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Summer of Soul

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2021

Stevie Wonder. Mahalia Jackson. Nina Simone. Gladys Knight & the Pips. B.B. King. Sly and the Family Stone. Over six weeks in the summer of 1969, all of these legendary artists (and more!) performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival in NYC, drawing an estimated 300,000 people. The festival was filmed and broadcast on a local TV station, but the footage was never commercially released and so unlike that other 1969 festival, this event largely slipped from public memory.

Now, the Harlem Cultural Festival finally gets its due in the form of Summer of Soul, a forthcoming documentary directed by Questlove that uses that old footage to great effect. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this movie — it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Summer of Soul is out in theaters and on Hulu July 2.

Guest Vocalist Dave Chappelle Sings Creep at Foo Fighters’ MSG Show

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2021

Well this is peak…something: last night surprise guest Dave Chappelle led fans in a singalong of Radiohead’s Creep at the Foo Fighters’ Madison Square Garden show (which you had to be vaccinated to get in to). Not much more to say about it — you’re either going to watch it or not based on that info. Nature is healing?!

Bone Music: Forbidden Soviet Records Made From Used X-Ray Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2021

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union controlled the music recording industry and even restricted the types of music that were allowed to be played & listened to. Or they tried to anyway. Enterprising Soviet bootleggers took used x-ray films, many of them still containing images of bones and skulls, and recorded forbidden music on them, including jazz and rock & roll from the West. They called it ribs, bones, bone music, or jazz on ribs. From a 2017 article in Vice:

X-rays proved to be an suitable medium. They were cheaply and easily (albeit illegally) acquired from local hospitals that were required to throw out the flammable sheets. They took the groove relatively well, though nowhere near as well as vinyl — some X-ray discs apparently sound like listening to music through sand — and they were easy to fold into a shirt sleeve of pocket for a quick transaction. The X-rays were also stunningly beautiful.

And from an NPR article on Soviet samizdat:

Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film salvaged from hospital waste bins and archives.

“Usually it was the Western music they wanted to copy,” says Sergei Khrushchev. “Before the tape recorders they used the X-ray film of bones and recorded music on the bones, bone music.”

“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan - forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

To learn more about bone music, you can check out Stephen Coates’ book X-Ray Audio, The X-Ray Audio Project (which includes digital recordings made from some of the bone recordshere’s Lullaby of Birdland by Ella Fitzgerald), and this short documentary:

Yo-Yo Ma Answers Questions About the Cello

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2021

As part of the Tech Support series, Wired had Yo-Yo Ma answer some questions about the cello and music sent in by Twitter users. What I like about this is that no critic or professional interviewer would ask these questions (they are “bad” interview questions) and yet Ma answers them all generously and thoughtfully. It reminds me a little bit of when Vogue trained an AI program to interview Billie Eilish:

What I really loved hearing Billie say was that human interviewers often ask the same questions over and over, and she appreciated that the AI questions don’t have an agenda in the same way, they’re not trying to get anything from her.

Perhaps with interesting subjects who are game, having “good” interview questions maybe isn’t that important, particularly if they are repeated queried about the same topics in every interview.

Bo Burnham Welcomes You to the Internet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

I have been hearing nothing but good things, and lots of them, about comedian Bo Burnham’s new show on Netflix called Inside. Burnham did the entire thing by himself in his house during the pandemic — writing, music, cinematography, editing, etc. In this clip from the show, Burnham performs a song called “Welcome to the Internet”. (via waxy)

1000 Musicians Play Rock Songs From Nirvana, Queen, etc.

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2021

Before I clicked play on the video embedded above of 1000 musicians playing Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters, I assumed it was going to be kind of a mess, a muddled wall of sound. Instead, I was surprised to hear something almost magical, a rock anthem played with the fullness of a orchestra or chorus, the band and the crowd merged into a single, gorgeously layered entity. I was moved by it, almost immediately. All those drummers pounding away on their drum kits in unison! You can check out this playlist for more 1000 musician versions of rock songs, including Seven Nation Army (White Stripes), We Will Rock You (Queen), and Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana):

I also have to say that these videos hit me harder now, 15 months into a global pandemic that kept my family and I separated from all but a narrow slice of the world, than they would have before, especially now that things are starting to loosen up a bit and I am able to safely socialize with other vaccinated folks in person. Seeing thousands of people collectively engaged something so joyful is both a reminder of what we lost during the pandemic and what we stand to gain if we can manage to contain the virus worldwide. I think this is the reason why this video of a flash mob performing Ode to Joy went viral early on in the pandemic. All the feels. (another great find via openculture)

My Recent Media Diet, the Fully Vaccinated Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2021

Every few months for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since early February, accompanied by a mini review.

How To with John Wilson. What happens near the end of the risotto episode got all the attention, but I’m all about the bag of chips saga. (B+)

Black Art: In the Absence of Light. I can listen to artists and critics talk about art all day long. Also? Everyone in this has impeccable eyewear. (A)

Spirited Away. A masterpiece. (A)

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine (BNT162b2). Possibly the best experience of the past 5 years. (A+++++)

Casino Royale. The best of the Daniel Craig Bonds IMO. (B+)

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante. Another marvelously constructed world with vibrant characters by Ferrante. (A)

Wandavision. A love letter to television. Watched this with the kids and we all loved it. (A)

Looper. This is perhaps my favorite type of movie: clever sci-fi with a creative director and good actors that give a shit. (A-)

Sonic the Hedgehog. Jim Carrey is the highlight here and not much else. (C+)

The Remains of the Day. One of my favorite movies. I’ve watched this every few years since 1993 and what I get out of it changes every time. Great book too. (A+)

Judas and the Black Messiah. Fantastic performances by Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. (A)

Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Way too long and nearly pointless. This is what happens when you start treating the director of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole like an auteur. (B-)

A Promised Land by Barack Obama. I recommend the audiobook version of this. You can really tell the bits of the book he cares about and the stuff he phones in a little bit more. The tone of his voice when he talks about Michelle — that love is real. (B+)

Making Sense — The Boundaries of Self. I listened to this conversation with the poet David Whyte at the beginning of March and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. I must have listened to his short essay on Friendship about 5 times. (A)

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. About the invention of the wireless telegraph and the beginning of our abundantly connected world. (B+)

Still Processing - The N Word. The way that Morris and, particularly, Wortham use inclusive language is fascinating. They invite people into the conversation without any loss of insight or critical capability. A bracing rebuttal to the idea that using so-called “woke” language is hamstringing discourse in America. (A-)

Matilda by Roald Dahl. Read this aloud to the kids and was told my rendition was not nearly as good as Kate Winslet’s. (B+)

You’re Wrong About (The continuing OJ saga). This has become the show’s version of Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine, with entire episodes dedicated to explaining mere minutes of the trial. I am here for it. (A)

Godzilla vs. Kong. I watched this after eating an edible and I think that’s the perfect way to do it. Monsters, roar! (B)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. One of my favorite Trek movies. (A-)

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Less popular with me and the kids than Wandavision. Occasionally fun but also kind of a mess, especially when it comes to the “moral of the story”. (B)

The Talk Show with Craig Mod. Every single second of this 2.5-hour-long conversation between Craig Mod and John Gruber felt like it was created specifically for me. (A-)

Rough Translation - Liberté, Égalité, French Fries… And Couscous. A follow-up to a classic episode about a French McDonald’s that was commandeered by its employees. (B+)

Unstoppable. The perfect movie. I wouldn’t change a thing. (A)

Pac-Man 99. A nice update to this venerable game. The kids dismissed it as “too hectic”. (B+)

Fortnite. The perfect game for introverts — you can actually win by cleverly avoiding crowds and then dealing with a much more manageable 1-on-1 situation. But also I am old and there are too many buttons on this controller. (B+)

Croupier. Young Clive Owen, wow. (B+)

HazeOver. Recommended to me by Mike Davidson, this macOS app dims background windows to help you focus on your work. (B+)

Titanic. Had to rewatch after Evan Puschak’s video about it. Still an amazingly effective blockbuster movie. (A)

For All Mankind (Season One). So many people have recommended this to me over the past year and I finally got around to watching it. I was hooked within the first 5 minutes. (A)

The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Entertaining and stylistically interesting. (B+)

NYC. So much to say about this city and the resilience of the people who call it home. Still undefeated. (A)

Throughline — The Real Black Panthers. Great podcast on the political agenda and strategy of the Black Panther Party. A natural companion to Judas and The Black Messiah. (A)

Frick Madison. They have like 10% of the world’s Vermeers in just one room! (B+)

The Whitney. Great to be back here to see the work of Dawoud Bey and Julie Mehretu. (A)

The outdoor dining situation in NYC. The city has to keep this and the pandemic pedestrian areas reclaimed from cars. More room for people, less room for cars. (A)

Fairfax. This is the sister restaurant to my two favorite places in NYC, both of which closed permanently because of the pandemic, and the first restaurant I’ve been to since March 2020. We ate outside, I had too many cocktails, and it was perfect. (A+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Sparks Brothers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2021

Edgar Wright has directed a documentary on a band called Sparks, which was formed by brothers Ron & Russell Mael in 1967 and the trailer (above) hails as “your favorite band’s favorite band”.

How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Edgar Wright’s debut documentary THE SPARKS BROTHERS, which features commentary from celebrity fans Flea, Jane Wiedlin, Beck, Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, and more, takes audiences on a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers/bandmates Ron and Russell Mael celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favorite band’s favorite band.

The Sparks Brothers will be in theaters on June 18.

Bart Simpson feat. Daft Punk & Giorgio Moroder

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2021

Part of what makes this so good & funny is the obvious level of care put into making it, right down to the smallest details. The audio distortion? Perfect lip syncing? The Doppler effect?! It’s just a meme, you didn’t have to go so hard! (via the xoxo slack)

Who Invented Heavy Metal?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2021

In this video, Polyphonic explores the roots of heavy metal, from the increasingly distorted guitar sounds in 50s blues to the fast-picked guitars of surf rock to the heavy rock of English groups like The Who and The Beatles to the first metal bands, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. (via open culture)

Thom Yorke, From The Basement

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

In 2005, Thom Yorke recorded a 15-minute set for the From The Basement series — just him, a piano, and a microphone. He sang Videotape from In Rainbows and Last Flowers & Down Is the New Up from In Rainbows Disk 2. Lovely.

See also Radiohead, From The Basement.

An Iconic Prince Guitar Solo, Reborn

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2021

In a career filled with iconic performances, one of the standout Prince moments came at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for George Harrison. On stage to play While My Guitar Gently Weeps were Harrison’s son Dhani, music legends Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Steve Winwood, and Prince. At about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in, Prince absolutely rips the place apart with a 3-minute guitar solo for the ages. If you’ve never seen this, make sure you watch all the way to the end.

Video of the performance has been available online for years, but producer Joel Gallen recently uploaded a recut version (embedded above) that focuses more on Prince during the solo. As with all things Prince, Anil Dash shared some context for the performance, including this amazing detail about what happened to the guitar that Prince threw into the air: “long-time guitar tech Takumi Suetsugu caught the guitar & handed it to Oprah”. AS YOU DO. Dash also shared this photo by Afshin Shahidi of Prince walking, guitar in hand and seemingly unnoticed in NYC, to rehearsals for the Hall of Fame ceremony in question.

Prince walking in NYC with his guitar in hand

Update: This is a great oral history of the ceremony written in 2016.

Tom sort of went over to him and said, “Just cut loose and don’t feel sort of inhibited to copy anything that we have, just play your thing, just have a good time.” It was a hell of a guitar solo, and a hell of a show he actually put on for the band. When he fell back into the audience, everybody in the band freaked out, like, “Oh my God, he’s falling off the stage!” And then that whole thing with the guitar going up in the air. I didn’t even see who caught it. I just saw it go up, and I was astonished that it didn’t come back down again. Everybody wonders where that guitar went, and I gotta tell you, I was on the stage, and I wonder where it went, too.

The 70s Trucker Country Music Fad

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2021

In the 60s & 70s, country music songs about truck drivers and CB radios enjoyed popularity on the airwaves and pop charts.

“Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You got a copy on me, Pigpen? C’mon.” This jumble of words is the first line of the song “Convoy,” a #1 country hit from 1976 that tells an action-packed story from the perspective of a truck driver. Songwriters Chip Davis and Bill Fries filled “Convoy” with banter and lingo based on communications they heard between trucker drivers on CB radio during the 1973 oil crisis.

The epic orchestration and colorful and quotable lyrics made “Convoy” an unlikely hit — but the song actually tapped into a long history of country music that put the spotlight on the solitary lives of long-haul truck drivers. In the video above, Estelle Caswell breaks down the golden era of trucker country with country and folk music scholars Travis Stimeling and Nate Gibson.

This style of country music is perhaps my least favorite genre of music, but the history is interesting and I’m committed to bring you every new episode of Earworm.

Quiet Storm: How Slow Jams Took Over the Radio

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2021

One of my favorite YouTube series, Estelle Caswell’s Earworm, is back for another season. In this first episode, she looks at how a beloved Black radio tradition called Quiet Storm came about and influenced the course of popular culture for decades.

Late one evening in the summer of 1976, a Howard University student named Melvin Lindsey was tapped to fill in as a host at WHUR, the university-owned Black radio station. He chose a lineup of his favorite R&B ballads to soundtrack Washington, DC, that evening. The show was an accidental success. Shortly thereafter he was hired, and his show had a name: The Quiet Storm.

Radiohead Are Uploading More Classic Live Concerts to YouTube

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2021

Back in the early days of the pandemic when people all over the world were staying inside in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Radiohead dug into their vault and started putting classic live concerts up on YouTube in their entirety. Over the course of a few months, they shared more than a dozen concerts, including this one from 1994 and this one from 2018.

Starting last week, the band is once again uploading some more classic concerts “from a life that we all yearn to return to”, citing the science and vaccines that are getting us closer to that. The first show they uploaded (embedded above) is their 2008 show at 93 Feet East, played before just 1500 fans. That show is a bit infamous for Thom Yorke having a tough time playing Videotape (at ~47:00), which difficulty Estelle Caswell explained in her very first episode of Earworm. Anyway, they’re uploading a new show every Friday for the next few weeks — the next show will be Coachella from April 2017 — so check it out.

Simulating Church Organ Music With a Commodore 64

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2021

Linus Akesson noticed that without the benefit of the acoustical properties of massive churches, the sound that comes out of organ pipes sounds tinny, like 8-bit chiptune sounds.

Back in 2008 I had an epiphany about church organs: At least in theory, organ pipes produce very simple waveforms, much like 8-bit sound chips do-and the reason church organs don’t sound like chiptunes is primarily because of the acoustics of the church.

Thinking that process could be reversed, he remapped the keys of a Commodore 64 so he could play it like an accordion, ran it though a reverb machine, and created the sixtyforgan. The Bach piece he plays at the end of the video above (and a different Bach piece here) sounds so much like it’s being played on an organ.

See also Hear How Choral Music Sounded in the Hagia Sophia More Than 500 Years Ago (in which a filter is applied to choral music to make it sound as though it’s being sung in a cavernous church). (via @emanuelfeld)

30 Cover Songs Better Than the Originals

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2021

Hurt, Johnny Cash, NIN

Back in 2011, NME listed 30 cover songs that are better than the originals, as determined by their writers and readers. I’m not going to weigh in on the truth of their assertions, but listening to this playlist of the covers and the original songs is a pretty good way to pass the time.

(via @philipkd)

Update: My friend Matt Haughey thought this list sucked and made his own selections. Something I had forgotten: Matt was responsible for the bootleg of the Ted Leo Since U Been Gone / Maps mashup.

Also, the Coverville podcast has done more than 1350 episodes featuring all sorts of cover songs. (via @john_overholt)

Radiohead, From The Basement

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2021

From the Basement was a series of musical performances from groups like The White Stripes, Radiohead, Gnarls Barkley, PJ Harvey, and Sonic Youth recorded in the late 2000s. Above, Radiohead performs a 55-minute set of music mainly from In Rainbows (there’s also a set from King of Limbs). You can check out more performances from the series here or in their playlist of full sets. (via open culture)

Listen to Wikipedia

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2021

Wikipedia is a constantly changing entity with hundreds of edits occurring every minute and now you can experience that dynamism as ambient music: Listen to Wikipedia. Additions, subtractions, and new user signups to the site are tracked as they happen and represented as different tones — here’s a video recording from a few years ago:

Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. You may see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell.

(via open culture)

Yo-Yo Ma Plays Impromptu Cello Concert at Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic After Getting Second Dose

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2021

After getting his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic at Berkshire Community College, Yo-Yo Ma got out his cello and performed a 15-minute impromptu concert for the others folks at the clinic.

When Ma had first visited the clinic for his first shot, he did so quietly, taking in the surroundings, staff said. But brought his cello when he returned for the second shot.

Staff described how a hush fell across the clinic as Ma began to play. “It was so weird how peaceful the whole building became, just having a little bit of music in the background,” said Leslie Drager, the lead clinical manager for the vaccination site, according to the Washington Post.

Why is it weird? Music is amazing. I know you could never get such a “frivolous” spending measure through an American deliberative body these days, but how awesome would it be for the government to commission out-of-work musicians to play at vaccination clinics? Ok maybe you couldn’t have anyone sing and the brass & woodwinds would probably have to sit this one out, but you could have strings, guitars, percussion, pianos, DJs, etc. there to play some relaxing, uplifting, or energetic music, according to local custom & culture. Bring back the WPA!

Tina

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2021

Tina is an upcoming documentary film about music legend Tina Turner, featuring interviews with Angela Bassett, Oprah, Kurt Loder (who co-wrote the 1986 autobiography on which the movie is based), and Turner herself.

With a wealth of never-before-seen footage, audio tapes, personal photos, and new interviews, including with the singer herself, TINA presents an unvarnished and dynamic account of the life and career of music icon Tina Turner.

Everything changed when Tina began telling her story, a story of trauma and survival, that gave way to a rebirth as the record-breaking queen of rock ‘n’ roll. But behind closed doors, the singer struggled with the survivor narrative that meant her past was never fully behind her.

Tina will begin airing on HBO on March 27. A companion playlist of Turner’s music is available at Spotify.

Update: Cassie Da Costa reviewed Tina for Vanity Fair:

Her new interview in the film allows her to speak authoritatively on her own celebrity and personal life without having to revisit the sordid details of the abuse she experienced at the hands of Ike. And though it doesn’t shy away from the darkness held within her biography, Tina turns decidedly toward the light. The result is a film that shines, both in its passion for Turner’s talent and the depth and complexity of her character.

This Trained Singer Teaches Metal Bands How To Scream

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2021

Melissa Cross is a voice coach who works with metal bands so their screaming singers don’t damage their vocal cords. Her work involves switching singers from using their voice in an emotional way to a more classical and durable approach:

What metal singers do wrong is use an emotional response that feels like anger, or anxiety, in order to make the sound. And that involves too much tension. I use my acting training to imitate it, and my know-how vocally to do it in a way that could be healthy.

As someone whose throat starts hurting after 2 minutes of singing along to a favorite song, I’m fascinated by voice training. I don’t aspire to ever sing, but if I even want to do a podcast or some such, maybe I should hire a vocal coach? (via open culture)

A Concerto Is a Conversation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2021

In this lovely short film, composer and pianist Kris Bowers talks to his grandfather, Horace Bowers, about his life in the Jim Crow South and how he found a new life in California as part of the Great Migration. Horace’s move across the country set in motion events that culminated in Kris premiering a concerto he wrote with the LA Philharmonic. You can read more about Horace in this 2019 profile.

Yet, in a sign of the times, Horace encountered discrimination while building his business. At the time, mainstream financial institutions rarely gave loans to Blacks and Bank of America had already denied him. His fortunes changed after he hired a White young man as a presser.

“I gave him a job and after two days, he asked me to tell the bank that he had been working for me for 30 days. He said that he needed a loan because he had just gotten divorced and was broke and wanted to borrow money to go back to Texas,” said Horace.

“Even though I was with Bank of America, they had turned me down for a loan and I did not think he could get one. But, a few days later, his loan was approved. I wondered why, but I immediately thought of the color of my skin.”

Armed with this knowledge, Horace devised another route. He visited a different branch, picked up the loan papers, completed the forms and mailed them in.

“A few days later, my loan was approved and from then on, nobody saw us. I did mostly everything by mail,” he said.

Spring Doorstop Musical Instrument. Booooiinnggg!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2021

I didn’t realize it at the time, but making a spring doorstop keyboard was probably one of my greatest desires as a young child obsessed with those boingy door stoppers. We didn’t even have any of them in my house — playing with them was a rare treat when visiting friends’ and relatives’ houses. Thank you Ali Spagnola for fulfilling a childhood dream. (Can’t remember where I found this, but since it’s music-related it was probably via Ted Gioia.)

Update: See also the Quantum Garden, “an interactive art installation that demonstrates key concepts of quantum physics, such as quantum superposition, interference, and the Schrödinger equation.” (via @kayelcio)

The Competitive Quartet

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2021

Salut Salon is a German musical quartet that plays classical music with a “passionate virtuosity, instrumental acrobatics, charm and a great sense of fun”. For a little taste of their vibe, check out this video of the four of them playing Vivaldi’s Summer with a mock competitive spirit that escalates with increasingly outlandish & impressive performances. This article calls Salut Salon “the Harlem Globetrotters of piano quartets” and that’s pretty accurate. (via @M10MacTen)

Type in Motion - The SF Symphony’s Dynamic New Look

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2021

SF Symphony new branding

Design studio Collins has created a new brand identity for the San Francisco Symphony that uses type in a playful, almost musical way. This brief video demonstration is worth 1000 words:

Even better, you can experiment with your own type and music with the Symphosizer web toy. I made this (to the beat of Daft Punk):

wear a mask

(via @dkhamsing)

Radiohead. Ballet. Together at Last.

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2021

A pair of dancers from the Polish National Ballet perform a dance to Reckoner by Radiohead, choreographed by Robert Bondara. This is from a longer performance featuring a number of Radiohead songs. The whole performance briefly popped up online over the weekend but is gone now. The video above is the only clip I could find on YouTube — hopefully the whole thing will be available again at some point.

Finding All the Source Images for the Sgt. Pepper’s Album Cover

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2021

The iconic album cover for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a collage of images of dozens of people — mostly famous, mostly men — arranged as though they’re standing in a group behind the band. A list of the people depicted on the cover (including Marilyn Monroe, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Shirley Temple, and Fred Astaire) can be found on Wikipedia but Chris Shaw went a step further and tracked down the exact source images for each one of people & objects shown.

The collage was designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and the cut-outs were assembled in Michael Cooper’s London photographic studio. Michael and his team toiled hard to construct the ‘cast of extras’, using a mix of photos sourced from the BBC Hulton Picture Library, images from private collections, waxworks and personal artifacts, including a gnome owned by Ringo Starr.

detail of Sgt. Pepper's album cover

detail of Sgt. Pepper's album cover

detail of Sgt. Pepper's album cover

You so rarely get to see the raw materials used for design objects, so this is a real treat. (via waxy)

Daft Punk Have Broken Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2021

Musical duo Daft Punk have called it quits after 28 years. They said goodbye with the video embedded above. This is so far from the worst thing that has happened in the past year but I am unexpectedly emotional about this. I still remember quite vividly hearing their music for the first time and I was hoping for more to come. So much of what they’ve created continues to resonate with me and, gosh, I can’t believe it’s over. Thank you, gentlemen.

The Otherworldly Sounds of the Long String Instrument

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2021

Here are a pair of videos of Ellen Fullman playing the Long String Instrument, an musical instrument with up to 100-foot-long strings that Fullman has developed over the past 35+ years.

These ghostly, ethereal sounds are made by Fullman rubbing the strings with rosin-coated fingers; you can read more about her process in The Guardian:

Its sound recalls Indian raga, with harmonies sliding over one another. Fullman says playing it “can be an ecstatic feeling, a floating sensation. Music is bigger than me: there are pitch relationships, shapes of notes beautiful beyond the level of human expression. I like that feeling of being a conduit. I don’t like egotistical thrashing. I like trying to give a gift.”

The strings are connected to wooden resonators that act like the body of a guitar to amplify the sound. To bring it out further, Fullman rubs her fingers with rosin, the same substance used on bows. In effect, she turns herself into a human bow. The strings are 2cm apart and she can have up to 28 on each of the two sides of the instrument: “The number is only limited by the length of my arms: 60cm.”

Best little detail about Fullman from that piece: she was “born in Memphis and kissed by Elvis as a baby”.

Aside from the videos, you can find music she’s created with the Long String Instrument on Spotify and other streaming services. I would love to see her perform in person sometime, when such things are permitted again. (via @tedgioia)