What Did People Eat in Medieval Times? A Video Series and New Cookbook Explain

A couple days ago, Open Culture’s Ayun Halliday brought us the delightfully amusing medieval comics of artist Tyler Gunther. With references to Game of Thrones and a piece of women’s headgear called “Planetary Realness,” the single-panel gags use seemingly-period-correct imagery to play with our presentist biases. The “Medieval Peasant Food Pyramid,” for example, shows a diet based on copious amounts of ale, bread, and cheese, with goose pie once a year and nary a fruit or vegetable in sight.

Stereotypes of medieval European nutrition seem comparatively benign, derived as much from fantasy entertainment as from misunderstandings of history. But while it’s true people in Europe hundreds of years ago died young and in huge numbers from plague, famine, war, and, yes, bad food, they also survived long enough to pass on genes and build cities and towns that still exist today. They didn’t do so strictly on a diet of beer and bread.

If we want to know what people really ate in, say, 12th century England, we’ll find that their diets varied widely from region to region, depending on what cooks could grow, forage, or purchase from other locals. Everyone, in other words, was a localvore. Each region had its recipes for breads and cheeses, and each its own dishes made with its own animals, herbs, spices, and roughage. And we’ll find that major historical events could radically alter diets, as foods—and arable land—became scarcer or more plentiful.

Such were the findings of non-profit volunteer history group Iron Shepherds, who used primary texts, images, and cooking methods to reconstruct ten 12th-century recipes from their native “home county of Cumbria, in the North of England,” reports Atlas Obscura. “[W]hile the country became embroiled in a bloody civil war” over succession during a time known as The Anarchy, Cumbria became a part of Scotland, and lived in relative stability, "home to cultures ranging from the invading Flemish and Frenchman to Celts and even Norse Vikings.”

Needless to say, this diversity of cultures contributed to a diversity of tastes, and a colorful range of dishes with names like frumenty, plumentum, and tardpolene. “Cumbria’s peasants, it turns out, ate much as we strive to today—though for vastly different reasons….." The peasants’ "diets consisted of plant-based, low-sugar meals of locally-sourced, if not home-grown ingredients.” Involuntary fasting might have been a feature for many peasants, but so too was “voluntary, intermittent fasting…. In the name of religious self-discipline.”

What about the upper classes? How might, say, a landed knight eat, once he finished roaming his demesne and rested safe at home with his staff and entourage? In the video at the top, Modern History TV’s Jason Kingsley and food historian Chris Carr discuss the dietary practices of the privileged in medieval times. Again, here we find more surprisingly forward-thinking preventative nutrition, though limited by the medicine of the time. Cooks would consult with the knight’s personal physician, who himself would monitor his patient’s vitals—going so far as to taste the knight’s urine, a way of detecting what we now know as diabetes. Too sweet? Cut out the sugar.

Iron Shepherd’s Medieval Meals cookbook has proven so popular that it’s currently sold out, but you can see many more episodes of Modern History TV’s medieval series devoted to food at their channel on YouTube, including the videos above on the diets of peasants, nobles, and knight’s vassals. There are also vlogs on “Hearty Food vs. Posh Food,” “Good Eating,” and—in answer to that age-old question—“What did medieval peasants use instead of plastic wrap” to store their leftovers? Come for the food, stay for the lively videos on weaponry, hoods, and hay making.

via Atlas Obscura

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Jimi Hendrix Wreaks Havoc on the Lulu Show, Gets Banned From the BBC (1969)

Can you imagine Jimi Hendrix singing a duet with Lulu? Well, neither could Hendrix. So when the iconoclastic guitar player showed up with his band at the BBC studios in London on January 4, 1969 to appear on Happening for Lulu, he was horrified to learn that the show's producer wanted him to sing with the winsome star of To Sir, With Love. The plan called for The Jimi Hendrix Experience to open their set with "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and then play their early hit "Hey Joe," with Lulu joining Hendrix onstage at the end to sing the final bars with him before segueing into her regular show-closing number. "We cringed," writes bassist Noel Redding in his memoir, Are You Experienced? The Inside Story of The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Redding describes the scene that he, Hendrix, and drummer Mitch Mitchell walked into that day as being "so straight it was only natural that we would try to combat that atmosphere by having a smoke in our dressing room." He continues:

In our haste, the lump of hash got away and slipped down the sink drainpipe. Panic! We just couldn't do this show straight--Lulu didn't approve of smoking! She was then married to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, whom I'd visited and shared a smoke with. I could always tell Lulu was due home when Maurice started throwing open all the windows. Anyway, I found a maintenance man and begged tools from him with the story of a lost ring. He was too helpful, offering to dismantle the drain for us. It took ages to dissuade him, but we succeeded in our task and had a great smoke.

When it was time for The Jimi Hendrix Experience to go on camera, they were feeling fairly loose. They tore through "Voodoo Child" and then the program cut to Lulu, who was squeezed awkwardly into a chair next to an audience member in the front row. "That was really hot," she said. "Yeah. Well ladies and gentlemen, in case you didn't know, Jimi and the boys won in a big American magazine called Billboard the group of the year." As Lulu spoke a loud shriek of feedback threw her off balance. Was it an accident? Hendrix, of course, was a pioneer in the intentional use of feedback. A bit flustered, she continued: "And they're gonna sing for you now the song that absolutely made them in this country, and I'd love to hear them sing it: 'Hey Joe.'"

The band launched into the song, but midway through--before Lulu had a chance to join them onstage--Hendrix signaled to the others to quit playing. "We'd like to stop playing this rubbish," he said, "and dedicate a song to the Cream, regardless of what kind of group they may be in. We dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce." With that the band veered off into an instrumental version of "Sunshine of Your Love" by the recently disbanded Cream. Noel Redding continues the story:

This was fun for us, but producer Stanley Dorfman didn't take it at all well as the minutes ticked by on his live show. Short of running onto the set to stop us or pulling the plug, there was nothing he could do. We played past the point where Lulu might have joined us, played through the time for talking at the end, played through Stanley tearing his hair, pointing to his watch and silently screaming at us. We played out the show. Afterwards, Dorfman refused to speak to us but the result is one of the most widely used bits of film we ever did. Certainly, it's the most relaxed.

The stunt reportedly got Hendrix banned from the BBC--but it made rock and roll history. Years later, Elvis Costello paid homage to Hendrix's antics when he performed on Saturday Night Live. You can watch The Stunt That Got Elvis Costello Banned From SNL here.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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The Stunt That Got Elvis Costello Banned From Saturday Night Live (1977)

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Visit the Homes That Great Architects Designed for Themselves: Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius & Frank Gehry

However impressive the buildings they design in the eminence of middle- and old age, most architects start their careers with private houses. Some architects, if they come into money early in life or simply can't sell themselves to any other clients, start with their own private house. But most have to put in a few years' or even decades' work before they possess the wealth, the stability, or the aesthetic assurance needed to quite literally make a home for themselves. No such hesitance, however, for Frank Lloyd Wright, who when still in his early twenties built a home for his young family in Oak Park, Illinois, which became his studio and later an American National Historic Landmark.

You can get a wintertime tour of Wright's Oak Park home and studio — complete with snow falling outside and a tall Christmas tree inside — in the video above. A veritable catalog of all the nineteenth-century movements that influenced the young architect, from the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to the English Arts and Crafts movement to philosophies that held interior decoration to be a tool of moral improvement, the house still stands in bold contrast to all those around it. Wright lived and worked in the Oak Park house for twenty years, designed more than 150 projects in the studio, giving it a fair claim to be the birthplace of his still-influential early conception of a truly American architecture.

Just a few decades into the twentieth century, it started to seem that the most inspiring American architecture would come drawn up by European hands. The Austrian architect Richard Neutra moved to the United States in 1923, and after briefly working for Wright headed out to Los Angeles at the invitation of his compatriot Rudolf Schindler. There he worked on projects whose combination of rigorous geometry and openness to their surroundings would define what we still think of as mid-century modern residential architecture. A few years after designing the famous Lovell Health House, completed in 1929, he took a loan from architecture-loving Dutch industrialist Cees H. Van der Leeuw and got to work on his own home, dubbed the VDL Research House.

Even without a wealthy client like the eccentric health guru Philip Lovell, Neutra built a house that would nevertheless keep its residents — he and his family — in contact with air, light, and nature. The result, as explained in the Dwell video on the VDL Research House above, is a version of European-style international Modernism "adapted to the California climate, adapted to the California lifestyle," whose twelve exterior doors ensure that "no matter where you are, you can walk outside," and none of whose aesthetic features try to compete with its natural surroundings. Neutra, who lived in the house until his death in 1932 (with a period away after its destruction by fire in 1963 and subsequent reconstruction) wrote that he "wanted to demonstrate that human beings, brought together in close proximity, can be accommodated in very satisfying circumstances, taking in that precious amenity called privacy."

While Neutra was enjoying his realized vision of a new domestic life in California, Le Corbusier was hard at work realizing his own back in Europe. Designing an apartment block for a private developer in Paris' 16th arrondissement, the Swiss-French architect negotiated the seventh and eighth floors for himself. His home in the building, named Immeuble Molitorat when completed in 1934, includes an art studio, a rooftop garden, plenty of skylights and glass bricks to let in light, and a bedroom modeled after an ocean liner cabin with a bed raised high enough to take in the view of Boulogne over the balcony. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016, Immeuble Molitorat also underwent a thorough restoration project beginning that year, chronicled in the documentary Chez Le Corbusier above.

Le Courbusier didn't get quite as much traction in the New World as he did in the Old, unlike some European architects of his generation whose work attained full bloom only after crossing the ocean. Bauhaus school founder Walter Gropius surely falls into the latter group, and it didn't take him long to establish himself in America, where he'd arrived with his wife Ise in 1937, with a house of his own that looked like nothing most Americans had ever seen before. Nor, as Gropius later wrote, had Europeans:  "I made it a point to absorb into my own conception those features of the New England architectural tradition that I found still alive and adequate. This fusion of the regional spirit with a contemporary approach to design produced a house that I would never have built in Europe."

"My husband was always charmed by the natural curiosity of Americans," says Ise in her narration of Walter Gropius: His New World Home, the short film above made the year after the architect's death. Located in Lincoln, Massachusetts, which Ise describes as "very near Walden Pond" in the "heart of the Puritan New England countryside," both the house and the landscape around it were planned with a Bauhaus interest in maximum efficiency and simplicity. Filled with furniture made in Bauhaus workshops in the 1920s, the house also became a party space twice a year for Gropius graduate students at Harvard, "to give them a chance to see a modern house in operation, because they couldn't see it any place else except in the Middle West, where houses by Frank Lloyd Wright had been built, or in California, where houses by Mr. Neutra had been built."

After the Second World War, industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames brought into the world a new kind of Californian indoor-outdoor Modernism with their 1949 Eames House, a kind of Mondrian painting made into a livable box filled with an idiosyncratic arrangements of artifacts from all over the world. In 1955 the Eamses made the film above, House: After Five Years of Living, a wordless collection set to music of views of and from the house. By then the Eames House had already become the most famous of the "Case Study Houses," all commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine in a challenge to well-known architects (Neutra was another participant) to "create ‘good’ living conditions" for postwar American families, all of which"must be capable of duplication and in no sense be an individual ‘performance.'”

But unless you count recreations in reverential museum exhibits, none of the 25 Case Study Houses were ever replicated, and the Eames House strikes modern observers as an individual performance as much as does Philip Johnson's also-boxlike Glass House, built the same year in New Canaan, Connecticut. With its every wall, window, and door made out of the material in its name, the house provided the architect a living experience, until his death in 2005, that he described as "a permanent camping trip." Built with industrial materials and German ideas — ideas a bit too similar, some say, to those of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House in Illinois — the Glass House's fame, as New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff puts it, "may have done more to make Modernism palatable to the country's social elites than any other structure of the 20th century."

The 90-year-old Frank Gehry, in collaboration with his architect son Sam, recently finished a new house in Santa Monica for himself and his family. But the old house he'd designed for himself and his family in Santa Monica must have served him well, since he'd occupied it for more than 40 years. It began as an existing, unremarkable Dutch Colonial structure, yet when Gehry realized he needed more space, he simply designed another house to build not over but around it. He drew inspiration from the industrial materials he saw around him, deliberately incorporating great quantities of glass, plywood, corrugated metal, and chain-link fencing. "I had just been through a study of chain-link fencing," Gehry recalls in the video above, produced for the Gehry Residence's reception of an award from the American Institute of Architects.

Because chain-link fencing was so ubiquitous, he says, "and because it was so universally hated, the denial thing interested me." Though his mixture of "fragment and whole, raw and refined, new and old" angered his neighbors at first, it has come to stand as a statement not just of Gehry's aesthetic sensibility — the one that has shaped the likes of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Bilbao — but of another strong possibility for what American architecture can be. "I was responding to time and place and budget, and character of the neighborhood and context and what was going on in the world at that time," Gehry says. "That's the best thing to do when you're a student, is not to try to be somebody else. Don't try to be Frank Gehry. Don't try to be Frank Lloyd Wright."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Is the Live Music Experience Irreplaceable? Pretty Much Pop #11

Surely technological advances have made it unnecessary to ever leave the house, right? Is there still a point in seeing live people actually doing things right in front of you?

Dave Hamilton (Host of Gig GabMac Geek Gab) joins Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss what’s so damn cool about live music (and theater), the alternatives (live-streamed-to-theaters or devices, recorded for TV, VR), why tickets are so expensive, whether tribute bands fulfill our needs, the connection between live music and drugs, singing along to the band, and more.

We touch on Rush (and their tribute Lotus Land), Damien Rice, Todd Rundgren, The Who, Cop RockBat out of Hell: The MusicalHedwig and the Angry Inch, the filmed Shrek The Musical, and Rifftrax Live.

We used some articles to feed this episode, though we didn’t really bring them up:

You know Mark also runs a music podcast, right? Check out Erica doin’ her fiddlin’ and singin’. Listen to Mark’s mass of tunes. Here’s Dave singing and drumming some Badfinger live with his band Fling, and here’s Mark live singing “The Grinch.”

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Ric Ocasek and The Cars Perform Live in Concert After Their Groundbreaking Debut Album: Watch the Complete Show (January 13, 1979)

Legendary musician and producer Ric Ocasek passed away on Sunday, and the whole rock world mourns his loss. Greatly respected not only by fans but by fellow musicians (and Stephen Colbert), Ocasek achieved a very rare position in the music business—one almost unheard-of: an international superstar in the 80s with his band The Cars, formed in Boston in the late 70s, he thrived in the era of the video star, at the dawning of the music video age alongside 80s juggernauts like Van Halen, Madonna, and Michael Jackson.

Ocasek was also one of the most revered producers in 80s punk and 90s alt-rock, with as much credibility in such circles as producers like Steve Albini and Butch Vig. (His credits include Bad Brain’s Rock for Light, Weezer’s Blue Album and Green Album, and records by Suicide, Hole, Bad Religion, Jonathan Richman, Guided by Voices, etc. etc.) He had a daunting work ethic, but he also had a great deal of humility and an enduring sense of what recorded music does for us.

He may have mastered the art of making hit records and slick videos, but as he told Rolling Stone in 1980, “music’s a powerful emotional force” that is, most importantly, “a way to communicate without alienating people, a way to get beyond loneliness. It’s a private thing people can have for themselves any time they want. Just turn on the radio and there it is: a sense of belonging.” That’s what The Cars gave their fans.

They created a sense of familiarity, blending synth pop, punk, and New Wave with classic rock and roll moves; five ordinary-looking joes who’d paid their bar band dues. They also sustained an air of alienation and intrigue. Willing to be silly, yet unapproachably cool, with the most weirdly oblique of pop radio hits. “With their debut album in 1978,” writes Rolling Stone’s Mikal Gilmore, “the Cars created one of the rarest phenomena of late-Seventies rock & roll: a pop artifact that unified many factions of a pluralistic rock scene.”

“Conservative radio programmers jumped on it because of Ocasek’s consonant pop symmetry and Roy Thomas Baker’s polished, economical production; New Wave partisans favored it for its terse melodicism and ultramodern stance; and critics applauded it for its synthesis of prepunk art-rock influences, including Lou Reed, David Bowie, Roxy Music and Brian Eno.” The band's reputation with critics would suffer with their sophomore album, Candy-O. And what Gilmore called the “technopop” of their third record came to define their sound in the 80s.

The Cars in 1978 were raw and edgy, even as their debut album spawned some of their most radio-friendly hit songs, including “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed” (the first three tracks on the first record, and some of the biggest songs of their entire seven-album run). See them play the early hits and more  at the University of Sussex, Brighton in 1979 in the full concert film above, and let the good times roll.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Learn the Number One Rule of Funk: Bootsy Collins Explains the Importance of “Keeping It on the One”

We all want the funk, but do we even really know what it is? Most every style of music has its distinctive rhythmic properties, from waltzes to samba to the offbeat ska guitar of reggae. But what is it that primarily defines the music of James Brown and other funk greats—music we cannot seem to hear without moving some part of our bodies? If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry—not even the great Bootsy Collins understood the fundamental principle when he first backed the Godfather of Funk in the early 70s.

Though funk is purpose-built to make people get loose and has produced some of the freest spirits in popular music, it must be played a certain way, its high practitioners proclaim. No less a master of funk than Prince put it best, as Austin Kleon notes: “Funk is the opposite of magic. Funk is about rules.” Collins learned the number one rule in Brown’s band, the sine qua non of all funk: You’ve got to keep it on the one. In other words, the bass has to hit the first beat of every bar.

Hit the one, Collins learned (and teaches us in the short lesson at the top) and you can blast into the wild pyrotechnics that made him famous. Miss the one, and no amount of fancy fretwork is going to impress James Brown, who told him, “you give me the one, you can do all those other things.” (See Collins tell the story in the video clip below.) Brown had an elaborate theory of “the one,” according to his biographer RJ Smith: “The ‘One’ is derived from the Earth itself,” he said, “the soil, the pine trees of my youth. And most important, it’s on the upbeat…. never on lowdownbeat.”

It’s the one, according to Brown, that gives funk its root and its fruit: a seismic, earthy pulse and sexy, uplifting optimism. “I was born to the downbeat, and I can tell you without question there is no pride in it.” Unlike his mentor, Bootsy doesn’t shade the blues when talking about the one. But he does have a message to deliver and it’s this: once you get the “basic funk formula, you can do anything you want to do with it.” Booty’s been bringing the funk since it began and took it places James Brown would never tread in Parliament/Funkadelic. Who better to carry the message to would-be funkateers out there?

In order to reach as many as possible, Collins decided to found a school, “Funk U.,” in 2010. Still going strong, the program has featured such guest online lecturers as Flea, Les Claypool, and Victor Wooten. The lessons of Funk U. are about music, he says, but they’re also about something else: about the deep truths he learned from James Brown. “You need the discipline and you also need to know that you can experiment, and you can open up and let your creative juices flow.” All that from the simple rhythmic beauty of keeping it on the one.

via Austin Kleon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Art Trips: Visit the Art of Cities Around the World, from Los Angeles & London, to Venice and New York

When first we visit a city, even a small one, we can't hope to see all of it. Hence the need for strategies of approach and exploration: do we walk its main streets? Eat its food and drink its drinks? Visit its most beloved bookstores? Sarah Urist Green gets into cities through their art, hardly a surprising habit for the creator of the PBS Digital Studios series The Art Assignment. We first featured The Art Assignment five years ago here on Open Culture, and Green and her collaborators have kept up the good work ever since. In that time their mission of "traveling around the country, visiting artists and asking them to give you an art assignment" has expanded, taking them outside America as well. On the road they've collected not just material for regular episodes, but for special Art Trips as well.

Their first Art Trip to Los Angeles, for instance, takes Green and company to the Hammer Museum, the galleries of Culver City (one of which has a show up of Andy Warhol's shadow paintings), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where they walk under Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass and through Chris Burden's much-Instagrammed Urban Light), and the then-newly-opened Broad Art Museum. In between they take side trips for refreshment at the noted ice cream sandwich shop Coolhaus (named in honor of the Dutch architect) and deep into the Inland Empire city of Bakersfield. This combination of places expected and unexpected comes not without the occasional tourist cliche, such as Green's description of "the most quintessential of Los Angeles experiences: driving."

The Art Assigment's return visit to the southern Californian metropolis focuses on "the Los Angeles hiding in plain sight" with Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a series of exhibitions all over the city on Latino and Latina artists at institutions like the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Los Angeles Central Library, and the Geffen Contemporary. All the while Green and her team eat plenty of tacos, as any Angeleno would advise, and the final night of their stay finds them in Grand Park among the shrine-like handmade offerings set up for Día de los Muertos, all of them crafted with an eeriness matched only by their good humor.

Los Angeles has become an acknowledged art capital over the past half-century, but London, fair to say, has a bit more history behind it. The Art Assignment's time in the English capital coincides with Frieze Week, when galleries from all over the world descend on Regent's Park to show off their most striking artistic wares. Not coincidentally, the museums and galleries based in the city use the same part of the year to schedule some of their most anticipated shows, turning the few days of this Art Trip in London into a mad rush from Trafalgar Square to the National Portrait Gallery to the Royal Academy of Arts to the Courtauld Institute of Art, by which point Green admits the onset of "masterpiece overload " — but also has several galleries, not to mention the main event of Frieze itself, to go.

Frieze Week doesn't come to Detroit, the onetime capital of American auto manufacturing whose population peaked in the middle of the 20th century and whose subsequent hard times, culminating in the city's 2013 bankruptcy, have been chronicled with both fascination and despair. But The Art Assignment finds a Detroit apart from the ruined factories, theaters, and train stations, the stuff of so many internet slideshows, at the Motown Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts (home to Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Murals), as well as in folk-art environments like the famous Heidelberg Project and public-art environments like downtown Detroit, whose recent revival has proven as compelling as its long decline. But many ruins remain, and artists like Scott Hocking have found in them not just their subjects but their materials as well.

More striking than Detroit's urban desolation is that of another unlikely The Art Assignment destination, Marfa, Texas. In his essay "The Republic of Marfa," Sean Wilsey describes it as "a hardscrabble ranching community in the upper Chihuahuan desert, sixty miles north of the Mexican border, that inhabits some of the most beautiful and intransigent countryside imaginable." In the mid-1970s "the minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa, exiling himself from what he termed the 'glib and harsh' New York art scene, in order to live in a sort of high plains laboratory devoted to building, sculpture, furniture design, museology, conservation, and a dash of ranching," and his influence — as well as the presence of his large-scale installations — helped to make Marfa "a sort of city-state of cattlemen, artists, writers, fugitives, smugglers, free-thinkers, environmentalists, soldiers and secessionists."

In Marfa Green explores the monumental work Judd left behind as well as the monumental work other artists have since contributed, including a project in a converted military barracks by neon artist Dan Flavin and a fake Prada store. Other Art Trip destinations include the likes of Chicago and Columbus, Indiana (modern-architecture mecca and setting of the recent feature film by video essayist Kogonada) as well as Tijuana and the Venice Biennale, all of which you can find on one playlist. Green has even done an Art Trip right where she lives, the "bland-leaning, chain restaurant-loving" Midwestern city of Indianapolis — which boasts the Museum of Psychphonics, an under-freeway art installation by Vito Acconci, and a fair few bike-share book-share stations as well. We can never fully know the cities we don't live in, but nor can we ever fully know the cities we do live in either — which, if we nevertheless enjoy the attempt as much as Green does, is no bad thing at all.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

25 John Lennon Fans Sing His First Post-Beatles Album, Working Class Hero, Word for Word, and Note for Note

A working class hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

- John Lennon, “Working Class Hero

Artist Candice Breitz knows that a true fan’s connection to a beloved musical artist is a source of power, however lopsided the “relationship” may be.

Favorite albums are touchstones that get us through good times and bad.

They pin us to a particular place and time.

There are patches when it feels like a singer we’ve never met is the only one in the world who truly knows us. Just ask your average teenager.

A dime will net you dozens upon dozens of Beatles fans, but a person who knows all the words to John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, the 1970 solo album that followed hard on the heels of the Fab Four’s break up inhabits a far more rarified strata of fandom.

That person has earned the mantle of tried-and-true John fan.

And 25 of those earned a spot in Breitz’s 2006 "Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon)," above, a multi-channel singalong of the aforementioned John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band.

As with Breitz’s previous portraits of Bob MarleyMadonna, and Michael Jackson, the singer is the elephant in the room, the only voice absent from the choir that forms when the participants’ solo recording sessions are played simultaneously, as they are in the finished piece.

Recruited by notices in papers throughout the UK, including the Liverpool Echo, the fans’ degree of devotion, as evidenced by their responses to an in-depth questionnaire, mattered far and above training, talent, or appearance:

I want people who've been fans for 30 years or more, who aren't shy in front of a camera and want to pay tribute to John Lennon.

We'd love some Scousers, it would be a great pity not to have a group of Liverpudlians.

Those who made the cut were reimbursed for travel to a recording studio at Newcastle University, and filmed wearing their own clothes, free to emote or not as they saw fit. Some may have  fallen shy of the “30 years or more” requirement, and indeed, may not even have been born at the time of Lennon’s 1980 murder.

Just more proof of this legend’s staying power.

Their stamina is to be congratulated. It’s no easy feat to open with "Mother," a literal screamer born of Lennon’s forays into Primal Therapy.

And the tenderness they bring to quieter numbers like "Love" and "Hold On" is touching indeed. It’s not hard to guess who they’re singing to.

(It’s also really fun to witness them fumbling through "Hold On"’s ad-libbed “cookies,” a salute to Cookie Monster that also harkens to the childhood regression Lennon underwent as part of his Primal Therapy.)

Readers, if you were given the opportunity to contribute to one of Candice Breitz’s composite celebrity portraits, who would you want to pay tribute to, living or dead?

Related Content:

30 Fans Joyously Sing the Entirety of Bob Marley’s Legend Album in Unison

Hear the Original, Never-Heard Demo of John Lennon’s “Imagine”

John Lennon’s Report Card at Age 15: “He Has Too Many Wrong Ambitions and His Energy Is Too Often Misplaced”

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley. Follow her @AyunHalliday.


How Sergio Leone Made Music an Actor in His Spaghetti Westerns, Creating a Perfect Harmony of Sound & Image

Nearly everyone who's heard music has also received intense feelings from music. "We know that music activates parts of the brain that regulate emotion, that it can help us concentrate, trigger memories, make us want to dance," says Evan Puschak, better known as the Nerdwriter, in his latest video essay. "Music fits so well with the patterns of thought, it's almost as if that lyrical quality is latent in life, or reality, or both. In film, no one understood this better than Sergio Leone, the Italian director of operatic spaghetti Westerns." And though you may not have seen any spaghetti Westerns yourself — even Leone's Clint Eastwood-starring trilogy of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — you've surely heard their music.

The fame of the spaghetti Western score owes mostly to composer Ennio Morricone, whose collaboration with Leone "is arguably the most successful in all of cinema," thanks to "the deep respect Leone had for Morricone's work, but also his general feeling for how music should function in film." Unlike most filmmakers, who then, as now, commissioned a picture's score only after they completed the shooting, and sometimes even the editing, Leone would get Morricone's music first, "then design shots around those compositions.

The music, for Leone, really was a kind of script." Using scenes from Once Upon a Time in the West, Puschak shows that music was also an actor, in the sense that Leone brought it to the set so his human actors could react to it during the shoot. Often the music we hear in the background is also what the actors were hearing in the background, and what Leone used to orchestrate their actions and expressions.

Puschak calls the result "a perfect harmony of sound and image," whether the visual element may be a soaring crane shot or the kind of extended close-up he favored of a human face. Among living filmmakers, the spaghetti Western-loving Quentin Tarantino has most clearly followed in Leone's footsteps, to the point that he incorporated Morricone's music in several films before commissioning an original score from the composer for his own western The Hateful Eight. He goes in no more than Leone did for the "temp score," the standard Hollywood practice of filling the soundtrack of a movie in production with existing music and then asking a composer to write replacement music that sounds like it — a major cause of all the bland film scores we hear today. To go back to Once Upon a Time in the West, or any other of Leone's Westerns, is to understand once again what role music in film can really play.

Related Content:

Quentin Tarantino Lists His 20 Favorite Spaghetti Westerns

The Music in Quentin Tarantino’s Films: Hear a 5-Hour, 100-Song Playlist

Hear 5 Hours of Ennio Morricone’s Scores for Classic Western Films: From Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns to Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Ukulele Orchestra Performs Ennio Morricone’s Iconic Western Theme Song, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” And It’s Pretty Brilliant

Watch the Opening of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with the Original, Unused Score

Why Marvel and Other Hollywood Films Have Such Bland Music: Every Frame a Painting Explains the Perils of the “Temp Score”

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

John Milton’s Hand Annotated Copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio: A New Discovery by a Cambridge Scholar

Perhaps the most well-read writer of his time, English poet John Milton “knew the biblical languages, along with Homer’s Greek and Vergil’s Latin,” notes the NYPL. He likely had Dante’s Divine Comedy in mind when he wrote Paradise Lost. His own Protestant epic, if not a theological response to the Divine Comedy, had as much literary impact on the English language as Dante’s poem did on Italian. Milton would also have as much influence on English as Shakespeare, his near contemporary, who died eight years after the Paradise Lost author was born.

In some sense, Milton can be called a direct literary heir of Shakespeare, though he wrote in a different medium and idiom (almost a different language), and with a very different set of concerns.

Milton’s father was a trustee of the Blackfriar’s Theatre, where Shakespeare’s company of actors, the King’s Men, began performing in 1609, the year after Milton’s birth. And Milton’s first published poem appeared anonymously in the 1632 second folio of Shakespeare’s plays under the title “An Epitaph on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare.”

Now known as “On Shakespeare,” the poem laments the sorry state of Shakespeare’s legacy—his monument a “weak witness,” his work an “unvalued book.” It may be difficult to imagine a time when Shakespeare wasn’t revered, but his reputation only began to spread beyond the theater in the early 17th century. Milton’s poem was one of the first to proclaim Shakespeare’s greatness, as a poet who should lie “in such pomp” that “kings for such a tomb would wish to die.”

Now, it seems that significant further evidence of Milton’s admiration, and critical appreciation, of Shakespeare has emerged: in the form of Milton’s own, personal copy of the 1623 First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays, with annotations in Milton’s own hand. Moreover, it seems this evidence has been sitting under scholar’s noses for decades, housed in the public Free Library of Philadelphia’s Rare Book Department, one of over 230 extant copies of the First Folio.

In a blog post at the Centre for Material Texts, the University of Cambridge’s Jason Scott-Warren makes his case that the annotated First Folio is Milton’s own, primarily, he writes, on the basis of paleography, or handwriting analysis. “This just looks like Milton’s hand,” he says, then walks through several comparisons with other known Milton manuscripts, such as his commonplace book and annotated Bible.

There is also the copious evidence for dating the book to the time Milton would have owned it, from the many marginal references to contemporary works like Samuel Purchas’ 1625 Pilgrimes and John Fletcher’s The Bloody Brother. Milton “added marginal markings to all of the plays except for Henry VI 1-3 and Titus Andronicus,” notes Scott-Warren. His corrections—from the Quarto—emendations, and “smart cross-references” are “intelligent and assiduous.”

Anticipating blowback for his Milton theory, Scott-Warren asks, “wouldn’t his copy be bristling with cross-references, packed with smart observations and angrily censorious comments?” It would indeed, and “several distinguished Miltonists” have agreed with Scott-Warren’s analysis, many contacting him, he writes in a postscript, to say they’re “confident that this identification is correct." He adds that he has “been roundly rebuked for understating the significance of the discovery.”

This kind of self-reported validation isn’t exactly peer review, but we don’t have to take his word for it. Said scholars have made their approval publicly, enthusiastically, known on Twitter. And Penn State Assistant Professor of English Claire M.L. Bourne has written a congratulatory essay on her blog. It was Bourne who spurred on Scott-Warren’s investigation with her own essay “Vide Supplementum: Early Modern Collation as Play-Reading in the First Folio,” published just months earlier this year.

Bourne was one of the first few scholars to thoroughly examine the Free Library of Philadelphia’s copy of the First Folio. But, she admits, she completely missed the Milton connection. “You can work for a decade,” she writes ruefully, “as I did, on a single book… and still be left with gaping holes in the narrative.” This new scholarship may not only have filled in the mystery of the book’s first owner and annotator; it may also show the full degree to which Milton engaged with Shakespeare, and give Milton scholars “a new and significant field of reference” for reading his work.

via MetaFilter

Related Content:

William Blake’s Hallucinatory Illustrations of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

3,000 Illustrations of Shakespeare’s Complete Works from Victorian England, Neatly Presented in a New Digital Archive

Spenser and Milton (Free Course) 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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