homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

kottke.org posts about music

Today’s Work Music: Max Richter’s My Brilliant Friend Soundtracks

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2020

That someone was able to turn Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels into a compelling TV series is nothing short of miraculous. It could have gone so wrong.1 A key aspect of that success has to be Max Richter’s score for the show. I’ve been listening to the season one soundtrack for awhile now, but just stumbled across the season two soundtrack.

That’s today work music sorted, then.

P.S. For the first couple of months of the pandemic, I shared what I was listening to during my workday in this thread (continued here). Check it out if you need some wordless music to beaver away to.

  1. Same with Sally Rooney’s Normal People. The TV series could have been terrible but it very much was not.

Sometimes Choreography Involves Goalkeeping**

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2020

I’ve featured the work of choreographer Yoann Bourgeois on kottke.org before — his work gets performers moving on rotating stages and dropping onto trampolines. A 2019 performance choreographed by Bourgeois based on an unfinished Mozart piece sort of combines his previous performances, with dancers dropping into a slippery ramp that slides them onto a rotating platform.

As you might expect, getting gravity and centripetal force to play well together requires some experimentation — Bourgeois recently shared a rehearsal blooper where he catches one of his performers before they go whizzing off the stage into the orchestra.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @yoann_bourgeois

You can watch more behind-the-scenes footage of this performance in this video:

** Goalkeeping definitely involves choreography.

A Marvelous Marble Machine for Making Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2020

For the past four years, Martin Molin of the “folktronica” band Wintergatan has been building a marble machine that the band can use to make music. He’s documenting the entire build on YouTube in a long series of videos (149 and counting). The most recent videos show Molin’s test of the machine with thousands of marbles and his tweaking to get things juuuust right. In the one above, he makes several adjustments from failures observed from his last test and then runs 30,000 marbles through the machine.

These videos are long, so you’d be forgiven for skipping to the end just to see the machine in action, but Molin is really enthusiastic — obsessed in the best way — and is great at showing his work. People really digging into things, especially tangible mechanical things, and bringing us along for the ride is always interesting. (thx, sippey)

A Detailed Analysis of the Doctor Who Theme Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2020

Delia Derbyshire

Even if you’re not a total sucker for old episodes of Doctor Who like I am, The Definitive Guide to the Doctor Who Theme Music is worth checking out to see how a very early piece of electronic music was constructed.

Created in 1963, the Doctor Who theme was one of the first electronic signature tunes for television and after nearly five decades remains one of the most easily recognised. The original recording of the Doctor Who theme music is widely regarded as a significant and innovative piece of electronic music, recorded well before the availability of commercial synthesisers.

I found this via Boing Boing, where Clive Thompson writes of the site:

I wish I had an analysis like this for more and more pop songs. The specific, nuanced decisions of musicians, producers and sound engineers are incredibly interesting, but can be really hard to tease apart just by listening to the mixed song.

Pictured above is Delia Derbyshire who, along with Dick Mills, arranged the theme music based on Ron Grainer’s composition.

Dua Lipa’s Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2020

Like almost everything else these days, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts have gone remote. Their most recent play-from-home guest was Dua Lipa, who was the artist I listened to more than any other in 2020 (according to Spotify). Before playing a stripped-down acoustic version of Love Again with her band, Lipa said of the song: “It’s really about manifesting good things into your life when things aren’t quite going your way.” That’s a sentiment that a lot of us can relate to nowadays.

NPR has been tracking the 25-year-old singer/songwriter for a while now; she was featured in an episode of their Noteworthy series in August 2016, several months before the release of her debut album.

Dua Lipa walking unrecognized around NYC…won’t ever see that again.

My Recent Media Diet, The Late 2020 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2020

Forgive me reader, for I have been lazy. It’s been 7 months since I’ve shared a list of the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts that I’ve been watching/reading/listening to, uh, recently. But I’ve been diligently keeping track1 and so here’s everything I’ve consumed since early May. Warning: soooo much TV and soooo many movies (and bad ones at that) and very few books. At the end of most days — after work, parenting, cooking yet another meal I’m not actually in the mood for, and constantly refreshing Instagram — I just don’t have enough left in the tank for books. (Oh, and as usual, don’t pay too much attention to the letter grades!)

Winds of Change. A fun ride but ultimately kind of empty? (B)

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Perhaps not what you’d expect going in — thought-provoking on almost every page. (A)

The Ezra Klein Show — Madeline Miller. Super interesting, especially if you’ve read Song of Achilles or Circe. (A-)

Godzilla. This was sort of the tail end of my pandemic disaster movie film fest. (C+)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I love that this exists but it is not for me. (B-)

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. I knew it was coming, Thomas Cromwell’s downfall; it’s historical fact after all. But somehow the actual moment shocked me, despite Mantel’s careful foreshadowing over hundreds of pages. (A)

Normal People. No way in hell was this going to be as good as the book, but they somehow did it. Stellar casting. (A-)

Fleabag Live. I wanted to love this like I loved the TV show but could not get into it. (C+)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Whatever else you might think about the third SW trilogy, the casting was fantastic. (B+)

Partysaurus Rex. One of my favorite Pixar shorts. (A-)

Iron Man 3. The only MCU movie I hadn’t seen. It was…fine? (B)

Dunkirk. A masterpiece. (A)

Arrival. Another masterpiece. (A)

Kursk. This should have been better. (B)

Harry Potter at Home. My kids and I listened to this in the car and loved it. (A-)

Watchmen. After admitting I’d stopped watching after a few episodes, several of you urged me to keep going. I finished it but still was not as dazzled as everyone else seemed to be. Maybe if I’d read the graphic novel? (B+)

Against the Rules with Michael Lewis (season two). This season was all about coaching and may have been even better than the first season. (A-)

The General. A silent film masterpiece from Buster Keaton. The kids were a little bored at first but ultimately loved it. (A-)

The Endless. Solid sci-fi horror. (B)

13th. A powerful argument that slavery is still constitutionally legal and alive & well in the United States. (A)

Ida. Beautiful film. (B+)

The Last Dance. I grew up watching and rooting for Jordan and the Bulls, so this was the perfect nostalgic entertainment. Jordan comes off as both more and less of a dick than I remember. (A-)

Da 5 Bloods. This was a mess. (C+)

Undone. Inventive animated sci-fi with plenty of plot left for season two. (B+)

Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor. Borrowed this from my daughter to brush up on how to help her approach some changes coming down the pike. (A-)

Beyond Meat. I snuck some of their ground “beef” into a casserole to try it out and see if the kids would notice. They didn’t at first, but once I told them, the three of us agreed that it was not that tasty — and definitely didn’t taste like beef. Plus I had an upset stomach until noon the next day. (C-)

Knives Out. I enjoyed this much more the second time. (A-)

Honeyland. A maddening microcosm of modernity. (A)

The Conversation. Maybe this hit me on an off-night? (B+)

The Great. Super fun show from the screenwriter of The Favourite. (A-)

Hamilton. Obviously better in person (and 4 years ago), but the performances and music are so great it doesn’t matter. (A)

Slate Money — Modern Monetary Theory. Really interesting alternate way of thinking about the economy, federal debt, inflation, and taxes. They kinda jumped right into the middle of it though, leaving this interested MMT beginner a little baffled. (B)

12 Monkeys. So very 90s. Brad Pitt is great in this though. (B+)

Cloud Atlas. An underrated gem. (A)

The Old Guard. Engaging and built for a sequel. But what isn’t these days? (B+)

Cars 2. I’d only ever seen the first 2/3s of this because my then-4-year-old son was so upset that the onscreen baddies were going to kill Lightning McQueen that we had to leave the theater. (B-)

Nintendo Switch. Such a fun little console that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (A-)

Greyhound. Not Hanks’ best effort. (B)

Radioactive. An overly complicated movie about a complex woman. (B+)

Ratatouille. The scene where Ego takes his first bite of ratatouille still gives me goosebumps. (A)

The Speed Cubers. Heartwarming story. (B+)

Project Power. Incredible that they were able to turn the story of Henrietta Lacks into a superhero movie. (B+)

Pluto TV. Am I the last person on Earth to find out about this app? Dozens of channels of reruns that you can’t pause and are interrupted by ads, just like old school TV. I’ve been watching far too much old Doctor Who on here. (B+)

Folklore. I don’t really get Taylor Swift and that’s ok. (C)

This Land. Excellent and infuriating — this had me yelling at my car radio. (A)

13 Minutes to the Moon — Apollo 13. Not as good as season one about Apollo 11 or Saving Apollo 13, but still compelling. (B+)

Black Panther. Had to rewatch. Rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman. What a loss. (A-)

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Anything she writes, I will read. (A)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I had forgotten how slow this starts, but once it gets going it’s completely gripping, even the quiet parts. (A-)

Contact by Carl Sagan. First time I’d read this in many years. Did not resonate as much as it had in the past. (B+)

Contact. They should have sent a poet. (A-)

True Grit. Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic in this. (A)

Being John Malkovich. Terrific performance by Malkovich. This was a favorite movie of mine for years but its impact on me has lessened. (B+)

Reply All, Country of Liars. The origin story of QAnon. But let’s just say there are some unreliable narrators in this story. (B+)

Jurassic Park. A blockbuster masterpiece. (A)

50 First Dates. One of the very few Sandler comedies I really like. (B+)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Really did not vibe with this one. (C+)

Pride & Prejudice. I am a huge sucker for this film. (A)

MASS MoCA. Took a day trip down here back in October. My first museum since Feb. Sol LeWitt, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, great building, virtually no one here on a weekday — very much worth the 6-hour RT car ride. (A+)

Palm Springs. Groundhog Day + 50 First Dates. (A-)

Kona Honzo. After getting a taste of mountain biking on a borrowed bike, I upgraded to this hardtail. Had some really great rides on it but also stupidly crashed, landed on my face, had to go to the ER, and got 9 stitches on my chin. Would not recommend crashing (stupidly or otherwise, but especially stupidly), but I liked mountain biking enough to get back on the bike a couple of weeks later. (A-)

My Octopus Teacher. As I said previously: “It’s such a simple movie but it packs a surprising emotional wallop and is philosophically rich. Even (or perhaps especially) the bits that seem problematic are thought-provoking.” (A)

His Dark Materials. I like the show but the main character is so irritating that I don’t know if I can keep watching… (B+)

You’re Wrong About — Princess Diana. I never fully understood the appeal of Princess Diana but now I do. Excellent 5-part series. (A)

Human Nature. Documentary on Netflix about the discovery and potential of Crispr. (B+)

The Booksellers. Was ultimately not that interested in this. (B)

Ted Lasso. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood + Major League. Who knew you could make radical empathy funny? (A+)

The Queen’s Gambit. So well done in almost every way. (A)

Haywire. Solid Soderbergh thriller. (B+)

Enola Holmes. I will watch almost any Sherlock Holmes adaptation, riff, or spin-off. (B+)

The Trial of the Chicago 7. I loved this. Classic Sorkin and great ensemble cast performance. (A)

Zama. Maybe surrealist film is not my cup of tea. (B)

AlphaGo. I’d read a lot about the events in this film, but seeing it play out was still gripping and surprising. This and My Octopus Teacher would make a great double feature about the shifting definition of what makes humans human. (A)

The Way I See It. Pete Souza reflects on his proximity to power. (B+)

The Queen. Had to watch this after the Princess Di You’re Wrong About series. (B+)

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special. Is this canon now? If so, I have some questions. (C)

Carol. Holy shit, wonderful! I think I held my breath for the last two minutes of the movie. (A+)

Song Exploder. TV version of the OG podcast. The REM episode was great. (B+)

Rogue One. I wouldn’t call this the best Star Wars movie, but it isn’t not the best Star Wars movie either. (A-)

Little Women. Rewatched. I love this movie. (A)

Tenet. Primer + James Bond. Maybe the pandemic has made me dumber, but this totally confused me. In a bad way — it could/should have been simpler. (B)

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. A masterful examination of the skin color-based caste system of the United States, compared and contrasted with the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany. (A)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

  1. People have asked so here’s the extensive system I use to keep track of everything: the Notes app on my phone.

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.