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kottke.org posts about Music

Visualizing Auto-Tuned Vocals (Freddie vs. Bublé)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2021

Using the sound visualizations of two tracks, one from Freddie Mercury and the other from Michael Bublé, Fil Henley shows us how to recognize the subtle auto-tuning that has applied to the vocals of some recordings (like Bublé’s in this instance). You can see quite easily that the precise hitting and holding of notes in the auto-tuned version is unnaturally superhuman. (via the morning news)

Meet the Liverbirds!

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2021

In the early 60s in Liverpool, inspired by going to see The Beatles at the legendary Cavern Club, four teenaged girls formed the Liverbirds, one of the first all-female rock bands. They toured Britain and gained their greatest fame in Hamburg, Germany, where they followed the Beatles by playing at the Star-Club. During their six-year existence, the band played with Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks. In this installment of Almost Famous, the group’s two remaining members detail the history of the band. What a great story.

An Animated Music Video for a Jarvis Cocker Cover, Directed by Wes Anderson

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

Wes Anderson has directed a stylish animated music video for Jarvis Cocker’s lovely cover of Christophe’s “Aline”, which was a big hit in France in the summer of 1965. The video, illustrated by Javi Aznarez, also doubles as a trailer/moving poster of sorts for the film in which the song appears, Anderson’s own The French Dispatch.

The song appears on the soundtrack for The French Dispatch, as well as on an album called Chansons d’Ennui Tip-Top, a collection of French pop songs covered by Cocker in character as Tip-Top, the character he voices in the movie. (via open culture)

Cosmic Relaxation

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2021

Eight hours of ambient chillout music over images pulled from NASA’s photographic archive of nebulas, galaxies, planets, and other celestial objects? Sure, I’m in.

See also Hours and Hours of Relaxing & Meditative Videos.

Dave Grohl Plays Drums Along with the Original Recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2021

At an event for the release of his recent memoir, The Storyteller, Dave Grohl got behind his drum kit and played along with the original recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit. You might notice that Grohl grimaces a bit right at the beginning — this is maybe the first time (or one of a handful of times) he’s played this song with Kurt Cobain’s vocals since Cobain died. From the video’s description:

It probably wasn’t easy for DG to get to this point where he was willing to share. At the show (and in his book and many interviews) he actually talked about the long path it took to get to not only TALK about Kurt, but to even want to listen to ANY music after his death. Still, a lot of time has passed, which always helps. And in the meantime, Dave has become quite a talented, thoughtful storyteller. I am sure, as difficult as it will always be to him, it probably also now a cathartic experience for him. At least I hope it is.

(via open culture)

Producer Butch Vig Breaks Down Iconic Nirvana Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2021

In these tantalizingly short videos, legendary producer Butch Vig details how the songs on Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind came together. About Smells Like Teen Spirit, Vig says:

Here comes the guitar solo. He basically copied the vocal melody instead of trying to come up with something punky or frantic or strangled guitar like he usually did. He just copied the exact vocal melody and it works really well.

You can find the breakdowns for Teen Spirit and Drain You embedded above and here are Something In The Way, In Bloom, and Polly. Bonus: Vig describes hearing Smells Like Teen Spirit in person for the first time. (via open culture)

Update: Here’s the whole documentary from which these clips were pulled. (via @tape)

How Radiohead Wrote the Perfect Bond Theme

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

For his YouTube channel Listening In, Barnaby Martin analyzed the theme that Radiohead wrote for the 2015 Bond film Spectre, a song that he calls “one of the greatest Bond themes ever written”. Somewhat notoriously (at least around these parts), the producers rejected this theme in favor of a lukewarm by Sam Smith.

After watching Martin’s video, you should watch the Spectre opening credits sequence with the Radiohead theme — it’s so much better than the theme they used in the film.

The Trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

If you’re even just a little bit interested in The Beatles, popular music, or making creative work, The Beatles: Get Back looks really good. Directed by Peter Jackson and utilizing dozens of hours of footage shot in 1969, this six-hour series documents the Beatles recording Let It Be, their final studio album release, and playing their infamous rooftop concert. The series premieres on Disney+ on November 25 and an accompanying book is out now.

Previously: a six-minute preview of the series introduced by Jackson.

The Walk of Life Hypothesis

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

The Walk of Life Project has set out to prove a simple hypothesis: Walk of Life by Dire Straits is the perfect song to end any movie. Like There Will Be Blood:

Or Dr. Strangelove:

Or Terminator 2:

Case closed, I think! (via fave 5)

Hall & Oates × Nine Inch Nails

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

A mashup of I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) by Hall & Oates and Closer by Nine Inch Nails. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect, like dipping french fries into a Frosty or rolling in the snow after the sauna. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

I want to fuck you like an animal
(I can’t go for that)
I want to feel you from the inside
(No can do)

I got this from Dave Pell at Nextdraft — he said simply “trust me” and I’m glad I did.

See also Taylor Swift × Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen × Nine Inch Nails, both of which are better than they should be.

Straight Outta Compton, Polka Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

From a YouTube channel called There I Ruined It, this is NWA’s Straight Outta Compton reimagined as a Bavarian polka. You’re….welcome? (via digg)

Tycho’s Red Rocks DJ Set

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

Tycho, who you might remember from his annual Burning Man sunrise sets, recently released his first DJ set in two years: a 1.5-hour session at Red Rocks from July.

Tycho · Red Rocks DJ Set 2021

Lego Versions of Iconic Album Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2021

album cover for Nirvana's Nevermind built with Lego bricks

album cover for Madonna's True Blue built with Lego bricks

album cover for Radiohead's The Bends built with Lego bricks

album cover for Janet Jackson's Janet built with Lego bricks

Check out these iconic album covers rendered in Lego by Adnan Lotia on Instagram. (thx, jenni)

Today Is September 21st

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2021

Every year for the past several years on September 21, Demi Adejuyigbe makes a video featuring the 1978 Earth, Wind & Fire song September (which begins “Do you remember, twenty-first night of September?”) This year, for what he says is his final effort, Adejuyigbe made a whole-ass movie, complete with special effects. Gonna watch this later with my daughter, who is 12 today (and owns the t-shirt).

In tandem with the video, Adejuyigbe is raising money to benefit The West Fund (a pro-choice Texas organization), Imagine Water Works (a New Orleans organization focused on Hurricane Ida relief efforts), and The Sunrise Movement (a climate emergency advocacy group) — you can donate here.

Update: Adejuyigbe shared some behind-the-scenes stuff from the video production, including how they did the rotating bathroom.

we spent 4 days in the heat up in Valenica constructing 5 walls for the set and fitted them into a giant 10x10 rotating wheel gimbal (one of only 3 in CA apparently! spent a long time just tracking one down!)

(via waxy)

Rock & Roll Pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2021

If you’re talking about the origins of rock & roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe has to be included in those conversations. Her early fusion of gospel, the blues, and the electric guitar (as on 1944’s Strange Things Happening Every Day, a contender for the first rock & roll record) had a huge influence on men like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley, who ended up winning much of the credit for this innovation. This 60-minute BBC documentary from 2011 is a good place to start learning about Tharpe — part 1 is embedded above and here are parts two, three, and four.

I found this via Ted Mills at Open Culture, who writes:

As the doc makes clear, Tharpe had a rebellious streak, didn’t do what she was told, and pushed boundaries in a very segregated America. She invited the all-white Jordanaires to tour with her, surprising house managers and booking agents alike. And she carried on a love affair and creative partnership with fellow gospel singer Marie Knight for decades, very much on the down low.

So perhaps this is the reason Tharpe has not been on our collective radar — we’ve been slow to admit that rock guitar was created by a queer black woman devoted to the Lord.

And if you want to see the whole clip of Tharpe performing Didn’t It Rain from the opening scene of the documentary, there’s really not a better way to spend eight minutes (bc you’ll probably want to watch it twice):

Damn.

“Art Is Everything”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2021

In this wonderful short documentary by Lydia Cornett, we meet Yves Deshommes and observe him moving through his many responsibilities and interests in life, including being an NYC concierge, art dealing, raising his daughter, playing the violin, and helping his home country of Haiti.

Deshommes, who grew up in Haiti, came to New York on a student visa in 1985. He was seventeen years old, and when his visa expired he became undocumented. He lived with an older brother and took classes day and night and through the summer in order to finish high school in two years. “I became a man the moment I set foot on U.S. soil, full of responsibility,” he told me. He started playing the violin a few years later, with teachers at the Harlem School of the Arts. He was soon practicing several hours a day and working long shifts at Pizza Hut. He felt that he was too old to train as a professional, but his practice had become central to his life: “Music was the escape, music was the goal. Music was what made me achieve great things,” he said. “The violin gives me a discipline where I feel I can conquer anything.”

My Recent Media Diet, the Summer/Fall Switchover Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2021

Oh, I’ve let it go too long again. It’s been almost four months since I’ve done one of these media roundups and there’s lots to share. If you’re just joining us — welcome but WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THO?! — I do a post like this every few months with short reviews of all the movies, books, music, TV show, podcasts, and other things I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. The letter grades are very subjective and inconsistent — sorry! Ok, here’s what I have for you today.

The Land That Never Has Been Yet. This podcast series by Scene on Radio on American democracy is essential listening. The episode on how a small group of libertarians have had an outsized influence on American life is especially interesting and maddening. (A)

The Legend of Korra. Watched this with the kids and we all enjoyed it. (B+)

The Expanse. A little uneven sometimes, but mostly compelling. I’ve got crushes on about 4 different people on this show. (B)

Galaxy Quest. The teens were skeptical about this one, but Alan Rickman’s presence won them over. I love this movie. (A)

The Truffle Hunters. The first movie I’ve seen in the theater since March 2020. The pace of the film is, uh, contemplative — I never would have lasted more than 10 minutes if I’d started watching this at home — but full of wonderful little moments. (B+)

The Ezra Klein Show, interview with Agnes Callard. I don’t catch every episode of Klein’s podcast, but this interview with Agnes Callard was particularly wide-ranging and good — I want to know her opinion on anything and everything. (A-)

NBC Sports’ Premier League recaps. I don’t get to watch as much football as I’d like, but I look forward to catching up with all the action at the end of the day. A lot of the networks’ recaps are pretty shabby — incomplete, rushed, no goal replays — but the ones from NBC Sports are really good. You see each of the goals (and significant near-misses) from multiple angles and get a real sense of the flow of the match. (A-)

Nomadland. I didn’t seem to like this quite as much as everyone else did. Frances McDormand is excellent as usual. (B+)

Mare of Easttown. Kate Winslet. I mean, what else do you have to say? I raced through this. (A)

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation. Great exhibition at the MFA of one of the golden ages of NYC. (A-)

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis. It’s a little early to write the definitive book on what went so wrong in America with the pandemic, but Lewis did about as well as can be expected. The CDC doesn’t fare well in his telling. (A-)

Alice Neel: People Come First. Great show at the Met of an outstanding portraitist. (A-)

Nixon at War. The third part of the excellent podcast series on the LBJ & Nixon presidencies. Nixon’s Watergate downfall began with the Vietnam War…when Nixon committed treason to prolong the war to win elected office. (A)

Rashomon. Hard to believe this was made in 1950. A film out of time. (A-)

Velcro ties. Unobtrusive and super handy for organizing cords — wish I’d gotten these sooner. (B+)

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. Documentary about film director French film director Alice Guy-Blaché, who pioneered so much of what became the modern film industry, first in France and then in the United States. (B+)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Compelling dystopian science fiction from Nobel-winner Ishiguro. An interesting companion book to The Remains of the Day. (A-)

Handshake Speakeasy. Super creative and delicious. Maybe the best new bar I’ve been to in years. (A)

The Fugitive. Great film…still holds up almost 30 years later. (A)

Speed. This doesn’t hold up quite as well as The Fugitive but is still entertaining. (B+)

Edge of Tomorrow. Underrated action/sci-fi movie. (A)

No Sudden Move. Solid crime caper movie from Soderbergh. Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro are both excellent. (B+)

Black Widow. Struck the right tone for the character. Florence Pugh was great. (B+)

Summer of Soul. Wonderful documentary about 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival. Director Questlove rightly puts the music front and center but cleverly includes lots of footage of people watching too (a la the Spielberg Face). Beyonce’s Homecoming used this to great effect as well. (A)

Loki. Loved the design and architecture of the TVA. Great use of color elsewhere as well. (B+)

Nanette. Very clever and powerful. (A)

Fleabag (season two). Perhaps the best ever season of television? (A+)

Consider the Oyster by MFK Fisher. The highest compliment I can pay this book is that it almost made me hungry for oysters even though I do not care for them. (B+)

The Green Knight. Even after reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and seeing this movie, I’m not entirely sure I know what this story is trying to convey, thematically or metaphorically, or if it’s even that entertaining. (B)

The Dark Knight Rises. Probably sacrilege, but this is my favorite of the Nolan Batmen. (A)

Bridge of Spies. Mark Rylance was superb in this and Spielberg’s (and Janusz Kamiński’s) mastery is always fun to watch. (B+)

Luca. A fun & straightforward Pixar movie without a big moral of the story. (B+)

Solar Power. Not my favorite Lorde album. (B-)

Reminiscence. I have already forgotten the plot to this. (B-)

The ocean. Got to visit the ocean three times this summer. One of my favorite things in the world. (A+)

The White Lotus. Didn’t really care for the first two episodes and then was bored and tried to watch the third — only made it halfway through. I “finished” it by reading Vulture recaps. Why do people like this show? (C-)

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes. Between Emily Wilson, Madeline Miller, and now Natalie Haynes, I’ve gained a unique understanding of the Iliad and Odyssey. (B+)

TWA Hotel. A marvelous space. (A-)

Turbo. Like Cars + Ratatouille but by Dreamworks and with Snoop Dogg. (C)

Laserwriter II by Tamara Shopsin. A love letter to NYC, printers, Apple computers, and the late, great Tekserve. Another banger from Shopsin. (A)

Donda. Beeping out all the swear words while managing to keep the misogyny in seems apt for an artifact of contemporary American Christianity. Too long and very uneven, I hate that I really love parts of this album. (D+/A-)

Certified Lover Boy. Same ol’ same ol’ from the easy listening rapper. Nothing on here that I wanted to listen to a second time. (C-)

The Great British Baking Show. I’ve only seen bits of one season so far (#6), but I can see why so many people love this show. It’s the perfect combination of soothing but competitive and about a topic that everyone loves — baked goods. (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Brushy One String

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2021

As his name suggests, Jamaican street musician Brushy One String plays a one-string guitar and, under that constraint, makes some truly beautiful music. Josh Jones wrote about Brushy for Open Culture:

When Jamaican musician Andrew Chin, better known as Brushy One String first told friends about his vision — “a dream in which he was told to play the one-string guitar” — they responded with mockery — all but one, who “insisted it was fate,” writes Playing for Change, “and that he had to make that dream come true.” So Brushy set out to do just that, playing on street corners and in the market, “in a big broad hat and sunglasses,” he says. The music came to him naturally. He is no ordinary street musician, however, and his one-string guitar is not a gimmick. Brushy is a talented singer-songwriter, with a powerful voice and a musical sensibility that transcends his bare-bones minimalism.

In addition to his NPR Tiny Desk Concert above, this video of Brushy performing Chicken in The Corn on his one-string has been viewed over 50 million times.

See also Gasper Nali and His Homemade [One-String] Bass Guitar. Would love to see a duet with these two single stringers!

The Music of Subway Train Door Chimes

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 16, 2021

In The Hidden Melodies of Subways Around the World, the NY Times takes a look at an often overlooked aspect of transit design: the door closing sounds on the subway. My favorite door jingle is from the Paris Metro — I never knew where it came from:

In Paris, a simple “A” note plays as the doors shut. This is also a throwback, a sound that mimics the vibrations of a mechanical part that is no longer in use on any of the system’s trains. “But for a half century Parisians and visitors alike became used to that sound, so we decided to keep it, and recorded a synthesized version,” said Song Phanekham, a communications manager for the Paris transit system. “It’s a tribute to the heritage of the Paris Metro.”

In Tokyo, each station has its own custom jingle to signal departures. In Rio de Janeiro, the subway’s door chime pays homage to bossa nova. In Vancouver, the doors still close to a three-note sound that was recorded in the 1980s on a Yamaha DX7. (“The hallmark of any mid-80s pop song,” said Ian Fisher, manager of operations planning at British Columbia Rapid Transit Company.)

You can listen to more sounds of subway doors closing in these three videos recorded by Ted Green.

Update: Composer Minoru Mukaiya has made distinct door-closing jingles for each subway station in Tokyo.

(via waxy)

Weezer Covers Metallica’s Enter Sandman

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2021

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 16x platinum Black Album, Metallica is releasing an album on Sept 10th called The Metallica Blacklist, which contains Black Album covers featuring 53 different artists. One of those covers is Enter Sandman by Weezer, which you can watch above. Some of the other songs on the album include:

St. Vincent — Sad but True
The Hu — Through the Never
Phoebe Bridgers — Nothing Else Matters
Miley Cyrus Feat. Watt, Elton John, Yo-yo ma, Robert Trujillo, Chad Smith — Nothing Else Matters
Darius Rucker — Nothing Else Matters
Rodrigo y Gabriela — The Struggle Within

All profits from the album will be donated to charity. You can listen to the songs that have already been posted on Spotify, pre-save or pre-order the album, or check out this album trailer to hear what you’re getting into:

I’ve been listening to the Black Album a little bit recently (it came out my freshman year in college and so hits me right between the eyes) so I’m looking forward to checking this out.

PJ Harvey & Bjork Cover (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2021

This cover of the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by PJ Harvey and Bjork at the 1994 Brit Awards is kind of amazing — I’d never seen this before. The duet is a slow burn, but it really gets there in the end. BTW, this was the same night that Elton John and RuPaul performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart together. (via @brianmcc)

Thom Yorke’s 2021 Remix of Creep

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2021

In collaboration with Jun Takahashi, Thom Yorke has released a “Very 2021” remix of his band’s iconic Creep. Slow and reverby, the singer’s perhaps-least-favorite Radiohead song takes on new life for this (second?) oddest of years. On first listen, I like but maybe don’t love this version, but some of the YT comments are worth reading:

Can’t believe Thom Yorke finally collaborated with Radiohead. Two of my favorite artists making a song together

Thom has went so far into artistic discovery he looped back on himself. It’s like post-post-irony, but musically

I can’t believe Thom made a doomer wave version of his own fucking song

Thom nailed this one, he sounds just like the originals singer!

You can find the song on a variety of platforms.

New Labour and the End of the Welfare State for Artists

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 08, 2021

NME cover March 14, 1998, featuring Tony Blair, headlined Ever Had The Feeling You've Been Cheated? Rock N' Roll Takes on the Government

Most US-centric attempts to imagine a future where artists and humanists’ work is better supported by the government hearkens back to the Works Progress Administration (later, the Work Projects Administration) of the late 1930s and early 1940s. There are, however, more recent models outside the US worth emulating, although their stories often don’t end so well as the WPA’s appears to.

Until the New Labour movement overhauled the British welfare system in the late 1990s, aspiring musicians were often able to exploit loopholes in the welfare system to support their own work. There’s some irony in the fact that the more progressive of the two parties winning control of government effectively ended some of the more progressive social programs that thrived under the conservative regime, although that’s not limited to the UK.

In a recent blog post, David Lance Callahan, who’s writing a book about the intersection of music and the welfare state in the UK, looked at this moment in the late 1990s, when the UK’s music scene went from underground to overground, and the welfare state fell apart:

However, despite these ideological ogres [the Tories] being in power throughout the 1980s and most of the ’90s, their attempts to massage the massive unemployment figures their policies created inadvertently led to an expansion of the opportunities available to find state support for one’s creative endeavours. The ability to get off the dole for a year as part of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme was particularly welcome - if you could get £1,000 put into your bank account for the one day the Department of Social Security demanded to see it there. Often the money was returned to a generous friend or relative the very next day, but the scheme meant that a budding or struggling musician (or manager, record label or sound engineer) could start their own business and be mostly left alone to write, record, tour and promote the results. If you could show some financial or business progress or actual success over that year, then all the better.

This was as true of bands in the ’90s as it was in the previous couple of decades. Very few could have existed without the time and space afforded by signing on and the skin-of-the-teeth security provided by cheap (or free) housing and supplementary benefit - or a non-returnable student grant for art school or uni. Things could only get better with Labour in charge, right?

It feels like on some days it’s easier to imagine how much simpler it could be with debt forgiveness, free or inexpensive higher education, and a universal basic income, and on other days all one can do is imagine how any of those programs, grossly implemented, could be used to tear the existing social safety net (sparse as it is) apart. We have good reason to fear such things! In the 1990s, they happened! It wasn’t a hundred years ago; we remember it ourselves.

Bonus: Callahan’s post includes many clippings of artists from some of your favorite 90s UK bands (Pulp, Belle and Sebastian, Primal Scream, and more) somewhat ambivalently reflecting on their time on welfare and how it enabled them to become successful musicians.

(Via Bethany Klein)

Louis Armstrong’s Final Recording

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 05, 2021

It turns out that today (July 5th) is the 50th anniversary of Louis Armstrong’s final recording, made the night before he passed away in 1971. Armstrong, born August 4th, 1901 (he often told people he was born July 4th, 1900) was a month shy of 70 years old.

Summer of Soul

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2021

Stevie Wonder. Mahalia Jackson. Nina Simone. Gladys Knight & the Pips. B.B. King. Sly and the Family Stone. Over six weeks in the summer of 1969, all of these legendary artists (and more!) performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival in NYC, drawing an estimated 300,000 people. The festival was filmed and broadcast on a local TV station, but the footage was never commercially released and so unlike that other 1969 festival, this event largely slipped from public memory.

Now, the Harlem Cultural Festival finally gets its due in the form of Summer of Soul, a forthcoming documentary directed by Questlove that uses that old footage to great effect. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this movie — it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Summer of Soul is out in theaters and on Hulu July 2.

Guest Vocalist Dave Chappelle Sings Creep at Foo Fighters’ MSG Show

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2021

Well this is peak…something: last night surprise guest Dave Chappelle led fans in a singalong of Radiohead’s Creep at the Foo Fighters’ Madison Square Garden show (which you had to be vaccinated to get in to). Not much more to say about it — you’re either going to watch it or not based on that info. Nature is healing?!

Bone Music: Forbidden Soviet Records Made From Used X-Ray Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2021

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union controlled the music recording industry and even restricted the types of music that were allowed to be played & listened to. Or they tried to anyway. Enterprising Soviet bootleggers took used x-ray films, many of them still containing images of bones and skulls, and recorded forbidden music on them, including jazz and rock & roll from the West. They called it ribs, bones, bone music, or jazz on ribs. From a 2017 article in Vice:

X-rays proved to be an suitable medium. They were cheaply and easily (albeit illegally) acquired from local hospitals that were required to throw out the flammable sheets. They took the groove relatively well, though nowhere near as well as vinyl — some X-ray discs apparently sound like listening to music through sand — and they were easy to fold into a shirt sleeve of pocket for a quick transaction. The X-rays were also stunningly beautiful.

And from an NPR article on Soviet samizdat:

Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film salvaged from hospital waste bins and archives.

“Usually it was the Western music they wanted to copy,” says Sergei Khrushchev. “Before the tape recorders they used the X-ray film of bones and recorded music on the bones, bone music.”

“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan - forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

To learn more about bone music, you can check out Stephen Coates’ book X-Ray Audio, The X-Ray Audio Project (which includes digital recordings made from some of the bone recordshere’s Lullaby of Birdland by Ella Fitzgerald), and this short documentary:

Yo-Yo Ma Answers Questions About the Cello

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2021

As part of the Tech Support series, Wired had Yo-Yo Ma answer some questions about the cello and music sent in by Twitter users. What I like about this is that no critic or professional interviewer would ask these questions (they are “bad” interview questions) and yet Ma answers them all generously and thoughtfully. It reminds me a little bit of when Vogue trained an AI program to interview Billie Eilish:

What I really loved hearing Billie say was that human interviewers often ask the same questions over and over, and she appreciated that the AI questions don’t have an agenda in the same way, they’re not trying to get anything from her.

Perhaps with interesting subjects who are game, having “good” interview questions maybe isn’t that important, particularly if they are repeated queried about the same topics in every interview.

Bo Burnham Welcomes You to the Internet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

I have been hearing nothing but good things, and lots of them, about comedian Bo Burnham’s new show on Netflix called Inside. Burnham did the entire thing by himself in his house during the pandemic — writing, music, cinematography, editing, etc. In this clip from the show, Burnham performs a song called “Welcome to the Internet”. (via waxy)

1000 Musicians Play Rock Songs From Nirvana, Queen, etc.

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2021

Before I clicked play on the video embedded above of 1000 musicians playing Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters, I assumed it was going to be kind of a mess, a muddled wall of sound. Instead, I was surprised to hear something almost magical, a rock anthem played with the fullness of a orchestra or chorus, the band and the crowd merged into a single, gorgeously layered entity. I was moved by it, almost immediately. All those drummers pounding away on their drum kits in unison! You can check out this playlist for more 1000 musician versions of rock songs, including Seven Nation Army (White Stripes), We Will Rock You (Queen), and Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana):

I also have to say that these videos hit me harder now, 15 months into a global pandemic that kept my family and I separated from all but a narrow slice of the world, than they would have before, especially now that things are starting to loosen up a bit and I am able to safely socialize with other vaccinated folks in person. Seeing thousands of people collectively engaged something so joyful is both a reminder of what we lost during the pandemic and what we stand to gain if we can manage to contain the virus worldwide. I think this is the reason why this video of a flash mob performing Ode to Joy went viral early on in the pandemic. All the feels. (another great find via openculture)