kottke.org posts about music
Let's not bury the lede here...Radiohead's new album will be out on Sunday, May 8th at 2pm ET. !!!
The video is by Paul Thomas Anderson for Radiohead's second single, Daydreaming (buy direct, listen at Spotify, etc.) Why PT Anderson? Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood did the soundtrack for Anderson's There Will Be Blood.
Humans are amazing. Alexey Romanov has no fingers, took up music only two years ago, and can play the piano better than 99.9% of world's population. (via the guardian)
Two days ago, Radiohead withdrew its forces from the internet. Today, they dropped a new video on YouTube. The rest of the new album soon? Please?
Update: It's on Spotify now and available for sale on Radiohead's site and iTunes. Also, I am liking this song a lot.
From Nelson Carvajal, an examination of the visual influences of Beyonce's Lemonade visual album, from Pipilotti Rist to Terrence Malick to David Lynch.
The biggest influence present in Lemonade, is that of the great Terrence Malick. Imagery from his films To The Wonder and The Tree of Life (in particular a standout sequence involving a bedroom underwater) definitely inspired a lot of the overall tone of introspection and spiritual reflection that Beyoncé is striving for here. One of Lemonade's directors, Kahlil Joseph, shot B-roll on Malick's To The Wonder, so the impressionistic style of filmmaking has obviously carried over.
See also What to read after watching Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'.
This is the best thing I've read about Beyonce's recently released album/film Lemonade.
*Beyoncé opens the door and Solange Knowles and Tina Lawson walk in.
Solange throws a reverse roundhouse kick that Jay Z lazily dodges.*
Solo: I'm sorry. I'm just very inspired right now.
Bey: Mommy! Solo! What a pleasant surprise! Neither of you could have had better timing
Jay: Sister-in-law. Mama Tina.
Mama T: Stereotypical Black Man
Solo: Blubberlips McSlutdick
Bey: Baby, take your elevator to your playroom. Mommy will FaceTime you on your IPhone 8 when dinners ready.
Blue: Yes, mommy dearest
Solo: Rihanna called me to congratulate you.
Bey: She couldn't call me?
Solo: Because you were gonna answer?
Mama T: lol omg
Bey: You may laugh
Jay: eh heh heh
Mama T: You are pathetic. The universe wasted good water creating you.
Bey: Mama. *high fives*
See also What to read after watching Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'.
You're probably aware of Sinead O'Conner's Nothing Compares 2 U but The Bangles, MC Hammer, Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, and others also made use of songs written by Prince.
Prince rides in on the back of a bearded man at around the 2:05 mark, yes you read that right. I had never seen this clip before and when he really gets going on stage, I started clapping and yelling in my apartment. Glorious. (via David Remnick at the New Yorker, who is almost annoyingly good at blogging)
The Broadway musical Hamilton is having a bit of a moment right now. Ok, not really. Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash hit has seemingly had one loooong moment since he performed "Alexander Hamilton" in front of the President and Mrs. Obama at the White House in 2009.
The show is sold out1 until who knows when, the original cast album went gold and won a Grammy, and they're doing spin-off productions in Chicago, LA, and SF -- all this scarcely more than a year since Rebecca Mead wrote up Miranda and Hamilton in the New Yorker.2 Bernie Sanders took in the show last week. And this week, a book about the production of the play came out.
Hamilton: The Revolution gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages -- "since before this was even a show," according to Miranda -- traces its development from an improbable performance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.
Add to that a flurry of articles (several from the NY Times, which has a dedicated staff of 162 reporters on the beat) that came out in the past week or so: Why Hamilton Matters, Lin-Manuel Miranda: By the Book (he's never finished Infinite Jest), 'Hamilton' and History: Are They in Sync?, A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn't As Revolutionary As It Seems, and The C.E.O. of 'Hamilton' Inc. How much bigger can this thing get?
Update: And now Miranda has won a Pulitzer.
If they survive at all, recordings of a lot of older music (pre-50s or -60s) don't sound great because they were taken from old records that aren't in the best shape. This 1929 recording of Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra playing Ain't Misbehavin' was taken from what's called a "mother record", a metal disc that's produced from the master disc. As you can hear, recording directly from a mother gives you an incredibly crisp and clear result:
Wow. It sounds so much better than the same song recorded in a more conventional way:
We're so conditioned to hearing 90-year-old music with that muddy record hiss that the mother recording is a revelation, like seeing early color photography and film.
When six of Phil Collins' albums were recently remastered, he went back and recreated the covers as well. That's fun! (via @pieratt)
Update: Patrick Balls was the photographer for the reshoots.
Com Truise's new EP, Silicon Tare, comes out tomorrow but you can listen on Soundcloud right now. Grab the mp3s or vinyl at Ghostly or Amazon. (Previously.)
You've got to start somewhere, and for The Beatles, that somewhere included Palais Ballroom in Aldershot, England, where they played in front of only 18 people in 1961.
When the Beatles arrived after being driven nine hours from Liverpool by Leach's friend Terry McCann, their posters were nowhere to be found, and they had to wait to be let into the venue.
That night, the Beatles played their usual covers of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis to about 18 very bored people.
Founding Fathers is a full-length documentary film about the history of hip hop narrated by Public Enemy's Chuck D. Everyone knows that hip hop originated in the Bronx. What this film presupposes is, maybe it didn't? Maybe hip hop started even earlier than commonly thought in places like Brooklyn with DJs like Grandmaster Flowers.
I don't know if this film ever found release anywhere...it's not even on IMDB or Wikipedia. (via @sampotts)
In this clip from Koyaanisqatsi, Andy Kelly replaced Philip Glass' score with music from the Wii Shop Channel. As he notes, the movie doesn't seem quite as haunting now. (via @daveg)
UbuWeb is hosting a massive collection of electronic and electroacoustic songs from 1937-2001.
This is from a 62 CD set called "The History of Electroacoustic Music" that was floating around as a torrent, reputedly curated by a Brazilian student. It's sketchy. The torrent vanished and the collection has long been unavailable.
It's a clearly flawed selection: there's few women and almost no one working outside of the Western tradition (where are the Japanese? Chinese? etc.). However, as an effort, it's admirable and contains a ton of great stuff.
Take it with a grain of salt, or perhaps use it as a provocation to curate a more intelligent, inclusive, and comprehensive selection.
(via open culture)
Update: The tongue-in-cheek Flash-only interface is terrible, but if you get past that, Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music is an amazing resource. (via @xRageous)
It is the assertion of The Walk of Life Project that the Dire Straits song Walk of Life is the perfect thing to play at the end of movies. I have watched more than a dozen of these and they are all great, but I picked Lost in Translation, There Will Be Blood, and Terminator 2 to embed here.
Watch as Orkestra Obsolete plays a version of New Order's Blue Monday using only instruments that would have been available in the 1930s, including the diddley bow, the harmonium, the zither, the theramin, and the musical saw. (via @tcarmody)
David W. Niven collected jazz records from as early as 1921 and with the help of the Internet Archive, copies of those records have been made available online...that's 1000 hours of jazz.
My 20-year-old cousin introduced me to jazz when I was 10. It was a 10" 78 RPM OK recording of "My Heart" made in Chicago on November 12, 1925, by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five with Kid Ory, trombone; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Lil Armstrong, piano; and Johnny St. Cyr, banjo. On the reverse was "Cornet Chop Suey."
Evan Puschak of Nerdwriter fame asked an interesting question on Twitter yesterday:
It's 2006. You're DJing a club. You have a 2016 iPod. What song do you put on to make everyone go nuts?
Puschak compiled the responses into a Spotify playlist:
What would you pick? It depends on what sort of club you're talking about but in general, for maximum impact, it would have to be instantly catchy but also with adventurous production that sounds like it's from the future (in a way that, say, Uptown Funk doesn't).
When the song that became Thriller was first considered for the album that also became Thriller, it was called Starlight and had totally different lyrics.
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
Songwriter Rod Temperton explains:
Originally, when I did my Thriller demo, I called it Starlight. Quincy said to me, 'You managed to come up with a title for the last album, see what you can do for this album.' I said, 'Oh great,' so I went back to the hotel, wrote two or three hundred titles, and came up with the title 'Midnight Man'. The next morning, I woke up, and I just said this word... Something in my head just said, this is the title. You could visualise 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'.
That story reminds me of the scene in the hot tub in Boogie Nights where Eddie Adams chooses his stage name:
I just want a name, I want it so it can cut glass, you know, like razor sharp. When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign. I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign -- it just blows up because the name is so powerful ... It says "Dirk Diggler."
Thriller and Dirk Diggler. Both great names. (via @aaroncoleman0)
Howard Shore, composer of the orchestral score for The Lord of the Rings, uses leitmotif to help tell the story, in the form of recurring thematic musical phrases that accompany certain actions, places, or characters. For instance, there's a Shire theme that plays when the hobbits are central to the action but which becomes less important as their physical distance from the Shire increases. Wagner famously used leitmotif in his Ring cycle and so did John Williams in Star Wars...Vader's theme is a good example.1
Ethnographer Christina Xu discovered a few of the nicknames that young Chinese fans have devised for American pop stars.
Nicki Minaj - 麻辣鸡 (má là ji): a slant transliteration of "Minaj". Means spicy chicken (ma la is a spice combo commonly used in Sichuan cooking).
Drake - 公鸭 (gōng yā): Literally "male duck", as in the definition of a "drake". I laughed out loud when I finally figured this one out.
Kanye West - 侃爷 (kǎn yé): a transliteration of Kanye. In Beijing dialect, this means someone who brags a lot with no actions to follow it up.
Update: According to @billyroh's coworker, Rihanna is known to some as "the Pop Queen of Shandong Province".
At first I was like, whhhhhhhy? And then I was all, whhhhyyyy do I like this so much? Britney has always had something but damned if I know what it is.
The product of a collaboration between Polygraph and Billboard, this interactive timeline lets you listen to the top rap song in the US from 1989 to 2015 as you see the single jockeying in the top 10.
James Corden does this thing on the Late Late Show where he drives around with singers doing karaoke in a car. Yesterday, he picked up Adele and they drove around singing a few of her songs and then she did, without dropping a word, Nicki Minaj's verses from Monster1 (starts at about the 10:15 mark). Soooo good. (via @djacobs)
David Bowie died Sunday from cancer. Dave Pell at Nextdraft has a nice roundup of links, writing:
In the NYT obituary, Jon Pareles writes: "Mr. Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut." Maybe that's why there is such an outpouring of emotion at the news of David Bowie's death at the age of 69. Everyone feels like an outsider and Bowie made being an outsider feel more like being ahead of the curve. Today, there are people who are famous for nothing. David Bowie was famous for everything.
Bowie was also quite keen on the Internet:
Quartz calls him a tech visionary, and there's this from a 1999 Rolling Stone article: "David Bowie has pulled another cyber-coup by becoming the first major-label artist to sell a complete album online in download form."
He didn't get the future exactly right, but authorship and intellectual property has been "in for such a bashing" lately and music sales are down down down:
"Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity," he added. "So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen."
Spotify is the running water and YouTube is the electricity. (Illustration by Helen Green.)
From Complex, a listing of the best rapper alive for each year since 1979, from Grandmaster Caz to Biggie to Nicki to Drake.
Christopher Wallace was only alive for 67 days in 1997, but with a talent so immense, that's all it took for him to be the most dominant rapper of the year. In the months after Biggie's March 9 death, it's almost as if his stock rose. The untimely loss of someone so young, with so much heft in the language of hip-hop, was like a call to reflection. Infatuation with his wit, wordplay, and delivery soared, and 1997, in spite of tragedy, was Biggie's biggest year.
Life After Death was released just over two weeks after Biggie passed and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album was an ambitious two-disc set with a tracklist comprised of every type of song imaginable. While the diverse styles and subject matter -- his daughter's college plan, kinky sex, hotel heists, a fully-sung ballad -- were an organic product of Biggie's incomparable range, the strategy of Life After Death's sequencing has become the de facto approach for rap albums in the years since. It's an incredibly influential project, before you even press play.
In the first few seconds of this video, Margaret Leng Tan introduces herself:
I'm the first woman to graduate with a doctorate from Juilliard and now I play the toy piano. Life works in mysterious ways.
You can hear more of Tan's toy piano music on Spotify. (via @robinsloan)
Radiohead were commissioned to write the theme song for Spectre, the newest James Bond movie. The movie's producers decided to go in a different musical direction, so the band recently put the rejected song up on Soundcloud. Enjoy. (via df)
I have really been digging this Burning Man sunrise DJ set from Tycho. (via @arainert)
Prince covered Radiohead's Creep at the Coachella music festival in 2008. The video got yanked due to copyright infringement but it's back up. For the moment anyway and perhaps forever...Prince's Twitter account linked to it. (via @anildash (who else??))
At the risk of turning this into an Adele fan site, here are the isolated vocals for her performance of "Hello" for Saturday Night Live. They are raw and flawless and real and everything pop music isn't these days.
Update: That YouTube video got yanked, but I found the vocals on Soundcloud. We'll see how long that'll last.
Update: Welp, that lasted about 10 minutes. Digg has embedded their own video. How fast will that one disappear?
This is all sorts of charming. BBC held an Adele impersonator contest and arranged for Adele to compete in disguise as a woman named Jenny. I love the looks on the women's faces when they realize what's going on.
See also Jewel's undercover karaoke and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis surprising a bus full of passengers with a performance.
This long interview with former Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher is a goldmine of rock star swagger, a master class in not giving a shit, and the dictionary definition of unfiltered. I mean:
Am I aware of a hierarchy? I'm aware that Radiohead have never had a fucking bad review. I reckon if Thom Yorke fucking shit into a light bulb and started blowing it like an empty beer bottle it'd probably get 9 out of 10 in fucking Mojo. I'm aware of that.
I used to put us at number seven. It went The Beatles, the Stones, the Sex Pistols, The Who, The Kinks... who came in at six? I don't know. We were at seven. The Smiths were in there, The Specials. Where would I put us now? I guess I'd probably put us in the top 10. We weren't as great as the greats but we were the best of the rest. We did more than The Stone Roses could fucking even fathom. We're better than The Verve: couldn't fucking keep it together for more than six months at a time. If all the greats are in the top four, we're in the bottom of the top four, we're kind of constantly fighting for fifth, just missing out. Just missing out on the top four, I'd say.
He just has opinions on everything and everyone and says them on the record:
I fucking hate whingeing rock stars. And I hate pop stars who are just... neh. Just nothing, you know? "Oh, yeah, my last selfie got 47-thousand-million likes on Instagram." Yeah, why don't you go fuck off and get a drug habit, you penis?
This one just made me laugh:
My fragrance? Oh it's coming, it's coming. Toe-Rag it's going to be called. And the bottle's going to be a massive toe.
Ahhhhhhh, I can't stop quoting:
I guaran-fucking-tee you this: The Stone Roses never mentioned "career" in any band meetings. Ever. Or Primal Scream, or The Verve. Oasis certainly never mentioned it. I bet it's mentioned a lot by managers and agents now: "Don't do that, it's bad for your career." "What? Fuck off!" Like when we went to the Brits and we'd won all those awards and we didn't play. The head of the Brits said, "This'll ruin your career." Fucking, wow. I say to the guy, "Do you know how high I am? You know who's going to ruin my career? Me, not you. Bell-end. More Champagne. Fuck off."
Ok, that's enough. Just go read the thing.
The University of California, Santa Barbara library is digitizing its collection of wax cylinders from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over 10,000 audio files from the collection are now available online.
The UCSB Library, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Grammy Foundation, and donors, has created a digital collection of more than 10,000 cylinder recordings held by the Department of Special Collections. To bring these recordings to a wider audience, the Library makes them available to download or stream online for free.
This searchable database features all types of recordings made from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including popular songs, vaudeville acts, classical and operatic music, comedic monologues, ethnic and foreign recordings, speeches and readings.
BBC Radio One got David Attenborough to narrate the first minute or so of Adele's video for Hello as if it were a nature documentary. Solid gold. Although I am a little cross they made Attenborough say the words "hashtag flip phone". :|
Bonus pseudo-Attenborough: the episode of Human Planet on The Douche.
Did you know The Beatles have a YouTube channel? On which they have only posted three videos in the past year? Do you even know who The Beatles are? I mean, they aren't on Spotify or any other streaming music service so maybe that won't be an absurd question soon. After all, current and future generations will have a lot to say about the future popularity of the band and if they don't hear the music, well...
For now, enjoy a live performance of Revolution from 1968. (Update: I have been informed by music nerds that only the vocals are live on this.)
From Dorothy, a beautiful print of the history of electronic music mapped onto the circuit board of a theremin, one of the first electronic instruments.
Our Electric Love Blueprint celebrates over 200 inventors, innovators, composers and musicians who (in our opinion) have been pivotal to the evolution of electronic music from the invention of the earliest known sound recording device in 1857 to the present day. Key pioneers featured include Léon Theremin, Bob Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, John Cage, New Order and Aphex Twin.
Some amazing person has collected the full tracks of the songs that were sampled by the Beastie Boys on six of their best-known albums and provided them as a downloadable zip file. That's 286 tracks, 22 hours of music, and encoded between 256kbps and 320kbps.
Obviously not every sample or drum break can or ever will be identified, but this is about as close as it's gonna get! With the completion of this eighteen year long ongoing project, I want to personally thank each and every single person out there that has lent insight, shared knowledge, or provided me with any of the tracks that were used to compile this amazing piece of history. It goes without saying that much love, gratitude, and respect is owed to the Beastie Boys for introducing me (and you) to some amazing music via sampling that may otherwise not be heard, let alone acknowledged in this light.
Some of the included tracks:
Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks
Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin'
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Jimi Hendrix - Foxey Lady
Stephen Sondheim - Act I: Company
Peggy Lee - Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay
See also Paul's Boutique Without Paul's Boutique, where Tim Carmody provides some context behind the Beasties' sampling:
The remix is fun to listen to, but mostly, it just reminds you that Paul's Boutique sounds amazing because its sampled sources were amazing. Like De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising, released the same year, Paul's Boutique lifts tracks that would cost a small mint to borrow from today. (Three Feet High has never had an official digital release because the rights holders still can't sort out the royalties.) The Beatles, The Supremes, The Ramones, Curtis Mayfield, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly, Bernard Hermann, and James Brown (of course) are all there. But mostly, it's a love letter to old-school New York City hip hop: Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5, The Sugarhill Gang, The Funky 4 +1, and contemporaries like Run-DMC, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy are the glue that holds the whole project together.
Now, if you know Paul's Boutique well, you can't hear those older songs any more without hearing Paul's Boutique. There's specific moments in those songs that hide there waiting for you to trip over them, like quotations of ancient Greek in an Ezra Pound or TS Eliot poem. Beastie Boys didn't just find a way to make older music sound new; they found a way to invent their own precursors.
The Hood Internet has released their ninth mixtape. Ninth! The highlight so far as I listen for the first time: Daft Punk's Around the World mixed with The Weeknd's Can't Feel My Face. (via @mathowie)
Update: Downloads and track listing are available on The Hood Internet's website.
Kent Jones has directed a documentary on the 1962 meeting where a young François Truffaut interviewed a seasoned Alfred Hitchcock about his films (the output of which was a beloved book). As the narration from the trailer says, "[Truffaut] wanted to free Hitchcock from his reputation as a light entertainer", to which Peter Bogdanovich adds, "it conclusively changed people's opinions about Hitchcock".
In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting -- used to produce the mythical book Hitchcock/Truffaut -- this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. Hitchcock's incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today's leading filmmakers: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.
Truffaut's recontextualization of Hitchcock and his work reminds me of the point Matt Daniels recently made about younger generations deciding how work from older artists is remembered in his post about timeless music:
Biggie has three of the Top 10 hip-hop songs between 1986 and 1999. This is a strong signal that future generations will remember Biggie as the referent artist of 80s and 90s hip-hop. And there's No Diggity at the top -- perhaps it's that glorious Dr. Dre verse.
Hip hop heads will lament the omission of Rakim, Public Enemy, or Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. It's a depressing reality that exists for every genre and generation: not every artist will be remembered. The incoming generation will control what's relevant from the 90s and carried into the future, independent of quality and commercial success. For rock, that might be Blink-182. For electronica, that might be Sandstorm.
Take Star Wars as another example. I've had conversations recently with other parents whose young kids are really into the series. The way they experience Star Wars is different than my generation. We saw Episodes IV-VI in the theater, on VHS, and on DVD and then saw Episodes I-III in the theater accompanied by various degrees of disappointment and disregard. Elementary school-aged kids today might have watched the prequels first. They read the comics, play the video games, and watch the Clone Wars animated series. To many of them, the hero of the series is Anakin, not Luke.1 And Generation X, as much as we may hate that, there's not a damn thing we can do about it.2 Unless... there is... another... (via subtraction)
Hip-hop group Run the Jewels have released a remix album called Meow the Jewels of their second album that features various meows, purrs, yowls, and other cat noises. Congratulations Internet, we have achieved Peak Cat.
Julia Nunes is a musician who 1) first developed a following for her music on YouTube, and 2) is putting out her latest album, which drops tomorrow. This summer, Nunes took down a bunch of the videos that started her on this path and explained why.
I took down a bunch of videos bc I don't want what I'm doing now to be lost amongst what I've done for the past 8 years. I don't want the best thing I've ever done to be 10% of what you can find if you're looking. I want anyone who is just finding me now to see who I really am. Later, they can dig deep into the internet and find my nose ring but until then I wanna greet the world as I am now.
Nunes had changed and she wanted her online persona to reflect the shift.
There will always be resistance to change and the first roadblock is usually yourself. I think I was putting myself in a box there for a little bit, too beholden to the image I started with.
One of my favorite posts, which I think about often, is this one about social media and self-reinvention. In it, I quote a post1 from Scott Schuman's The Sartorialist about a woman named Kara who significantly remade her image after moving to NYC.
Actually the line that I think was the most telling but that she said like a throw-away qualifier was "I didn't know anyone in New York when I moved here..."
I think that is such a huge factor. To move to a city where you are not afraid to try something new because all the people that labeled who THEY think you are (parents, childhood friends) are not their to say "that's not you" or "you've changed". Well, maybe that person didn't change but finally became who they really are. I totally relate to this as a fellow Midwesterner even though my changes were not as quick or as dramatic.
I bet if you ask most people what keeps them from being who they really want to be (at least stylistically or maybe even more), the answer would not be money but the fear of peer pressure -- fear of embarrassing themselves in front of a group of people that they might not actually even like anyway.
Taking down those videos is Nunes' way of trying for a fresh online start. Makes me think about whether having more than 17 years of archives on kottke.org still hanging around is such a good idea.
A brand-new, free-to-listen/download covers/
mashup medley EP from Roman GianArthur, featuring labelmate Janelle Monae on the beautiful duet "NO SURPR:SES."
D'Angelo and Radiohead: it's two great late-90s/early-00s/still-pretty-damn-good-in-10s tastes that taste great together!
(via Wired and elsewhere)
Why are there so many cover versions of hit songs on Spotify, YouTube, and other streaming music services? It's not just because of searches and the artistic equivalent of SEO, but because there is an economic engine to support them:
Every time one of Scofield's songs is downloaded on iTunes, she makes around 60 cents, after paying a processing fee and, when it's a cover song, royalties to the original artist. But if one of her songs is streamed on Spotify, she'll make just a fraction of a cent. Both Scofield and Young have done the math: "You would have to play one of my songs on Spotify 150 to 400 times in order to equal what I would make from one iTunes download," Young says. Scofield agreed that to balance revenue on the platforms, she needed at least several hundred times more Spotify streams than iTunes downloads...
Spotify's microeconomy of cover artists gave rise to a cottage industry of easy-to-use online licensing services. Over the past several years, dozens of these services have emerged, like SongFile and Easy Song Licensing, an amateurish-looking website that promises it can clear a cover song for you in one to two days. Jonathan Young uses Loudr, a licensing and digital distribution startup that operates in the same way most of these companies do. For $15 per song, plus royalty fees (calculated by the number of times a song is streamed), Loudr will do the work of securing a license and putting the song up online. All Young has to do is pay and wait.
This is essentially an updated throwback to pop music in the 1940s and 1950s (and to a lesser extent the 1960s), where publishers would push hit songs on as many artists as possible to get maximum exposure/run it into the ground. It's fun to look at the recording history of a standard like "Baby, It's Cold Outside":
The following versions were recorded in 1949:
- The song in its original form was released on the soundtrack for Neptune's Daughter sung by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams.
- The recording by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark was recorded on March 17 and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 38463. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on May 6, 1949, and lasted 19 weeks on the chart, peaking at number four.
- The recording by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer was recorded on March 18 and released by Capitol Records as catalog number 567. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on May 6, 1949, and lasted 19 weeks on the chart, peaking at number four.
- The recording by Don Cornell and Laura Leslie with the Sammy Kaye orchestra was recorded on April 12 and released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-3448. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on June 24, 1949, and lasted 10 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 13.
- The recording by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan was recorded on April 28 and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24644. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on June 17, 1949 and lasted seven weeks on the chart, peaking at number 17.
- A parody recording was made by Homer and Jethro with June Carter; it went to number 9 on the country charts and number 22 on the pop charts.
Non-charting recordings were made:
- By Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban on April 7, 1949 released by MGM Records as catalog number 30197.
- By Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page on June 23, 1949 released by Harmony Records as catalog number 1049.
- By Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton.
I mean, look at the cluster of dates! March 17, March 18, April 7, April 12, June 23. Some of the cover versions beat "the original" to market.
Then as now, the money isn't in the performance, especially on the record; it's in the song.
Today, the [star] artist retains more power than in the 1940s, and there's a stigma against artists who don't write their own material. But I wouldn't be surprised if at some point, we start to see more established artists get into the game of covering new (and old) hit songs, not just young artists looking for a little exposure. The economics of the thing line up the same way for everybody.
Matt Daniels of Polygraph used playcount data from Spotify to identify the most played songs from the past, which he labeled The Most Timeless Songs of All Time. The most timeless song of the 90s, by a wide margin? Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.1
Out of the entire catalog of music from the 90s, these are the tracks on the trajectory to survive. Some of my friends were deeply disturbed by what's been lost in time (e.g., Pearl Jam). And No Diggity isn't just anecdotally timeless, it's the fifth most-played song from the 90s.
Note the tracks that hardly charted on Billboard, in their day. Smells Like Teen Spirit, a track that never reached the Billboard Top 5 when it was released in 1992, is now the most-played song from the 90s.
Daniels makes the point that it is not the generation that made the music that will determine its long-term prospects for being remembered, but subsequent generations, which sounds obvious when it's put that way, but I'd never really thought about it.1
Biggie has three of the Top 10 hip-hop songs between 1986 and 1999. This is a strong signal that future generations will remember Biggie as the referent artist of 80s and 90s hip-hop. And there's No Diggity as the top - perhaps it's that glorious Dr. Dre verse.
Hip hop heads will lament the omission of Rakim, Public Enemy, or Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. It's a depressing reality that exists for every genre and generation: not every artist will be remembered. The incoming generation will control what's relevant from the 90s and carried into the future, independent of quality and commercial success. For rock, that might be Blink-182. For electronica, that might be Sandstorm.
I made playlists on Rdio and on Spotify of the top 30 most timeless songs from the article:
Update: Mike Harris made a Spotify playlist with all 1001 songs from the article. 66+ hours of timelessness is a lot of timelessness.
Here's your workday sorted, then: every studio album Wilco has recorded, all in one go.
(Except, for some reason, the tracks from 2011's The Whole Love are unavailable on the compilation even though that whole album is available elsewhere on Rdio. Music licensing/promotion makes zero sense.)
This is an epic display of top-notch lip syncing and world-class shade throwing. I smiled the whole way through this.
Songs performed include Wannabe by The Spice Girls, The Sign by Ace of Base, Thong Song by Sisqo, and Orinoco Flow by Enya.
Update: A playlist of the songs sung in the video are now available on Rdio and Apple Music.
(via @jemaleddin & @murtaugh)
Obama's off for a couple of vacation weeks on Martha's Vineyard and is taking the following books with him on vacation: All That Is by James Salter, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. Solid.
My summer reading list so far: Quiet, The Antidote, The Martian, Ready Player One, and the kids and I are slowly working our way through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Update: POTUS has also made a Spotify playlist of his favorite summer songs. The Temptations, Dylan, Coldplay, and Aretha. No Jay or Bey?
Update: Ah, he also made a list for a summer night and there's some Beyonce on there. Thank you, Mr. President.
I thought I'd posted about Philip Glass' new memoir, Words Without Music, when it came out back in April, but I can't find anything in the archives, so let's do it right now. I was reminded of it after reading this review by Dan Wang, which pushed Glass' book to the top of my queue.
These biographical details are manifestations of a quality I admire. Glass never needed much convincing to drop everything in his life to go on a risky venture. I'm not familiar with the many plot twists in his life, and found the book engaging because I had no idea what new adventure he was going to go on next. It's astonishing how open-minded he is. Consider: His decision to go to India was based entirely on seeing a striking illustration in a random book he grabbed off a friend's shelf. In addition, he never hesitated to go into personal debt, at times quite steep, because his music couldn't wait. The book is filled with instances of him saying "sure, when?" to improbable proposals without dwelling on their costs.
He seemed uninterested in stabilizing his position with more regular income. He never took up an honorary conductor position. He never ensconced himself in a plush conservatory professorship. And he didn't even apply for grants because he didn't like that they imposed terms.
See also the 2007 documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. (via mr)
When they were launched in 1977, the two Voyager spacecraft each carried with them a 12-inch gold-plated copper record containing images and sounds of Earth for the viewing pleasure of whichever aliens happened across them. NASA has put the sounds of the Golden Record up on Soundcloud. Here are the greetings in 55 different languages (from English1 to Hittite to Polish to Thai):
And the sounds of Earth (wild dogs, Morse code, trains):
What's missing from the two playlists is UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim's greeting:
...as well as several other UN greetings overlaid with whale sounds:
Due to copyright issues, also missing are the 90 minutes of music included on the record. Among the songs are Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, and Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles was originally supposed to be included, but their record company wouldn't allow it, which is pretty much the most small-minded thing I have ever heard.
In 1981, ABC's news program 20/20 aired a segment on the rising phenomenon of rap music called Rappin' to the Beat. It is painful to watch in parts, but ultimately worth it for the footage of street scenes and artist performances.
Here is part 2. (via open culture)
While the members of On A Friday, the band that later became Radiohead, were on a break as they attended college, Thom Yorke was a member of a band called Headless Chickens. This is a video of a circa-1989 performance by the band of "High and Dry", a song that later on Radiohead's second album, The Bends, released in 1995.
In Pitchfork, Susan Shepard writes about how Magic Mike XXL uses strip club music to full advantage.
MMXXL functions more like a musical in that it uses the dance sequences deliberately to advance the plot; Mike doesn't talk about wanting to get the band back together, he dances about it when "Pony" comes on in his workshop. Big Dick Richie finds the heart of his stripper character dancing to "I Want It That Way". Malik challenges Mike to "Sex You". And ultimately, they all find out something about themselves when they create new routines to new songs for the finale. It could transition seamlessly to the stage. They're even already acting out the lyrics, which are for the most part of "this is what I want to do to you" tradition of R&B.
The film gets at the heart of strip club culture with its scenes at Domina, the exclusive club run by Mike's former lover and working partner, Rome. All the best strip club ideas come from black clubs, specifically those in the South. Every good innovation in strip club dancing, music, and costume styles started in Atlanta or Houston or Miami clubs. The way the Florida dancers feel when they walk in and see Augustus, Andre, and Malik outdance and outperform them is exactly what it feels like to walk into Magic City from the Cheetah. Here is the future, here is how far behind it you are with your fireman routines and Kiss songs.
Having never been to a strip club in my entire life (WHAT?!! I know! I know!), I had no idea that Nine Inch Nails' Closer was a strip club staple.
My very first stage performance was to the Revolting Cocks' version of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer", about a month after it had come out. It is one of those songs strippers fight over performing to because it's that good and gets such a crowd response. "Closer" might as well be strip club furniture.
But it makes sense. Closer is one of the catchiest pop songs ever made. Shortly after it came out, I remember going to an on-campus party at which a friend of mine was DJing. He was playing mostly dance music -- some club, some top 40ish, and some electronica -- but threw on Closer for the benefit of a friend of ours who was a big industrial and NIN fan. Everyone loved it and got out onto the dance floor: the jocks, the ravers, the sorority girls, the physics club geeks. Our friend wasn't too happy about it though. Somehow, Nine Inch Nails now belonged to everyone. Cultural appropriation is a biiii....
Clips of Peggy Olsen from Mad Men set to Drake's Started From the Bottom.
(via av club)
Taking inspiration from the opening sequence of Contact, lightyear.fm is a musical journey away from the Earth. As you get farther out (say, 10 light years away, just past star Ross 154 in the constellation of Sagittarius), you hear music that was broadcast on the radio at that time (Gold Digger by Kanye West).
Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there -- and the older the music you'll hear.
This is the coolest.
♬ With the shovel out, the ice's less dangerous / Drop the shovel, entertain us / I feel stupid and contagious / Drop the shovel, entertain us ♬
Magisterial. I love the internet. This is even better than the door that sounds like Miles Davis. (via @slowernet)
Update: Oh, and this nightstand door sounds like Chewbacca. (via @steveportigal)
Behold, 55 hours of music from the 90s, focused on alt-indie music, organized in chronological order. For logistical reasons, it's split up into three playlists:
Here are some notes on the list's construction as well as links for the Spotify versions. I was 16 in 1990 and this was exactly the kind of music I listened to for most of the decade. I'm actually afraid to listen...I don't know what secrets these tracks will unlock in the dark reaches of my soul.
Before we embark on the important business of another work week, we should all appreciate the simple genius of a bird walking in time to Beyonce's Crazy in Love.
See also bird laughs like a supervillain and goats yelling like people.
You might remember seeing this microscopic photo of vinyl record grooves a few months ago. Ben Krasnow has one-upped that with this slow-motion video of a record player's needle riding in the groove of a record.
For your weekend, a 2-hour-long set from Jamie xx and Four Tet for BBC Radio 1's Essential Mix.
Amy is a documentary film about the life and career of singer Amy Winehouse. The director is Asif Kapadia, who also directed the excellent Senna, one of my favorite documentaries from the past few years. Here's the trailer:
The film studio behind the movie, A24, has been making some interesting films: Ex Machina, Bling Ring, Obvious Child, A Most Violent Year, The End of the Tour, Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, etc.
Filmmaker John Walter is making a film called The Earth Moves about Einstein on the Beach, the 1976 opera composed Philip Glass and directed by Robert Wilson. Walter and his team are soliciting funds to complete the film on Kickstarter.
In 2011, the original creators of Einstein on the Beach brought the opera to life again for what will most likely be its last presentation in their lifetime. Einstein on the Beach is an opera like no other. Telling its story requires a documentary like no other.
We completed shooting and editing The Earth Moves and we are all working very hard to finish the film for upcoming film festivals this fall. Now we need your support to fulfill the costs of color correction, media licensing, and sound mixing. Time is of the essence and every contribution helps our mission to complete this film.
Any additional support beyond the goal will go towards expanding the distribution of the film through educational markets and independent theaters nationally.
Director and choreographer Wayne McGregor, artist Olafur Eliasson, music producer Jamie XX (new album!), and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet are collaborating on a contemporary ballet performance based on Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes.
Award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor's groundbreaking practice embraces dance, science, film, music, and technology to generate intriguing, expansive works. For Tree of Codes, McGregor is collaborating with artist Olafur Eliasson and producer/composer Jamie xx to create a contemporary ballet. Eliasson's large-scale projects, including The New York City Waterfalls and The weather project at the Tate Modern, have captured the attention of audiences worldwide. Mercury Prize-winning Jamie xx blurs the boundaries between artist and audience in sonic environments like the one he created with his band, The xx, at the Armory in 2014.
Triggered by Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes (an artwork in the form of a book which was in turn inspired by Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz), this new, evening-length work features a company of soloists and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor.
Two performances are planned so far: at the Manchester International Festival (July 2-10) and the Park Avenue Armory (Sept 14-21). (thx, michelle)
Oh, this is my favorite thing of the month: Shelby Mitchusson performing Eminem's Lose Yourself in American Sign Language.
Great song and a great performance. Em, sign this woman up for your next tour! (via devour)
Update: Amber Galloway Gallego is an American Sign Language interpreter who specializes in doing rap and hip-hop concerts.
As an American Sign Language interpreter who specializes in music performance, Gallego has interpreted over 300 rap, R&B, and rock concerts, and has worked with everyone from Aerosmith to Destiny's Child. After a deaf friend told her that "music wasn't for deaf people," she embarked on a quest to prove otherwise; today, she's hired by major music festivals all over the United States to make auditory performances more relatable for the deaf.
To do so, she employs a tireless mixture of hand signs, facial expressions, body movement, and sensibility.
Turns out, if you take Junkie XL's soundtrack to Mad Max: Fury Road and pair it with a train chase scene from Buster Keaton's silent film masterpiece The General, it works pretty well.
University of Minnesota student Daniel Crawford and geography professor Scott St. George have collaborated on a piece of music called Planetary Bands, Warming World. Composed for a string quartet, the piece uses climate change data to determine the musical notes -- the pitch of each note is tuned to the average annual temperature, which means as the piece goes on, the musical notes get higher and higher.
For the 30th anniversary of Spin, the editors compiled a list of the 300 best albums released in the past 30 years. The top 20 includes albums by Nirvana, Pixies, Bjork, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, and DJ Shadow. The #1 album is........ nevermind, you should go find out for yourself. (via @jblanton)
The octobass is a string instrument that's almost twice the size of a bass, so big that it makes a cello look like a violin. Only a few of these instruments exist and The Musical Instrument Museum made a video showing theirs in action:
Really enjoying this chill remix of Radiohead's Reckoner by Cubicolor this morning.
The band hasn't shared anything in over three years, but Radiohead does have a Soundcloud account full of remixes of their stuff, including this remix of Bloom by Jamie xx:
Speaking of Jamie xx, a new track from his upcoming album dropped yesterday. I've been wearing out his preview album on Rdio for the past couple of weeks. Good Times. (via @naveen)
WQXR took 46 performances of a selection of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and spliced them together into one piece, highlighting the how varied the performance of the notes on the page can be.
For the first episode of BAM's new podcast, Philip Glass and several world-class pianists talk about Glass's piano etudes and what makes them so challenging to perform.
Terry Urban's 8-song mashup album of FKA Twigs and Notorious B.I.G.
Why not FKA Biggs? Or Notorious T.W.I.G.S.? Twiggie Smalls? (via @frank_chimero)
A new listen-while-you-code/write/design favorite.
I really liked the movie. Matt Zoller Seitz's review captured it well.
In a series of three articles, Dianna Kenny examines the life expectancy of pop musicians, the myth of the 27 Club1, and how genre affects popular musicians' life expectancy. It is from the third article that this chart is taken:
For male musicians across all genres, accidental death (including all vehicular incidents and accidental overdose) accounted for almost 20% of all deaths. But accidental death for rock musicians was higher than this (24.4%) and for metal musicians higher still (36.2%).
Suicide accounted for almost 7% of all deaths in the total sample. However, for punk musicians, suicide accounted for 11% of deaths; for metal musicians, a staggering 19.3%. At just 0.9%, gospel musicians had the lowest suicide rate of all the genres studied.
Murder accounted for 6.0% of deaths across the sample, but was the cause of 51% of deaths in rap musicians and 51.5% of deaths for hip hop musicians, to date. This could be due to these genres' strong associations with drug-related crime and gang culture.
Heart-related fatalities accounted for 17.4% of all deaths across all genres, while 28% of blues musicians died of heart-related causes. Similarly, the average percentage of deaths accounted for by cancer was 23.4%. Older genres such as folk (32.3%) and jazz (30.6%) had higher rates of fatal cancers than other genres.
In the case of the newer genres, it's worth pointing out that members of these genres have not yet lived long enough to fall into the highest-risk ages for heart- and liver-related illnesses. Consequently, they had the lowest rates of death in these categories.
The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie is a good old fashioned musical detective story told by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
In the world of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and '31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie's "Motherless Child Blues" and Geeshie's "Last Kind Words Blues," twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.
Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers' efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word "Geechee," with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that -- no anecdotes. This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the '20s and '30s. Their myth was they didn't have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves -- the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands -- these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman's decision in cleaning her parents' attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn't on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden's band and the phonautograph of Lincoln's voice.
This piece originally appeared in the NY Times Magazine, but it works much better online, interspersed with videos and musical snippets cleverly embedded in the text. One of my favorite things I've read all month.
Holy crap! Bjork's released something she's calling a "moving album cover," although it appears it's basically the video for the song "Family" on her Vulnicura album. It's about the darkest, strangest, most beautiful thing I've seen on the internet in a while. The video is a collaboration between Bjork and Andrew Thomas Huang.
(thx This Isn't Happiness)
HBO will premiere the critically acclaimed authorized documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck later this year on May 4. Here's the trailer:
Looks promising. The film is directed by Brett Morgen, who also did the excellent The Kid Stays in the Picture documentary about Robert Evans. And the name comes from a late-80s mixtape made by Cobain.
For the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about movie soundtracks, with an emphasis on the scores for the 2014 crop of films.
This year's Oscar nominations for Best Original Score did the field few favors, overlooking some significant work. Jonny Greenwood, increasingly known as much for his film music as for his contributions to Radiohead, has yet to be acknowledged by the Academy, despite his idiosyncratic, imaginative collaborations with the director Paul Thomas Anderson, most recently in "Inherent Vice." Jason Moran deserved a nod for his "Selma" score, which oscillates between subdued moods of hope and dread, avoiding the telltale gestures of the great-man bio-pic. (The Aaron Copland trumpet of lonely American power is in abeyance.) Most baffling was the omission of Mica Levi's score for "Under the Skin," which, like Greenwood's work for Anderson, moves from seething dissonance to eerie simplicity and back again.
I listen to movie soundtracks quite a bit; they're good to play while working. Here are a few I've enjoyed from 2014:
There are only a dozen images so far, but this Tumblr comparing art from before the 16th century and contemporary images of hip hop is fantastic. My favorites:
For Scientific American, Jen Christiansen tracks down where the iconic image on the cover of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures came from. Designer Peter Saville found the image, a stacked graph of successive radio signals from pulsar CP 1919, in a 1977 astronomy encyclopedia but it actually originated in a 1970 Ph.D. thesis.
By now I had also combed through early discovery articles in scientific journals and every book anthology on pulsars I could get my hands on to learn more about early pulsar visualizations. The more I learned, the more this descriptor in the 1971 Ostriker caption began to feel significant; "computer-generated illustration." The charts from Bell at Mullard were output in real time, using analogue plotting tools. A transition in technology from analogue to digital seemed to have been taking place between the discovery of pulsars in 1967 to the work being conducting at Arecibo in 1968 through the early 1970's. A cohort of doctoral students from Cornell University seemed to be embracing that shift, working on the cutting edge of digital analysis and pulsar data output. One PhD thesis title from that group in particular caught my attention, "Radio Observations of the Pulse Profiles and Dispersion Measures of Twelve Pulsars," by Harold D. Craft, Jr. (September 1970).
When a star gets old and fat, it explodes in a supernova, leaving a neutron star in its wake. Neutron stars are heavily magnetized and incredibly dense, approximately two times the mass of the Sun packed into an area the size of the borough of Queens. That's right around the density of an atomic nucleus, which isn't surprising given that neutron stars are mostly composed of neutrons. A teaspoon of neutron star would weigh billions of tons.
A pulsar is a neutron star that quickly rotates. As the star spins, electromagnetic beams are shot out of the magnetic poles, which sweep around in space like a lighthouse light. Pulsars can spin anywhere from once every few seconds to 700 times/second, with the surface speed approaching 1/4 of the speed of light. These successive waves of electromagnetic pulses, arriving every 1.34 seconds, are what's depicted in the stacked graph. Metaphorical meanings of its placement on the cover of a Joy Division record are left as an exercise to the reader.
Philip Glass did the soundtrack for A Brief History of Time, Errol Morris' documentary on Stephen Hawking, but it was never released as an album. Until earlier this month. Huzzah! Appears to only be available on iTunes -- couldn't find it on Amazon, Rdio, or Spotify -- and I wish they'd done more with that cover. Bleh.
A keyboard-controlled soundboard for Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. See also the Beyonce Soundboardt. (via waxy)
If you take the vocals from The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails and match them to the beats from Taylor Swift's Shake It Off, you get this little bit of magic:
Update: I totally forgot I'd previously featured this awesomeness: NIN's Head Like a Hole vs. Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe. Also of note: Mark Romanek directed the videos for Shake It Off and The Perfect Drug. (via ★interesting, @sarahmakespics, and mark)
File this under #notfromtheonion: Philip Glass is co-composing the score for the new The Fantastic Four movie.
Ahead of 20th Century Fox's latest superhero reboot of The Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank has confirmed that composer Philip Glass will be scoring the forthcoming film with Marco Beltrami.
Trank, best known for his 2012 film Chronicle, spoke to Collider about his long time admiration for the composer, and said that he had been working with Glass for around a year on the film after contacting his manager.
Previous films scored by Glass include The Hours, Koyaanisqatsi, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War. But this actually isn't too much of a surprising departure for Glass...he did the scores for both Candyman and Candyman II, horror films based on a short story by Clive Barker.
Watch as farmer Derek Klingenberg calls his cattle in by playing Lorde's Royals on his trombone.
I can't tell if this is the perfect Monday video or the perfect Friday video. Maybe I'll post it again on Friday and we'll compare. (via the esteemed surgeon and writer @atul_gawande)
There a lots of videos of movies reimagined as 8-bit video games out there (Kill Bill, The Matrix, Pulp Fiction), but I'm posting the Guardians of the Galaxy one because of the excellent chiptune rendition of the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack.
Hooked on a Feeling, beep beep doot doot... (via devour)
Helen Green drew all the hairstyles worn by David Bowie from before he was a star in 1964 on up to the present day. Here's they are in a glorious animated GIF:
Green also did a one-sheet of the B&W drawings. See also every Prince hairstyle from 1978 to 2013. (via @Coudal)
A project called Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement. analyzed the lyrics of several popular rappers for geographical mentions and had an industrial robot draw each rapper's lyrical journey through the world. At a glance, you can see how worldly (Niggas in Paris) or locally oriented (Straight Outta Compton) each rapper is. Compare world-traveller Jay Z:
with Kendrick Lamar:
Kendrick Lamar's analysis is culled from the lyrics of his underground & independent albums and is heavy with Compton references. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how mainstream successes and personal experience change the travel of his lyrics.
During the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick commissioned well-known film score composer Alex North to do the score for the film. North had previously done scores for A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and later received an honorary Oscar for his lifetime of work. As production progressed, Kubrick began to feel that the temporary music he used to edit the film was more appropriate. From an interview with Kubrick by Michel Ciment:
However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? When you're editing a film, it's very helpful to be able to try out different pieces of music to see how they work with the scene. This is not at all an uncommon practice. Well, with a little more care and thought, these temporary music tracks can become the final score. When I had completed the editing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I had laid in temporary music tracks for almost all of the music which was eventually used in the film. Then, in the normal way, I engaged the services of a distinguished film composer to write the score. Although he and I went over the picture very carefully, and he listened to these temporary tracks (Strauss, Ligeti, Khatchaturian) and agreed that they worked fine and would serve as a guide to the musical objectives of each sequence he, nevertheless, wrote and recorded a score which could not have been more alien to the music we had listened to, and much more serious than that, a score which, in my opinion, was completely inadequate for the film.
And so the temporary music became the iconic score we know today. For comparison, here's how North's original score would have sounded over the opening credits and initial scene:
Selections from North's original score were later released publicly. Here's a 38-minute album on Rdio:
Kubrick was absolutely right to ditch North's score...it's perfectly fine music but totally wrong for the movie, not to mention it sounds totally dated today. The classical score gives the film a timeless quality, adding to the film's appeal and reputation more than 45 years later. (via @UnlikelyWorlds)
Update: Two additional facets to this story. North first learned that Kubrick ditched his score at the NYC premiere of the film; he was reportedly (and understandably) "devastated". And even when Kubrick was artistically satisfied with the music he chose, negotiations to procure the rights weren't necessarily smooth.
2) Kubrick's associates did obtain licenses from Ligeti's publishers and from record and radio companies, although they were not forthcoming about the pivotal role assigned to the music in the film; 3) Ligeti learned about the use of his music not from his publishers but from members of the Bavarian Radio Chorus; 4) he attended a showing of the film with stopwatch in hand, furiously scribbling down timings -- thirty-two minutes in all;
Kubrick was undoubtably of the "shoot first, ask questions later" school of negotiation. (via @timrosenberg)
The soundtrack for PT Anderson's Inherent Vice is now on Spotify, well all except for one song. The album is even more partially on Rdio. For the whole thing, you'll have to head to Amazon.
The fifth track, Spooks, is a variation of a Radiohead song that's never been officially released. (via @naserca)
Rolling Stone lists the 40 most groundbreaking music albums in history. Kanye West makes the list with 808s and Heartbreaks, Dr. Dre with The Chronic, Nirvana with Nevermind, and the Beatles with Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper's. About The Chronic:
The album sold a world to white America that it had never really seen before, and packaged it with a soundtrack so funky there was no avoiding it. It was both raw, uncut underground and carefully composed pop. If Public Enemy confronted white America, The Chronic seduced it. For the first time ever, hip-hop's mainstream and America's were one.
I counted only four women artists though: Mary J. Blige, Loretta Lynn, Nico, and Carole King.
A tribute to outer space in movies, featuring clips from Gravity, The Fountain, Alien, Star Wars, Solaris, Sunshine, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more.
Music is from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Interstellar, which I was initially lukewarm on but have been listening to consistently over the past week or so. (via devour)
Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, and guests cover Naughty By Nature's 1993 classic Hip Hop Hooray.
See also The Muppets covering The Beastie Boys, Kanye, and M.O.P.
Pianograms are visualizations of the relative distributions of piano key presses for songs. For instance, this is Prelude in C-sharp by Rachmaninov:
RadioISS plays streams of the radio stations that the International Space Station passes over on its continual orbit of Earth. As I'm writing this, the ISS just floated over the southern tip of South American and RadioISS is playing Radio 3 Cadena Patagonia AM 789 from Patagonia, Argentina. Ah, it just switched to Alpha 101.7 FM out of Sao Paulo, Brazil. They're playing One by U2.
Dancers from legendary Bay Area hip-hop dance crews in the 1970s and 80s reminisce about the old days and show that they still have the moves.
Wonderful. There's no school like the old school. (via waxy)
Well, lookie here, the platinum edition of Beyonce is out with a second, uh, "disc" of songs, including 7/11 and the Flawless remix w/ Nicki Minaj.
Also on Spotify and Amazon MP3. (via @jennydeluxe)
I have not seen the movie yet (Alan Turing biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley) but the Alexandre Desplat soundtrack is worth a listen.
Also available on Spotify or Amazon.
When you look really closely at record grooves, like at 1000x magnification, you can see the waveforms of the music itself. Sooo cool.
This video shows how the stylus moves through the grooves.
As Lisa Simpson would say, "I can see the music!"
Update: Here's a great visual explanation of how you get stereo sound out of a record. (via @pcnofelt & @marcrobichaud)
What is more fun than watching the Danish National Chamber Orchestra play a piece after having eaten some of the world's hottest chili peppers? Probably a few things, but this is pretty entertaining nonetheless.
Chili consumption happens at 1:36. Classic highbrow + lowbrow stuff here. The brass and woodwind instrument players in particular should get some kind of award...I can't imagine blowing on a trumpet in that condition. See also Hot Pepper Game Reviews.
In 1987 or 1988, Kurt Cobain made a mixtape called Montage of Heck. The Guardian has the backstory.
The tape itself is a surreal, often psychedelic insight into the mind of the 20-year-old Cobain: cut-ups of 60s, 70s and 80s TV shows interspersed with the sound of the toilet flushing and people vomiting, bits of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin interspersed with troubled Austin singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston screaming about Satan, and white noise so intense that when Simon & Garfunkel's Sound Of Silence starts up it comes as physical relief.
There are snippets of a few unreleased Nirvana songs, too, among the tumult and screaming and dead-end repetition, amid the excerpts of William Shatner, The Partridge Family, Queen, Queensryche, Butthole Surfers, James Brown. In many respects, Montage Of Heck echoes and predates turntable culture, the ubiquitous YouTube mash-up and the Beatles' experimental sound collage Revolution No 9.
The entire mixtape is available on Soundcloud and Vimeo.
Here's a rough tracklist. Just a year or two after Cobain recorded Montage of Heck, Nirvana released their debut album, Bleach, and they were off to the races.
In 2013, a group of researchers published a paper called Collective Motion of Moshers at Heavy Metal Concerts. The paper's abstract reads:
Human collective behavior can vary from calm to panicked depending on social context. Using videos publicly available online, we study the highly energized collective motion of attendees at heavy metal concerts. We find these extreme social gatherings generate similarly extreme behaviors: a disordered gas-like state called a mosh pit and an ordered vortex-like state called a circle pit. Both phenomena are reproduced in flocking simulations demonstrating that human collective behavior is consistent with the predictions of simplified models.
The authors built an interactive mosh pit simulation based on their simplified models. You can try it out right here:
Thirty years after starting Def Jam in his NYU dorm room, Rick Rubin returns to the room in question and talks about how Def Jam began.
Prince played Saturday Night Live last night at the request of host Chris Rock, doing one 8-minute medley of songs instead of two separate short performances during the show. Here's the whole performance:
If Hulu isn't working for you, try the video embed on Deadspin. A set list is available on Rdio and Spotify. (via @anildash)
Been obsessed with Run the Jewels 2 from Killer Mike and El-P this week.
Anil Dash clued me in to Run the Jewels earlier this week on Twitter:
Okay, RTJ2 is incredible. @KillerMikeGTO & @therealelp make it three classic albums in a row. Is anybody else at their level right now?
I'm not qualified to answer that, but this album is very good. Plus! Run the Jewels 2 is available as a free download.
From her recent memoir, Sheila E. recounts the first time she met Prince.
I never did make it down to the studio to meet "the kid," but a few months later, in April 1978, I was at Leopold's record store in Berkeley browsing through records when I looked up to see a new poster. It featured a beautiful young man with brown skin, a perfect Afro, and stunning green eyes. The word Prince was written in bold letters at the top. That was the guy Tom was talking about!
I found his album For You in the rack and immediately looked at the credits: "Produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince."
The staff at the store, whom I'd known for years, let me take the poster home. Before I'd even listened to his record, I'd taped the poster above my waterbed. Then I lowered the needle onto the album on my record player, sat on the floor, and listened to it in its entirety. Tom was right. I immediately heard that funky rhythm guitar part he'd been talking about. It wasn't only on one song, but the whole album. I stared up at the poster and told him, "I'm gonna meet you one day."
(via @anildash, probably)
With A Little Help From My Fwends is The Flaming Lips full-length cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. NPR has a first listen to it. ft. Foxygen, Miley Cyrus, Moby, Tegan And Sara, and others.
Last year's pulverizing and strangely pretty The Terror was often punishingly uncompromising, but With A Little Help From My Fwends tackles its impossible task with a comparatively light touch. That lightness is clear from the title alone, and yet The Flaming Lips' audaciously playful streak (required in order to cover Sgt. Pepper's in the first place) still gets undercut with moments of abrasiveness, aggression and detours down strange side roads.
From A Continuous Lean, a review of some of NYC's most beloved bygone music venues, including The Cotton Club (closed 1940), The Gaslight Cafe (closed 1971), and CBGB (closed 2006).
Despite being located in Harlem, and showcasing many black performers, The Cotton Club actually had a strict "whites only" policy.
After playing four straight days of Beyonce tunes, a Houston news radio station settled on its new format: classic hip hop. It's the first major market radio station to do so.
In many ways, this is an idea whose time has come, which is another way of saying that hip-hop, and its first-wave fans, are, well, old. Dre will be 50 in February; Ice-T is just 10 years away from his first Social Security check. Licensed to Ill topped the Billboard charts in 1987; three years later, hip-hop made up one-third of the Hot 100. By 1999, it was the country's best-selling genre, with more than 81 million albums sold. The fans who propelled the early boom probably don't know Young Thug from Rich Homie Quan, and don't want to.
The obvious parallel is to classic rock radio -- a format that emerged in the early-1980s as baby boomers rejected punk and disco, and radio execs realized it was easier to serve up old songs than convince their aging audiences to try new music. It eventually morphed into a touchstone of middle-age: Every so often, a cultural observer wakes up, checks his bald spot and wonders how Green Day or Smashing Pumpkins or some other band of his own youth got lumped in with Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith on the radio dial.
Not this cultural observer! I've never done anything of that sort ever.
Annnnyway, here's a Spotify playlist (Rdio) of the sort of thing Boom 92 will be playing. (via @tcarmody)
Underworld put out their seminal record, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, 20 years ago. To celebrate, they've released a "Super Deluxe / 20th Anniversary Remaster" version of the album with the original tracks, remixes, alternate versions, live versions, and other stuff, 6 hours and 15 minutes of music in all.
Watch and listen as Anna-Maria Hefele demonstrates polyphonic overtone singing, a technique where it sounds as though she's singing two different notes at the same time.
This blew my mind a little, particularly starting around the 3:00 mark, where she actually starts to be more fluid in her singing. (via @anotherny)
Update: See also Tuvan throat singing, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (who posted a photo online of her infant daughter next to a dead seal, a "sealfie"), and many other cultures who practice overtone singing. (thx, @bmcnely, @ChrisWalks1 & james)
The soundtrack for David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl is out and as with his last two films (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Whenever the words "Reznor", "Fincher", "Atticus", and "soundtrack" get into a sentence together, you know it's good news for your earholes. (via @arainert)
ps. Speaking of Fincher, he spoke to Disney about directing a Star Wars movie and had an interesting take on the original trilogy:
I always thought of Star Wars as the story of two slaves [C-3PO and R2-D2] who go from owner to owner, witnessing their masters' folly, the ultimate folly of man.
Just dropped: a new album from Radiohead's Thom Yorke called Tomorrow's Modern Boxes. The album is being distributed on BitTorrent; one song and a video are free with the rest of the album costing $6 to d/l. On Twitter, Yorke says: "I am trying something new, don't know how it will go. but here it is:)" (via @naveen)
DJs now routinely make deliberate mistakes mixing tracks so that people will know they're mixing the tracks by hand and not just using software to automatically match beats.
DJs all over the world are now deliberately making mistakes during their mixes to prove to fans and critics that they are in fact real DJs.
The latest craze, known as miss-mixing, is proving very popular amongst digital DJs as a way of highlighting that they are actually manually mixing tracks rather than using the sync button.
Michael Briscoe, also know as DJ Whopper, spoke about miss-mixing with Wunderground, "Flawless mixing is now a thing of the past, especially for any up and coming digital DJs. You just can't afford to mix without mistakes these days or you'll be labelled as a 'sync button DJ.'"
As computers get better at things like DJing, cooking, writing, and the like, imperfection may become a mark of human-produced goods and media. In the future, we'll be urged to buy not just hand-made but Human Made™ the way people go for American made, locally made, organic, artisanal, or vintage goods nowadays. The problem, as Tyler Cowen notes, is if computers are smart enough to DJ, they're certainly clever enough to be a little sloppy too.
Update: I gots hoodwinked! Wunderground is a satirical site...DJs are not intentionally making mixing mistakes. But the idea is not all that farfetched! Under the doctrine of even if it's fake it's real, I'm satisfied with my conclusions. (thx, ken & mumoss)
In 1967, Steve Reich wrote a piece of music called Piano Phase. The piece is performed by two pianists playing the same piece of music at two slightly different speeds. As the piece progresses, the music moves in and out of phase with itself. Classical percussionist David Cossin performed with a duet of Piano with himself to produce a Piano/Video Phase:
Give it 30-90 seconds for the phase shifting to kick in. For those who aren't so musically inclined, this pendulum phasing video provides a more visual representation of what's going on:
Update: See also this Piano Phase visualization from Alexander Chen, Rhythm Necklaces, and an animation of Reich's Clapping Music. (thx, @anotherny, @RianVDM, and everyone who sent in Chen's piece)
Update: And whoa, here's Rob Kovacs playing Piano Phase on two pianos:
This wonderfulness just popped up on Rdio: The Hits/The B-Sides 3 by Prince. (And here on Spotify.)
Three hours, forty-seven minutes, and six seconds of the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince's best music, 56 songs in all.
Marvin Gaye's isolated vocals on I Heard It Through The Grapevine. The man has pipes.