Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

09 MAY, 2011

Sam + Friends: Vintage Muppets Explore Visual Thinking


What vintage Muppets have to do with synesthesia and visual thinking.

Fifty-six years ago today, Sam + Friends — the early live-action puppet TV show by Muppets creator Jim Henson and his eventual wife Jane — made its official debut. Its characters, all of whom Henson voiced himself, presaged not only modern icons like Kermit and The Muppets, but even some of today’s cultural archetypes. (One of Sam’s friends was named Harry the Hipster.)

This vintage kinescope from the show’s early days offers a rare look at the dawn of a cultural icon and explores visual thinking, particularly in music — something we’ve recently covered and have an ongoing fascination with.

For more on the story of Sam + Friends, see Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, as well as Chapter 2 of the altogether fantastic Kermit book, Before You Leap: A Frog’s Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

09 MAY, 2011

Let England Shake: One Album, 12 Short Films


What the last rose of England has to do with war photography and The Velvet Underground.

English singer-songwriter PJ Harvey is among the most prolific yet ceaselessly innovative musicians of the past 20 years, reinventing herself completley, almost unrecognizably, with each new album. But release of her latest record, Let England Shake, goes beyond merely redefining her own sound, reinventing the very definition of what an album or a music video is as well.

For the project, PJ Harvey partnered with award-winning photojournalist Seamus Murphy, whose work in Afghanistan and The Middle East has garnered him international acclaim, to create short films for each of the album’s twelve tracks.

Ranging from the bizarre to the breathtakingly beautiful, the films — gathered in the below video playlist for your viewing pleasure — are some of the most creatively exquisite “music videos” we’ve seen in a long time, though calling them that feels somewhat pejorative in the face of how innovative the project’s entire approach is. (Our favorite has to be The Last Living Rose.)

Written over a period of two-and-a-half years and recorded over five weeks in an old Dorset church, Let England Shake is a florilegium of inspirations, ranging from the poetry of Harold Pinter and T.S. Eliot to the art of Salvador Dalí and Francisco de Goya to the music of The Doors, The Pogues, and The Velvet Underground — easily the most interesting and layered dark horse of an album to come by this year.

via Meta Filter

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

06 MAY, 2011

Notations 21: 165 Musicians Visualize Sheet Music in Unusual Ways


What the color wheel has to do with Beethoven and supporting arts education.

There’s something especially mesmerizing about the cross-pollination of the senses, particularly in visualizing music. That’s exactly what Notations 21 explores. Inspired by John Cage’s iconic 1968 Notations and originally released for its 50th anniversary, the ambitious 320-page volume by Theresa Sauer and Mark Batty Publishers reveals how 165 composers and musicians around the world are experiencing, communicating and reconceiving music visually by reinventing notation.

From acclaimed musicians like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Earle Brown, Halim El-Dabh, Joan La Barbara, and Yuji Takahashi to emerging global talent, this magnificent tome examines how both the technology and the expectations of this unique synesthetic language have changed over the past half-century.

I sincerely hope that this book motivates the reader to further research contemporary music and the artists that compose it, to seek out their recordings, attend performances, and support the arts in education. We live in an incredible time in music history — here is only a small sampling of the evidence.” ~ Theresa Sauer

With its visual eloquence and remarkable diversity of perspectives, Notations 21 isn’t merely an anthology but also an ambitious thesaurus of sensemaking for the art and science of neo-notation.

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:

You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:

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.