Brain Pickings

Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers: “Playing” Your Abode

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Last year, we looked at some fantastic experimental music projects sampling sound from the environment. This week, Sampled Room has been making the rounds. So we’ve decided to spotlight what’s easily the most ambitious, elaborate and creative manifestation of this environmental percussion genre: Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers — a brilliant Swedish short film about a group of six crazy percussionists, who invade an apartment and make astounding music with simple household objects.

The film originally premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and has won over 30 international awards.

So seminal was the short film and so brilliant the concept that it inspired a feature-length film based on the sextet, 2010′s French-Swedish comedy-crime Sound of Noise, written and directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson.

The title of the film is based on Italian futurist Luigi Russolo’s 1913 manifesto, The Art of Noises — a work of tremendous historical significance which, while we’re at it, we couldn’t recommend more.

Thanks, Marine

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The Belief Instinct: Exploring the Science of Spirituality

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We’re deeply fascinated by how the human mind makes sense of the world, and religion is one of the primary sensemaking mechanisms humanity has created to explain reality. On the heels of our recent explorations of the relationship between science and religion, the neuroscience of being human and the nature of reality comes The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life — an ambitious new investigation by evolutionary psychologist Jesse Bering, exploring one of the most important questions of human existence:

If humans are really natural rather than supernatural beings, what accounts for our beliefs about souls, immortality, a moral ‘eye in the sky’ that judges us, and so forth?”

A leading scholar of religious cognition, Bering — who heads Oxford’s Explaining Religion Project — proposes a powerful new hypothesis for the nature, origin and cognitive function of spirituality. Far from merely regurgitating existing thinking on the subject, he connects dots across different disciplines, ideologies and materials, from neuroscience to Buddhist scriptures to The Wizard of Oz. Blending empirical evidence from seminal research with literary allusions and cultural critique, Bering examines the central tenets of spirituality, from life’s purpose to the notion of afterlife, in a sociotheological context underlines by the rigor of a serious scientists.

Eloquently argued and engagingly written, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life provides a compelling missing link between theory of mind and the need for God.

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Designers & Books: What Iconic Designers Are Reading

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How to hack into the minds of the world’s leading design practitioners and critics.

We love design. We love books. And we’ve always found designers to be among the most intellectually curious, disciplinarily promiscuous, creatively voracious minds. So we’re thrilled for the launch of Designers & Books — a fantastic new portal for peering into the private libraries of the world’s most prominent design thinkers and doers.

Launching with 50 designers — including icons like, Milton Glaser, John Maeda, Elizabeth Diller, Norman Foster and Tim Brown, and Brain Pickings favorites like Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister and George Lois — the project spans a wide spectrum of design disciplines, from architecture to fashion to urban design to cultural interpretation, and kicks off with 678 books.

In addition to designers’ picks, reading lists are available from leading design writers, curators, educators and critics — or, as the site calls them, commentators.

So if you’ve ever wondered what graces the bookshelf of TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, the original information architect, wonder no more. (A handful of information design standbys, a few obscure yet indispensable vintage treats like Paul Kee’s The Thinking Eye, and Stewart Brand’s culturally cultish Whole Earth Catalog.)

Similar to the way that ‘good design can make your life better’ — we also believe that ‘good books can make your life better.’” ~ Steve Kroeter, Founder

Despite the clear gender bias and some glaring omissions (Hey, Tina! And what about MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, arguably the quintessential design advocate of our time?), Designers & Books is a fascinating and rare glimpse of the creative and intellectual fuel that powers some of today’s most influential design thinking, and very much worth your digital minute.

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