Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

08 JANUARY, 2010

Music-Inspired Art: The Hype Machine Zeitgeist


What American girls have to do with beach houses and Scandinavian boys.

Indie music and the visual arts have always had a rich and beautiful intersection — from the best album art out there to the Indie Rock Coloring Book.

This week, the good folks at The Hype Machine are unveiling their annual Music Blog Zeitgeist, where they get 50 talented visual artists to create original pieces depicting the 50 best artists/albums of 2009, based on their blogosphere popularity.

Each day this week, they released 10 pieces of artwork, starting from #50 and ending with today’s #1 — unsurprisingly, Phoenix.

Girls artwork by Zoya Feldman

TV On The Radio artwork by Andrea Foht

Sufjan Stevens artwork by Patrick Moberg

The artists include a ton of our favorites, and some of the albums we were most impressed with this year.

Daft Punk artwork by Lawrence Kwok

The Flaming Lips artwork by Justin Paszul

Wilco artwork by Sergio Serrano

Miike Snow artwork by Blake Suarez and Steph Davlantes

Vampire Weekend artwork by Stephen Olson

Royksopp artwork by Mark Silipo

The Xx artwork by Meredith Gran

Explore all the artwork for more a wonderfully diverse slew of aesthetic styles and creative visions, inspired by the greatest indie talent of our day.

In 2009, we spent more than 240 hours a month bringing you Brain Pickings. That’s over 2,880 hours for the year, over which we could’ve seen 29 feature-length films, listened to 72 music albums or taken 960 bathroom visits. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right.

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23 DECEMBER, 2009

Music Meets Philosophy: The Happiness Project


Neighborly wisdom, music innovation, and the extraordinariness of ordinary human speech.

We’ve long been fascinated by the concept and origin of happiness. Which is why we love Broken Social Scene multi-instrumentalist Charles Spearin‘s The Happiness Project — a series of interviews with Spearin’s neighbors on the subject of happiness, deconstructed into the melodic, sing-song quality of speech. Spearin’s inspiration came from the insight that the movement of our lips and tongue, the rising and falling of our voices as voice our thoughts, isn’t something we normally pay attention to, except in the context of explicit music. And yet this cadence is so rich in implicit melody.

The natural cadence of people’s speech can sometimes carry beautiful melodies.

After each interview, Spearin would listen to the recordings, examining both their meaning and their melody. He then invited a few musician friends to play, as closely as they could, these natural melodies on different instruments — from the tenor saxophone to the harp to Spearin’s own daughter on the violin — and then arranged them just as he would’ve songs.

Meaning seems to be our hunger but we should still try to taste our food. I wanted to see if I could blur the line between speaking and singing — life and art? — and write music based on these accidental melodies.

The result was The Happiness Project album — a fascinating experiment in music innovation, infused with the substance of everyday philosophy.

If you can take a bunch of people and just put them in a situation where they’re kind of comfortable, get them to talk about a nice subject like happiness, and then their wisdom shines a little bit more.

It’s one of our favorite music projects of 2009, so we thought it fitting to feature right before the holidays.

Grab a free download of Anna, the second track from The Happiness Project, and elevate your every conversation by drinking in the simple melodic wisdom of human speech.

Thanks, Michal

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22 DECEMBER, 2009

Gift Guide Part 3: Free


DIY goodness, intellectual enrichment, and how to go cheap without being cheap.

This is the final installment in the curated 3-part Brain Pickings holiday gift guide. Today, we’re saluting thrift and last-minuteness with five priceless yet free gifts that show off your creative connoisseurship without making a dent in your wallet.


itunes.gifEveryone loves a good mixtape. But, let’s face it, it isn’t the most original — or, for that matter, the most intellectually enriching — of gifts. So why not put a personal growth spin on the cultural classic? iTunes is actually a fantastic resource for free podcasts and lectures from the world’s best universities, across a multitude of disciplines. Show off your eclectic yet refined taste by burning your giftee a mix of selected episodes from a few smart podcasts — think part sampler, part mixtape, part gift certificate to self-improvement.

Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:

Perfect for: Lifelong learners, personal growth fiends, the eclectically curious


We sung the praises of nothing a while ago, and it’s still one of the best gifts out there. It’s cheap, but you aren’t — it’s a clever and tongue-in-cheek choice that serves as a powerful antidote to our culture of excess. Your socially-conscious friends will appreciate it, and they won’t have to regift it along with that bizarre snow globe from grandma.

Perfect for: The environmentally concerned, those with a good conscience and good sense of humor


Here’s a wonderful DIY gift that’s both super cool and doable even with the craft skill level of a six-year-old — cork photo coasters.

All you need: Some photos, a pen, an X-acto knife, a few very, very basic art supplies and sheets of cork. Depending on your choice of photos, you can make the coasters artsy or personal, but either way, they’re bound to delight — not to mention save a coffeetable or two from those dreaded mug circles.

Perfect for: Everyone


Ah, the paper fortuneteller — what a fond childhood memory. But, if you’re like us, your adult self couldn’t make one to save your life. Thankfully, the good folks at eHow have put together a simple how-to video that revives this nostalgic gem.

Ramp up the cool factor by getting creative with the paper itself and/or slipping in a few clever, inside-jokey fortunes.

Perfect for: Retrostalgics, the kid at heart, those who value personal, non-generic gifts


Yes, we’re being shamelessly self-promotional — but that’s only because we fervently believe in our mission, and there’s no shame in that.

Brain Pickings aims to enrich people’s creative and intellectual scope by taking them on a curated journey into the great creative unknown — because we believe indiscriminate curiosity and exposure to cross-disciplinary interestingness fuels our inner capacity for creativity. So tickle a friend’s brain by introducing them to Brain Pickings — you can sign them up for our newsletter for a sampler, or just send them a simple note/email with our URL.

Inspired information is, after all, the greatest gift of all. So who cares if it doesn’t come in giftwrap and a red ribbon?

Perfect for: Everyone — especially the chronically curious, those immersed in creative culture

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