Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

11 NOVEMBER, 2010

East + West + Gershwin: Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang Perform Rhapsody In Blue

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Herbie Hancock, one of America’s great jazz pianists, landed on the jazz scene in the early 1960s, starting out with Miles Davis, and then working as a solo musician who released his great jazz standards — Cantaloupe Island and Watermelon Man. Thirty years later, and across a big ocean, Lang Lang, the Chinese concert pianist, takes the stage. Only 13, he wins the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians, and then quickly starts dazzling Western audiences with performances of Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikovsky.

Finally, the two musicians, the two musical worlds, meet in 2009. Performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London, along with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Hancock and Lang Lang work their way through Debussy, Ravel and then, appropriately enough, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

The jazz concerto. Jazz inflections layered onto a classical composition. A perfect meeting in the middle.

Dan Colman edits Open Culture, which brings you the best free educational media available on the web — free online courses, audio books, movies and more. By day, he directs the Continuing Studies Program at Stanford University, and you can also find him on Twitter.

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09 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Music Animation Machine

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In the 1970s, composer, inventor and software engineer Stephen Malinowski had a hallucination. He envisioned an easier, more visual way of reading music scores. A friend of his suggested he animate the bar-graph scroll and another proposed doing it with a… gasp… computer. In 1985, Malinowski created the first version of the Music Animation Machine and, a quarter century later, it remains a treasure trove of mesmerizing music visualizations. From Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugarplum Fairync to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, the project brings an intuitive, visceral, almost synesthetic understanding to some of the most musically complex masterpieces in history.

Music moves, and can be understood just by listening. But a conventional musical score stands still, and can be understood only after years of training. The Music Animation Machine bridges this gap, with a score that moves — and can be understood just by watching.” ~ Stephen Malinowski

Malinowski has made the MIDI player available as freeware (sadly, Windows-only) so you can download it and create your own visualizations.

You can support the project by buying a DVD of the visualizations, but Malinowski has kindly offered the DVDs free of charge to any public schools, libraries, music schools and educators of music theory, appreciation, or history. Many of the animations are also available on the Music Animation Machine YouTube channel.

As a hidden treat, the site also features a free visual harmonizer for iPad — a wonderful educational tool exploring the relationship between pitches.

via Quipsologies

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03 NOVEMBER, 2010

Smigly: Jazzy Tales of Misfortune

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What giant logos have to do with the digestive difficulties of the Twitter bird.

We’ve been longtime admirers of writer, director and animator Allen Mezquida‘s Smigly series — the animated tales of a lovable misfit (or, to reach into our bag of cross-cultural linguistic treats, a Shlemazl — that’s Yiddish for “unlucky person”) who, despite his smarts, somehow always manages to have his dreams crushed for your comedic benefit. It’s Droopy with getting the girl, Dilbert without the office supplies, Frasier without the pompous dialogue and laugh track.

If you pay attention, life’s a soul-crushing shit storm. Smigly pays attention.”

Mezquida, whose work has previously graced Disney, Warner Bros., Sony and Nickelodeon, happens to also be a talented saxophonist, so he scores most of the films himself.

Today, we’ve curated five of our favorite Smigly episodes – enjoy.

A LIFE

Smigly spins in the existential hamster wheel and we hope you aren’t. (If you are, see this.)

THE STIMULUS PACKAGE

Timely, in light of this week’s U.S. elections, a time when economic and political fluff phrases are being tossed around like giant balls of toxic cotton candy.

CELL BLOCK

So many phones, so little talking.

WHO OWNS YOU?

Somewhere between Big Brother, Uncle Sam and The Man, Smigly is on the brink of pushing daisies.

NOISE

If you happen to have a bit of a social media…problem (and we should know), you’ll no doubt reluctantly relate to this one.

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29 OCTOBER, 2010

BBC’s John Lennon Tribute Rap

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We love John Lennon, but the BBC seems to love him more, or at least better: Lennononandonandon is a wonderful Lennon tribute track by UK rapper Dan Bull, composed of oh-so-many Beatles song titles — test your Beatlemania by counting how many you recognize.

Needless to say, it’s an absolute treat. (So great, in fact, that it even got a nod from Yoko Ono.)

The track celebrates the newly revealed English Heritage blue plaque at John and Yoko’s London home at 34 Montagu Square. The blue plaques are a 140-year-old British tradition honoring and commemorating the link between cultural icons of the past and the buildings they lived or worked in. Roughly 850 have been awarded to date, recognizing greats like Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton, Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh.

Open Culture

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