The Expansive Vocal Range of Joni Mitchell: From the Early to Later Years

It’s quite a testament to Joni Mitchell’s musicianship that her “voice is arguably the most underrated aspect of her music.” So writes a contributor to The Range Place, an online project that analyzes the vocal ranges of popular singers. This is not to say that Mitchell’s voice is underrated—far from it—but her adventurous, deeply personal lyricism and experimental songwriting are how she is most often distinguished from the cohort of 60s singer-songwriters who emerged from the folk scene. (She first became known as the writer of Judy Collins’ hit, “Both Sides, Now.”)

That said, there’s no mistaking her for any other singer. “With very wide vibrato, she would frequently reach into her upper register comfortably with a blissful falsetto while still being able to reach some smooth lower notes with ease.” You can hear examples of her vocal range above, in excerpts from dozens of songs, both studio and live versions, recorded throughout her career. “She was a mezzo-soprano through the late sixties and seventies, with her voice standing out among other singer-songwriters due to its unusual comfort in the fifth octave.”




There are many other qualities that set Mitchell’s voice apart, including her incredible sense of pitch and rhythm. As session singer and vocal coach Jaime Babbitt writes, “singers who study singing and play instruments that make chords are better than all the rest. Joni Mitchell played many: dulcimer, guitar, piano, and flute, even ukulele as a child.” Mitchell’s instrumental skill gave her precise vocal timing, “a critical and often overlooked singer-skill,” and one that contributes hugely to a vocal performance.

Her love of jazz infuses even her folkiest songs with rhythmic vocal patterns that run up and down the scale. (Hear an example in the isolated vocals from 1971’s “River,” just above.) Just as every singer’s voice will do, Mitchell’s range narrowed with age. “Her voice nowadays,” writes The Range Place (though she no longer performs), “is closer to that of a contralto than to that of a mezzo-soprano, having lowered substantially more than other singers from the seventies”—a likely outcome of her lifelong smoking habit.

It’s common to say of an older singer that “she can’t hit the high notes anymore,” but this judgment misses out on the richness of a mature voice. Mitchell’s “indomitable technique” never wavered in her later years, Paul Taylor argues at The Independent. Her later voice was “stunning (bereft, bewildered, stoical),” transformed from the ambitious, piercing falsetto to “radiant/rueful” and wise.

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

J.K. Rowling Is Publishing Her New Children’s Novel Free Online, One Chapter Per Day

Image via Wikimedia Commons

J.K. Rowling may be the queen of children's literature, but how many of her fans have noticed she hasn't published a book for children in nearly thirteen years? Today's twentysomethings will recall fondly the summer of 2007, when they descended upon bookstores for their copy, or copies, of the concluding volume of the Harry Potter series. Thereafter Rowling, no doubt eager to write for an audience closer to her own age, put out the bleak social comedy The Casual Vacancy and a series of crime thrillers under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Rowling's latest Galbraith novel Troubled Blood is scheduled for publication in the fall of this year, but the current generation of young readers can enjoy her new fairy tale The Ickabog online now as she serializes it for free over the next two months.

"The idea for The Ickabog came to me while I was still writing Harry Potter," says Rowling in an introductory post on her own web site. Having written "most of a first draft in fits and starts between Potter books," she ended up shelving it for nearly a decade. "Over time I came to think of it as a story that belonged to my two younger children, because I’d read it to them in the evenings when they were little, which has always been a happy family memory."




The unfinished manuscript came back to mind more recently as a possible entertainment for children in coronavirus lockdown all over the world. "As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again. This was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life."

With the work now complete, Rowling will "be posting a chapter (or two, or three) every weekday between 26th May and 10th July on The Ickabog website." The first chapter, which is available now, begins as follows:

Once upon a time, there was a tiny country called Cornucopia, which had been ruled for centuries by a long line of fair-haired kings. The king at the time of which I write was called King Fred the Fearless. He’d announced the ‘Fearless’ bit himself, on the morning of his coronation, partly because it sounded nice with ‘Fred’, but also because he’d once managed to catch and kill a wasp all by himself, if you didn’t count five footmen and the boot boy.

This prose will feel familiar to parents who grew up reading Harry Potter themselves, and who will surely be pleased to see Rowling's signature sense of humo(u)r still in effect. These parents can read The Ickabog's weekly installments to their own children, as well as encourage those artistically inclined to contribute their own visuals to the story by participating in the Ickabog illustration competition. "Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things," Rowling notes. "We aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!" She also emphasizes, as regards the story itself, that though its themes include "truth and the abuse of power," it "isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now." Many factors have contributed to Rowling's great success, but her preference for the timeless over the topical surely isn't a minor one. Read her story here.

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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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

This Is What an 1869 MIT Entrance Exam Looks Like: Could You Have Passed the Test?

The late 19th Century was the time of Charles Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell, of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. It was a golden age of science and technology. So you might wonder how hard it was to get into one of the top technical universities in that era.

The answer, according to this video? Not very hard.

At least that was the case in 1869 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT,  as the young Australian science and math teacher Toby Hendy explains on her excellent YouTube channel, Tibees. MIT was brand new and desperate for tuition revenue in 1869, so the object of the test wasn't to whittle a massive field of applicants down to a manageable size. It was simply to make sure that incoming students could handle the work.




MIT opened in 1865, just after the end of the Civil War. The idea was to create a European-style polytechnic university to meet the demands of an increasingly industrial economy. The original campus was in Boston, across the Charles River from its current location in Cambridge. Only 15 students signed up in 1865. Tuition was $100 for the whole year. There was no formal entrance test. According to an article from the school's Archives and Special Collections,

The "conditions for admission" section of MIT's catalogue for 1865-66 indicates that candidates for admission as first year students must be at least sixteen years old and must give satisfactory evidence "by examination or otherwise" of a competent training in arithmetic, geometry, English grammar, geography, and the "rudiments of French." Rapid and legible handwriting was also stressed as being "particularly important." By 1869 the handwriting requirement and French had been dropped, but algebra had been added and students needed to pass a qualifying exam in the required subject areas. An ancillary effect was to protect unqualified students from disappointment and professors from wasting their time.

A couple of years earlier, in 1867, the MIT Executive Committee reported that faculty members had felt it necessary to ask parents of "some incompetent and inattentive students to withdraw them from the school, wishing to spare them the mortification of an examination which it was certain they could not pass."

Nowadays, the students who make it into MIT have average SAT and ACT scores in the 99th percentile. Of 21,312 first-year applicants hoping to join the Class of 2023, only 1,427 made it. That's an admission rate of 6.7 percent. What a difference 150 years can make!

To take the 1869 entrance examination in English, Algebra, Geometry and Arithmetic, and to see the correct answers, visit this cached article from the MIT website.

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The 135 Best Podcasts to Enrich Your Mind: An Introduction to Our New List

Twenty years ago, podcasts didn't exist. Fifteen years ago, podcasts were more or less entirely for the tech-savvy early adopter, listener and producer alike. Now, across large sections of society, podcasts have become everyone's favorite thing to listen to. Just yesterday the New York Times ran a piece headlined "Joe Rogan Is the New Mainstream Media" about the enormous success of the comedian, mixed martial arts enthusiast, and interviewer now popularly seen as the face of podcasting. "Even books on tape can require too much thinking," the article quotes Rogan as saying. But a podcast "doesn’t require that much thinking at all. You get captivated by the conversation," not least because "it’s really easy to listen to while you do other stuff."

Characteristically, Rogan downplays the strengths and importance of his medium. But requiring thinking and encouraging thinking are indeed two very different things, and in the latter aspect podcasts are now unsurpassed, compared to other internet media. Of course, much of the competition — listicles, cat videos, TikToks — may not seem especially strong, but podcasting's combination of the oft-praised "intimacy" of radio and freedom from the temporal or demographic limitations of traditional broadcast media has proven unexpectedly potent. In fact, humanity's craving for podcasts is such that, for more than a decade now, there have been too many to choose from. To help guide you through this embarrassment of audio riches, we've put together this list of the 135 best podcasts to enrich your mind, tailored just for you, the Open Culture reader.




As of this writing, Open Culture's podcast collection breaks down into twelve categories, from "art, design and fashion" and "music, TV, and film," to "history and philosophy," to "business and economy" and "personal development." You'll find shows you've probably heard of, like 99 Percent InvisibleThe New Yorker Radio Hour, Freakonomics Radio, and This American Life. You may well also find show that you haven't: if you've never tuned into an episode of Entitled OpinionsThe Truth, Philosophize This!, or Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything, you owe it to yourself to sample a few today. And if you haven't yet heard Pretty Much Pop, a podcast curated by Open Culture, why not start with its debut discussion on "pop culture" versus "high culture," or its chat with yours truly on the film of Martin Scorsese? Finally, you will also find a slew of audio dramas--a reinvention of an old form that Orson Welles made famous during the 1930s--featuring the likes of Rami Malek, Catherine Keener, Tim Robbins and more. (See our post yesterday on that.)

Luckily, among the glories of podcasts is the fact that almost all of them are completely free, allowing you to fill even your most isolated days — and in this era of COVID-19, some of us have had more than a few — with a nonstop flow of stimulating conversation, rich storytelling, and boundary-pushing uses of speech, music, and sound. Given the popularity of podcasting, you almost certainly listen to a few shows we haven't yet included in our collection. Feel free to make recommendations in the comments below, even if — and perhaps especially if — they don't fit into the categories listed so far. And if your favorite subject has a Joe Rogan of its own, we certainly want to know who it is. Explore the collection here: The 135 Best Podcasts to Enrich Your Mind.

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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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Clare Torry’s Rare Live Performances of “Great Gig in the Sky” with Pink Floyd

When Clare Torry went into the studio to record her now-legendary vocals for Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky,” the centerpiece of 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, neither the singer nor the band were particularly impressed with each other. David Gilmour remembered the moment in an interview on the album’s 30th anniversary:

Clare Torry didn't really look the part. She was Alan Parsons' idea. We wanted to put a girl on there, screaming orgasmically. Alan had worked with her previously, so we gave her try. And she was fantastic. We had to encourage her a little bit. We gave her some dynamic hints: "Maybe you'd like to do this piece quietly, and this piece louder." She did maybe half a dozen takes, and then afterwards we compiled the final performance out of all the bits. It wasn't done in one single take.

Asked the follow-up question “what did she look like?,” Gilmour replied, “like a nice English housewife.”

Torry, for her part, was hardly starstruck. “If it had been the Kinks,” she later said, “I’d have been over the moon.” She also remembers the session very  differently. “They had no idea” what they wanted,” she says. Told only “we don’t want any words,” she decided to “pretend to be an instrument.” She remembers “having a little go” and knocking out the session in a couple takes.




This Rashomon scenario involves not only faulty memory but also the legal question as to who composed the song’s melody and vocal concept—a question eventually decided, in 2004, in Torry’s favor, entitling her to royalties.

She clearly wasn’t about to become a touring member of the band, even after the album’s massive success and two subsequent tours. Still, while Torry may not have suited Gilmour’s physical preferences for female singers, and while she may not have thought much of Pink Floyd, she has appeared live with their different iterations over the years, including a show at the Rainbow Theatre in London just months after the album’s release (further up). Later, in 1987, Torry appeared again, this time with Roger Waters at Wembley Stadium on his K.A.O.S. on the Road Tour.

Torry would then join the David Gilmour-led Pink Floyd in 1990 for “Great Gig in the Sky” at Knebworth. I do not think she resembles an English housewife in the concert film at the top—or at least no more than the rest of the band look like middle-aged English husbands. But she still pulls off the soaring vocal, more or less, seventeen years after she first stepped into the studio, having little idea who Pink Floyd was or what would become of that fateful session.

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

A Nearly Impossible Sudoku Puzzle Solved in a Mesmerizing 25-Minute Video

Watch it go. And thank Simon Anthony when it's done. And, oh, check out his YouTube Channel, Cracking the Cryptic...

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

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This Huge Crashing Wave in a Seoul Aquarium Is Actually a Gigantic Optical Illusion

I live in Seoul, and whenever I'm back in the West, I hear the same question over and over: what's Gangnam like? Presumably Westerners wouldn't have had anything to ask me before the virality of "Gangnam Style," and specifically of the music video satirizing the image of that part of the Korean capital. In Korean, "Gangnam" literally means "south of the river," the waterway in question being the Han River, which runs through modern Seoul much as the Thames and the Seine run through London and Paris. Developed in the main only since the 1970s, after Korea's unprecedentedly rapid industrialization had begun, Gangnam looks and feels quite different from the old city north of the Han. In the financial center of Gangnam, everything's bigger, taller, and more expensive — all of it meant to impress.

With Psy's novelty song a thing of the distant past — in internet years, at least — the world now thrills again to another glimpse of Gangnam style: a digital screen that looks like a giant water tank, full of waves perpetually crashing against its walls. When video of this high-tech optical illusion went viral, it looked even more uncanny to me than it did to most viewers, since I recognized it from real life.




Though I happen to live in Gangbuk ("north of the river"), whenever I go to Gangnam, I usually come out of the Samsung subway station, right across the street from COEX. A convention-center complex embedded in a set of difficult-to-navigate malls, COEX also includes SM Town COEX Artium, a flashy temple of K-pop run by music company SM Entertainment. Announcing SM Town's presence, this colossal wraparound display, the largest of its kind in the country, usually offers up either fresh-faced pop stars or ads for Korean-made cars.

Occasionally the SM Town screen's programming gets more creative, and "#1_WAVE with Anamorphic illusion" has made the most striking use of its shape and dimensions yet. Designed by Gangnam's own d'strict, this piece of public video art "serves as a sweet escape and brings comfort and relaxation to people" — or so says d'strict's Sean Lee in an interview with Bored Panda's Robertas Lisickis. It's even impressed Seoulites, accustomed though they've grown to large-scale video screens clamoring for their attention. Even up in Gangbuk, the LED-covered facade of the building right across from Seoul Station has turned into a "Digital Canvas" every night for nearly a decade. Though that artistic installation never displays advertising, most of the increasingly large screens of Seoul are used for more overtly commercial purposes. There may be something dystopian about this scale of digital advertisement technology in public space — but as every Blade Runner fan knows, there's something sublime about it as well.

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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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Stream 15 Audio Drama Podcasts & Get Through COVID-19: Features Rami Malek, Catherine Keener, Tim Robbins & More

At my home now, we constantly tell stories: to distract, soothe, entertain—telling and retelling, collaboratively authoring over meals, listening to a ton of story podcasts. These activities took up a good part of the day before all hell broke loose and schools shut down. Now they guide us from morning to night as we try to imagine other worlds, better worlds, than the one we’re living in at present. We are painting on the walls of our cave, so to speak, with brave and fearful images, while outside, confusion sets in.

Lest anyone think this is kid stuff, it most assuredly is not. Narrative coherence seems particularly important for healthy human functioning. We may grow to appreciate greater levels of complexity and moral ambiguity, it’s true. But the desire to experience reality as something with arcs, rather than erratic and disturbing non-sequiturs, remains strong. Experimental fiction proves so unsettling because it defies acceptable notions of cause and consequence.




From the tales told by plague-displaced aristocrats in Boccaccio’s Decameron to the radio dramas that entertained families sheltering in place during the Blitz to our own podcast-saturated coronavirus media landscape…. Stories told well and often have a healing effect on the distressed psyches of those trapped in world-historical dramas. “While stories might not protect you from a virus,” writes Andre Spicer at New Statesman, “they can protect you from the ill feelings which epidemics generate.”

In addition to advice offered throughout history—by many of Boccaccio’s contemporaries, for example, who urged story and song to lift plague-weary spirits—“dozens of studies” by psychologists have shown “the impact storytelling has on our health.” Telling and hearing stories gives us language we may lack to describe experience. We can communicate and analyze painful emotions through metaphors and characterization, rather than too-personal confession. We can experience a sense of kinship with those who have felt similarly.

Perhaps this last function is most important in the midst of catastrophes that isolate people from each other. As reality refuses to conform to a sense of appropriate scope, as cartoonish villains destroy all proportion and probability, empathy fatigue can start to set in. Through the art of storytelling, we might learn we don't have to share other people's backgrounds, beliefs, and interests to understand their motivations and care about what happens to them.

We can also learn to start small, with just a few people, instead of the whole world. Short fiction brings unthinkable abstractions—the death tolls in wars and plagues—to a manageable emotional scale. Rather than showing us how we might defeat, avoid, or escape invisible antagonists like viral pandemics, stories illustrate how people can behave well or badly in extreme, inhuman circumstances.

Below, find a series of audio dramas, both fiction and non, in podcast form—many featuring celebrity voices, including Rami Malek, Catherine Keener, Tim Robbins & more—to help you in your journey through our narratively exhausting times. Parents and caregivers likely already find themselves immersed in stories much of the day. Yet adults, whether they’re raising kids or not, need storytime too—maybe especially when the stories we believed about the world stop making sense.

Alice Isn’t Dead - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - A truck driver searches across America for the wife she had long assumed was dead. In the course of her search, she will encounter not-quite-human serial murderers, towns literally lost in time, and a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.

Blackout - Apple - Spotify - Google - Academy Award winner Rami Malek stars in this apocalyptic thriller as a small-town radio DJ fighting to protect his family and community after the power grid goes down nationwide, upending modern civilization.

LifeAfter/The Message - Apple - Spotify - Google - The Message and its sequel, LifeAfter, take listeners on journeys to the limits of technology. n The Message, an alien transmission from decades ago becomes an urgent puzzle with life or death consequences. In LifeAfter, Ross, a low level employee at the FBI, spends his days conversing online with his wife Charlie – who died eight months ago. But the technology behind this digital resurrection leads Ross down a dangerous path that threatens his job, his own life, and maybe even the world. Winner of the Cannes Gold Lion.

Homecoming - Apple - Spotify - Google - Homecoming centers on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor, and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life — presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations. Starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, David Cross, Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, Mercedes Ruehl, Alia Shawkat, Chris Gethard, and Spike Jonze.

Limetown - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - The premise: Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. In this podcast, American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

Motherhacker - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - The plot: Bridget’s life is a series of dropped calls. With a gift for gab, an ex-husband in rehab, and down to her last dollar, Bridget’s life takes a desperate turn when she starts vishing over the phone for a shady identity theft ring in order to support her family.

Passenger List - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - Atlantic Flight 702 has disappeared mid-flight between London and New York with 256 passengers on board. Kaitlin Le (Kelly Marie Tran), a college student whose twin brother vanished with the flight, is determined to uncover the truth.

Sandra - Apple - Spotify - Web Site - Co-stars Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat, and Ethan Hawke. Here's the plot: Helen’s always dreamed of ditching her hometown, so when she lands a job at the company that makes Sandra, everyone's favorite A.I., she figures it’s the next-best thing. But working behind the curtain isn’t quite the escape from reality that Helen expected.

The Angel of Vine - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - A present day journalist uncovers the audio tapes of a 1950s private eye who cracked the greatest unsolved murder mystery Hollywood has ever known... and didn’t tell a soul. Starring Joe Manganiello, Alfred Molina, Constance Zimmer, Alan Tudyk, Camilla Luddington, and more.

The Bright Sessions - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - A science fiction podcast that follows a group of therapy patients. But these are not your typical patients - each has a unique supernatural ability. The show documents their struggles and discoveries as well as the motivations of their mysterious therapist, Dr. Bright.

The Orbiting Human Circus - Apple - Spotify - Google - Discover a wondrously surreal world of magic, music, and mystery. This immersive, cinematic audio spectacle follows the adventures of a lonely, stage-struck janitor who is drawn into the larger-than-life universe of the Orbiting Human Circus, a fantastical, wildly popular radio show broadcast from the top of the Eiffel Tower. WNYC Studios presents a special director’s cut of this joyous, moving break from reality. Starring John Cameron Mitchell, Julian Koster, Tim Robbins, Drew Callander, Susannah Flood, and featuring Mandy Patinkin and Charlie Day.

The Truth - Apple - Spotify - Google - Web Site - The Truth makes movies for your ears. They're short stories that are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always intriguing. Every story is different, but they all take you to unexpected places using only sound. If you're new, some good starting places are: Silvia's Blood, That's Democracy, Moon Graffiti, Tape Delay, or whatever's most recent. Listening with headphones is encouraged!

The Walk - Apple - Spotify - "Dystopian thriller, The Walk, is a tale of mistaken identity, terrorism, and a life-or-death mission to walk across Scotland. But the format of this story is — unusual. The Walk is an immersive fiction podcast, and the creators want you to listen to it while walking. It begins with a terrorist attack at a train station; you are the protagonist, known only as Walker, and the police think you're a member of a shadowy terror group called The Burn." "Author Naomi Alderman, whose latest novel was a bestseller called The Power, is the creator of The Walk."

We're Alive - Apple - Spotify - Google - An award-wining audio drama, originally released in podcast form. Its story follows a large group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Wolf 359 - Apple - Spotify - Google - A science fiction podcast created by Gabriel Urbina. Following in the tradition of Golden Age radio dramas, Wolf 359 tells the story of a dysfunctional space station crew orbiting the star Wolf 359 on a deep space survey mission.

These podcasts can be found in the new collection, The 135 Best Podcasts to Enrich Your Mind.

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

Iggy Pop, David Byrne, and More Come Together with Bedtime Stories (For Grownups)

Many friends have expressed a sense of relief that their elderly parents passed before the coronavirus pandemic hit, but I sure wish my stepfather were here to witness Iggy Pop crossing the rainbow bridge with the heartfelt valentine to the late Tromba, the pooch with whom he shared the happiest moments of his life.

Iggy’s paean to his adopted Mexican street dog, who never quite made the adjustment to the New York City canine lifestyle, would have made my stepfather’s grinchy, dog-soft heart grow three sizes, at least.




That level of engagement would have pleased conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, who launched Bedtime Stories under the digital auspices of New York City's New Museum, asking friends, fellow artists, and favorite performers to contribute brief readings to foment a feeling of togetherness in these isolated times.

It was left to each contributor whether to go with a favorite literary passage or words of their own. As Cattelan told The New York Times:

It would have been quite depressing if all the invited artists and contributors had chosen fairy tales and children stories. We look to artists for their ability to show us the unexpected so I am thankful to all the participants for coming up with some genuinely weird stuff.

Thusfar, artist Raymond Pettibon's smutty Batman reverie is as close as Bedtime Stories comes to fairytale.

Which is to say not very close

Artist and musician David Byrne (pictured here at age five) reads from "The Three Christs of Ypsilanti" by Milton Rokeach. As part of its series of new digital initiatives, the New Museum presents “Bedtime Stories,” a project initiated by the artist Maurizio Cattelan. Inviting friends and other artists and performers he admires to keep us company, Cattelan imagined “Bedtime Stories” as a way of staying together during these days of isolation. Read more at newmuseum.org. #NewMuseumBedtimeStories @davidbyrneofficial

A post shared by New Museum (@newmuseum) on


Musician David Byrne picked an excerpt from The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by social psychologist Milton Rokeach, who detailed the interactions between three paranoid schizophrenics, each of whom believed himself the Son of God.

Artist Tacita Dean's cutting from Thomas Hardy’s poem "An August Midnight" speaks to an experience familiar to many who've been isolating solo—an acute willingness to elevate random bugs to the status of companion.

Rashid Johnson's choice, Amiri Baraka’s "Preface to a 20 Volume Suicide Note," also feels very of the moment:

Lately, I've become accustomed to the way

The ground opens up and envelopes me

Each time I go out to walk the dog

Things have come to that.

Listen to the New Museum’s Bedtime Stories here. A new story will be added every day through the end of June, with a lineup that includes musician Michael Stipe, architect Maya Lin, and artists Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Here latest project is an animation and a series of free downloadable posters, encouraging citizens to wear masks in public and wear them properly. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Joni Mitchell Sing an Immaculate Version of Her Song “Coyote,” with Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn & Gordon Lightfoot (1975)

Joni Mitchell doesn’t like to do interviews, but once she starts to open up, she really opens up, not only about her own struggles but about her feelings towards her fellow artists. These are often decidedly negative. Maybe she took a cue from her personal hero, Miles Davis (who, it turned out secretly owned all her albums). Mitchell matched his level of caustic commentary in 2010 when she told the L.A. Times that Bob Dylan “is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception.”

Attempts to clarify fell flat with the most backhanded of compliments. “I like a lot of Bob’s songs, though musically he’s not very gifted.” If any musician has earned the right to criticize him… In any case, whatever she thought of Dylan during her mid-seventies period, when she recorded and released her densely experimental The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Court and Spark, she was happy to join the 1975 Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Revue.




Martin Scorsese captured the tour, which played smaller, more intimate venues than Dylan had in years. The documentary, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, was only released last year. Dylan may have been the headliner, but this is also a Joni Mitchell story, and a Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, and other artists’ story. In the clip above, Mitchell plays a new song, “Coyote,” at Gordon Lightfoot’s house, with Dylan and McGuinn joining in on guitar. Her performance is immaculate, full of confidence and nuance. McGuinn leans forward before she begins to introduce the song for Joni, mansplaining into the mic, “Joni wrote this song about this tour and on this tour and for this tour.”

Mitchell says nothing, but fans will know she wrote the song about Sam Shepard and first introduced it onstage during The Hissing of Summer Lawns tour. They’ll also recognize it as the first song on Mitchell’s 1976 album Hejira. The studio version, above, is still driven by her acoustic guitar but incorporates percussion and Mitchell’s serpentine vocal line entwines with Jaco Pastorius’s bass. Lyrically, the song is full of dusty, forlorn images like the settings of Shepard’s plays. How McGuinn could have thought that it was about Dylan’s tour is beyond me. But Mitchell never needed anyone else to speak for her.

Related Content:

Joni Mitchell Publishes a Book of Her Rarely Seen Paintings & Poetry

See Classic Performances of Joni Mitchell from the Very Early Years–Before She Was Even Named Joni Mitchell (1965/66)

How Joni Mitchell Wrote “Woodstock,” the Song that Defined the Legendary Music Festival, Even Though She Wasn’t There (1969)

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





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