Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

30 JULY, 2010

13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests


From Nico to Sonic Boom, or what black-and-white silent film has to do with pop art.

In 2008, the Andy Warhol Museum commissioned ex-Luna band members Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, now performing as Dean & Britta, to write and record 13 original scores and classic covers for Warhol’s little-known silent films, black-and-white portraits of cultural icons like Nico, Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Ann Buchannan, Freddy Herko and Dennis Hopper, shot between 1964 and 1966. Dean & Britta promptly complied and, for the next 18 months, toured the world, performing the pieces in more than 50 venues, from New York’s Lincoln Center to the Sydney Opera House to a 15th-century cathedral in Paris.

This week, Dean & Britta are finally releasing their masterpieces as a two-disc record. 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests is a deluge of rich guitar strums and dreamsome, melodic honey-vocals, with a kick of head-bobbing beats in just the right places. The album also features a handful of priceless covers, including The Velvet Underground’s Not a Young Man Anymore, and instant-classic remixes by Sonic Boom, Scott Hardkiss and My Robot Friend.

And while the music itself is already an absolute treat, the ultimate cherry on top is the accompanying limited-edition DVD, where you can ogle Warhol’s original screen tests — a haunting record of a cultural era that shaped modernity.

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26 JULY, 2010

Peace Through Music: The Voice Project


Participatory peace, or how cover chains are unshackling an imprisoned community.

A few months ago, we helped nonprofit Invisible Children fight the child soldier epidemic in Uganda — a country plagued by a tragic number of social ills fueled by a decade-long war — through music. Now, another music-driven effort is aiming to empower another one of the country’s severely victimized populations — the many women who live as widows, rape survivors and former abductees.

The Voice Project is an effort to support these brave women, who have come together in groups around the country, singing songs of hope and regeneration. The lyrics of these songs let their sons, former child soldiers, know that they have been forgiven and can now come home. Circulated via radio and word of mouth, these songs are actually working, bringing young men back home and giving a war-torn country a chance at peace for the first time in 24 years.

Inspired by these women’s songs, The Voice Project is bringing well-known artists together into “cover chains,” each covering the music of another. The videos are posted online and all proceeds from donations and sponsorships go towards peace programs and rebuilding efforts in Uganda.

Part Invisible Children, part Record Club, part Levi’s Pioneer Sessions, The Voice Project is a music-lover’s mecca. From indie dreams-come-true like Brett Dennen covering Citizen Cope to iconic intersections like Peter Gabriel covering Tom Waits to unlikely yet priceless pairings like The Submarines covering The Beatles, the effort uses the universal power of music to amplify a critical humanitarian message, allowing artists — and, in turn, their fans — to become a part of a cause best fought for by relinquishing the notion of “the other” and harnessing the power of community, a global community, in reconstructing the broken identity of a nation.

For a taste of The Voice Project‘s brilliance, grab a free download of Home by one of our favorite bands, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, featuring the Gulu Women’s Choir.


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22 JULY, 2010

Dark Night of the Soul


Cultural treasure-hunting, or what priceless music has to do with expensive photography.

David Lynch and Danger Mouse are two of creative culture’s most radical movers-and-shakers. This month, they’ve come together in a too-good-to-be-true-(but-it-is-true) project: Dark Night of the Soul — a priceless multimedia collaboration featuring all-star vocalists like The Flaming Lips, Iggy Pop, Suzanne Vega, Broken Bells, and even Lynch himself singing on two of the tracks.

From psychedelic electronica to fluid folk-rock to gritty blues, the compilation spans a remarkable spectrum of genres and talent.

To add to the cultural treasure status of the project, the album was co-masterminded by legendary producer Mark Linkous a.k.a. Sparklehouse, who tragically took his own life earlier this year. While the album was set to release in 2009, a number of licensing bureaucracies led to seemingly indefinite delays. Finally, albeit posthumously for Linkous, Dark Night of the Soul is seeing light of day – and what a light it is.

The project features an interesting interactive website and an absolutely stunning collector’s edition companion book of haunting photographs by David Lynch. (Which, if you’re in New York, you can see at the Morrison Hotel Gallery.) For a closer look at the collaboration, KCRW’s Jason Bentley has an excellent interview with Lynch and Danger Mouse.

I joked and I said ‘I thought you were coming up here because you wanted me to sing on this thing’ and he said ‘No no no, I do’, but he was like being real polite. And so one thing led to another, and not only did a get to do the photographs, but I got to sing on two tracks.” ~ David Lynch

You can grab an mp3 copy of the album on Amazon or iTunes, but we highly recommend going for the deluxe box set — collaborations like this come by once every few decades, and this one is worth celebrating with the full bells and whistles: Four discs, including an instrumental CD, a poster, 48-page minibook, and original photographs by David Lynch.

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