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kottke.org posts about music

Blade Runner Soundtrack Remastered into a Feature-Length Soundscape

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2020

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to argue that much of the enduring success of Blade Runner comes down to how well the potent combination of the film’s score, created by electronic composer Vangelis, and the visuals instantly evoke, even in 2020, the future. Ok, a dystopian neo-noir future, but the future nonetheless. A YouTuber has reworked that score, along with ambient sounds and dialogue from the film, into a feature-length soundscape that, as Colin Marshall put it at Open Culture, “feels a great deal like watching Blade Runner without actually watching Blade Runner”. I think I’ll be listening to this as I work today. (via open culture)

Former Ballerina with Alzheimer’s Recreates Her Swan Lake Choreography

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2020

As a ballerina in NYC during the 60s, Marta C. González undoubtably performed Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake hundreds or even thousands of times. González passed away recently — perhaps from complications due to her Alzheimer’s, which can affect a person’s memory and movements in profound ways — but she had one last chance to revisit her ballet days before she died. In the video above, you can see how, as she starts to listen to Swan Lake in a pair of headphones, she reanimates and begins performing the dance choreography in her wheelchair. Clips from what I’m assuming is her past Swan Lake performance are interspersed throughout the video. What a lovely moment.

Karen O and Willie Nelson Cover Under Pressure

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Under Pressure, the classic tune from David Bowie and Queen, seems like one of those songs you don’t want to mess with — we’re looking at you here, Vanilla Ice. But if someone is going to cover it, it might as well be Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Willie Nelson.

(via open culture)

Song 2 by Blur but Nintendo’s Mario Does the “Woo Hoos”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2020

Today’s good, clean, uncomplicated fun is right here in the form of this video - it does what it says on the tin.

See also the melodica version of the “welcome to Jurassic Park” scene. (via laura olin’s newsletter)

Update: I knew there was some similar M83 thing that I’d seen recently and was forgetting about: Midnight City but with Nelson Muntz laughing. (via @dansays)

The Alvin and the Chipmunks Version of Koyaanisqatsi

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2020

Koyaanisqatsi, featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks

This album cover was tweeted out the other day by Philip Glass’s official account with no additional comment. What really makes it IMO is the song titles listed at the bottom of the cover: Those Speedy Clouds, Escalators of Death, Run For It…Rockets Are Exploding All Over the Place!

I tried to track down who made this, but the only other instance I could find online was on Philip Glass’s Instagram exactly one year ago. Koyaanisqatsi is a serious work of art — it’s refreshing to see how playful Glass is about its representation. You could imagine other artists/musicians not being so chill about it.

Update: Aha, designer Cris Shapan made this. (via @jdpbbank)

Update: Here’s a short snippet of what this album might sound like.

Ella Fitzgerald, The Lost Berlin Tapes

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2020

In 1962, Ella Fitzgerald performed a show in Berlin, just two years after the famous performance that earned the jazz great two Grammys for masterfully butchering the lyrics to Mack the Knife. The recording for the ‘62 Berlin show was presumed lost until it was recently rediscovered in the archive of a record executive.

Early this year, Mr. Field and Ken Druker, a vice president at Verve — which survives today under the auspices of Universal Music Group — were digging through a rediscovered trove of live recordings that Granz had stashed away decades ago. They came across an apparently untouched reel-to-reel, with yellowed Scotch tape still holding the box shut, featuring a concert Fitzgerald had given in Berlin two years after that first famous outing.

Upon inspection, they found that recordings had been made in both mono and stereo — a rare stroke of luck. They listened, and the quality was excellent. Using a new engineering software that allowed him to more precisely isolate the instruments and Fitzgerald’s voice, Mr. Field filled out the low end and brought her singing to the front.

The result of their discovery is The Lost Berlin Tapes, now available in stores and various streaming plaforms. Here’s Fitzgerald singing Mack the Knife from that performance:

And the whole album on Spotify:

(via @tedgioia)

The Songs of 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2020

After creating a series of music video mixes for the entire decade of the 80s (and 1979), the Hood Internet is back to take us through the 90s. Their first video, on 1990, features 60 different songs in only 3.5 minutes and is embedded above.

1990 was my last year of high school, so this is a total memory bomb for me. I listened to a lot of C & C Music Factory, Divinyls, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, En Vogue, Madonna, Mariah Carey, MC Hammer, Roxette, Salt-n-Pepa, Sinéad O’Connor, Whitney Houston, and missed whole scores of much cooler music that was unavailable to me because I lived in the middle of nowhere where the listening choices were country, heavy metal, or top 40. It’s an understatement to say that college was very musically eye-opening for me.

Update: Here are the installments from 1991, 1992, and 1993. Right into my college years and so hugely nostalgic.

Artist “Logos” from Iconic Jazz Album Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

Jazz Musician Lettering

Reagan Ray (previously) surveyed 100s of iconic covers of jazz albums (Blue Note, anyone?) and isolated the lettering of the artists’ names. I love these sorts of compilations — this is like a mini-tour through the history of graphic design in the 20th century.

Who Knew You Could Play Music with a Boxing Speed Bag?!

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2020

Alan Kahn, aka the Speed Bag King and author of The Speed Bag Bible, can seemingly do anything with a boxing speed bag…like make music. Just watch this 45-second video of him getting warmed up on the bag and then performing a tiny virtuoso concert for a small group of amazed onlookers.

See also Kahn punch drumming the William Tell Overture. Again, this starts off slow but wait for the complex stuff to kick in over the course of the video. (via @austinkleon)

Producer 9th Wonder on Producing Beats for Kendrick Lamar

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

I’ve said this before, but I could sit and listen to musicians talk about how they make their music all day long, particularly rap & hip hop producers because of all the history and context they are intentionally inserting into the music. In this video, 9th Wonder talks about DUCKWORTH., a song from Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. that he created three beats for.

In an associated article, Marcus J. Moore (author of The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America) writes:

But it’s on album closer “DUCKWORTH.,” produced by 9th Wonder, that the elements of jazz, hip-hop and soul come into the sharpest focus. 9th has a history of blending records from all genres into kaleidoscopic sets of deep soul and hip-hop. Each track has its own distinctive flair, but you can still tell it’s a 9th Wonder beat — the drums lock into a hypnotic groove and the vocal samples crack with nostalgic beauty. “DUCKWORTH.” mashes three beats into a tight coil of repurposed folk, progressive rock and experimental soul, on which Kendrick details a chance encounter between his father, Kenny Duckworth, and his future label boss, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. Years before “Top Dawg” became a music mogul, he walked into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and saw Kendrick’s future father working there. “Top” was planning to rob the restaurant and stood in Kenny’s line to demand the cash. But Kenny had seen “Top” rob and shoot up the store before, so to spare his own life, he gave him free chicken and two extra biscuits to get on his good side. “You take two strangers and put ‘em in random predicaments,” Kendrick rapped. “Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence?”

Watch all the way to the end of the video — you get the rare treat of watching someone realize something about their own work and their collaborating partner that they hadn’t before…

NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

For a few months now, NPR has been broadcasting their Tiny Desk concert series from the homes and studios of the featured musicians. Tame Impala was a recent guest and Lenny Kravitz has played a home concert as well. Here’s Rodrigo y Gabriela, who are super good live:

But Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas recently did something unique: a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert that actually looks like they’re playing in the NPR office (even though they are not).

Watch through to the end to see how they pulled it off. (via waxy)

Ukulele Covers of AC/DC, Nirvana, and Guns N’ Roses Hits

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

I have a bit of a thing for kooky covers of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck — see Thunderstruck on the bagpipes and on a washing machine — so I was plum tickled to find this ukulele cover today:

That’s from a Brazilian duo called Overdriver Duo, who have also done GNR’s Sweet Child O’ Mine, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (on a Frozen-branded uke!), and Every Breath You Take by The Police. (via open culture)

Turntable Acrobats Performing Centripetal Illusions

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2020

This is a short but mesmerizing clip of a performance of choreographer Yoann Bourgeois’ “Celui qui tombe” (He who falls) in which six performers move about a spinning platform. The spinning allows them to run without appearing to go anywhere and lean at seemingly impossible angles without Michael Jackson’s patented Smooth Criminal shoes. From a review in the Guardian:

Lowered into a horizontal position, this structure begins to revolve, slowly at first, then faster. Subjected to increasing centrifugal force, the dancers cluster together, their bodies inclining inwards at ever more acute angles. Individuals depart the group and make exploratory sorties, circling the platform as if battling against a great wind.

(Brief science interlude: my high school physics teacher told us never to use “centrifugal force” instead of “centripetal force” because it wasn’t actually a thing. More on that here.)

Anyway, it’s an amazing physical performance to watch. I’ve featured Bourgeois’ choreography on the site before: The Mechanics of History and A Relaxing Acrobatic Performance to Debussy’s Clair de Lune — both use trampolines to create illusions that mess with the viewer’s intuitions about gravity.

The Black Music History Library

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

Black Music History Library

The Black Music History Library is a list of resources (books, articles, podcasts, films, etc.) about the Black origins of popular and traditional music. From the about page:

There are many notable archives doing similar work, yet it isn’t uncommon for some to have a limited view of Black music — one which fuels US-centrism and a preference for vernacular music traditions. This collection considers the term “Black music” more widely, as it aims to address any instances in which Black participation led to the creation or innovation of music across the diaspora. Plainly speaking, that means just about every genre will be included here.

Black artists have often been minimized or omitted entirely when it comes to the discussion, practice, and research of many forms of music. This library seeks to correct that. It is time to reframe Black music history as foundational to American music history, Latinx music history, and popular music history at large.

The library was created by music journalist Jenzia Burgos after her Instagram slideshow went viral back in June, demonstrating a need for a more comprehensive resource. In a thread announcing the site, Burgos envisions the site as a “living library” that will shift and grow with reader contributions — you can send in resources via this form. (via @tedgioia)

Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA & Good Humor Partner to Create a New Ice Cream Truck Jingle

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 14, 2020

Ice cream maker Good Humor has teamed up with legendary rapper/musician RZA to produce a new ice cream truck jingle to replace the ubiquitous “Turkey in the Straw”, a tune that gained popularity as a minstrel song with racist lyrics.

“Turkey in the Straw” is one of the most iconic ice cream truck jingles today. However, many people don’t realize that this familiar tune has racist roots.

Turkey in the Straw’s melody originated from British and Irish folk songs, which had no racial connotations. But the song itself was first performed (and gained popularity) in American minstrel shows in the 1800s. Some songs using its same melody contained highly offensive, racist lyrics.

Throughout the 19th century, minstrel songs like Turkey in the Straw were commonly played in ice cream parlors, and later, adapted as ice cream truck jingles.

While these associations of “Turkey in the Straw” are not the only part of its legacy, it is undeniable that this melody conjures memories of its racist iterations.

RZA explains the story behind the new jingle:

And from a press release:

To create an original jingle, The RZA drew inspiration from his own childhood memories of chasing after the ice cream truck in his neighborhood. The track borrows from traditional ice cream truck music and adds jazz and hip-hop elements. Expect trap drumbeats, some old-school bells that reference Good Humor’s original ice cream trucks, and a distinct RZA hook that you will not be able to get out of your head.

Here’s the full jingle:

Song of the Summer 2020? I could totally see Drake or whoever sampling this for an end-of-the-summer ice cream anthem.

This Kid Crashing Into Trash Cans Sounds Like Phil Collins’ Drums from “In the Air Tonight”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

I love things that sound like other things and this video of a kid crashing into some trash bins on his bike sounds a lot like the drums in Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. (If I may play spoiler for just a second though, capturing the sound of those bins going over so clearly from that far away seems a little suspect. But let’s assume it’s real and have our fun.) See also This Stumbling Deer’s Hooves Sound Like Phil Collins’ Drum Fill on “In the Air Tonight”. (thx to everyone who sent this in)

Daft Trump - Harder, Woman, Faster, Camera

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2020

Donald Trump’s idiotic brag about how well he did on a cognitive test (“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”) set to Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

You just have to laugh because if you actually stop to think about how much harm this man has done and will continue to do in his remaining time in office, the incandescent rage might make you pass out.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Breaks Down His Biggest Hit Songs (Like “My Shot”)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2020

In this video, Lin-Manuel Miranda shares how he came up with some of his most iconic songs from In the Heights, Hamilton, Moana, and even Star Wars (he wrote a cantina song for The Force Awakens). I can sit and listen to creators talking about how they came up with their best work pretty much forever. But honestly the reason I’m sharing this is this incredible detail about the “whoa whoa whoa” bit in “My Shot” (at ~7:35):

And then the “whoa” is based on the AOL startup dial sound, because I wanted it to feel like his words are connecting with the world and they’re reverberating out into the world. And I associate that with the first time I signed on to the internet and you hear [simulated modem noises]. It’s the AOL dialup octave.

Well, I’ll never listen to that song in the same way again. For spry minds, inspiration comes from everywhere. (via the spry minds at open culture)

A Musical Theatre Coach Breaks Down Jonathan Groff’s Performance of “You’ll Be Back” in Hamilton

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 21, 2020

My two favorite performances in the Disney+ version of Hamilton are Renée Goldsberry’s Angelica Schuyler and Daveed Diggs’ twin roles as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. But perhaps a close third is Jonathan Groff’s turn as King George III. Ever since we watched the show a few weeks ago, my kids and I have been walking around the house breaking into song and talking a lot about what was so mesmerizing about Groff’s performance.

So, I was excited to run across this video of musical theatre coach Marc Daniel Patrick breaking down his performance of “You’ll Be Back”. Yes, he covered the spitting but I found the discussion of how he held specific members of the audience with his gaze for extended periods much more relevant in understanding what made that performance work. I particularly loved how still Groff held his body and the rest of his head as his lower jaw pistoned up and down like a ventriloquist dummy’s singing the “da da da dat” parts. The audio is funny enough, but his possessed mandible makes me laugh every time I see it.

Patrick made a similar video analyzing Phillipa Soo’s performance of “Burn”.

Bardcore: Medieval-Style Covers of Pop Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2020

With time to burn during ye olde pandemic, practitioners of a musical genre called bardcore have been taking pop songs and medieval-izing their lyrics and tunes. The three examples embedded above are Radiohead’s Creep, Jolene by Dolly Parton, and Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. Here’s how Creep starts off:

When thou wert here before
I could not look thee in the eye
Thou art like an angel
Thy skin makes me cry
Thou float’st like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
Thou’rt so very special
But I am a creep
I am a weirdo
What in hell am I doing here?
I do not belong here

Here’s a playlist full of bardcore favorites.

Wikipedia and most of the news articles about bardcore date the genre to April 2020, but I found a cover of System of a Down’s Toxicity from 2017 and a medieval cover of Metallica’s One from 2014 by Belarusian band Stary Olsa, which released a whole album of medieval covers of classic rock hits in 2016.

Hamilton, But Sung By The Muppets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

This is a fan-made rendition of act 1 of the hit musical Hamilton sung by The Muppets.

The impressions of the Muppets aren’t bad and the “casting” is about what you’d expect:

Alexander Hamilton - Kermit the Frog
Aaron Burr - The Great Gonzo
Eliza Schuyler - Miss Piggy
Marquis de LaFozette - Fozzie Bear
George Washington - Sam the Eagle

I don’t know if listening to this all the way through is wise, but you should listen at least until Kermit/Hamilton makes his entrance at ~1:18. Oh, and skip ahead to 17:09 to hear The Swedish Chef do Samuel Seabury and to 19:01 to hear You’ll Be Back performed by Animal. (via open culture)

Nirvana Performing Smells Like Teen Spirit in a Music Store a Week Before Its Release

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

On September 16, 1991, about a week before the band’s breakthrough album Nevermind was released, Nirvana played a 45-minute in-store set at Beehive Records in Seattle. When I watch videos like this (here’s the Notorious BIG rapping on a street corner at 17 and a 17-year-old LL Cool J playing to a mostly empty gym1), I look at the crowd just as much or more than the performers. Do the people in that music shop audience know they’re witnessing an early performance of one of the last great consequential rock songs or do they only realize it later?

Hell, I suppose you could ask the same question of the performers: did Cobain or Biggie or LL Cool J know at the time that they were going to blow up in a matter of weeks and months? In Cobain’s case, he may have. From a biography called Heavier Than Heaven:

Two days later, Nirvana held an “in-store” at Beehive Records. DGC expected about 50 patrons, but when over 200 kids were lined up by two in the afternoon — for an event scheduled to start at seven — it began to dawn on them that perhaps the band’s popularity was greater than first thought. Kurt had decided that rather than simply sign albums and shake people’s hands — the usual business of an in-store — Nirvana would play. When he saw the line at the store that afternoon, it marked the first time he was heard to utter the words “holy shit” in response to his popularity. The band retreated to the Blue Moon Tavern and began drinking, but when they looked out the window and saw dozens of fans looking in, they felt like they were in the movie A Hard Day’s Night. When the show began, Beehive was so crowded that kids were standing on racks of albums and sawhorses had to be lined up in front of the store’s glass windows to protect them. Nirvana played a 45-minute set — performing on the store floor — until the crowd began smashing into the band like the pep rally in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.

Kurt was bewildered by just how big a deal it had all become. Looking into the crowd, he saw half of the Seattle music scene and dozens of his friends. It was particularly unnerving for him to see two of his ex-girlfriends — Tobi and Tracy — there, bopping away to the songs. Even these intimates were now part of an audience he felt pressure to serve. The store was selling the first copies of Nevermind the public had a chance at, and they quickly sold out. “People were ripping posters off the wall,” remembered store manager Jamie Brown, “just so they’d have a piece of paper for Kurt to autograph.” Kurt kept shaking his head in amazement.

Kurt retreated to the parking lot for a smoke and some downtime. But there, the day became even more freakish when he saw two of his old Montesano schoolmates, Scott Cokely and Rick Miller, holding copies of “Sliver.” Though Kurt signed signed hundreds of autographs that day, none made him feel more surreal than putting his signature on a single about his grandparents for two guys from the town his grandparents lived in. They talked about their mutual friends from the harbor, but the conversation made Kurt wistful — Cokely and Miller were a reminder of a past Kurt thought he had left behind. “Do you get back to the harbor much?” Cokely asked. “Not very often,” Kurt replied. Both Cokely and Miller were confused when they looked at their singles and noticed Kurt had signed them “Kurdt.”

Kurt later cited this exchange as one of the first moments he realized he was famous. Yet rather than comfort him, this realization set off something just short of a panic. Though he had always wanted to be famous — and back when he was in school in Monte, he had promised his classmates one day he would be — the actual culmination of his dreams deeply unnerved him. Krist would recall this particular show — a free show in a record store a week before the album’s official release date — as a turning point in Kurt. “Things started to happen after that,” Krist said. “We weren’t the same old band. Kurt, he just kind of withdrew. There was a lot of personal stuff that was going on. It got complicated. It was more than we bargained for.”

  1. And also Chance the Rapper and the Beastie Boys before they were famous.

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

This is delightful. Over the past few months of pandemic lockdown, the residents and staff of the Sydmar Lodge Care Home in Edgware, England have passed the time by recreating famous album covers.

The Indigenous Peruvian Trap Music of Renata Flores

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Quechua is an indigenous language family spoken by millions of people in the Andean region of South America, primarily in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. It was the main language of the Inca empire and today is the most widely spoken pre-Columbian language in the Americas. In her music, Peruvian singer/songwriter Renata Flores combines modern forms like hip hop, electronic, and trap music with native instruments and vocals sung in Quechua. Here’s the video for one of her most popular songs, Tijeras:

Flores also does covers of pop songs (Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, Fallin’ by Alicia Keys) and she first captured people’s online attention with a Quechua cover of Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel performed when she was 14 years old:

Rosa Chávez Yacila wrote an article for Vice about Flores and her music last year. Her use of Quechua in pop music brought the language out of private spaces into the public.

It’s very common for many Quechua speakers to not teach their children or grandchildren the language because they consider this knowledge as a burden. To explain the shortage of active bilingualism in Peru, the linguist Virginia Zavala uses the concept of “linguistic ideologies,” which are the ideas that people have about languages. For example: French is the language of love; German sounds rough; Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish are similar.

Quechua, similarly to other indigenous languages, is associated with poverty, rural life, and illiteracy. These ideas have been shaped by history and society to the point that people hold on to these beliefs as if they were universal truths. And these “truths” are deeply embedded in their conscious thought process. Value hierarchies also exist with languages. Some are “worth” more than others.

The end result is that many native Quechua speakers believe that using Quechua in public is unnecessary after learning Spanish. Either by shyness or shame, they reserve their maternal tongue for private spaces and intimate conversations.

Dinnerware Smashing in Slow Motion Accompanied by Bach

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2020

Optical Arts conceived this video as a “live action musical animation” of cups, plates, and glasses smashing and un-smashing accompanied by the toccata section of Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous organ piece, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. I thought it was fully CGI at first (as The Morning News reported), but then I found the making of video on the project page and it’s not — they filmed all the glasses and dished smashing at extremely high speeds between 1000 and 5000 frames/second on Phantom cameras.

I don’t know about you, but this video is what it looks like inside my head lately. Smash smash smash! (via the morning news)

Kulning, a Beautiful Medieval Nordic Herding Call

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2020

In this hauntingly beautiful video, Jonna Jinton performs an ancient Nordic herding call called kulning to summon a herd of cows.

The herds grazed during the daytime, wandering far from the cottages, and thus needed to be called in each night. Women developed kulning to amplify the power of their voices across the mountainous landscape, resulting in an eerie cry loud enough to lure livestock from their grazing grounds.

One should always take caution when hanging out with someone kulning, as it can’t be done quietly. Rosenberg, who’s researched the volume of kulning, says it can reach up to 125 decibels — which, she warns, is dangerously loud for someone standing next to the source. Comparable to the pitch and volume of a dramatic soprano singing forte, kulning can be heard by an errant cow over five kilometers away.

(via moss & fog)

The USPS Introduces New Hip Hop Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2020

USPS Hip Hop Stamps

On July 1, the USPS is introducing a set of four stamps celebrating hip hop. The stamps were designed by Antonio Alcalá based on photographs by Cade Martin. In an interview with Steven Heller, Alcalá explained how he thought about the design process:

Hip Hop has a long and rich history, and from the start, I knew I wouldn’t be able to represent its totality in one set of stamps. But because it is such an important part of our nation’s art, and one of our most significant cultural contributions to the world, I knew we needed to at least begin representing it somehow. Hip Hop has four widely recognized key elements, or “pillars”: Rap, DJs, Graffiti, and B-boying (known more broadly as break-dancing). Using contemporary images that quickly and accurately depict the genres eased the burden of having to represent the many histories within the subject.

You can preorder the hip hop stamps on the USPS website.

Making Music in Excel

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2020

Dylan Tallchief created a complete digital music studio app in Excel and in this video, he demonstrates how he used his spreadsheet program to recreate a-ha’s Take On Me. You can listen to the whole song here:

If you’d like to make your own songs in Excel, you can download the spreadsheets on Google Drive or the individual modules and objects on Github.

See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist and Super Mario Bros Recreated in Excel. (via @pomeranian99)

Alicia Keys’ Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2020

Well, this is a treat. In February, before the pandemic lockdown, Alicia Keys recorded a Tiny Desk Concert and NPR released the video earlier this week.

As she approached her piano, a bit surprised at the amount of people in the room, she smiled and remarked over her shoulder, “Gee, the Tiny Desk is tiny!” She kicked off the set with an uncanny ode to combat the darkness of this moment in American history: “Show Me Love,” a single she released in 2019. No one could have predicted then how much her lyrics and musical healing would be crucial during this emotionally fraught time of unprecedented political and racial unrest, heightened by three months of quarantine due to a global pandemic.

The stand-out moment during her Tiny Desk was the premiere of “Gramercy Park”, a song from her upcoming self-titled album, ALICIA, which is set to be released this fall. It’s one of those timeless songs that will transcend radio formats and genres, with lyrics that address how utter selflessness and worrying about making everyone happy but yourself can throw your own center askew. The song’s spiritual refrain is sure to be a sing-along moment for the rest of Keys’s career.

As an encore, she and her band played Fallin, her first big single. As someone in the comments said:

Can we all just appreciate the fact that she can pull fallin out her back pocket, dust it off like an old record, and make us fall in love all over again.

Keys’ almost casual brilliance blew me right away here. Wow.

Barcelona Opera House Reopens With a Concert for 2,292 Plants

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2020

Plants Opera

As promised last week, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu reopened on Monday with a string quartet performance of Puccini’s Crisantemi played before a packed house of 2,292 plants. You can watch the performance here:

A strange & beautiful performance. I love that they did the “please silence your mobile phones and no pictures please” announcement before beginning.

The performance was the brainchild of artist Eugenio Ampudia, who wanted to “offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature”. Afterwards, the plants were donated to healthcare workers who have been battling Covid-19 for the past few months.

See also A Forest Grows on an Austrian Soccer Pitch.