Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

13 APRIL, 2010

Leave Your Sleep: Victorian Poetry Meets Modern Music

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Musty libraries, otherworldly storytelling, and how dead poets wrote 2010’s most moving album.

One of our biggest passion points here at Brain Pickings is the cross-pollination of disciplines. Combine that with our passion for mus, and you’ve got a winner. Case in point: Natalie Merchant’s ambitious new album, Leave Your Sleep — a brilliant and beautiful musical adaptation of near-forgotten 19th- and 20th-century British and American children’s poetry, out today to nearly a decade worth of anticipation.

The album, her first studio recording in seven years and co-produced with Venezuelan musician-composer Andres Levin, a frequent collaborator of David Byrne and creator of the eclectic Red Hot charity series, samples from the entire spectrum of literary fame and obscurity, including poets like Rachel Field, Robert Graves, Christina Rossetti and — our favorite — e e cummings, as well as little-known geniuses like Brooklyn poet Natalia Crane, who published her first book in 1927 at the age of ten.

What I really enjoyed about this project was reviving these people’s words, taking them off the dead flat pages, bringing them to life. Bringing them to light.

What makes the album all the more special is that in the six years Merchant spent researching the poets, sifting through newspaper microfilm from the 1800’s and spending countless hours in musty Victorian libraries, she grew increasingly curious about and inspired by their lives and decided to write a book about them. Poetry inspiring music inspiring prose, a beautiful metaphor for the cross-pollination of the arts. Coupled with Merchant’s unforgettable powerhouse of a voice, the album is one of the most inspired projects to come out this year.

We were fortunate enough to experience Merchant’s absolutely breathtaking live performance at TED earlier this year, which, though not doing justice to her live stage charisma, you can sample below. The rich emotion oozing from Merchant’s voice as her melodic storytelling unfolds is just otherworldly.

Sophisticated, playful, bittersweet and utterly haunting, Leave Your Sleep spans as rich an emotional spectrum as it does a musical range, leaving us dangerously close to infatuation in a way that no single recording has managed to in longer than we can remember.

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06 APRIL, 2010

The Johnny Cash Project: Global Collaborative Storytelling

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Frames, doodles, and how to weave a digital quilt out of legendary music and cultural history.

Our friend Aaron Koblin — he of Sheep Market and Bicycle Built for 2,000 fame — is back with a brilliant new project in collaboration with director Chris Milk for Lost Highway records: The Johnny Cash Project, a global collaborative art project constructing a music video for Cash’s final studio recording, “Ain’t No Grave,” from hundreds of user-submitted one-of-a-kind portraits of the iconic artist.

The drawings are crowdsourced using an online tool similar to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which randomly selects three frames for the contributor to choose from and draw.

The Johnny Cash Project is a visual testament to how the Man in Black lives on — not just through his vast musical legacy, but in the hearts and minds of all of us around the world he has touched with his talent, his passion, and his indomitable spirit.

You can algorithmically curate various versions of the video by toggling between different criteria by which to sort the individual frames — highest-rated, most recent, most intricate, realistic, abstract, and more.

Needless to say, we love both the concept and the execution — not only because it offers an intriguing contrast between this digital playground and what we’ve always found to be the rustic, analog appeal of Cash’s sound, but also because it crafts a beautiful metaphor for the breadth and impact of his music, revealing both the uniquely intimate experience of each listener and the powerful global cultural resonance of his heritage.

Contribute your thread to this wonderful collaboratively woven magic.

via Creativity

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19 MARCH, 2010

Infoviz Education: Animated Visualizations for Kids

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Helium, carbon, and what Little Red Riding Hood has to do with malnutrition in Africa.

We love infographics. We love animation. And we’re all for engaging kids in creative education. So today we’re looking at three educational infoviz animations that shed light on complex or important issues in beautifully art-directed ways that make little eyes widen and little brains broaden.

HOW TO FEED THE WORLD

Directed by Denis van Waerebeke, How To Feed The World is a brilliant animated short film made for the Bon appétit exhibition in Paris science museum. Though aimed at helping kids ages 9 to 14 understand the science behind eating and why nutrition is important, the film’s slick animation style and seamless visual narrative make it as educational for kids as it is for budding designers, looking to master the art of using design as a storytelling medium.

Bonus points for the obligatory British voiceover, always a delightful upgrade.

THE STORY OF STUFF

Though not necessarily aimed at kids alone, Annie Leonard’s brilliant The Story of Stuff — which we reviewed extensively some time ago — condenses the entire materials economy into 20 minutes of wonderfully illustrated and engagingly narrated storytelling that makes you never look at stuff the same way again.

The Story of Stuff recently got a book deal, further attesting to its all-around excellence. We highly recommend it.

THE ELEMENTS

A few months ago, we reviewed They Might Be Giants’ fantastic Here Comes Science 2-disc CD/DVD album aimed at the K-5 set, a brilliant intersection of entertainment and creative education. One of the highlights on it is this wonderful animated journey across the periodic table, a true exercise in art-meets-science.

The entire album is well worth the two Starbucks lattes that it costs, both as a tool of inspired education for kids and a timeless music treat for indie rock fans of all ages.

BONUS

Though certainly not educational, and likely not aimed at kids, this fantastic animation — which we featured exactly a year ago today — offers a brilliant infographic reinterpretation of the Brothers Grimm children’s classic The Little Red Riding Hood, inspired by Röyksopp’s Remind Me.

We’d love to see this as a series, celebrating the cross-pollination of some of our favorite facets of creative culture — animation, data visualization, and classic children’s literature — with quirk, humor and superb art direction.

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