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Posts Tagged ‘history’

14 MAY, 2012

René Magritte’s Little-Known Art Deco Sheet Music Covers from the 1920s

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From wallpaper to Golconda by way of Art Deco.

Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte may have carved his place in art history as a master of mind-bending, advertising-influenced imagery at the intersection of aesthetics and philosophy, but he also had a little-known early commercial career like other subsequently famous artists, including Warhol. Young Magritte made rent by working as a draughtsman at a wallpaper factory and designing graphic ephemera, among which were some 40 sheet music covers he produced in the 1920s, nearly two decades before Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover as we know it today.

'Marche des Snobs,' sheet music cover (1924). 13 3/4x10 1/2 inches, 35x26 3/4 cm. J. Buyst, Brussels

'Arlita / Chanson Lumineuse,' sheet music cover (c. 1925). 13 1/4x10 1/2 inches, 33 1/2x26 3/4 cm.

'Mes Rêves,' sheet music cover. 1926. 13 1/2x10 1/2 inches, 34 1/4x26 3/4 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

'Le Tango des Aveux,' sheet music cover (1926), 13 3/4x10 1/2 inches, 35x26 3/4 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

Nuits D'Adie/Fox - Trot. Sheet music cover (1925), 13 3/4x10 1/4 inches, 35x26 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

'Un Rien … (Nothing),' sheet music cover (1925). 13 3/4x10 3/4 inches, 35x27 1/4 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

For more on the delightfully obscure nooks of art history, see Secret Lives of Great Artists: What Your Teachers Never Told You About Master Painters and Sculptors.

Hyperallergic

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11 MAY, 2012

Richard Feynman Reveals the Key to Science in 63 Seconds

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“If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.”

Richard Feynman — Nobel-winning physics icon, curiosity champion, graphic novel hero, bongo drummer, wager-maker, no ordinary genius — was born on May 11, 1918. To celebrate, here is one of Feynman’s most beloved classics, a 1964 lecture in which he distills with equal parts wit and wisdom the essence of the scientific method:

In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it; then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right; then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is — if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.

Here, Feynman corroborates beautifully what Stuart Firestein pinpointed nearly six decades later as the most important driver of science — ignorance, or the capacity to be wrong.

The excerpt comes from the 1993 PBS Feynman biography, The Best Mind Since Einstein, available below in its fascinating entirety.

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10 MAY, 2012

Graphing Jane Austen: Using Science to Extrapolate the Human Condition from Classical Literature

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What literary Darwinism reveals about universal values.

In 1959, C. P. Snow lamented the tragic disconnect between science and the humanities in his famed “two cultures” lecture. In Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning, researchers Joseph Carroll, John Johnson, Daniel Kruger, and Jonathan Gottschall — who gave us the fascinating The Storytelling Animal earlier this week — embody Snow’s vision and bridge the gap between science and literary scholarship by borrowing from the evolutionary biology and modern data analytics to construct a model of human nature that explains the evolved psychology of character dynamics in nineteenth-century British novels.

Using the framework of the model, they asked a sample of several hundred readers to give numerical ratings on 2,000 characters from 202 British novels, including all of Jane Austen’s.

This exercise in literary Darwinism produced three key findings: (1) these novels have determinate “agonistic” structures of meaning — centered on protagonists, antagonists, and minor characters — that can be captured using the model’s framework; (2) the perceived differences between protagonists and antagonists are much more structurally pronounced than the differences between male and female characters; and (3) the agonistic structure of these novels fulfills an adaptive social function, wherein literature articulates and cultivates specific social values.

A few of the findings (PDF) follow, in unnecessarily ugly academic graphics. (Please, oh, please, would some talented literature-loving information designer care to spruce them up?)

The researchers examined the positive and negative emotional responses readers have to characters based on a number of character qualities, including sex, age, attractiveness, personality, motives, and mate selection criteria. Five key motive factors emerged — dominance, constructive effort, romance, subsistence, and nurture — which varied greatly across the male and female protagonists and antagonists, and which played a key role in readers’ emotional responses.

Personality was also broken down to five factors: extraversion (assertiveness and sociability), agreeableness (warmth and affiliative behavior), conscientiousness (organization and reliability), emotional stability (calmness and evenness of temper), and openness to experience (curiosity or mental life).

The authors sum up the findings in a conclusion that seems as true of literature as it is of real life:

Standing as a protagonist — a good major character — typically depends on a combination of prosociality and an active mental life.

Also found were normative differences in personality based on gender:

In personality factors and mate-selection criteria, female protagonists most fully exemplify the normative tendencies of good major characters. The norms of the novels are thus gynocentric or feminized.

Though some may argue that bringing the rigorous lens of scientific research to world of literature is a barbaric way to rob the latter of its whimsy, if we subscribe to the view that fiction illuminates reality, Graphing Jane Austen shines a spotlight that not only would make C. P. Snow proud but also helps better understand our culture’s relationship with constructs like personality, gender, and introversion.

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