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T.S. Eliot Reads From “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” & “The Hollow Men”: His Apocalyptic Post WWI Poems

3 hours 14 min ago

The T.S. Eliot of the post-World War I period was a poet who stood Janus-faced on the threshold of old and new worlds. He looked backward to the mountain ranges of European tradition and marveled at their alpine peaks. At the same time, he seemed acutely aware of what a ridiculous figure he sometimes cut in his self-serious, pedantic veneration for the past. Eliot acknowledged the inexorable movement of time in poems like “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and “The Hollow Men,” even if time only moved forward into entropy and mediocrity. When Eliot looked ahead, after the horrors of war and the increasing speed of modernization, what he saw was fragmentation, wreckage, and waste. I have heard his strategy in “The Waste Land” described as a “terminal aesthetic”—a beautifully destructive poetics, and one which could go no further.

Eliot’s high modernist poems stand in very different relation to the post-WWI world than the work of forward-looking 20th century avant-garde artists of the period. As James Martin Harding notes in Adorno and “A Writing of the Ruins,” what “distinguishes Eliot from the avant-garde is that… the politics of the avant-garde evinced a faith in revolutionary progress…. One would have to ally Eliot’s imagery with the dawning of the postmodern”—with ideas, that is, of the “end of history.” In terms of form—characterized by pastiche, irony, self-referentiality, and a blending of high and low culture—Eliot’s poetics were distinctly post-modern.

But postmodernists have generally celebrated the fragmenting of tradition and the loss of grand narratives. Eliot cherished the old, destroyed world, and mostly despaired of anything of value replacing it. His immediate predecessors, whom he imitated and referenced often, were the French symbolists and decadents; modernist aesthetes who mourned unnamed catastrophes and catalogued absurd correspondences. Critic Cleanth Brooks singles out one poem that Eliot quotes at the end of “The Waste Land,” Gerard de Nerval’s “El Desdichado,” for its suggestion that “the protagonist of the poem has been disinherited, robbed of his tradition.” Even in translation, we can hear in Nerval’s lines the darkly comic, cosmically ironic, despair of Eliot’s Prufrock:

My very supernova’s been snuffed out, and my one
shiny-tendoned lute has been silenced by DEPRESSION.

I think you can hear that same world-weary depression and sense of cultural exhaustion in Eliot’s voice as he reads from both “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” above and from “The Hollow Men” below (unfortunately drowned out near the end by some added music). I don’t mean to suggest that Eliot himself suffered from some form of clinical depression. But his poetic speakers—and in the case of “The Waste Land” his jumble of competing voices—all join in an apocalyptic chorus as though witnessing the world’s end. Perhaps the poetry exaggerates Eliot’s own personal attitudes for effect, perhaps it acts as a series of guises for the philosophical and critical ideas he explained without artifice in his essays.

This is how many people have read Eliot’s poems, myself included: as containers for abstract ideas about cultural decay and the nature of art and tradition. But Eliot and his sometime editor and friend Ezra Pound would likely object to this kind of approach to poetry. Added at the insistence of his publisher, Eliot’s footnotes to “The Waste Land” seem to mock readers anxious to leap to interpretation. Instead, the poet would ask us to attend not to ideas, but to the images, and the emotions they evoke—and in this case, to attend also to the poet’s voice.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

T.S. Eliot Reads From “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” & “The Hollow Men”: His Apocalyptic Post WWI Poems is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Hear “Starlight,” Michael Jackson’s Early Demo of “Thriller”: A Version Before the Lyrics Were Radically Changed

7 hours 6 min ago

The definitive blockbuster albums of an 80s childhood… maybe you weren’t there, but the Internet has made it so you might as well have been. Prince’s 1999 and Purple Rain, Van Halen’s 1984, Michael Jackson’s Midnight Man, the best-selling album of all time and biggest thing to happen to pop music since Off the Wall. Surely you remember the hit single “Starlight,” whose smooth grooves have burrowed into the brain of anyone who has ever seen a radio. Hit play above and tell me you don’t immediately start singing the chorus:

We need some starlight starlight sun
There ain’t no second chance we got to make it while we can
You need the starlight some starlight sun
I need you by my side you give me starlight starlight tonight yeah

But this sounds an awful lot like that other song, the one you actually remember singing—and dancing—along to. In fact, it sounds exactly like “Thriller.” But what’s with these lyrics?

“Starlight” is the song writer Rod Temperton originally penned. And the album title? Temperton tells The Telegraph that after Quincy Jones gave him the assignment, he went back to his hotel room, “wrote two or three hundred titles, and came up with the title ‘Midnight Man.’” It didn’t last long. The next morning, Temperton had an epiphany:

I woke up, and I just said this word… Something in my head just said, this is the title. You could visualize it on the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as “Thriller.”

The rest is a history so thoroughly embedded in the pop culture matrix that it’s nearly impossible to think things could have been otherwise. “Imagining ‘Thriller’ as anything else,” writes Patrick Rivers at American Music Review, “can be puzzling, even unfathomable.” In his short, but comprehensive survey of Thriller’s creation, Rivers wonders “whether unpolished products of popular artists should be made available.” Do such demos compromise or enhance our appreciation of the final, commercial product? “‘Starlight’ can really disturb prior understandings of Jackson’s career and image,” Rivers concludes; it “does not fit the product or artist that is Michael Jackson.”

And yet, such recordings almost invariably become public eventually: “While years of popular music creation remain behind the blissful curtain, the presence of ‘Starlight’ on social and peer-to-peer networks demonstrates an appetite for this content.” While no similar appetite may exist in the case of great literary works, the shock and surprise at hearing “Starlight” (readily available on YouTube) is akin to that feeling many students of T.S. Eliot’s poetry experience when they discover that his masterpiece The Waste Land was originally titled “He Do the Police in Different Voices” and was a very different work of art before it was heavily edited and even rewritten by Ezra Pound.

The comparison illuminates an important point about all art, commercial or otherwise: that it is very often the product of many hands and the result of many prior versions, and its success depends upon an often ungainly, trial-and-error process that might have led to very different results. “Starlight,” Rivers writes, “elucidates the calculated decisions made in the creation of commercial popular music.” Surely we knew this, yet when it comes to an artist like Michael Jackson at the height of his creative powers, we assume a kind of instant pop perfection, rather than the hit-by-committee process Rivers describes in his article.

In the case of “Thriller,” the committee mostly consisted of Temperton—whose “Starlight” demo had been chosen from hundreds submitted by others—and Quincy Jones, who gently pushed the songwriter toward an edgier theme and secured the great Vincent Price for the song’s outro (written by Temperton in a taxi on the way to the studio; Hear a studio outtake of Price’s voiceover above.) Album engineer Bruce Swedian remembers “the words ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ going between Quincy and Rod. Quincy saying it should be more Edgar Allan Poe. And that ‘Starlight’ isn’t, ‘Thriller’ is.”

Temperton recalled later in his commentary for the 2001 Thriller: Special Edition that as “Thriller” took shape along with “Billie Jean” and “Wanna be Starting Something,” the production team “were kind of giving the whole thing an edge and a direction that some of the other tracks didn’t have.” It was an edge, Rivers notes, “intended to represent Jackson’s unveiling as an adult recording artist,” jumpstarting his transition from child star and the boyish twenty-year-old of Off the Wall.

Delivering to the world a grown-up Michael Jackson in the artist’s next massive hit record was certainly Jones’ intent, though it was Jackson who penned most of album’s edgier songs. Hits like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” arrived nearly fully formed. (Hear “Billie Jean” in a home demo above and an a cappella demo of “Beat It” below.) But it took the brilliance of Quincy Jones and his production “A-Team” to bring these songs to the pop music marketplace, supplying just the right embellishments—like Eddie Van Halen’s “Beat It” solo—to etch these tunes into our collective consciousness forever.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear “Starlight,” Michael Jackson’s Early Demo of “Thriller”: A Version Before the Lyrics Were Radically Changed is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Sir Ian McKellen Releases New Apps to Make Shakespeare’s Plays More Enjoyable & Accessible

Mon, 2 May 2016 - 1:46 pm

FYI: Ian McKellen, who first made his reputation performing at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s and 80s, has just released the first of a series of iPad apps meant to make Shakespeare’s plays more accessible, especially for high school and college students.

As McKellen explains above, Shakespeare’s plays were originally meant to be seen performed live in a theatre, not read as books. And so these apps feature actors performing dramatic scenes from the plays, while text scrolls by. They’ve just launched the first of 37 apps. It’s devoted to The Tempest, runs $5.99 on iTunes, and frankly seems well worth the price. Benedict Cumberbatch likes it. See below.

The app also includes these features:

  • The full text of The Tempest as published in the First Folio.
  • A full digital version of Arden Shakespeare The Tempest.
  • The ability to switch between three different levels of notes depending on the level of reader’s needs.
  • A full breakdown and explanation of every character and all of their lines across every scene.
  • A linked historical time line of Shakespeare’s life, his plays, his theatres, and contemporary context to put it all into perspective.
  • Video explanations and discussions by both Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate on characters, themes, and the meaning of the play.
  • A full “play at a glance” with illustrations and summaries to explain the play’s plot with key quotes and events.
  • A history of all the major productions of The Tempest from the 17th century to the present day.
  • The option to make notes, copy and highlight text that can be collected, correlated and exported for later use.
  • The option to search the play’s full text and essays.

Keep your eye on Heuristic Shakespeare’s iTunes site for new Shakespeare apps down the line.

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Sir Ian McKellen Releases New Apps to Make Shakespeare’s Plays More Enjoyable & Accessible is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Watch a Video Essay on the Poetic Harmony of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Filmmaking, Then View His Major Films Free Online

Mon, 2 May 2016 - 1:00 pm

“What words would best describe a Tarkovsky film?” asks Lewis Bond, creator of the cinephile video-essay Youtube channel Channel Criswell. He offers a few right away: “Haunting, ethereal, hypnotic, serene.” But appreciators, scholars, and even critics of the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, the Soviet director of such austere yet visually rich, serious-minded yet dreamlike, and long artistically scrutinized pictures as Andrei RublevSolarisStalker, and The Mirror (watch them all free online here), could come up with many more. And though the man himself may have denied drawing any inspiration from similarly respected filmmakers — Bresson, Antonioni, Bergman, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, “I have no desire to imitate any of them” — few could avoid exposure to his own widespread and lasting influence on cinema.

Why has Tarkovsky’s work made such an impact? One might argue that the answer has do to with his commitment to “pure cinema,” or in Bond’s words, “to do with film that which couldn’t be done with other art forms.” Solaris may have emerged, extensively rethought, out of the source material of Stanislaw Lem’s eponymous science fiction novel, and Stalker may have more recently provided the elements of a video game (which went on to become a series of novels itself), but none of Tarkovsky’s works can truly exist outside the medium, with all its emotional and experiential power, in which he and his collaborators made them.

In this video essay called “Poetic Harmony,” Bond identifies the purely cinematic qualities of Tarkovsky’s films: from the textures of their visual composition to their selective use of sound (and quietness as well) to build moods and the resistance of their abstraction and ambiguity to intellectual analysis (despite how much viewers continue to fling at them); from their lack of symbolism to their building of characters through not words but action, the connection of scenes through metaphor (as in Nostalghia, which cuts from a man who lights himself on fire to a man who struggles to light a candle), and their use of long takes to build the “pressure of time.” Tarkovsky enthusiasts could hardly disagree, though the time soon comes to put away what The Sacrifice‘s central character calls “words, words, words” and simply watch.

When you’re done watching Bond’s video, you can watch many of Tarkovsky’s major films free online, thanks to Russian film studio Mosfilm.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch a Video Essay on the Poetic Harmony of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Filmmaking, Then View His Major Films Free Online is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The Making of Japanese Handmade Paper: A Short Film Documents an 800-Year-Old Tradition

Mon, 2 May 2016 - 10:44 am

For many of us, washi paper is the art supply equivalent of a dish that’s “too pretty to eat.” I love to look at it, but would be loathe to mar its beauty with my amateur creative efforts.

Originally intended for use in lanterns and shoji screens in Japan, its simplicity makes it a stand out among the far more ornamental decorative sheets populating the fancy international paper selections. Though there is no shortage of machine-produced washi on the market these days, the loveliest examples are still handmade in Kurotani, a small town near Kyoto.

Kurotani has the distinction of being Japan’s oldest paper-making town, and as documented by filmmaker Kuroyanagi Takashi, above, the washi process has changed little in 800 years.

In the pre-industrial age, washi-making was seasonal. Farmers planted the paper mulberry (kozo), mitsumata, and gampi plants essential to the process along with their food crops. Come havest-time, they would soak these plants’ fibrous inner barks until they were soft enough to be cleaned and pounded.

Then as now, the resulting pulp was added mixed with liquid and a mucilage to yield a (not particularly delicious sounding, and definitely not too pretty to eat…) spreadable paste.

The sheets are formed on bamboo screens, then stacked and pressed until dry.

The end result is both strong and flexible, making it a favorite of bookbinders. Its absorbency is prized by printmakers, including Rembrandt.

If you have a yen to witness the labor-intensive, traditional process up close, Dutch washi craftsman Rogier Uitenboogaart runs a guest house as part of his studio in nearby Kamikoya.

The rest of us must content ourselves with Takashi’s meditative 5-minute documentary.

via The Kid Should See This

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She writes a monthly column about people who love their jobs for Mainichi Weekly, a bilingual Japanese newspaper. Follow her @AyunHalliday

The Making of Japanese Handmade Paper: A Short Film Documents an 800-Year-Old Tradition is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Manual, “Manly Health & Training,” Urges Readers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plenty of Meat (1858)

Mon, 2 May 2016 - 4:52 am

The idea of “the author,” wrote Roland Barthes, “rules in manuals of literary history, in biographies of writers, in magazine interviews, and even in the awareness of literary men, anxious to unite, by their private journals, their person and their work.” We see this anxiety of authorship in much of Walt Whitman’s personal correspondence. The poet, “could be surprisingly anxious about his own disappearance,” writes Zachary Turpin in the introduction to a recently re-discovered series of Whitman essays called “Manly Health and Training.”

Whitman, however, was just as often anxious to disassociate his person from his work, whether juvenile short stories or his copious amount of journalism and occasional pieces. Originally published in the New York Atlas between 1858 and 1860, “Manly Health and Training”—“part guest editorial, part self-help column”—may indeed represent some of the work Whitman wished would disappear in his late-in-life attempts at “careerist revisionism.” As it happens, reports The New York Times, these articles did just that until Turpin, a graduate student in English at the University of Houston, found the essays last summer while browsing articles written under various journalistic pseudonyms Whitman used.

The work in question appeared under the name “Mose Velsor,” and it’s worth asking, as Barthes might, whether we should consider it by the poetic figure we call “Whitman” at all. Though we encounter in these occasionally “eyebrow-raising” essays the “more-than-typically self-contradictory Whitman,” Turpin comments, “these contradictions display little of the poetic dialecticism of Leaves of Grass”—first published, without the author’s name, in 1855.


The essays are piecemeal distillations of “a huge range of topics” of general interest to male readers of the time—in some respects, a 19th century equivalent of Men’s Health magazine. And yet, argues Ed Folsom, editor of The Walt Whitman Quarterlywhich has published the nearly 47,000 word series of essays online—“One of Whitman’s core beliefs was that the body was the basis of democracy. The series is a hymn to the male body, as well as a guide to taking care of what he saw as the most vital unit of democratic living.” These themes are manifest along with the robust homoeroticism of Whitman’s poetry:

We shall speak by and by of health as being the foundation of all real manly beauty. Perhaps, too, it has more to do than is generally supposed, with the capacity of being agreeable as a companion, a social visitor, always welcome—and with the divine joys of friendship. In these particulars (and they surely include a good part of the best blessings of existence), there is that subtle virtue in a sound body, with all its functions perfect, which nothing else can make up for, and which will itself make up for many other deficiencies, as of education, refinement, and the like.

David Reynolds, professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, concurs: “there’s a kind of health-nut thing about ‘Leaves of Grass’ already. This series sort of codifies it and expands on it, giving us a real regimen.” To that end, two of “Mose Velsor”’s prominent topics are diet and exercise, and whether we consider “Manly Health and Training” a prose addendum to Whitman’s first book or mostly work-for-hire on a range of topics in his general purview, some of the advice, like the poetry, can often sound particularly modern, while at the same time preserving the quaintness of its age.

Anticipating the Paleo craze, for example, Whitman writes, “let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else.” His diet advice is far from systematic from essay to essay, yet he continually insists upon lean meat as the foundation of every meal and refers to beef and lamb as “strengthening materials.” The “simplest and most natural diet,” consists of eating mainly meat, Whitman asserts as he casts aspersions on “a vegetarian or water-gruel diet.” Whitman issues many of his dietary recommendations in the service of vocal training, recommending that his readers “gain serviceable hints from the ancients” in order to “give strength and clearness to their vocalizations.”

Aspirants to manliness should also attend to the ancients’ habit of frequenting “gymnasiums, in order to acquire muscular energy and pliancy of limbs.” Many of Whitman’s training regimens conjure images from The Road to Wellville or of stereotypical 19th-century strong men with handlebar mustaches and funny-looking leotards. But he does intuit the modern identification of a sedentary lifestyle with ill health and premature death, addressing especially “students, clerks, and those in sedentary or mental employments.” He exhorts proto-cubical jockeys and couch potatoes alike: “to you, clerk, literary man, sedentary person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice. Up!”

Whitman’s “warnings about the dangers of inactivity,” writes The New York Times, “could have been issued from a 19th-century standing desk,” a not unlikely scenario, given the many authors from the past who wrote on their feet.  But should we picture Whitman himself issuing these proclamations on “Health and Training”? No image of the man himself, with cocked elbow and cocked hat, is affixed to the essays. The pseudonymous byline may be no more than a convention, or it may be a desire to inhabit another persona, and to distance the words far from those of “Walt Whitman.”

Did Whitman consider the essays hackwork—populist pabulum of the kind struggling writers today often crank out anonymously as “sponsored content”? The series, Turpin writes “is un-Whitmanian, even unpoetic,” its function “fundamentally utilitarian, a physiological and political document rooted in the (pseudo)sciences of the era.” Not the sort of thing one imagines the highly self-conscious poet would have wanted to claim. “During his lifetime,” Whitman “wasted no time reminding anyone of this series,” likely hoping it would be forgotten.

And yet, it’s interesting nonetheless to compare the exaggerated masculinity of “Manly Health and Training” with much of the belittling personal criticism Whitman received in his lifetime, represented perfectly by one Thomas Wentworth Higginson. This critic and harsh reviewer included Whitman’s “priapism,” his serving as a nurse during the Civil War rather than “going into the army,” and his “not looking… in really good condition for athletic work” as reasons why the poet “never seemed to me a thoroughly wholesome or manly man.”

In addition to thinly veiled homophobia, many of Higginson’s comments suggested, write Robert Nelson and Kenneth Price, that “as a social group, working-class men did not and could not possess the qualities of true manliness.” Perhaps we can read these early Whitman editorials, pseudonymous or not, as democratic instructions for using masculine health as a great social leveler and means to “make up for many other deficiencies, as of education, refinement, and the like.” Or perhaps “Manly Health and Training” was just another assignment—a way to pay the bills by peddling popular male wish-fulfillment while the poet waited for the rest of the world to catch up with his literary genius.

via The New York Times

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Manual, “Manly Health & Training,” Urges Readers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plenty of Meat (1858) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

President Obama’s 2016 Stand-Up Comedy Routine

Mon, 2 May 2016 - 12:17 am

One thing I’ll miss about President Obama is his ability to deliver a good joke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. My favorite line from Saturday night:

And then there’s Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. He went to Indiana –- Hoosier country –- stood on a basketball court, and called the hoop a “basketball ring.” What else is in his lexicon? Baseball sticks? Football hats? But sure, I’m the foreign one.

Bern!

And it’s always nice to see John Boehner and Obama sharing a good joke around a smoke. Fast forward to the 27 minute mark for that.

Below, we also have Larry Wilmore’s cutting routine:

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President Obama’s 2016 Stand-Up Comedy Routine is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Discover Harvard’s Collection of 2,500 Pigments: Preserving the World’s Rare, Wonderful Colors

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 - 9:00 am

If modern paint companies’ pretentiously-named color palettes gall you to the point of an exclusively black-and-white existence, the Harvard Art Museums’ Forbes pigment collection will prove a welcome balm.

The hand and typewritten labels identifying the collection’s 2500+ pigments boast none of the flashy “creativity” that J. Crew employs to peddle its cashmere Boyfriend Cardigans.

Images by Harvard News

The benign, and wholly unexciting-sounding “emerald green” is —unsurprisingly—the exact shade legions of Oz fans have come to expect. The thrills here are chemical, not conferred. A mix of crystalline powder copper acetoarsenite, this emerald’s fumes sickened penniless artists as adroitly as they repelled insects.

Look how nicely it goes with Van Gogh’s ruddy hair…

“Mummy” is perhaps the closest the Forbes collection comes to 21st- century pigment naming. As Harvard’s Director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Narayan Khandekar, notes in the video above, its mushroom shade is no great shakes. The source—the resin used to seal mummies’ bandages—is what distinguishes it.

The collection’s crown jewel is a rich ball of mustard-y Indian Yellow. This pigment comes not from maize, nor earth, but from the dehydrated urine of a cow subsisting exclusively on mango leaves. I’m drawn to it like a moth to the living room walls. I’m sure Benjamin Moore had his reasons for dubbing its urine-free facsimile “Sunny Days.”

The images above, save the Van Gogh painting, comes courtesy of by Harvard News. The video above was created by Great Big Story.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Discover Harvard’s Collection of 2,500 Pigments: Preserving the World’s Rare, Wonderful Colors is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Watch Animated Introductions to 25 Philosophers by The School of Life: From Plato to Kant and Foucault

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 - 4:30 am

Philosophy as an academic subject is regularly maligned in popular discourse. Philosophy majors get told that their studies are useless. Philosophy professors find their budgets cut, their courses scrutinized, and their character grossly impeached in propagandistic religious feature films. It’s enough to make one despair over the turgid air of anti-intellectualism that stifles conversation.

But before we start pining for bygone golden ages of rigorous critical thought, let us remember that philosophers have been a thorn in the side of the powerful since the inception of Western philosophy. After all, Socrates, the ancient Greek whose name we associate with philosophy’s most basic maxims and methods, was supposedly put to death for the crime of which today’s professorate so often stand accused: corrupting the youth.

We mostly know of Socrates’ life and death through the written dialogues of his star pupil, Plato, whom Alain de Botton calls in the first video above, “the world’s first true, and perhaps greatest, philosopher.” De Botton quickly explains in his animated School of Life introduction that the core of Plato’s philosophy constitutes a “special kind of therapy” geared toward Eudaimonia, or human fulfillment and well-being. From Plato, De Botton’s series of quick takes on famous philosophers continues, moving through the Enlightenment and the 19th and 20th centuries.

Key to Plato’s thought is the critical examination of Doxa, or the conventional values and “popular opinions” that reveal themselves as “riddled with errors, prejudice, and superstition.” Plato’s most famous illustration of the profound state of ignorance in which most of us live goes by the name “The Allegory of the Cave,” and receives a retelling with commentary by De Botton just above. The parable doesn’t only illustrate the utility of philosophy, as De Botton says; it also serves as a vivid introduction to Plato’s theory of the Forms—an ideal realm of which our phenomenal reality is only a debased copy.

The dualism between the real and the ideal long governed philosophical thought, though many competing schools like the Stoics expressed a healthy degree of skepticism. But we might say that it wasn’t until Immanuel Kant, whom you can learn about above, that Plato really met his match. Along with his famous ethical dictum of the “categorical imperative,” Kant also posited two distinct realms—the noumenal and the phenomenal. And yet, unlike Plato, Kant did not believe we can make any assertions about the properties or existence of the ideal. Whatever lies outside the cave, we cannot access it through our faulty senses.

These central questions about the nature of knowledge and mind not only make philosophy an immanently fascinating discipline—they also make it an increasingly necessary endeavor, as we move further into the realm of constructing artificial minds. Software engineers and video game developers are tasked with philosophical problems related to consciousness, identity, and the possibility of ethical free choice. And at the cutting edge of cognitive science—where evolutionary biology and quantum mechanics rub elbows—we may find that Plato and Kant both intuited some of the most basic problems of consciousness: what we take for reality may be nothing of the kind, and we may have no way of genuinely knowing what the world is like outside our senses.

As 17th century French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes feared, but found impossible to believe, our perception of the world may in fact be a deceptive, if useful, illusion. Learn more about Descartes above, and see De Botton’s full School of Life philosophy series at the top of the post. Or watch the series on Youtube.

There are 25 videos in total, which let you become acquainted with, and perhaps corrupted by, a range of thinkers who question orthodoxy and common sense, including Aristotle, Epicurus, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Arthur Schopenhauer, Albert Camus, Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Baruch Spinoza.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Animated Introductions to 25 Philosophers by The School of Life: From Plato to Kant and Foucault is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

How Steely Dan Wrote “Deacon Blues,” the Song Audiophiles Use to Test High-End Stereos

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 - 1:00 am

Every Steely Dan fan remembers the first time they listened to their music — not just heard it, but listened to it, actively taking notice of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s complexly anachronistic lyrics (long scrutinized by the band’s exegetes), jazz-and-rock-spanning compositional technique, ultra-discerning selection of session musicians, and immaculate studio craft which, by the standards of the 1970s, raised popular music’s bar through the ceiling.

Often, that first real listening session happens in the neighborhood of a high-end stereo dealer. For me, the album was Two Against Nature, their turn-of-the-21st century comeback, but for many more, the album was Aja, which came out in 1977 and soon claimed the status of Steely Dan’s masterpiece. At the end of side one comes “Deacon Blues,” one of their best-loved songs as well as a production that puts audiophile listening equipment to the test. You can see a breakdown of what went into it in Nerdwriter’s new video “How Steely Dan Composes a Song” above.

“There’s a reason why audiophiles use Steely Dan records to test the sound quality of new speakers,” says host Evan Puschak. “The band is among the most sonically sophisticated pop acts of the 20th and 21st centuries,” in both the technical and artistic senses. He goes on to identify some of the signature elements in the mix, including something called the “mu major cord”; the recording methods that allow “every instrument its own life” (especially those played by masters like guitarist Larry Carlton and drummer Bernard Purdie); the striking effect of “middle register horns sliding against each other”; and even saxophone soloist Pete Christlieb, whom Becker and Fagen discovered by chance on a Tonight Show broadcast.

Puschak doesn’t ignore the lyrics, without a thorough analysis of which no discussion of Steely Dan’s work would be complete. He mentions the band’s typically wry, sardonic tone, their detached perspective and notes of uncertainty, but in the case of this particular song, it all comes with a “hidden earnestness” that makes it one of the most poignant in their entire catalog. “‘Deacon Blues’ is about as close to autobiography as our tunes get,” admits Fagen in the television documentary clip just above, which puts him and Becker back into the studio to look back at the song track by isolated track.

“We’re both kids who grew up in the suburbs. We both felt fairly alienated. Like a lot of kids in the fifties, we were looking for some kind of alternative culture — some kind of escape, really — from where we found ourselves.” Becker describes the song’s eponymous protagonist, who dreams of learning to “work the saxophone” in order to play just how he feels, “drink Scotch whiskey all night long, and die behind the wheel,” as not a musician but someone who “just sort of imagines that would be one of the mythic forms of loserdom to which he might aspire. Who’s to say that he’s not right?”

You can learn even more about the making (and the magic) of “Deacon Blues” in Marc Myers’ interview with Becker and Fagen in the Wall Street Journal last year. “It’s the only time I remember mixing a record all day and, when the mix was done, feeling like I wanted to hear it over and over again,” says Becker. “It was the comprehensive sound of the thing.” Fagen acknowledges “one thing we did right” in the making of the song: “We never tried to accommodate the mass market. We worked for ourselves and still do.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Steely Dan Wrote “Deacon Blues,” the Song Audiophiles Use to Test High-End Stereos is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 - 8:50 pm

There may be no more contentious an issue at the level of local U.S. government than education. All of the socioeconomic and cultural fault lines communities would rather paper over become fully exposed in debates over funding, curriculum, districting, etc. But we rarely hear discussions about educational policy at the national level these days.

You’ll hear no major political candidate deliver a speech solely focused on education. Debate moderators don’t much ask about it. The United States’ founder’s own thoughts on the subject are occasionally cited—but only in passing, on the way to the latest round of talks on war and wealth. Aside from proposals dismissed as too radical, education is mostly considered a lower priority for the nation’s leaders, or it’s roped into highly charged debates about political and social unrest on university campuses.

This situation can seem odd to the student of political philosophy. Every major political thinker—from Plato to John Locke to John Stuart Mill—has written letters, treatises, even major works on the central role of education. One contemporary political thinker—linguist, anarchist, and retired MIT professor Noam Chomsky—has also devoted quite a lot of thought to education, and has forcefully critiqued what he sees as a corporate attack on its institutions.

Chomsky, however, has no interest in harnessing education to prop up governments or market economies. Nor does he see education as a tool for righting historical wrongs, securing middle class jobs, or meeting any other  agenda.

Chomsky, whose thoughts on education we’ve featured before, tells us in the short video interview at the top of the post how he defines what it means to be truly educated. And to do so, he reaches back to a philosopher whose views you won’t hear referenced often, Wilhelm von Humboldt, German humanist, friend of Goethe and Schiller, and “founder of the modern higher education system.” Humboldt, Chomsky says, “argued, I think, very plausibly, that the core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively, independently, without external controls.” A true education, Chomsky suggests, opens a door to human intellectual freedom and creative autonomy.

To clarify, Chomsky paraphrases a “leading physicist” and former MIT colleague, who would tell his students, “it’s not important what we cover in the class; it’s important what you discover.” On this point of view, to be truly educated means to be resourceful, to be able to “formulate serious questions” and “question standard doctrine, if that’s appropriate”…. It means to “find your own way.” This definition sounds similar to Nietzsche’s views on the subject, though Nietzsche had little hope in very many people attaining a true education. Chomsky, as you might expect, proceeds in a much more democratic spirit.

In the interview above from 2013 (see the second video), you can hear him discuss why he has devoted his life to educating not only his paying students, but also nearly anyone who asks him a question. He also talks about his own education and further elucidates his views on the relationship between education, creativity, and critical inquiry. And, in the very first few minutes, you’ll find out whether Chomsky prefers George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. (Hint: it’s neither.)

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Peter Frampton Plays a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR, Featuring Acoustic Versions of His Classic Songs

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 - 6:51 pm

Having recently released a new album featuring acoustic versions of his big hits, Peter Frampton is now back on tour, playing in some smaller venues across the U.S. But no venue–not the Gillioz Theatre in Springfield, Missouri, nor the Tobin Center for Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas–is quite as small as the one we’re featuring today. Above, watch Frampton perform at the desk of NPR’s All Songs Considered. The performance is part of NPR’s Tiny Desk series, and the setlist includes acoustic versions of “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Lines On My Face,” and “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side).” Other recent Tiny Desk performances include Graham Nash, Wilco, Natalie Merchant, and Ben Folds. Enjoy.

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Peter Frampton Plays a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR, Featuring Acoustic Versions of His Classic Songs is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Young Patti Smith Rails Against the Censorship of Her Music: An Animated, NSFW Interview from 1976

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 - 11:11 am

The latest installment from Blank on Blank‘s series of animated videos drops us inside the bohemian Portobello Hotel in London. It’s May, 1976, and we hear a young Patti Smith railing against the censorship of her music, using some colorful–that is to say, NSFW–words. She talks Rimbaud. The poetry and combat of rock. The dreams and hallucinations that feed her music. The stuff that would eventually earn her the cred to be called The Godmother of Punk.

The audio is part of a longer, two-hour interview with Mick Gold, which is available through Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

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Young Patti Smith Rails Against the Censorship of Her Music: An Animated, NSFW Interview from 1976 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The “Brain Dictionary”: Beautiful 3D Map Shows How Different Brain Areas Respond to Hearing Different Words

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 - 8:30 am

We’ve all had those moments of struggle to come up with le mot juste, in our native language or a foreign one. But when we look for a particular word, where exactly do we go to find it? Neuroscientists at Berkeley have made a fascinating start on answering that question by going in the other direction, mapping out which parts of the brain respond to the sound of certain words, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to watch the action on the cerebral cortices of people listening to The Moth Radio Hour — a popular storytelling podcast you yourself may have spent some time with, albeit under somewhat different circumstances.

“No single brain region holds one word or concept,” writes The Guardian‘s Ian Sample on the “brain dictionary” thus developed by researcher Jack Gallant and his team. “A single brain spot is associated with a number of related words. And each single word lights up many different brain spots. Together they make up networks that represent the meanings of each word we use: life and love; death and taxes; clouds, Florida and bra. All light up their own networks.”

Sample quotes Alexander Huth, the first author on the study: “It is possible that this approach could be used to decode information about what words a person is hearing, reading, or possibly even thinking.” You can learn more about this promising research in the short video from Nature above, which shows how the team mapped out how, during those Moth listening sessions, “different bits of the brain responded to different kinds of words”: some regions lit up in response to those having to do with numbers, for instance, others in response to “social words,” and others in response to those indicating place.

You can also browse this brain dictionary yourself in 3D on the Gallant Lab’s web site, which lets you click on any part of the cortex and see a cluster of the words which generated the most activity there. The other neuroscientists quoted in the Guardian piece acknowledge both the thrilling (if slightly scary, in terms of thought-reading possibilities in the maybe-not-that-far-flung future) implications of the work as well as the huge amount of unknowns that remain. The response of the podcasting community has so far gone unrecorded, but surely they’d like to see the research extended in the direction of other linguistically intensive shows — Marc Maron’s WTF, perhaps.

via The Guardian

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The “Brain Dictionary”: Beautiful 3D Map Shows How Different Brain Areas Respond to Hearing Different Words is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Watch a Shot-by-Shot Remake of Kubrick’s The Shining, a 48-Minute Music Video Accompanying the New Album by Aesop Rock

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 - 1:11 am

In this increasingly atomized world of music, how does one get a new record release noticed above the hum of the internet? If you’re Beyoncé, you just drop the whole thing unannounced and watch the media play catch up. If you’re not Beyoncé you might consider rapper Aesop Rock’s tactic.

This week, the wordsmithiest of hip hop artists and animator Rob Shaw released a shot-by-shot remake of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, created with miniatures and made with what looks like spare change as a budget. All of which plays as background video to a full stream of The Impossible Kid, Aesop Rock’s seventh album and his first in four years.

Rob Shaw created the hipster rats skits for Portlandia as well as videos for They Might Be Giants and previous Aesop Rock tracks, but this Shining remake is something else. First you notice the gleeful cheapness of the production, but then as Aesop Rock’s rap lyrics flow over the visuals, memory starts to fill in the gaps of the images. Shaw’s handiwork is literally in the video: we can see his hand in the bathtub scene, or his body’s shadow as he moves the wooden Jack Torrance down the Overlook’s halls. And the tiny camera replicates the film’s Steadicam shots well, creating a work that is like a delirium of the actual movie.

Now, does this have anything to do with The Impossible Kid, really? Well, the rapper did go to live in a Portland barn after divorce and the death of a friend, and instead of writing “All Work and No Play…” over and over wrote this album, and nobody got hurt. Either way, by the time you’ve finished watching you’ll have heard the album, and that’s just one way to play the new music game.

via Noisey

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Watch a Shot-by-Shot Remake of Kubrick’s The Shining, a 48-Minute Music Video Accompanying the New Album by Aesop Rock is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The Cover of George Orwell’s 1984 Becomes Less Censored with Wear and Tear

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 - 2:00 pm

In 2013, Penguin released in the UK a series of new covers for five works by George Orwell, including a particularly bold cover design for Orwell’s best-known work, 1984. According to Creative Review, the designer, David Pearson, made it so that the book’s title and Orwell’s name were debossed, then almost completely obscured by black foiling, leaving just “enough of a dent for the title to be determined.” (Get a glimpse here.) No doubt, the design plays on the whole idea of censorship, “referencing the rewriting of history carried out by the novel’s Ministry of Truth.”

Three years later, you’ll have difficulty buying new copies of Pearson’s design. They’re in pretty short supply. But anyone with a well-worn copy of the book might discover what one Redditor has also observed–that the cover design “becomes less censored with wear.” Compare the “before” image above to the “after” image down below. Was this all part of Pearson’s long-range master plan? Or something of a design flaw? We’ll probably never know. But if you’re looking for a book that gets better with age, then this is one to add to your list.

Looking for a free, professionally-read audio book version of Orwell’s 1984? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice, and that can include 1984. Get more details on the offer here.

via Reddit

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The Cover of George Orwell’s 1984 Becomes Less Censored with Wear and Tear is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

What Makes the Stradivarius Special? It Was Designed to Sound Like a Female Soprano Voice, With Notes Sounding Like Vowels, Says Researcher

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 - 1:30 pm

What makes violins made by the Stradivari and Guarneri families as valuable to musicians as they are to collectors? And how do we measure the optimal sound quality of a violin? One answer comes from violin maker Anton Krutz, who speculates that these highly-prized classical instruments sing so sweetly because they are “made with proportions and spirals based on Golden Ratio geometry.”

Perhaps. But Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, discovered another, less lofty reason for the distinctive sound of these coveted instruments. As Texas A&M Today reports, during his 25 years of research on Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, Nagyvary found that the two makers “soaked their instruments in chemicals such as borax and brine to protect them from a worm infestation that was sweeping through Italy in the 1700s. By pure accident the chemicals used to protect the wood had the unintended result of producing the unique sounds that have been almost impossible to duplicate in the past 400 years.”

Though violins have always been made to imitate the human voice, the uniqueness of the Stradivari and Guarneri violins, Nagyvary set out to prove, results in especially humanlike tones. In a recent 2013 study published in the stringed instrument science periodical Savart Journal, Nagyvary presented research showing, writes Live Science, that these prized Italian instruments “produced several vowel sounds, including the Italian ‘i’ and ‘e’ sounds and several vowel sounds from French and English.” Whether by chemical accident or grand geometric design, “the great violin masters were making violins with more humanlike voices than any others of the time.”

Seeking, as Nagyvary says in the short video above, to “define what was the standard of excellence for the violin sound,” he decided to measure the Stradivari and Guarneri-made instruments against the original model for their timbre: the female soprano voice. To compare the two, he had Itzhak Perlman record a scale on a 1743 Guarneri violin, then asked Metropolitan Opera soprano Emily Pulley to record her voice while she sang various vowel sounds. Nagyvary analyzed the harmonic content of both recordings with a computer program and mapped the results against each other.

His project, writes Texas A&M Today, effectively “proved that the sounds of Pulley’s voice and the violin’s could be located on the same map… and their respective graphic images can be directly compared.” The Guarneri violin does indeed exactly mimic the tones of the singing human voice, replicating vowel sounds from Old Italian and other European languages.

Nagyvary thinks his findings “could change how violins may be valued”—for their sound rather than for the label inside the instrument. A violin maker himself, the former biochemistry professor also suggests a more practical application for his research findings: they might teach violin makers how to improve the quality of their instruments. Nagyvary’s scientific approach may offer luthiers the exact chemical composition and the measurable tonal qualities of the Stradivarius, enabling them to finally duplicate these beloved Renaissance instruments.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

What Makes the Stradivarius Special? It Was Designed to Sound Like a Female Soprano Voice, With Notes Sounding Like Vowels, Says Researcher is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Hear Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” Performed by Orson Welles & Bing Crosby on Christmas Eve 1944

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 - 10:34 am

The most beloved fables have survived for ages, passed down from generation to generation in one form or another since time immemorial. It speaks to the genius of Oscar Wilde that his children’s story “The Happy Prince” has attained that status despite having existed for less than 130 years. In that time it has captivated readers, listeners, and viewers (including the likes of Patti Smith) in the original text as well as in a variety of adaptations, including an orchestral performance, an animated film, a reading by Stephen Fry, and a rock opera. It also provided material for a number of radio broadcasts in the 1930s and 40s, including the one above, a reading by Orson Welles, Bing Crosby, and Lurene Tuttle.

Welles takes the Wildean role of the narrator. Crosby plays the titular prince immortalized in statue form without having ever, ironically, experienced happiness in life. Tuttle, a prolific actress of not just radio but vaudeville, film, and television, gives voice to the swallow who, left behind when his flock migrates to Egypt for the winter, alights on the prince’s shoulder. In their shared lonesomeness, the bird and the statue become friends, and the prince asks the sparrow to distribute his decorations to the people of the impoverished town around them. What comes of these selfless deeds? The answer resides, with the rest of the story, in the hallowed realm of myth.

Welles, Crosby, and Tuttle’s performance of “The Happy Prince” debuted on the Philco Radio Hall of Fame on Christmas Eve 1944. It proved popular enough that two years later, Decca commissioned the actors for another performance of the story and put it out as a record album. In becoming something of a holiday tradition, Wilde’s immaculately crafted tale of companionship, sacrifice, and redemption has surely turned a few generations on to the work of one of the sharpest wits in western history. The prince and the swallow may come to an unfortunate end on Earth, but they enjoy the recognition their deeds have earned them in the kingdom of heaven. Wilde’s own short life closed with a series of difficult chapters, but now we all recognize the preciousness of what he left behind.

Find more readings of Oscar Wilde classics in our collection, 700 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” Performed by Orson Welles & Bing Crosby on Christmas Eve 1944 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Prince Plays Unplugged and Wraps the Crowd Around His Little Finger (2004)

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 - 8:34 am

Google the words “Prince” and “shade.” Go ahead. It’s worth it. Or just click here, lazybones. Listicle after article on how the departed genius was the “King of Shade.” And seriously, check out the memes. What the hell am I rambling on about? What’s “shade”? If you’re feeling unhip, look no further than the video above, which has the added bonus of featuring The Artist in a solo acoustic performance at New York’s Webster Hall for an MTV Unplugged episode, doing a kind of highlights reel of some of his best-loved songs.

He is, of course, brilliant. You don’t need me to rhapsodize about what an amazing musician Prince was. You already knew that, and if you didn’t, the Internet has told you so several hundred times over and, for once, it didn’t exaggerate one bit. But back to the shade. In Prince’s case, the subtle side-eye, the withering looks of disdain and disapproval, the WTF sneers…. When you take in the full range of the man’s expressions, you’ll see why Miles Davis compared his stage persona to Charlie Chaplin—he wasn’t just a musical genius, benefactor to many, film star, sexy MFer…. He was also a physical comedian.

Watch him toy with the audience above. He invites them to sing along as he starts with “Cream.” They do so badly off-key, Prince stops and throws shade. Audience shuts up, suitably shamed, then cracks up. Repeat. It’s fantastic crowd interaction from a man who could put on a Broadway-worthy production with all the smoke and pyrotechnics and a cast of thousands, or who could sit onstage alone with an acoustic guitar and wrap the crowd around his little finger. (Later during “Sweet Thing” he turns the mic around and lets the audience take over completely.) And his acoustic blues chops ain’t bad either. See the full performance here.

As an added bonus, above, see Prince’s very first televised interview, broadcast on MTV in 1985 and shot on the set of the “America” video. Watch him answer prescreened questions and explain to us how, “I’m just like everyone else. I need love… and water.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Prince Plays Unplugged and Wraps the Crowd Around His Little Finger (2004) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

An Ancient Philosophical Song Reconstructed and Played for the First Time in 1,000 Years

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 - 10:36 am

Above and below, you can watch musicians perform “Songs of Consolation,” a 1,000-year-old song set “to the poetic portions of Roman philosopher Boethius’ magnum opus The Consolation of Philosophy,” an influential medieval text written during the 6th century. According to Cambridge University, the performance of the piece, which had been lost in time until recently, didn’t come easily:

[T]he task of performing such ancient works today is not as simple as reading and playing the music in front of you. 1,000 years ago, music was written in a way that recorded melodic outlines, but not ‘notes’ as today’s musicians would recognise them; relying on aural traditions and the memory of musicians to keep them alive. Because these aural traditions died out in the 12th century, it has often been thought impossible to reconstruct ‘lost’ music from this era – precisely because the pitches are unknown.

Now, after more than two decades of painstaking work on identifying the techniques used to set particular verse forms, research undertaken by Cambridge University’s Dr Sam Barrett has enabled him to reconstruct melodies from the rediscovered leaf of the 11th century ‘Cambridge Songs’.

The song is performed here by Benjamin Bagby, Hanna Marti and Norbert Rodenkirchen, three members of the medieval music ensemble known as Sequentia.

via Cambridge/IFL Science

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An Ancient Philosophical Song Reconstructed and Played for the First Time in 1,000 Years is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.