Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

22 DECEMBER, 2010

Rare Photos of Jazz Icons by Herman Leonard

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Last winter, The Jazz Loft Project was one of readers’ favorites — a rare and fascinating look at the secret life of a New York loft, where some of the most iconic jazz musicians of the 1950s came to play at night. This season brings us a greater treasure still: Jazz — a humbly titled yet absolutely amazing retrospective of the work of legendary photographer Herman Leonard, who passed away a few weeks before the book was published. Leonard had been photographing jazz musicians since the 1950s and developed close friendships with greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, which gave him unique access to these innovators and their larger worlds beyond the stage. The book reveals a rare glimpse of the underbelly of a cultural revolution through stunning, luminous never-before-seen images of icons like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and more.

Frank Sinatra

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Louis Armstrong, Paris, 1960

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Billie Holiday, New York, 1955

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Thelonious Monk, Minton's Playhouse, New York, 1949

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

From backstage parties to afterhours sessions to private get-togethers in musicians’ apartments, Jazz is both a bittersweet remembrance of one of the greatest entertainment photographers in history and a remarkable record of an era whose legacy shaped everything from music to pop culture for decades to come.


Percy Heath, Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan, Newport Jazz Festival, 1955

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Dizzy Gillespie, San Francisco, 1990

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, NYC, New York, 1948

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Frank Sinatra

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Charlie Parker

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Lena Horne

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Doc Cheatham

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Ella Fitzgerald

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Duke Ellington

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Alongside the images is a fascinating essay contextualizing the stories behind the photographs, as well as an interview with Leonard pulling the curtain on his signature techniques and unique creative vision.

With its vibrant, exhilarating record of live performances and its intimate portraits of musicians’ off-stage personas, Jazz is a priceless timecapsule of the glory days of “the sound of surprise,” a cultural icon in its own right.

via NPR

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15 DECEMBER, 2010

PICKED: IDEO Reimagines the Music Player

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After reimagining the book, design innovation powerhouse IDEO is after the music player. c60 is an RFID-based interface that reintroduces physicality to music, something lost with digitization and the move to the cloud.

The idea here was to find a physical representation of the elements of modern musical life that we’ve come to love (such as playlists and shuffle), but not give up on the retro mixtape, twelve-inch vinyl player physicality.” ~ Martin Boone & Kara Johnson in I Miss My Pencil

c60 was inspired by the excellent book I Miss My Pencil, in which authors Martin Boone and Kara Johnson showcase 12 ingenious design experiments by IDEO designers, from a doorbell that uses smell instead of sound to a watch that tells time more slowly on weekends. Rather than mere conceptual curiosity, the experiments are brought to life through real collaboration, sketching, prototyping and fabrication. More about the project here.

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14 DECEMBER, 2010

PICKED: Look at What the Light Did Now

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Canadian singer-songwriter Feist is easily among the most beloved independent artists of the decade, and certainly of our absolutely favorites. Now, from director Anthony Seck comes Look at What the Light Did Now — a poetic documentary tracing the journey of Feist’s most acclaimed album, The Reminder. The film offers a rare look at the close partnerships with the people Feist calls her “amplifiers.”

When you’re making records and in the odd position of people actually hearing them, suddenly something hopefully simple is getting amplified in so many different ways. This small thing can ripple out beyond recognition, so it becomes all the more important to have the amplifiers be people you trust. How do you find these people? Who are the amps?” ~ Leslie Feist

A photographer ingeniously hid her within the frame; an artist built an ambitious thread-radiating mural for the album cover; a video director conducted fireworks; a shadow puppeteer choreographed the human body in darkness and light; a pianist orchestrated the recording of the album; and many more musical and artistic collaborators left their mark

Ultimately, it’s people who are going to be creating the things that then go beyond you.” ~ Leslie Feist

The DVD features five single-shot, unedited live performances from The Reminder Tour (2007-2009), exclusive footage from a week of secret shows Feist played at the venues where she first got her break, archival footage of her and record producer, Chilly Gonzales, a collection of short films, a selection of her best-loved music videos, and a handful of priceless, uncommonly candid interviews.

More than an intimate look at one of our time’s most talented musicians, Look at What the Light Did Now embodies the very cross-pollination of disciplines and combinatorial power of creative fields that we so strongly advocate here.

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