cutatune is a music player that fits on your arm like a cuff. To play it, you run a thin rubber stylus through three slots at the top of the device.

“This was interesting to Maria because that was the spot where she most frequently cut,” wrote its designer, a homeless young woman in Seattle. “She was soothed and lost the urge to cut herself.”

The Cutatune does not exist. Neither does the Musical Blanket, the Nicatune, the Music Emote or any of the dozens of imaginary music players that will be featured in “Music is My Life,” an art show set to open Thursday in Molly’s Cafe at the Henry Art Gallery.

But they paint a compelling picture of how much music matters in the lives of homeless teens and young adults — and why.

The show is based on dissertation research by Jill Woelfer, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington’s Information School, who since 2007 has been studying how homeless young people use technology. After conducting a study to see what happened to iPods a group of them had earned by completing a technology-based life skills course she helped teach, Woelfer, a trained musician and former piano teacher, became curious. Even among very few possessions, she noticed, music players stood out.


Comments | More in Column, Entertainment, Music, Seattle

October 1, 2012 at 3:31 PM

The CD turns 30, way less cool than it used to be

Chic, shiny, gone? (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The coolest thing in my friend Sarah’s house, back when I was in 6th grade and she hosted all the best sleepovers — was her dad’s wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling CD collection.

It was the jewel of the cavernous living room where we would lay out the sleeping bags, pop in a disc or two and one memorable night choreographed a multi-part dance to “On Bended Knee” from Boyz II Men’s 1994 album II, which we all had, of course.

Compact discs dominated music when music mattered most to my fragile social life, so it was nostalgic and frankly weird to learn that CDs turned 30 today.

And though CDs are still kicking — the 91 million sold in the first half of 2012 accounted for 61 percent of all U.S. album sales — ask the kids: Downloads and music streams are all the rage, and CDs are history.


Comments | More in Music, Nostalgia