Take a Journey Inside Vincent Van Gogh’s Paintings with a New Digital Exhibition

Vincent van Gogh died in 1890, long before the emergence of any of the visual technologies that impress us here in the 21st century. But the distinctive vision of reality expressed through paintings still captivates us, and perhaps captivates us more than ever: the latest of the many tributes we continue to pay to van Gogh's art takes the form Van Gogh, Starry Night, a "digital exhibition" at the Atelier des Lumières, a disused foundry turned projector- and sound system-laden multimedia space in Paris. "Projected on all the surfaces of the Atelier," its site says of the exhibition, "this new visual and musical production retraces the intense life of the artist."

Van Gogh's intensity manifested in various ways, including more than 2,000 paintings painted in the last decade of his life alone. Van Gogh, Starry Night surrounds its visitors with the painter's work, "which radically evolved over the years, from The Potato Eaters (1885), Sunflowers (1888) and Starry Night (1889) to Bedroom at Arles (1889), from his sunny landscapes and nightscapes to his portraits and still lives."

It also takes them through the journey of his life itself, including his "sojourns in Neunen, Arles, Paris, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and Auvers-sur-Oise." It will also take them to Japan, a land van Gogh dreamed of and that inspired him to create "the art of the future," with a supplemental show titled Dreamed Japan: Images of the Floating World.

Both Van Gogh, Starry Night and Dreamed Japan run until the end of this year. If you happen to have a chance to make it out to the Atelier des Lumières, first consider downloading the exhibition's smartphone and tablet application that provides recorded commentary on van Gogh's masterpieces. That counts as one more layer of this elaborate audiovisual experience that, despite employing the height of modern museum technology, nevertheless draws all its aesthetic inspiration from 19th-century paintings — and will send those who experience it back to those 19th-century paintings with a heightened appreciation. Nearly 130 years after Van Gogh's death, we're still using all the ingenuity we can muster to see the world as he did.

via MyModernmet

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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.

How Does the Rorschach Inkblot Test Work?: An Animated Primer

A frightening monster?

Two friendly bears?

Say what!?

As anybody with half a brain and the gift of sight knows, the black and red inkblot below resembles nothing so much as a pair of gnomes, gavotting so hard their knees bleed.

...or perhaps it’s open to interpretation.

Back in 2013, when Open Culture celebrated psychologist Hermann Rorschach’s birthday by posting the ten blots that form the basis of his famous personality test, readers reported seeing all sorts of things in Card 2:

A uterus

Lungs

Kissing puppies

A painted face

Little calfs

Tinkerbell checking her butt out in the mirror

Two ouija board enthusiasts, summoning demons

Angels

And yes, high-fiving bears

As Rorshach biographer Damion Searls explains in an animated Ted-ED lesson on how the Rorschach Test can help us understand the patterns of our perceptions, our answers depend on how we as individuals register and transform sensory input.

Rorshach chose the blots that garnered the most nuanced responses, and developed a classification system to help analyze the resulting data, but for much of the test’s history, this code was a highly guarded professional secret.

And when Rorshach died, a year after publishing the images, others began administering the test in service of their own speculative goals—anthropologists, potential employers, researchers trying to figure out what made Nazis tick, comedians…

The range of interpretative approaches earned the test a reputation as pseudo-science, but a 2013 review of Rorshach’s voluminous research went a long way toward restoring its credibility.

Whether or not you believe there’s something to it, it’s still fun to consider the things we bring to the table when examining these cards.

Do we see the image as fixed or something more akin to a freeze frame?

What part of the image do we focus on?

Our records show that Open Culture readers overwhelmingly focus on the hands, at least as far as Card 2 goes, which is to say the portion of the blot that appears to be high-fiving itself.

Never mind that the high five, as a gesture, is rumored to have come into existence sometime in the late 1970s. (Rorschach died in 1922.) That’s what the majority of Open Culture readers saw six years ago, though there was some variety of perception as to who was slapping that skin:

young elephants

despondent humans

monks

lawn gnomes

Disney dwarves

redheaded women in Japanese attire

chimpanzees with traffic cones on their heads

(In full disclosure, it's mostly bears.)

Maybe it's time for a do over?

Readers, what do you see now?

Image 1: Bat, butterfly, moth

Rorschach_blot_01

Image 2: Two humans

Rorschach_blot_02

Image 3: Two humans

800px-Rorschach_blot_03

Image 4: Animal hide, skin, rug

Rorschach_blot_04

Image 5: Bat, butterfly, moth

Rorschach_blot_05

Image 6: Animal hide, skin, rug

Rorschach_blot_06

Image 7: Human heads or faces

Rorschach_blot_07

Image 8: Animal; not cat or dog

689px-Rorschach_blot_08

Image 9: Human

647px-Rorschach_blot_09

Image 10: Crab, lobster, spider,

751px-Rorschach_blot_10

View Searls’ full TED-Ed lesson here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, this April. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Lou Reed Archive Opens at the New York Public Library: Get Your Own Lou Reed Library Card and Check It Out

This past October marked the fifth anniversary of Lou Reed’s death. This month marks what would have been his 77th birthday. It seems like as good a time as any to revisit his legacy. As of this past Friday, anyone can do exactly that in person at the New York Public Library. And they can do so with their own special edition NYPL Lou Reed library card. The NYPL has just opened to the public the Lou Reed Archive, “approximately 300 linear feet,” the library writes in a press release, “of paper records, electronic records, and photographs, and approximately 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings.”

These artifacts span the musician, writer, photographer, and “tai-chi student”’s life from his 1958 high school band The Shades to “his job as a staff songwriter for the budget music label, Pickwick Records, and his rise to prominence through the Velvet Underground and subsequent solo career, to his final performance in 2013.”

It is more than fitting that they should find a home at the New York institution, in the city where Lou Reed became Lou Reed, “the most literary of rock stars,” writes Andrew Epstein for the Poetry Foundation, "one who aspired to make rock music that could stand on the same plane as works of literature.” See a list of the Lou Reed Archive collections below:

  • Original manuscript, lyrics, poetry and handwritten tai-chi notes
  • Photographs of Reed, including artist prints and inscriptions by the photographers
  • Tour itineraries, agreements, road manager notes and paperwork
  • 600+ hours of live recordings, demos, studio recordings and interviews
  • Reed's own extensive photography work
  • Album, book, and tour artwork; mock-ups, proofs and match-prints
  • Lou Reed album and concert posters, handbills, programs, and promotional items
  • Lou Reed press for albums, tours, performances, books, and photography exhibits
  • Fan mail
  • Personal collections of books, LPs and 45s

Reed left his first “lasting legacy” at Syracuse University, as Syracuse itself affirmed after his death in 2013, as “a criminal, a dissident and a poet.” There, he studied under his literary hero, Delmore Schwartz, was reportedly expelled from ROTC for holding an unloaded gun to his superior’s head, and was supposedly turned away from his graduation by police. Once in New York, however, Reed not only piloted the Velvet Underground into everlasting cult infamy, jumpstarting waves of punk, post-punk, new wave, and a few dozen other subgenres. He also carried forth the legacy of the New York poetry, Epstein argues.

He had “serious connections to the poetry world”—not only to Schwartz, but also to the Beats and the New York School—to poets who “played a surprisingly large role in the emergence of the Velvet Underground.” Like all great art, Reed’s best work was more than the sum of its “multiple and complex influences.” But it should be appreciated alongside mid-century New York poets as much as jazz experimentalists like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor who inspired his freeform approach. “Reed’s body of work,” writes Epstein, “represents a crucial but overlooked instance of poetry’s rich back-and-forth dialogue with popular culture.”

Similar things might be said about Reed's engagements with film, theater, the visual arts, and the New York avant-garde generally, which he also transmuted and translated into his scuzzy brand of rock and roll. The NYPL archive documents his relationships with not only his bandmates and manager/patron Andy Warhol, but also Robert Quine, John Zorn, Robert Wilson, Julian Schnabel, and Laurie Anderson. And yet, despite the many rivers he waded into in his long career, immersing in some more deeply than others, it was the New York literary world whom he most wanted to embrace his work.

Accepting an award in 2007 from Syracuse, Reed said, “I hope, Delmore, if you’re listening you are finally proud as well. My name is finally linked to yours in the part of heaven reserved for Brooklyn poets.” Head over to The Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center to get your own Lou Reed library card. If you’re lucky enough to spend some time with this extensive collection, maybe consider how all Reed's work was, in some way or another, informed by a lifelong devotion to New York poetry.

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Lou Reed Sings “Sweet Jane” Live, Julian Schnabel Films It (2006)

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

Bohemian Rhapsody’s Bad Editing: A Breakdown

Bohemian Rhapsody may have won the Oscar for Best Editing. But video essayist Thomas Flight isn't persuaded. In a 13-minute video, Flight deconstructs a 104-second clip from the biopic, revealing the excessive 60 cuts that make up the scene. That translates into a dizzying cut every 1.8 seconds on average.

For Thomas Flight, Bohemian Rhapsody is nothing short of a “masterclass in bad editing.” For you, Flight's video offers a nice short crash course in film editing.

According to The Washington Post, the pub scene deconstructed in Flight's video was actually edited by Dexter Fletcher--and not John Ottman, the film editor who helped salvage the film and then won top honors at the Oscars. Asked about the botched scene, Ottman told WaPo: “Whenever I see it, I want to put a bag over my head. Because that’s not my aesthetic. If there’s ever an extended version of the film where I can put a couple scenes back, I will recut that scene!”

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An Animated Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Life & Thought

There’s no shame if you’ve never known how to pronounce Friedrich Nietzsche’s name correctly. Even less if you never remember how to spell it. If these happen to be the case, you may be less than familiar with his philosophy. Let Alain de Botton’s animated School of Life video briefly introduce you, and you’ll never forget how to say it: “Knee Cha.” (As for remembering the spelling, you’re on your own.) You’ll also get a short biography of the disgruntled, dyspeptic German philosopher, who left a promising academic career at the University of Basel in his mid-20s and embarked to the Swiss Alps to write his violently original books in solitude before succumbing to a mental breakdown at 44 when he saw a cart driver beating a horse.

Nietzsche died after remaining almost entirely silent for 11 years. In these years and after his death, thanks to the machinations of his sister Elizabeth, his thought was twisted into a hateful caricature. He has since been rehabilitated from associations with the Nazis, but he still calls up fear and loathing for many people because of his relentless critiques of Christianity and reputation for staring too long into abysses. Maybe we can’t help but hear fascistic overtones in his concept of the ubermensch, and his ideas about slave morality can make for uncomfortable reading. Those steeped in Nietzsche’s thought may not feel that de Botton’s commentary gives these ideas their proper critical due.

Likewise, Nietzsche himself is treated as something of an ubermensch, an approach that pulls him out of his social world. Important figures who had a tremendous impact on his personal and intellectual life—like Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard and Cosima Wagner, Lou Salomé, and Nietzsche’s sister—don’t even receive a mention. But this is a lot to ask from a six-minute summary. De Botton hits some of philosophical highlights and explains some misconceptions. Yes, Nietzsche held no brief for Christianity at all, but this was because it caused tremendous suffering, he thought, by making people morally stunted and bitterly resentful.

Instead, he argued, we should embrace our desires, and use so-called sinful passions like envy to leverage our ambitions. Nietzsche is not a seducer, corrupting the youth with promises of greatness. You may very well fail, he admitted, and fail miserably. But to deny yourself is to never become who you are. Nietzsche scholar Babette Babich has described this aspect of the philosopher’s thought as the ethics of the supportive friend. She quotes David B. Allison, who writes that Nietzsche’s advice comes to us “like a friend who seems to share your every concern—and your aversions and suspicions as well. Like a true friend, he rarely tells you what you should do.”

Except that he often does. Babich also writes about Nietzsche as educator, and indeed he considered education one of the highest human goods, too precious to be squandered on those who do not appreciate it. His philosophy of education is consistent with his views on culture. Since God is Dead, we must replace scripture and liturgy with art, literature, and music. So far, so many a young Nietzsche enthusiast, pursuing their own form of Nietzschean education, will be on board with the philosopher’s program.

But as de Botton also explains, Nietzsche, who turned Dionysus into a philosophical ideal, might have issued one prescription too many for the average college student: no drinking. If that’s too much to stomach, we should at least take seriously that stuff about staring into abysses. Nietzsche meant it as a warning. Instead, writes Peter Prevos at The Horizon of Reason, “we should go beyond staring and bravely leap into the boundless chasm and practice philosophical base jumping.” No matter how much Nietzsche you read, he’s never going to tell you that means. We only become who we are, he suggests, when we figure it on our own.

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

The CIA’s Rectal Tool Kit for Spies–Created for Truly Desperate Situations During The Cold War

Though global espionage remains a going concern in the 21st century, somehow the popular stories we tell about it return again and again to the Cold War. Maybe it has to do with the demand those mostly pre-digital decades made upon the physical ingenuity of spies as well as the tools of spycraft. Take, for instance, one particularly ingenious CIA-issued tool kit on display at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. "Filled with escape tools," says the Spy Museum's web site, "this kit could be stashed inside the body where it would not be found during a search." Take one guess as to where inside the body, exactly, it could be stashed.

You can get a closer look at the rectal tool kit in the Atlas Obscura video above. This "tightly sealed, pill-shaped container full of tools that could aid an escape from various sticky situations," as that site's Lizzie Philip describes it, "was issued to CIA operatives during the height of the Cold War."

Built to contain a variety of escape tools like "drill bits, saws and knives," it presented quite an engineering challenge: its materials, one needs hardly add, "could not splinter or create sharp edges that could injure users," and "it had to seal tightly to not let anything seep in or poke out." Upon seeing an item like this, which commands so much attention at the Spy Museum, one wonders whether all the spying that went on during Cold War was really so glamorous after all.

Has it crossed the mind of, say, John Le Carré, his writing career a nearly sixty-year-long deflation of the pretensions of spycraft, to write about the ins and outs of rectal tool kits? But then, personal experience has granted him much more knowledge about the tactics of British espionage than those of the American variety. As surely as he knows the MI5's official motto, "Regnum Defende," he must also know the unofficial motto that pokes fun at the organization's aggressive culture of blame avoidance, "Rectum Defende" — words that, in light of the knowledge about just where the agents of Britain's main ally were storing their tools, take on a whole new meaning.

via Atlas Obscura

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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.

Leonard Bernstein Awkwardly Turns the Screws on Tenor Jose Carreras While Recording West Side Story (1984)

What have we here?

Evidence that the Maestro is a monster?

Or a behind the scenes reminder that Arrested Development’s wannabe actor Tobias Fünke is not too far off base when he says that to make it in “this business of show, you have to have the heart of an angel and the hide... of an elephant.”

Both? Neither? Any way you slice it, the recording session above is not for your typical cast album.

West Side Story, with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, opened on Broadway in 1957.

The film, starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony, came along four years later.

After which it’s been an endless round of community, college, and high school productions.

Are you a Jet or a Shark?

The celebrated tenor José Carreras does not make a particularly believable Jet.

While untold numbers of white kids have attempted Puerto Rican accents to play Maria, Bernardo, Anita, and Chino, that knife has seldom cut the other way.

Perhaps a dialect coach could have transformed Carreras’ thick Spanish accent into Tony’s New York street punk vernacular, but the prep time for these September 1984 recording sessions was minimal, and not tied to any actual production.

Carreras was also, at 38, a bit long in the tooth to be tackling the part.

But what might have been deal breakers for a Broadway revival were permissible for this weeklong special event in which world-caliber artists, "whose main reason for existing,” according to Bernstein, was their singing, would be laying down the score in the studio, backed by a full orchestra.

As he told his associate and eventual biographer, classical music television presenter Humphrey Burton:

l'd always thought of West Side Story in terms of teenagers and there are no teenage opera singers, it's just a contradiction in terms. But this is a recording and people don't have to look 16, they don't have to be able to dance or act a rather difficult play eight times a week. And therefore we took this rather unorthodox step of casting number-one world-class opera singers. I suppose the only foreseeable problem was that they might sound too old—but they don't, they just sound marvelous!

Bernstein’s approving mood is nowhere in evidence in the above clip, in which he hectors Carreras for screwing up the tempo, as the instrumentalists and sound engineers squirm.

Carreras’ discomfort and chagrin is so palpable that you can find the sequence on YouTube under the title “Tenor Keeps Screwing Up while Bernstein ConductsAwkward Sequence,” as if he were some weedy upstart, still wet behind the ears, when in fact, he had just flown in from Verona, where he’d been appearing as Don José in Carmen.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Carreras’ Maria, supplied a taste of what it was like to sing for the composer:

He's a man of many emotions. You can see his moods, his frustrations, his happiness, his wanting to perform to people. That's the thing that makes the man interesting. One is constantly trying to read him, but he's on another planet!

In the end, Bernstein declared himself pleased with what had been accomplished, or at least with the enduring power of the material.

But readers with an anti-authoritarian streak may not feel satisfied until they’ve seen the clip below, in which a rogue BBC Orchestra trumpet isn’t quite so deferential in the face of the Maestro’s criticism.

Listen to the 1984 recording of West Side Story for free on Spotify.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain in New York City this April. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Natalie Portman Teaches a MasterClass in Acting

This week, MasterClass rolled out its latest course--Natalie Portman teaching a 20-lesson class on acting. The upstart educational venture writes:

One of her generation’s most versatile performers, Academy Award-winning actor Natalie Portman has been captivating audiences for decades. Since her on-screen debut at age 12, she’s worked with some of cinema’s most celebrated directors and showcased her skills through unforgettable roles in Black Swan, Jackie, and the Star Wars franchise.

Having never taken an acting class, Natalie developed her craft over 25 years of observation, collaboration, and countless bold experiments. The consummate dramatic shapeshifter, she has worked across genres and historical periods, imbuing each performance with an authenticity she attributes to intense research, preparation, and an eye for human behavior.

And now, in her first-ever acting class, she "shows how empathy is at the core of every great performance, how to bring real-life details into every role, and how to build your own creative process."

You can enroll in Portman's new class (which runs $90) here. You can also pay $180 to get an annual pass to the entirety of MasterClass' courses--a catalog of about 50 courses, which includes other acting classes by Jodie Foster, Samuel L. Jackson and more.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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When William Faulkner Set the World Record for Writing the Longest Sentence in Literature: Read the 1,288-Word Sentence from Absalom, Absalom!

Image by Carl Van Vechten, via Wikimedia Commons

“How did Faulkner pull it off?” is a question many a fledgling writer has asked themselves while struggling through a period of apprenticeship like that novelist John Barth describes in his 1999 talk "My Faulkner." Barth “reorchestrated” his literary heroes, he says, “in search of my writerly self... downloading my innumerable predecessors as only an insatiable green apprentice can.” Surely a great many writers can relate when Barth says, “it was Faulkner at his most involuted and incantatory who most enchanted me.” For many a writer, the Faulknerian sentence is an irresistible labyrinth. His syntax has a way of weaving itself into the unconscious, emerging as fair to middling imitation.

While studying at Johns Hopkins University, Barth found himself writing about his native Eastern Shore Maryland in a pastiche style of “middle Faulkner and late Joyce.” He may have won some praise from a visiting young William Styron, “but the finished opus didn’t fly—for one thing, because Faulkner intimately knew his Snopses and Compsons and Sartorises, as I did not know my made-up denizens of the Maryland marsh.” The advice to write only what you know may not be worth much as a universal commandment. But studying the way that Faulkner wrote when he turned to the subjects he knew best provides an object lesson on how powerful a literary resource intimacy can be.

Not only does Faulkner’s deep affiliation with his characters’ inner lives elevate his portraits far above the level of local color or regionalist curiosity, but it animates his sentences, makes them constantly move and breathe. No matter how long and twisted they get, they do not wilt, wither, or drag; they run river-like, turning around in asides, outraging themselves and doubling and tripling back. Faulkner’s intimacy is not earnestness, it is the uncanny feeling of a raw encounter with a nerve center lighting up with information, all of it seemingly critically important.

It is the extraordinary sensory quality of his prose that enabled Faulkner to get away with writing the longest sentence in literature, at least according to the 1983 Guinness Book of World Records, a passage from Absalom, Absalom! consisting of 1,288 words and who knows how many different kinds of clauses. There are now longer sentences in English writing. Jonathan Coe’s The Rotter’s Club ends with a 33-page long whopper with 13,955 words in it. Entire novels hundreds of pages long have been written in one sentence in other languages. All of Faulkner’s modernist contemporaries, including of course Joyce, Wolff, and Beckett, mastered the use of run-ons, to different effect.

But, for a time, Faulkner took the run-on as far as it could go. He may have had no intention of inspiring postmodern fiction, but one of its best-known novelists, Barth, only found his voice by first writing a “heavily Faulknerian marsh-opera.” Many hundreds of experimental writers have had almost identical experiences trying to exorcise the Oxford, Mississippi modernist’s voice from their prose. Read that onetime longest sentence in literature, all 1,288 words of it, below.

Just exactly like Father if Father had known as much about it the night before I went out there as he did the day after I came back thinking Mad impotent old man who realized at last that there must be some limit even to the capabilities of a demon for doing harm, who must have seen his situation as that of the show girl, the pony, who realizes that the principal tune she prances to comes not from horn and fiddle and drum but from a clock and calendar, must have seen himself as the old wornout cannon which realizes that it can deliver just one more fierce shot and crumble to dust in its own furious blast and recoil, who looked about upon the scene which was still within his scope and compass and saw son gone, vanished, more insuperable to him now than if the son were dead since now (if the son still lived) his name would be different and those to call him by it strangers and whatever dragon’s outcropping of Sutpen blood the son might sow on the body of whatever strange woman would therefore carry on the tradition, accomplish the hereditary evil and harm under another name and upon and among people who will never have heard the right one; daughter doomed to spinsterhood who had chosen spinsterhood already before there was anyone named Charles Bon since the aunt who came to succor her in bereavement and sorrow found neither but instead that calm absolutely impenetrable face between a homespun dress and sunbonnet seen before a closed door and again in a cloudy swirl of chickens while Jones was building the coffin and which she wore during the next year while the aunt lived there and the three women wove their own garments and raised their own food and cut the wood they cooked it with (excusing what help they had from Jones who lived with his granddaughter in the abandoned fishing camp with its collapsing roof and rotting porch against which the rusty scythe which Sutpen was to lend him, make him borrow to cut away the weeds from the door-and at last forced him to use though not to cut weeds, at least not vegetable weeds -would lean for two years) and wore still after the aunt’s indignation had swept her back to town to live on stolen garden truck and out o f anonymous baskets left on her front steps at night, the three of them, the two daughters negro and white and the aunt twelve miles away watching from her distance as the two daughters watched from theirs the old demon, the ancient varicose and despairing Faustus fling his final main now with the Creditor’s hand already on his shoulder, running his little country store now for his bread and meat, haggling tediously over nickels and dimes with rapacious and poverty-stricken whites and negroes, who at one time could have galloped for ten miles in any direction without crossing his own boundary, using out of his meagre stock the cheap ribbons and beads and the stale violently-colored candy with which even an old man can seduce a fifteen-year-old country girl, to ruin the granddaughter o f his partner, this Jones-this gangling malaria-ridden white man whom he had given permission fourteen years ago to squat in the abandoned fishing camp with the year-old grandchild-Jones, partner porter and clerk who at the demon’s command removed with his own hand (and maybe delivered too) from the showcase the candy beads and ribbons, measured the very cloth from which Judith (who had not been bereaved and did not mourn) helped the granddaughter to fashion a dress to walk past the lounging men in, the side-looking and the tongues, until her increasing belly taught her embarrassment-or perhaps fear;-Jones who before ’61 had not even been allowed to approach the front of the house and who during the next four years got no nearer than the kitchen door and that only when he brought the game and fish and vegetables on which the seducer-to-be’s wife and daughter (and Clytie too, the one remaining servant, negro, the one who would forbid him to pass the kitchen door with what he brought) depended on to keep life in them, but who now entered the house itself on the (quite frequent now) afternoons when the demon would suddenly curse the store empty of customers and lock the door and repair to the rear and in the same tone in which he used to address his orderly or even his house servants when he had them (and in which he doubtless ordered Jones to fetch from the showcase the ribbons and beads and candy) direct Jones to fetch the jug, the two of them (and Jones even sitting now who in the old days, the old dead Sunday afternoons of monotonous peace which they spent beneath the scuppernong arbor in the back yard, the demon lying in the hammock while Jones squatted against a post, rising from time to time to pour for the demon from the demijohn and the bucket of spring water which he had fetched from the spring more than a mile away then squatting again, chortling and chuckling and saying `Sho, Mister Tawm’ each time the demon paused)-the two of them drinking turn and turn about from the jug and the demon not lying down now nor even sitting but reaching after the third or second drink that old man’s state of impotent and furious undefeat in which he would rise, swaying and plunging and shouting for his horse and pistols to ride single-handed into Washington and shoot Lincoln (a year or so too late here) and Sherman both, shouting, ‘Kill them! Shoot them down like the dogs they are!’ and Jones: ‘Sho, Kernel; sho now’ and catching him as he fell and commandeering the first passing wagon to take him to the house and carry him up the front steps and through the paintless formal door beneath its fanlight imported pane by pane from Europe which Judith held open for him to enter with no change, no alteration in that calm frozen face which she had worn for four years now, and on up the stairs and into the bedroom and put him to bed like a baby and then lie down himself on the floor beside the bed though not to sleep since before dawn the man on the bed would stir and groan and Jones would say, ‘flyer I am, Kernel. Hit’s all right. They aint whupped us yit, air they?’ this Jones who after the demon rode away with the regiment when the granddaughter was only eight years old would tell people that he ‘was lookin after Major’s place and niggers’ even before they had time to ask him why he was not with the troops and perhaps in time came to believe the lie himself, who was among the first to greet the demon when he returned, to meet him at the gate and say, ‘Well, Kernel, they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit, air they?’ who even worked, labored, sweat at the demon’s behest during that first furious period while the demon believed he could restore by sheer indomitable willing the Sutpen’s Hundred which he remembered and had lost, labored with no hope of pay or reward who must have seen long before the demon did (or would admit it) that the task was hopeless-blind Jones who apparently saw still in that furious lecherous wreck the old fine figure of the man who once galloped on the black thoroughbred about that domain two boundaries of which the eye could not see from any point.

Related Content:

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William Faulkner Reads from As I Lay Dying

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

Watch an Animated Score for Steve Reich’s Minimalist Piece “Clapping Music“–and Try Your Hardest to Follow Along

Steve Reich’s Clapping Music is one of the simplest scores of modern classical music, and as you might soon find out, one of the most difficult to perform. Written in 1972 while on a European tour and after a night of mediocre flamenco, Clapping Music is for two players. One claps a steady rhythm (technically an African Bell Rhythm).

A second performer claps in unison in the same pattern for eight bars. At the end of the eighth bar, the second performer goes out of sync for one eighth note and after another eight bars, goes out of sync again. This continues until both players are back in unison. (The above video explains this technique visually).

For Reich it was a simpler evolution of “phase” compositions that he had been creating since 1965. The earlier example was “It’s Gonna Rain,” which used two tape loops of a Pentecostal street preacher’s rant going slowly out of sync with each other, revealing first an echo and then, as the two loops wind up 180 degrees out of sync, pure apocalyptic cacophony.

The sync issues were due to the vagaries of the analog machines themselves, but Reich moved on to recreating phase music with actual instruments. In 1967 he composed "Piano Phase," in which a simple melody is played by two musicians first in unison, and then slowly out of sync. Reich followed up with "Reed Phase" and "Violin Phase," the latter of which was set to dance by Anne Teresa of Keersmaeker.

Asked about performing "Clapping Music" live, Reich told ClassicFM:

It's a piece that I'm always standing up there doing, and it makes me nervous every time because you're very exposed, as it's just you and the other guy. If you make one little hesitation you can find yourself at a place in the piece where you have to figure out where you are to get things right. So it never ceases to be a challenge; it's easy on one level, but it's challenging on another.

If you’d like to have a go at Clapping Music, there is a free app from the London Sinfonietta and Touchpress that plays the steady loop while you try to go out of phase. (It tracks and rates your performance, with the hope you’ll perfect it.) I haven’t had a chance myself to try it out, but if you have, let us know in the comments.

Related Content:

Steve Reich is Calling: A Minimalist Ringtone for the iPhone

Hear Steve Reich’s Minimalist Compositions in a 28-Hour Playlist: A Journey Through His Influential Recordings

Watch Animated Scores to Music by Radiohead, Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, Photek & Other Electronic/Post-Punk/Avant-Garde Musicians

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.





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