Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

17 AUGUST, 2010

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin in the Style of The Beach Boys

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An elegant finish on the unfinished, or what the Gatsby era has to do with surfer culture.

In the 1920’s, George Gershwin engendered America’s love affair with popular jazz, composing some of the most prolifically covered and memorable melodies of all time. In the 1960’s, The Beach Boys cemented the nation’s matrimony to rock music, providing a soundtrack for the era and carving their way into popular culture as “America’s band.” Spearheaded by singer-musician-composer Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys suffered a tragic demise as Wilson’s mental illness and drug abuse led him to withdraw from the band, shortly followed by the death of two of the other band members, but their legacy of summertime rock and close vocal harmonies inspired generations of musicians to come. (Wilco, The Flaming Lips and Fleet Foxes, we’re looking at you.)

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is both an epic comeback for the iconic Beach Boy and a beautifully executed homage to the legendary jazz composer. The album reinvents twelve of the Gershwin Brothers’ most timeless classics in the signature style of The Beach Boys, a remarkable ripple in the space-time continuum as two music culture titans converge.

The most priceless part of the album are the two rare, unfinished Gershwin pieces, which Wilson crafted into incredible collaborative compositions — The Like in I Love You and Nothing But Love. (On a marginally curmudgeonly aside, why is virtually all music about love? Don’t people have better things to do with their life of the mind? Humph.)

Other highlights include I’ve Got a Crush on You and an absolutely fantastic rendition of Summertime.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is out today and an invaluable chance to own a page of tomorrow’s music history books.

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30 JULY, 2010

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

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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

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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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