Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘remix’

01 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Arnold Schoenberg’s Music Notation Based on Tennis: A Tribute to George Gershwin


What the U.S. Open has to do with atonality and one of the great losses of twentieth-century music.

Austrian-American composer Arnold Schoenberg is best-known as the inventor of the twelve-tone technique and a pioneer of atonality, but he was also a man of many curiosities and passions. A lover of tennis, which he famously played with his tennis partner George Gershwin, Schoenberg channeled his enthusiasm for the sport into a new system of music notation, based on a transcription of the events in a tennis match — one of the many gems in the phenomenal anthology of innovation in notation systems, Notations 21.

In 1937, mere months before his tragic death at the unfair age of 38, Gershwin shot this home movie on his tennis court at Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills, featuring Schoenberg and his wife Gertrud, along with some brief glimpses of Gershwin himself. The film is scored with Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 4 Op.37, written in 1936 and recorded in 1937 by the Kolisch Quartet, which was sponsored by Gershwin. The video ends with a photograph of Gershwin painting his famous portrait of Schoenberg mashed up with audio of Schoenberg’s moving tribute to Gershwin, recorded on July 12th, 1937, the day after Gershwin’s death.

George Gershwin was one of these rare kind of musicians to whom music is not a matter of more or less ability. Music, to him, was the air he breathed, the food which nourished him, the drink that refreshed him. Music was what made him feel and music was the feeling he expressed. Directness of this kind is given only to great men. And there is no doubt that he was a great composer. What he has achieved was not only to the benefit of a national American music but also a contribution to the music of the whole world. In this meaning I want to express the deepest grief for the deplorable loss to music. But may I mention that I lose also a friend whose amiable personality was very dear to me.” ~ Arnold Schoenberg

Thanks, Ruth

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29 AUGUST, 2011

Happy Birthday, John Locke: The Essential Locke in 3 Minutes


What the Founding Fathers have to do with remix culture and the centerpiece of consciousness.

Exactly 379 years ago today, the great philosopher John Locke was born — father of Liberalism, one of The Enlightenment’s greatest minds, and a pioneering British empiricist. Locke’s legacy lives on most memorably in the American Declaration of Independence and his theory of mind, the first to define the self through self-contained consciousness beginning with a tabula rasa at birth, is a foundation for much of today’s thinking on identity and selfhood. His timeless work is all the more relevant today — a parallel to his insistence on separation of powers between church and state exists in today’s debate about keeping corporation and state separate; the near-plagiarism of his ideology by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence raises questions of remix culture and intellectual property; and his rational case for cross-faith tolerance carries a message of exponential urgency today.

To celebrate his birthday, here’s a piece of priceless edutainment from the brilliant Three Minute Philosophy series (previously).

If you’d rather spend more than three minutes on one of humanity’s most influential thinkers, do so with The Selected Political Writings of John Locke and Lee Ward’s excellent John Locke and Modern Life, which examines the impact of Locke’s legacy on contemporary culture.

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18 AUGUST, 2011

Mashup Masterpiece: Cookie Monster Sings Tom Waits


A lip-synced case for the art of remix, or what Sesame Street has to do with the need to evolve copyright law.

Remix culture is a frequent fixation around here and a central premise of my beliefs about combinatorial creativity. But while intellectual, academic, and legal debates about the role of remix in creative culture certainly have their place, the best way to appreciate the art of remix is through a brilliant manifestation. Case in point: Cookie Monster sings Tom Waits’ “God’s Away on Business” in the best mashup I’ve seen in ages.

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Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.