Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

08 AUGUST, 2008

Monkey See Monkey Make NBC Look Bad


How rocks stars are making capitalism look really, really, really bad.

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You’ve seen the promos. You’ve heard the promos. You’ve smelled the promos. The 2008 Olympics have been a long time coming, and now they’ve finally come. And while we have high hopes for U.S. Olympic teams, we sure hope the performance of the American teams tooting the horn is no predictor of the nation’s competitive edge over other nations.

Case in point: the BBC promo for the Olympics make NBC look like a bunch of sponsor-grubbing YouTubers.

“Journey to the East” is based on the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West and follows the adventures of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy as they make their way to the other end of the world using Olympic athleticism to overcome the literal and abstract hurdles.

If this looks and sounds familiar, it should be: the enachanted short film (because we can’t bring ourselves to call it a mere video) is the brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the duo behind the pseudo-band Gorillaz. (Albarn is perhaps better known as the frontman of Blur and the mastermind behind The Good, the Bad & the Queen.)

The 3,000-frame animation took 12 weeks to complete and required 12-13 drawings per second of screen time, eating up 50 pencils and over 8,000 sheets of animation paper. If you think that’s quite a production, just wait for the audio: it was recorded on unusual Chinese instruments, 20 of them total, with a choir of 38 Chinese singers studio-dubbed to sound like 76 people. The two parts — the animation and the music — were developed simultaneously over the course of the 4 months so they woud fit together in the most perfect, organic way possible.

…And now it’s back to “This segment brought to you by Exxon-Mobil.

10 JUNE, 2008

Just Press Rewind


What Beethoven, your high school sweetheart and a boombox have in common.

Every once in a while, we like to glance back into the past. And if what we see makes us raise a knowing eyebrow, let out a bittersweet sigh, or laugh a little — all the better. Today is one of those days, so warm up your eyebrows, take a few deep breaths, and dig out your funny bone.


Beethoven — not exactly known for making funny. Black-and-white silent film — could go either way on the humor scale. So who would’ve thought that combining the two would cause supreme hilarity to ensue, thanks to the immaculate comedic timing of the unexpected audio/video sync?

Ah, simple genius. Can’t beat that.

via VSL


Speaking of musical blasts from the past, the formative years of our relationship with music can easily be traced back to those precious mixtapes from high school sweethearts and college loves. Which, sadly, are getting washed away by the flood of 1’s and 0’s that is the digital age we live in.

Luckily, FOUND Magazine co-founder Jason Bitner and his team of like-minded creative nostalgics (including music producer Damon Locks and SMITH Magazine founding editor Larry Smith) have brought us Cassette From My Ex: a project that brings so many of those musical gems, and the stories behind them, to light — to our delight.

You’ll find hundreds of digitized Side A’s and Side B’s, oozing that unmistakable butterflies-in-the-stomachness of first crushes and young love. And you’ll get to read the heartfelt recollections of the relationships they were the soundtrack of.

We love the concept almost as much as we loved Danni in the 8th grade. Besides, it’s been a while since we saw Sinead O’Connor and Dire Straits sharing anything other than the glove compartment of our parents’ Oldsmobile.


But before we get too boggled down with reminiscence — there’s no reason why you can’t relish the past and reconcile it with the present. And you can do it for under $200.

We’re talking about what must positively be the awesomest iPod dock in existence: the Lasonic Boombox. When you’re done gushing over the overwhelming retro-coolness of the gadget, let’s focus on the specs: this baby has separate bass and treble controls, a solid AM/FM tuner, a beastly speaker system, an alarm function that lets you wake up to your favorite blast-from-the-past Barry White, and a ton more nifty stuff that almost makes that Michael Jackson playlist of yours cool again.

via Thrillist

30 MAY, 2008

Friday FYI: Auditory Freedom


We’re starting a new thing: every Friday, you get a quick everyday good-to-know. So go ahead, know.


Blame your brain for that horrid Britney track stuck in your head since Monday’s morning drive — a glitch in your auditory cortex is causing the record to spin round’n’round endlessly.

Two ways to get it out:

1. Listen to the song in its entirety

2. Do some math

No joke, folks. This stuff works like magic.

>>> via Wired

21 MAY, 2008

Superhero Superdose


The pop of culture, catwalk catfights, vintage yard sales, why sidekicks kick more ass than side, and which masked hero is changing the face of the music industry.

Superheroes ooze all kinds of super. Between the powers and the flashy outfits, they’ve brought a touch of super to some of the most timeless and inspired aspects of culture — our collective imagination. Today, we take a look at the unexpected, innovative, out-of-this-world superhero-inspired art. Up, up and away!


It wouldn’t be The Met if it didn’t probe the most complex of issues through the quirkiest of channels. This month, the ever-innovative Metropolitan Museum of Art explores hope, ideals, sexuality, notions of beauty, and our social and political realities through the Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy special exhibition.

The project strips superhero iconography of the triviality often associated with it to reveal the complex, the serious and the socially-relevant found beneath the skinsuit. It’s about fantasy and escapism, but also about so much more — it’s about metamorphosis, freedom and aspiration, notions excruciatingly relevant in our ever-increasingly boxed up, routine, utilitarian world.

The exhibition explores 8 aspects of the body as a canvas for ideas — the patriotic, the graphic, the virile, the paradoxical, the armored, the aerodynamic, the mutant and the postmodern. We dig it because it probes the very notion of popular culture — what is it about cultural elements that make them become “popular”? Could it be that same freedom, that aspiration, that promise of escapism that draws us so powerfully to certain symbolism?

That, and Catwoman is just hot stuff, period.


Speaking of superheroes and fashion, The Met and Vogue seem to be on the same page as us: the cult fashion mag’s May issue is all about superhero-inspired glam.

Gracing the cover is Gwyneth Paltrow, all futuristic and golden and Iron Womanish, shot by the legendarily provocative Steven Klein. Inside, they’ve got you covered with bodysuit-meets-Haute-Couture masterpieces from the likes of Gaultier, Armani, Dior, Galliano, and more. (Armani, in fact, actually sponsored the Met exhibition.)

And while we dig the throwback to superheros and the revival of this slightly dusty yet relentlessly imaginative part of culture, we’re a little taken aback by the clear smell of a well-coordinated marketing machine at work: Iron Man promo anyone?

Plus, curiously enough, this whole context of mild superhero violence is seeping through the ranks of the fashion world and sparking some serious catfighs: like the glossy yet vapid scuffle between the dictator of the fashion world, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and cult innovator Giorgio Armani. Ah, the intersection of beauty and ugly.

Humph. Divas. Go figure.

via Style Frizz


Ah, Flickr, what an endless library of the wonderful. It’s like a neighborhood yard sale — if you dig through the random personal crap long enough, you’re sure to walk away victoriously with some absolute gems.

This week’s gem: a collection of vintage comic book covers from around the world, and beyond.

You’ll find Italian heroes, Japanese villains, American sidekicks, and all sorts of extraterrestrials. Best of all, you’ll find your inner teenage nerd, taking a detour from your mad race to hipster world and making an indulgent rest stop in the land of dorky coolness.

Also in the mix: the original Star Trek comic book covers. Now that alone is worth more than the entire yard. And possibly the house, too.


Okay, so enough with all the superhero attention. Sometimes, half the legwork comes from those trusty, make-it-happen sidekicks. After all, the spotlight only shines on a fraction of the grand stage.

Luckily, the awesome guys at Wired have done the heavy lifting and lined up the best sidekicks of all times, complete with their fairly and snarkily assessed strengths and weaknesses.

Except for Robin. Poor kid.

via Wired


And speaking of Batman, here’s one of the most inspired derivative records we’ve stumbled upon in a long time. Batman: The Animated Album is a groundbreaking project by up-and-coming Philadelphia-based MC/producer Blame the Kid.

The idea: melodic and vocal samples from the cult cartoon Batman: The Animated Series cut and crafted into 18 phenomenal tracks. They take you on a compelling journey into the deeper issues of eco-terrorism, corporate exploitation, slave labor, and other social challenges lurking beneath the cartoonish technicolor surface of the story.

The album is out later this year, but you can sample some of the tracks on Blame’s blog and the album’s MySpace page. And while we’re all about bobbing our heads and tapping our feet to the mesmerizing beats, we find Blame’s broader mission even more compelling: like all of his previous albums, Blame is making the Batman album a free download, taking an empowered stance against the antiquated corporate shackles of the current music industry business model.

And that’s a tune we’ve been singing for quite some time.

UPDATE: Batman: The Animated Album is out and free to download here.

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