1 on 1 @ USC campus

Hola guapos!

I’m sorry. I know it’s been awhile, but alot has been going on ever since I got back. I was suppose to write my adventures on this blog, but I did not get the chance to sit down and actually post it all yet. I promise the stories will be up asap. By the end of 2018 I hope to have all the interviews I did during my trip, up and running on this blog.

I am happy however to let you know that the first interview I did with Mallory Hauser is finally online.

So what’s the story of Mallory? I met her last year when I first visited USC. Back then she already had a great stage presence. When she told me her story it suprised me that when she started the program she had no experience at all when it comes to performing on stage. Last month I saw her perform again and it’s pretty amazing how someone can grow artistcally so much in a short period of time. It defintately takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

Currently she’s  is in her final semester and up till now it has been quite the adventure.

Go to the “Future of Music” section to read her story or simply click here.

Thank you again Mallory Hauser for your time.

For more info please do visit her website www.malloryhauser.com

 

 

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Thank you LA!

WoW....that’s all I have to say....:o)

What a privilege it has been to experience this recent adventure. 

Looking back I still have trouble processing what has happened, mainly cause it was so much in a very short period of time. (Disney, music, Grammy museum, music, USC, music, Thanksgiving, music, dinners, music, etc.) Notice the music part?...lol

Lucky me to get an insight in one of the best music programs in the world. (Tell you more about that later). Most of all lucky me to have someone in my life like Patrice Rushen. This lady has taught me so much about music and more. Every talk has been amazing and inspirational. She’s my own personal mr. Miyagi only female.

I keep telling her to write a book, cause her stories regarding the music industry and her personal experience is pretty admirable. The knowledge she gained throughout the years is probably one of the most valuable treasures in the music industry. It’s my believe that musicians/artists who have been there from the beginning and experienced it all play such an important role in the foundation that needs to be built for our future music industry people. Hopefully along the way and with the help of this blog we’ll come up with answers to a lot of questions about music education and why it’s so important to be forwarded the right way. We’ll learn that “community” is key, but more about that later.

As I wrote in the past this blog is about how I experience the things in front of me. This trip has been an eye opener for sure. It’s amazing how topics like injustice, power, racism, sexism and everything else that ends with -ism is still so present in our everyday life. It’s something that creeps under the surface and not just in the world of music.

During my trip I got to sit down with Christopher Sampson who is the Founder of the Popular Music Program at USC Thornton School of Music. We talked about the program, how it started and why it’s so successful. Mallory Hauser, Madi Vogt and Alexis Angulo are students who are all part of the program and they shared their thoughts on the USC experience and the future plans they have in music. And yes I also got to interview Patrice Rushen and her take on music education.

All the interviews will be up very soon.

I want to thank USC Thornton School of Music, Christopher Sampson, Mallory Hauser, Madi Vogt, Alexis Angulo and last but not least Patrice Rushen and her wonderful family. 

On to the next adventure!

 

 

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Something is missing

Yesterday I started my day by going to the Disney Concert Hall, cause I was curious what it looked like from the inside. The outside is impressive so the inside must be just as great. I was standing in front of the building and this girl asked me if I wanted to take her picture with the building since she was by herself. She told me she’s from Italy and that she tried to enter the building, but cause of an event it wasn’t possible to go in. Well better luck next time.

All of a sudden I see a group of Chinese people go in.......yup I went along with them...lol. I didn’t stand out at all, so I got in and could actually check out the building. The rooms are very nice and it’s a great venue to see a performance or actually perform on one of those stages. The garden on the roof has a nice amphitheater and places where you can just sit and relax.

After that quick tour I went to the Grammy Museum. I was advised to take the tram, but with the weather being so nice I just started walking. (someone told me it’s pretty unusual to walk that distance..lol). After an hour or so I finally arrived at the museum. I had very and I mean very high expectations of this museum, especially when you look at the promo’s and the stuff they post online.

My tour starts at the 4th floor. Once the elevator doors slide open there’s this pretty dark hallway with spotlights shinning on the various Grammys that have been created throughout the years. On either sides there are clips from the award shows. So far so good.

Walking further I see this wall which says: Celebrating Michael Jackson. Yup this is something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Memorabilia of my music hero. The hat, the glove, the Thriller jacket. I stood there for awhile and eventhough its a nice tribute, something was missing.

The museum has exhibits and galleries (John Coltrane, Johnny Cash, Jermaine Dupri & So So Def) and you can see everything Grammy related. Ofcourse there are all sorts of memorabilia like; Elvis Presley’s shirt, Whitney Houston’s dress, Ray Charles’s outfit and so on. Each genre of music is represented, but what you can find doesn’t do it justice. The museum is much smaller than I expected and to be honest there isn’t a lot to see. You would think that cause it’s the Grammys they have so much more to show and you would expect that they would honor more artists and musicians. Unfortunately that’s not the case. 

Besides that they are skipping artists and musicians who did contribute to the Grammy Awards in the past. For instance; they have a Grammy archive on the 3rd floor. By tapping the screen you can find any artist that has ever performed/worked/taken part in the event. Fact: Patrice Rushen was the first female music director for the 46th, 47th and 48th Annual Grammy Awards. Guess what?.....there’s no mention of her at all. Then again why am I not surprised.

Anywayz, I took a look at the Clive Davis Theater where different events are being held. I must say it’s a nice and cozy venue and I would love to see a performance there one day.

Just like most museums you go to the exit through a gift shop. I didn’t get anything cause the shop doesn’t have a lot to offer. So that was a disappointment as well.

However if you do decide to go, I get it, cause it is something you have to see for yourself and maybe you have a different opinion.

I think my expectations were just to high. Each genre of music does not get the attention it deserves and the people that should be honored in a museum like that are not being represented.

 

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A song is not just a song

Ok, so yesterday Jensen was working on a song and during the lesson Patrice gave her a couple of pointers. I’m always stunned that with minor adjustments Patrice has the ability to make it sound even better. It’s like she exactly knows what a song needs to give it that ahhh effect. Means you have great “ears”. The song was already good, but with the advice she gave it actually strengthens the composition even more. Being able to do that is not only skill, it’s also talent and experience. The students here pick that advice up very fast. Without hesitation they know exactly what the teacher means and they have no problem with the execution at all.

Later that evening I saw the Freshmen of this pop program perform. Their repertoire this semester is Motown. There are 5 groups and each of the groups have to perform the same 3 songs. In this case “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by the Temptations and “BabyLove” by the Supremes. Besides that the songs are good, there’s so much more to learn about the songs than just the music and lyrics.

Before each performance the teacher (in this case Patrice) asks the students detailed questions about the song, like, who plays guitar on the track, name all the Supremes (not just Diana Ross...lol), what is that sound you hear snapping in the background? In this case it’s not just about playing and singing the song, but also how to really listen to it and learn the story behind it. Know the history and get the right background information. As a result the students will have the ability to paint the complete picture. Besides that it enlarges the musical knowledge and gives them the ability to use that information during future performances and they can pass it on. I must say those Freshmen did not disappoint at all. Ofcourse there are a couple of flaws, but they’re new and still learning. I loved the fact that one of the students was so prepared that she even dressed up as a Supreme.

The 2nd year students have really grown since I’ve seen them last year. This session was led by Sean Holt who is a Professor of Practice at USC. Sean has worked with artists like Santana, John Legend, Bruno Mars, Mary J. Blige, Gloria Estefan, Michael Bublé and numerous others. He is the kind of teacher who knows what he’s talking about and is very driven to make sure the students receive the correct information. Just like Patrice did at the previous session, he’s asking questions about the story behind the songs as well. What really surprised me was the setlist. It’s such a breath of fresh air to see students play music of Boz Scaggs, Chaka Khan, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Heart, amongst others. To be honest I’ve visited a couple of schools and I’ve never heard the students or teachers address any of these songs. Patrice told me that together with Sean, they created a list with various songs and the students have to pick which one they’re playing.

It really impressed me how this pop program is making sure each genre, style and the most important eras in music history are being represented. When asked why that is, the answer is actually pretty simple. This way when a student enters a gig in the future they can play along with any tune, any genre, any style. They would know what it sounds and feel like and when someone calls and offers you a gig, you don’t have to sell them NO or I don’t know, cause you do.

When you see the content of the program and the schedule you’ll notice the hard work that goes in it. They’re all driven and ofcourse one more than the other, but the end result is pretty amazing.

So that was my experience yesterday. Today I visited the Grammy Museum, I’ll post about that later this week.

 

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Music can take you further than you think

I was suppose to write a post yesterday, but didn’t actually had the time to do so. Sorry for that. Anywayz.....after a very nice dinner at SOH Grill House Korean BBQ the day of my arrival and a goodnight sleep, I woke up pretty early yesterday. It’s nice to wake up with the sun shining bright.

Unfortunately there were new fires in LA and that morning we received the news that one of our music friends mr. Lee Ritenour is one of the unfortunate ones who has lost his home cause of the fires. Thoughts go out to those affected by this terrible tragedy. It’s amazing how fast the fire is spreading, especially cause there’s a lot of wind. Hopefully the rescue workers who are risking their lives and working tirelessly can put an end to this and can return home safe again.

Yesterday I had a nice talk with Patrice about the current music eduction status at various schools. I will dedicate a post on that subject this week. It was very interesting to figure out what the real cause is of the lack of music eduction in a lot of countries. Stay tuned on that story.

After our talk we went grocery shopping and it’s funny how people recognize her and say hi. I personally think it’s nice when people do notice you, means you did something that has left an impression.

We had a nice home cooked meal and that night I was preparing my schedule for the interviews and visits I have planned these upcoming days.

So today I was sitting in the new office of Patrice at USC. It’s much nicer than the broom closet they gave her before. I like what she’s done with the place. It’s pretty impressive to see the pictures on the wall of her with Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Steve Gadd, Candy Dulfer, just to name a few and not to forget Michelle Obama. Patrice is one of those musicians who proofs that music can take you further.

Her first lesson today was with student Jensen McRae. I’ve met Jensen last year for the first time and a couple of months ago I had dinner with her and her dad while they were visiting in Amsterdam. I’ll be doing an interview with her this week about her experience at USC and the plans she has for the future.

I stayed during that lesson and I immediately noticed that she has grown artistically compared to last year. The songs she’s writing are powerful and she knows how to touch you with her music. 

At the end of the afternoon I got to witness the performance of the freshmen followed by the 2nd year students at USC. Check out my next post about those sessions.

 

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Hello Los Angeles

I woke up early this morning heading to Schiphol Amsterdam, cause I had a flight to catch to Los Angeles. 

When I arrived at the airport the line was pretty long, I think security checked me 3 times. Even when it was time to board the plane, security picked me again for an extra check. I must say that everyone was nice and friendly eventhough it’s a madhouse.

On board of the plane I had a nice seat at the window, I sat next to a KLM pilot who was headed to Vegas (no worries, he was not the one flying the plane..lol). It was a pleasant flight, well actually I slept the entire journey (besides waking up for the food ofcourse). The lady that was sitting next to the pilot (she’s a doctor) complimented me, she was impressed that I could sleep that long...lol.

I impressed myself too, I mean it’s a 12 hour flight and I was just really tired. Flying above Los Angeles we could see the smoke moving over the city, which is caused by the fire that still continues to burn in the hills. Hopefully they can control it soon. 

Leaving the plane I noticed that the line at customs is not that long anymore like it used to be. Now they have Automated Passport Control which really does speed up the process. I was surprised to be outside so fast. I picked up my rental car and off I was to my home away from home.

I love seeing palm trees. When I see them it makes me happy, means I’m at a place where the sun shines. The weather is amazing. I think during wintertime I should just go here.

Seeing Patrice and the family is always a good thing. The dogs still remember me as well. We had a nice long talk and yes ofcourse we talked about music.

During my stay I’ll be interviewing various people for the blog and I will be writing about the various topics that we will be discussing. Make sure you keep checking back cause I’ll take you with me on my musical journey these upcoming days.

I’m hungry, so now I’m going to eat! And probably get some more sleep later Cheers!

 

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Captured…….

A couple of days ago I went to Walibi Fright Night with my cousins. The entire month of October the theme is Halloween and there are Haunted Houses and various scare zones where people scare the hell out of you.

We were planning to visit a Haunted House called Jefferson Manor. According to their site it’s the least scariest house on the premises.

I’m not a fan so I’ve been nervous ever since I knew we were going there. Ofcourse the park is packed and people are excited, you have those who are scared and those who are playing it cool.

Throughout the park creepy music is playing and eventhough it’s playing softly in the background, it does add this extra feeling to the whole vibe.

Waiting in line for the Haunted House was already an adventure, cause everyone is nervous, having no clue what to expect. Entering the unknown makes your imagination run wild and the scary music plus the actors doing their best to intimidate you is not helping you make you feel at ease.

Once you’re inside the house there’s no turning back. People dressed up as ghosts and demons popping up everywhere, people screaming, but we also laughed a lot cause of the way we react to things. If people could only see us jump, scream, crawl.....o boy. Of the entire day this was the best experience and I’m happy that I did eventually enter that house.

But what made the experience scary? Ofcourse the influence of our own imagination and the setting plays a big part, but just like in the movies it’s the noise, the sounds, the scary music is what makes it more thrilling. But what is scary music?

We associate certain sounds and melodies with situations or experiences and when we connect those factors it creates an emotion. It can cause, happiness, sadness, excitement, fear.

There’s a group of people who researched this topic and after examining more than a 100 movie soundtracks they discovered that nonlinear sound (a brand of physics and acoustics dealing with sound waves of sufficiently large amplitude) is an important part of scenes that are meant to stir up fear and negative feelings. It can cause emotional distress and it is disturbing and harsh to the ears. Think "Psycho," "Jaws," "The Shining," "Halloween."

Noise doesn’t necessarily mean loudness, but can be described best as a disturbance in sound. As a result it evokes strong feelings.

Ever heard of the Tritone? It’s two notes that are three whole steps apart (like F and B), also known as diabolus in musica (devil in music) in the Middle Ages. Certain combinations of notes, like the tritone, have been carefully avoided throughout history so as not to be associated with any kind of negative emotion.

It proofs again the strong influence music has. Most of the times those “scary” tunes are the ones that stick in your head. I bet each one of us once took a swim in the sea and in our heads the Jaws theme was playing. The combination of sounds/experience/feeling is what creates the memories and what can also trigger your imagination. Music can take you back to a certain time in your life.

So tell me....what piece of music made an impression on you? Leave your comments below.

 

 

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Learn languages through music…

One of the most effective ways to learn a different language is with the help of music.

My mom learned Spanish by listening to artists like Julio Iglesias and Gloria Estefan. She would write down the words and translate it. I can still see her in front of me with her dictionary and notebook. And when she found out what Julio was singing about she would say, he’s so sweet.....lol

Listening to the music paid off cause my mom was fluent in Spanish. Her husband and kids were at that time not so happy with “Amor, Amor” playing in the car and in the house. But guess what? Somehow I picked it up and can sing along with it. I was surprised how many Julio songs I actually know when I visited his concert with my mom a couple of years ago. Besides it did help me with my Spanish.

Stevie Wonder sings “Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand”.

He is right. Music is a universal language. Despite the diversity of music influenced by countless cultures somehow the various musical structures transcend cultural differences. No matter what culture, people (mostly musicians) can read the same piece of music. Some say music is a byproduct of our language evolution. Both are forms of social bonding and besides that music helps your grammar and vocabulary. There are even teaching methods where they advise you to listen to music in the language you want to learn. You can actually learn a language faster this way, cause it helps us to remember words in a fun and creative way.

Most of the times we may not understand the lyrics of foreign songs, but we all share the same emotions when we hear similar chords and melodies. To understand music, we need to understand emotions as well. The same components that make up music which are: pitch, rhythm, and tempo, are also present in everyday speech no matter what language you're speaking. With these patterns present in spoken language, we can interpret emotions from music using the same signals.

So how does it work? This last weekend BTS was in Holland for a concert. The show sold out in less than 30 minutes. They are one of the reasons that K-Pop is up and rising. I’ve been listening to their album and the tunes are good, but what is the strength of this group? They sing in Korean and I have no clue what they’re singing about. Somehow the language doesn’t seem to be a problem at all cause they draw big and diverse crowds with their performances, sell out stadiums and have a fanbase who call themselves A.R.M.Y. and the beauty of it is that the fans can actually sing along with their songs in Korean. I admire the fact that somehow they can touch millions of people with their songs in a language that the biggest part of the western world doesn’t understand.

What makes this group successful? Is it their looks, their style, what they represent or is it the music, the lyrics? Maybe it’s the complete package? Somehow they found a way to leave a big impression in the world of music. 

I’m trying to look at it from a music point of view. What makes them unique if you take away the visual image and you just listen to the tunes?

Let me know, cause I really wanna know your thoughts.

 

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When it’s no longer about the music.

In my previous post we talked about the impact music has on the work environment. Music has a certain kind of power that can actually have an influence on our every day life.

Recently I read an article about Taylor Swift. She posted her personal opinion about her political preference on instagram.

I was stunned when I read the reactions on social media. There were those who backed her up and  then there are those  throwing all kinds of negative messages and certain “wishes” towards her that I will not repeat. There were even “groups” who were “hating” on her, cause according to them society polluted “their girl”.  

And my question is, why? What’s going on?

I respect the fact that after being silent about it for so long she feels  a certain urge to speak out. Especially when it’s a topic that everyone has their own strong opinion about and when you look at the state of the world we’re in today, it’s not strange at all that she did this. She’s a big role model for a lot of people and she’s trying to “use” her voice for the better. Speaking up and telling your mind, your truth, should never be a bad thing.  So regardless which party she’s supporting, she’s also showing us that it’s ok to speak up and have an opinion. She’s not telling you who you have to side with, no she’s sharing her concerns, her thoughts, her beliefs, her choices and that you have the possibility and power to change things by voting. 

What I don’t get is that people start attacking right away. They don’t really read what she wrote, they just pick out the words that they wanna see. Get your facts straight, cause honestly what the hell do we know? That’s the danger of social media. We assume we know and “throw” stuff at each other, cause it’s a “safe way” of telling what we are really thinking without having the person directly in front of our face. We tend to act before we think more and more.

What is sad however is the fact that because of this “storm” a lot of people immediately comment her music like: ”I’m not going to buy her music anymore, her songs suck anyway, let’s boycott her”, etc.

If the music is good and you’ve always enjoyed it, just because in this case the artist has an opinion about a certain subject that’s more based on their personal life why suddenly does the music sucks? So this means you’re going to stop singing and dancing to “Shake It Off” when it’s playing on the radio even though you were always grooving to it? Whenever the song “Love Story” is on are you really going to put the volume off?

How does that work? Do we associate the music with the way the person that’s executing the song thinks/feels/live their life? If you have a strong and negative opinion about the LGBT community does this means you’re going to stop singing along with “La Vida Loca”? 

Can you imagine when we start boycotting artists cause of their opinion, sexuality, religion, race and so on? It would be a damn quiet and boring world don’t you think? Ofcourse every artist has their own fanbase. And the next question that pops up is are you a fan of the music or a fan of the artist? (We’ll discuss that in a future post)

Cause of the internet and social media and our curiosity it’s so easy to peek in the private life of the artist. The focus is on their love life and the clothes they’re wearing and the people they have beef with while the reason why they are in the spotlight in the first place, which is music, falls completely to the background. And to be honest the artists don’t always mind the “extra” attention.

Artists are the real storytellers about what’s going on in our world, in our society. They are the ones who speak up and paint the picture through their art when no one else is, to be the voice of the voiceless, cause that’s the beauty of the arts. Doesn’t matter if you are a sculptor, painter, singer, actor. In a way they are creatively documenting our history. When it comes to music there are those who really listen to the words and can associate with what’s being sung, while others pick up the beat at first and don’t even pay attention to what the person is singing about. I mean I bet each one of us experienced messing up the lyrics of a song while singing along. Years later you realize you were singing something completely different and the song wasn’t about what you thought it was about. You notice that the words are “Most of all” and not “Monster Love”...lol (I think that’s a good topic for a future post.) (I’m referring to the song by Melee “Built to Last” my mom messed up those lyrics everytime) Sometimes we don’t even know what the artist is singing about, remember MacArthur Park by Donna Summer? Did we care? Not really cause the beat was on and we could dance to it..lol

Anywayz, nowadays it seems like it’s becoming more difficult for the next generation to put the focus on the music, to really understand the message and the story behind it. Especially when the first question the artist get asked while walking the red carpet at an award show is “What and who are you wearing?”. Somehow what they’re wearing is more important than what they’re sharing artistically.

And now there’s the uproar of Kanye (excuse me..I mean Ye) visiting Trump. You don’t have to agree with either of them, but they both got the attention they probably wanted and also in this case it’s no longer about the music, but about “using” your fame and popularity to get to your next goal, to gain more power, more attention. Each agenda is different and it’s like there’s a shift in the intentions of the artist which is getting bigger.

Yes music is universal, it connects, it unites, but does it really? Study says it does and that it is a social glue, notably for the electronic dance community and the instrumental performers.........uh huh....exactly......NO LYRICS......which means no opinions, just feeling and your own interpretations of the sounds. But then again it’s really nice to be able to sing along with songs who do have lyrics isn’t it? Regardless the message behind it.

So whatever opinion you have, whatever your beliefs, don’t take it out on the music. Instead use music as a tool to speak up!

Let’s start the discussion, what’s your opinion about this subject? Are we in any position at all to judge artists? Should the artist stick to their craft or do they have a much bigger role than just music? And....is it possible to put the focus back on the tunes?

 

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Music @ work……Yay or Nay?

How does music impact your everyday life? I don’t know if it’s just me but how many people nowadays still have the radio on at home? I remember the radio would be on every day in our house, actually that’s still the case. I don’t like the quietness in the house and music is a good remedy to fill up the room. Most of us only listen to the radio when we are in our car, but how does it work at your job?

We spend a huge amount of our time at our workplace. Somehow having music in the background makes time go faster, well atleast that’s my point of view. Although there are always people who say they can’t focus with all that “noise”. (“geez”)

There have been multiple researches about music and what it can do to people and there’s a lot of discussion about whether it’s true or not. Ofcourse there are those who remain skeptical eventhough results show differently. There are doctors who recommend listening to soft music when a person is in a depression or feeling sad. According to them, music can have a really positive impact upon the heart of the listener and can revive the spirit. Music can help express those emotions which are otherwise hard to put into words. It can actually trigger a range of emotions.

Besides doing this blog I also work at an office. My workplace has a radio which is always on and then there are those spaces where there’s no music at all. The silence makes me restless. One of my colleagues once said that she DOESN NOT like music and never listens to music at all!!!!! WTF? Do they still make people like that?.....lol. Really how can you not like music? There must be something you like to hear. Music unites and can bring joy, maybe that’s why this person is grumpy most of the times and doesn’t really interact socially. That’s one of the powers within music cause it really can enlarge your world and trigger curiosity. Listening to music with lyrics can interfere with your ability to learn new information.

When you’re not exposed to certain things in life, you have little or no knowledge about it’s existence, this way you don’t know or you don’t allow yourself to experience the feeling.

American musician Billy Joel once said. "I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music." (I think my colleague would disagree, maybe she doesn’t have a soul...lol)

Music releases dopamine in the reward center of the brain which can help improve focus.

So if your work requires deep focus, the advice is to listen to familiar songs. Try it and see what it does.

Research says impact of having music in your work environment has the following benefits:

- It can be therapeutical

- It can boost productivity

- It lifts moods

- It increases endurance

- It improves memory

- It forms good habit

Anything else missing? You agree with these outcomes or not? How do you experience music at your workplace? Maybe it’s not even an option in your work environment. Let me know.

 

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