Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

06 MAY, 2011

Notations 21: 165 Musicians Visualize Sheet Music in Unusual Ways

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What the color wheel has to do with Beethoven and supporting arts education.

There’s something especially mesmerizing about the cross-pollination of the senses, particularly in visualizing music. That’s exactly what Notations 21 explores. Inspired by John Cage’s iconic 1968 Notations and originally released for its 50th anniversary, the ambitious 320-page volume by Theresa Sauer and Mark Batty Publishers reveals how 165 composers and musicians around the world are experiencing, communicating and reconceiving music visually by reinventing notation.

From acclaimed musicians like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Earle Brown, Halim El-Dabh, Joan La Barbara, and Yuji Takahashi to emerging global talent, this magnificent tome examines how both the technology and the expectations of this unique synesthetic language have changed over the past half-century.

I sincerely hope that this book motivates the reader to further research contemporary music and the artists that compose it, to seek out their recordings, attend performances, and support the arts in education. We live in an incredible time in music history — here is only a small sampling of the evidence.” ~ Theresa Sauer

With its visual eloquence and remarkable diversity of perspectives, Notations 21 isn’t merely an anthology but also an ambitious thesaurus of sensemaking for the art and science of neo-notation.

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06 MAY, 2011

BBC: The Making of The King James Bible

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What Medieval catacombs have to do with remix culture and the evolution of the English language.

This week, the King James Bible celebrated its 400th anniversary. The third official translation of the Bible in English, it was completed by 47 scholars from the Church of England over the course of 7 years, with the grand goal of bringing new life to the churches. To this day, the King James version is commonly considered the greatest piece of English Literature ever produced (regardless of whether you consider it fiction or nonfiction) and remains a key to understanding not only one of the world’s largest religions but also a pivotal era of European scholarship, the history of collaborative creation. and even the evolution of the English language. (Did you know that many modern phrases and idioms — “by the skin of your teeth,” “flesh and blood,” “labour of love” — originate from the KJB?)

When God Spoke English: The Making of the King James Bible is a fascinating new BBC documentary exploring the surprising story of the great volume, from it uncanny similarity to the Millennium Dome to rare recently discovered 17th century manuscripts to the actual translation process itself, revealing why this antique work of art and science is anything but antiquated.

17th-century England was a chaotic, violent, often bureaucratic place. The most unlikely beginnings for a book that would change the world. So how did they make it happen? In this program, I look back to a world of religious power and majesty, of immense seriousness and linguistic skill, fraught with religious and political passions, to show how and why it produced the greatest book of all time.” ~ Adam Nicolson

For a related journey into the history of the epic tome, do see the newly released documentary, KJB: The Book That Changed the World (trailer), in which beloved Welsh actor John Rhys-Davie tours historical landmark and explains essential relics that shaped the culture and context of the King James Bible.

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05 MAY, 2011

Urban Iran: A Rare Look at Iran’s Street Art Scene

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Presaging the Twitter revolution by way of graffiti.

Last week’s Arabic Graffiti is already one of the most-liked books we’ve featured this year. And though an important non-Western voice in the global conversation on street art, it isn’t the only one. In 2008, indie powerhouse Mark Batty Publisher released the excellent Urban Iran — a gripping, visually stunning anthology by photographers Karan Rashid and Sina Araghi exploring the rich spectrum of street art across Iran’s cities and countryside. Alongside the lavish visual spreads are illuminating essays that examine the artwork in a sociopolitical context, bridging this faceted visual landscape with the cultural undercurrents that power it.

What makes the project particularly intriguing is that it came mere months before the 2009 Iranian uprisings, but the content and context of the street art themes featured in the book — censorship, rebellion, political disillusionment, a yearning for justice and democracy — presage what was to come.

Reshad embodies urban Iran, celebrating it and criticizing it simultaneously, and that seems to be the essence of the country today. Of course, there is nothing new about such a relationship, but that’s the ultimate point. Iranians are not just some aggregate, its purpose to serve as nothing more than media headlines and statistics for government reports. They are individuals, struggling and enjoying life the best they can, the same as the rest of us.”

Lavish and thoughtful, Urban Iran is the kind of gem that restores your faith in the art of books and the role of editors as curators of the meaningful, as amplifiers of voices that matter, as bastions of cultural aspiration.

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