Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

28 OCTOBER, 2011

Shel Silverstein Duets with Johnny Cash, 1970

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A meditation on fatherhood from Uncle Shelby.

Few know that beloved children’s book author Shel Silverstein, of The Giving Tree fame, was also a prolific songwriter whose songs were recently — and beautifully — covered by contemporary indie icons.

On April 1, 1970, Silverstein brought his musical talents to The Johnny Cash Show. After a quick and playful duet with Cash on his song “Boy Named Sue,” Silverstein does a charming solo performance of a children’s song he wrote called “Daddy, What If,” prefaced by a moving aside about his relationship with his own father. Enjoy.

I’m really proud of the relationship I have with my dad, I really love him a lot.” ~ Shel Silverstein

Complement with Silverstein’s fantastic posthumous anthology of 137 never-before-seen poems and drawings and his impossibly wonderful The Missing Piece and the Big O.

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21 OCTOBER, 2011

Indie Legends Celebrate the Songs of Shel Silverstein

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Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, and other indie icons pay homage to the beloved children’s author.

Though best-known as the author of children’s classics like The Giving Tree, beloved author Shel Silverstein (whose recent posthumous anthology of 137 never-before-seen poems and drawings is among the season’s greatest treats) was also a prolific songwriter. Not only did the album version of his book Where The Sidewalk Ends win a Grammy in 1984 for Best Children’s Recording, but he also collaborated with a number of prominent “grown-up” musicians between 1959 and his death in 1999, including Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue”), Irish Rovers (“The Unicorn Song”), and Bobby Bare (“Daddy What If,” among many others).

Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein (iTunes link) is a fantastic homage to Silverstein by a formidable roster of contemporary indie music icons, including Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, Lucinda Williams, and Bobby Bare, Jr., Bobby Bare’s son, performing with his four-year-old daughter Bella.

Rianbow Rumpus has a wonderful interview with Bobby Bare, Jr. on his memories of Silverstein and how the author’s ethic of fearlessness influenced his own songwriting.

via Rainbow Rumpus

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18 OCTOBER, 2011

Sound Is…

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Tssss chktchktchkt dubdubdub oeyyy.

The fine folks at SoundCloud have put together a beautiful meditation on what sound is and how it connects us to our environment, featuring sound experts like Imogen Heap, Moby, Radiolab producer and MacArthur “genius” Jad Abumrad, TED speaker Julian Treasure, and multimedia artist Ben Rubin.

Listening to all this random, disparate noise and sound that’s going on around us right now … when you actually tune it in and listen to it, you hear pitches that are like singing together, you hear harmonies, you hear weird textures. It’s about paying attention to the individual components more than the overall effect. The more differences you perceive, the better your life is.”

For some related fascination, see Jad Abumrad’s fantastic PopTech talk on sounds, science and mystery and these 7 fascinating books on music, emotion and the brain.

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13 OCTOBER, 2011

Complaints Choir: The World’s Mundane Grievances Set to Song

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Rent is too damn high, the global musical.

One cold winter night in 2005, while strolling through Helsinki, Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen had an epiphany — what if they could transform the daily grievances people complain about en masse into a source of surprise and joy? In Finnish, there’s an actual word for those mass complaints — “Valituskuoro,” which translates roughly to “complaints choir.” So the duo set out capture the world’s everyday rants in actual choirs and Complaints Choir was born — a traveling record of the world’s grievances, crowdsourced from citizens and set to song.

We defined complaining as “dissatisfaction without action,” nevertheless behind most of the complaints there is an idea or a belief or a value that a person is committed to. Complaints have therefore inbuilt the potential of being a transformative power. The truth about the revolution in East Germany is, that it only happened because a critical mass of people was dissatisfied with and complained about everyday life issues.

There is another fundamental aspect to the culture of complaining. Why do people complain about things they have not the slightest influence upon, for example the weather? Here complaining is not at all about changing things, but rather to build a communal feeling: I am not alone with my little problems, we share the same burden – of an total in-acceptable climate for example.”

From Birmingham to Budapest, Helsinki to Hamburg, Jerusalem to Chicago, the choirs cover everything from the petty and mudane (job resentment, traffic, bureaucracy, the weather) to the amusingly specific and offbeat (neighbor holding Hungarian folk dance classes above bedroom, being ignored by friend’s cat, racist grandmother)

Got the itch for communal ranting? Here’s the DIY guide to orchestrating one in your city. (Did someone say Occupy Wall Street Choir?)

via Deafening Silence HT GMSV

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