Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘SoundCloud’

16 JULY, 2014

David Bowie’s Enchanting Isolated Vocal Track for “Ziggy Stardust”

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Because Ziggy didn’t always play guitar.

In June of 1972, David Bowie released his fifth studio record, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars — the album that gave birth to his legendary alter ego, the fictional rock star Ziggy Stardust, who catapulted Bowie into superstardom and went on to become one of the twentieth century’s greatest pop-culture cults.

This mesmerizing isolated vocal track for the album’s title song reveals as much the intimate beauty of Bowie’s imperfect voice as it does the enormous role instrumentation and performance play in creating the overall effect of the song’s enchantment and exhilaration:

Complement with Bowie’s 75 must-read books, his answers to the famous Proust Questionnaire, his narration of the pioneering Soviet children’s symphony “Peter and the Wolf,” and the full story of Ziggy Stardust, then treat yourself to astronaut Chris Hadfield’s magnificent cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station.

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02 JULY, 2014

The Last Hotel: Patti Smith Sets Jack Kerouac to Song

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Two great talents at the intersection of reality and dream.

Between 1954 and 1965, in the thick of his foray into Buddhism, Jack Kerouac turned his beliefs and techniques for writing prose to poetry and wrote several dozen poems, both playful and profound, spanning everything from irreverent comments on his friends to meditations on spirituality. They were published in the posthumous volume Pomes All Sizes (public library) and capture, as Allen Ginsberg notes in the introduction, Kerouac’s experience of life as “both real and dream.”

In this enchanting recording, punk-rock godmother Patti Smith — herself a poet, with a penchant for setting literature to song — reads Kerouac’s poem “The Last Hotel” to music by Thurston Moore and Lenny Kaye:

The last hotel
I can see the black wall
I can see the silhouette on the window
He’s talking, at a rhythm
He’s talking, at a rhythm
But, I don’t care
I’m not interested in what he’s saying
I’m only interested in the last hotel
I’m only interested in the fact that it’s the last hotel
Deep, discordant, dark, sweet
The last hotel
The last hotel
Ghosts in my bed
The goats I bled
The last hotel

Complement with Smith’s poetic homage to her soulmate, her advice on life, and Kerouac on kindness, the self illusion, and the “golden eternity.”

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30 JUNE, 2014

Elementary School Kids Record Adorable Recommendations for Their Favorite Books

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A sweet reminder of what algorithms can never give us.

“Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding,” E.B. White wrote while contemplating the future of reading in 1951, “and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy.” Kafka believed that “a book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” and Carl Sagan once wrote that “a book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Each spring, Methow Valley Elementary School in Winthrop, Washington, and Methow Arts Alliance — a nonprofit seeking to “enrich the lives of the people living in rural Okanogan County by making the Arts an integral, dynamic aspect of community, economic vitality, public education and civic life” — host a Young Writers’ Conference, seeking to get kids excited about the written word by bringing together local creative professionals in a series of community-led workshops celebrating the art and craft of writing. At the 2014 conference, book-champions Jennifer Abel Kovitz and Missi Smith led a workshop on the importance of human book recommendations in the age of algorithms, helping elementary school kids write and record their own recommendations for their favorite books. The result, to be played on local radio station KTRT 97.5FM all summer long, is nothing short of heart-meltingly adorable.

Complete list of the recommended books below.

You can support Methow Arts Alliance’s wonderful work here. Pair with scientists’ and writers’ answers to little kids’ simple, surprisingly profound questions about how the world works.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





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