Stream the “Complete” John Coltrane Playlist: A 94-Hour Journey Through 700+ Transformative Tracks

In a contrarian take on the legacy of John Coltrane on the 50th anniversary of his death last year, Zack Graham at GQ did not recommend Giant Steps nor A Love Supreme nor Blue Train nor My Favorite Things as the most important album in the artist’s career, but a record most casual jazz fans may never encounter, and which even the hardest-core Coltrane fans never heard in his lifetime. Recorded in the year of his death, Interstellar Space—a frenetic suite of free jazz duets with drummer Rashied Ali—didn’t appear until 1974. The album has since received widespread critical acclaim, and stands, Graham argues, as “Coltrane’s most influential record, its echoes still heard today in everything from electronic music to some of the world’s biggest hip hop acts.”

Graham makes a compelling case. Hardly an accessible album, discerning listeners will nonetheless hear the sound of now in Ali’s stuttering, rapid fire beats and Coltrane’s modal bleats. Looking back, it can almost seem like he knew he was running out of time, and rushed to leave behind a blueprint for the music of the future.

“In his last months,” writes Stephen Davis at Rolling Stone, “Coltrane had changed everything about his music,” and, perhaps, everything about music in general, jazz and otherwise. His evolution as a musician and explorer of the mystical potentialities of artistic expression was so radical that from a certain point of view we are forced to work backward when approaching his catalog, as we might do with biographies of saints.

Should we pursue this line of thinking, however, we might have to grant that the posthumous Interstellar Space and its follow-up Stellar Regions—compiled from tapes Alice Coltrane discovered in 1994—are the result of Coltrane’s final musical apotheosis and thus can sound nigh-incomprehensible to most mere mortals. Interstellar Space “is a musicians’ album, for sure,” Graham admits, and an album for those fully open to the unknown: “the dissonance and enharmonic experimentation… is otherworldly.”

Working backward, we see Coltrane’s transfiguration into an avant-garde pioneer in 1966’s Ascension, an album that “still manages to confound as many listeners as it convinces,” Derek Taylor writes at All About Jazz. A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s gospel, a spiritual classic that draws everyone in with its message of transcendence and oneness. Earlier milestones My Favorite Things, Giant Steps, and Blue Train are each miraculous feats of musicianship that drew huge crowds of admirers and imitators, and then there are the years of apprenticeship, when the young Coltrane studied under masters like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and practiced the dharma of Charlie Parker.

A narrative of Coltrane as a kind of musical messiah explains the literal veneration of his work by the Church of Saint John Coltrane, but it is only one convenient means of Coltrane appreciation. In truth, his oeuvre is too vast and varied in scope to neatly sum up in any fully satisfying way. We might just as well start at the beginning, when Coltrane was a mostly unknown, but very hip, sideman, playing with the greats throughout the fifties. “From his Bird-emulating beginnings to his flights into the unknown in his last years,” writes Fernando Ortiz, compiler of the “Complete” John Coltrane playlist above, “the standard of his music and his passion are always at the top or very close to it.”

Comprising over 700 tracks, “or four straight days of listening,” this playlist list is still “far from perfect,” Ortiz admits, “since it is subject to availability and to the non-systematic approach to data on Spotify, but it's not that far this time.”

…no studio recording he made between 1955 and 1965 is missing (his previous years are well represented, starting with his 1946 recordings while in the Navy), which includes all his studio work as a leader during those years, as well as all his recordings as a sideman with Miles and Monk.

The weighting toward live recordings, “both from official and bootleg sources,” provides a very multifaceted view of the artist’s onstage development, and the inclusion of box sets like Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings offer panoramic surveys of his studio work. While we don’t get everything here, and some of the omissions are key, you will, if you spend quality time delving into this treasure house, understand why the name Coltrane conjures such intensity of awe, praise, and devotion.

Related Content:

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The History of Spiritual Jazz: Hear a Transcendent 12-Hour Mix Featuring John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock & More

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

Amanda Palmer Sings a Heartfelt Musical Tribute to YA Author Judy Blume on Her 80th Birthday

Art saves lives, and so does author Judy Blume. While some of her novels are intended for adult readers, and others for the elementary school set, her best known books are the ones that speak to the experience of being a teenage girl.

For many of us coming of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Blume was our best—sometimes only—source when it came to sex, menstruation, masturbation, and other topics too taboo to discuss. She answered the questions we were too shy to ask. Her characters’ interior monologues mirrored our own.

The honesty of her writing earned her millions of grateful young fans, and plenty of attention from those who still seek to keep her titles out of libraries and schools.

While her stories are not autobiographical, her compassion is born of experience.

Here she is on Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a tattered paperback copy of which made the rounds of my 6th grade class, like the precious contraband it was:

When I was in sixth grade, I longed to develop physically like my classmates. I tried doing exercises, resorted to stuffing my bra, and lied about getting my period. And like Margaret, I had a very personal relationship with God that had little to do with organized religion. God was my friend and confidant. But Margaret's family is very different from mine, and her story grew from my imagination.

On It's Not the End of the World:

…in the early seventies I lived in suburban New Jersey with my husband and two children, who were both in elementary school. I could see their concern and fear each time a family in our neighborhood divorced. What do you say to your friends when you find out their parents are splitting up? If it could happen to them, could it happen to us?

At the time, my own marriage was in trouble but I wasn't ready or able to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. In the hope that it would get better I dedicated this book to my husband. But a few years later, we, too, divorced. It was hard on all of us, more painful than I could have imagined, but somehow we muddled through and it wasn't the end of any of our worlds, though on some days it might have felt like it.

And on Forever, which won an A.L.A. Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, 20 years after its original publication:

My daughter Randy asked for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die. She had read several novels about teenagers in love. If they had sex the girl was always punished—an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion (illegal in the U.S. until the 1970's), sometimes even death. Lies. Secrets. At least one life ruined. Girls in these books had no sexual feelings and boys had no feelings other than sexual. Neither took responsibility for their actions. I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly.

The heartfelt lyrics of Amanda Palmer’s recent paean to Blume, who turned 80 this week, confirm that the singer-songwriter was among the legions of young girls for whom this author made a difference.

In her essay, "Why Judy Blume Matters," Palmer recalls coming up with a list of influences to satisfy the sort of question a rising indie musician is frequently asked in interviews. It was a “carefully curated” assortment of rock and roll pedigree and obscurities, and she later realized, almost exclusively male.

This song, which name checks so many beloved characters, is a passionate attempt to correct this oversight:

Perhaps the biggest compliment you could give a writer ― or a writer of youth fiction ― is that they’re so indelible they vanish into memory, the way a dream slips away upon waking because it’s so deeply knitted into the fabric of your subconscious. The experiences of her teenage characters ― Deenie, Davey, Tony, Jill, Margaret ― are so thoroughly enmeshed with my own memories that the line between fact and fiction is deliciously thin. My memories of these characters, though I’d prefer to call them “people” ― of Deenie getting felt up in the dark locker room during the school dance; of Davey listlessly making and stirring a cup of tea that she has no intention of drinking; of Jill watching Linda, the fat girl in her class, being tormented by giggling bullies ― are all as vivid, if not more so, as my own memories…

Palmer’s husband, Neil Gaiman, puts in a cameo in the video’s final moments as one of many readers immersed in Blume’s oeuvre.

Readers, did a special book cover from your adolescence put in an appearance?

For more on Judy Blume’s approach to character and story, consider signing up for her $90 online Master Class.

Name your own price to download Judy Blume by Amanda Palmer here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Joan Didion Creates a Handwritten List of the 19 Books That Changed Her Life

If you've read much Joan Didion, you've almost surely come across an observation or phrase that has changed the way you look at California, the media, or the culture of the late 20th century — or indeed, changed your life. But if life-changing writers have all had their own lives changed by the writers before them, which writers made Joan Didion the Joan Didion whose writing still exerts an influence today? Conveniently enough, the author of Play It as It LaysSlouching Towards Bethlehem, and The White Album once drew up a list of the books that changed her life, and it surfaced on Instagram a few years ago:

  1. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  2. Victory by Joseph Conrad
  3. Guerrillas by V.S. Naipaul
  4. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  5. Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates
  6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  7. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
  9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  10. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
  11. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
  12. The Novels of Henry James: Washington Square, Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl, Daisy Miller, The Aspern Papers, The Turn of the Screw
  13. Speedboat by Renata Adler
  14. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  15. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  16. The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
  17. Collected Poems by Robert Lowell
  18. Collected Poems by W.H. Auden
  19. The Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens

In 1978, when Didion had already become a new-journalism icon, The Paris Review's Linda Kuehl asked her whether any writer influenced her more than others. "I always say Hemingway," she replied, "because he taught me how sentences worked. When I was fifteen or sixteen I would type out his stories to learn how the sentences worked. I taught myself to type at the same time." Teaching A Farewell to Arms, her number-one most influential book, she "fell right back into those sentences. I mean they're perfect sentences. Very direct sentences, smooth rivers, clear water over granite, no sinkholes."

Didion's list also includes other masters of the sentence, albeit most of them possessed of sensibilities quite distinct from Hemingway's. Henry James, for instance: "He wrote perfect sentences, too, but very indirect, very complicated. Sentences with sinkholes. You could drown in them." Consider them alongside the other writers among her favored nineteen, from novelists like Emily Brontë and Joyce Carol Oates to poets like Wallace Stevens and W.H. Auden to figures with one foot in literature and the other in journalism like George Orwell and Norman Mailer, and you've got a mix that no two aspiring writers could read and come out sounding exactly alike. No surprise that such a set of influences would produce a writer like Didion, so often imitated but, in her niche, never equaled.

via BrainPickings

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

The Strange, Sci-Fi Sounds of Skating on Thin Black Ice

This gives new meaning to "skating on thin ice." In Sweden, a filmmaker named Henrik Trygg likes to take his chances skating on pristine sheets of black ice, measuring only five centimeters/two inches thick. It's a risk. A natural thrill. It's also quite a sensory experience. Just listen to the "high-pitched, laser-like sounds," of which sci-fi films could be made.

Watch Trygg's film, "The Sound of Ice," above. And, below, a version annotated in English by National Geographic.

via The Kids Should See This

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What Are the Keys to Happiness?: Take “The Science of Well-Being,” a Free Online Version of Yale’s Most Popular Course

Don't listen to people who tell you they've found the one true path to happiness — but do listen to people who seem seriously in search of it. One such person, Yale psychology and cognitive science professor Laurie Santos, teaches a whole course on the subject: Psych 157, also known as "Psychology and the Good Life." And even though college students are living the best time of their lives — or so the culture keeps insisting to them — enough of them desire its insights to make it the most popular class at the university, with more than 1,180 students currently enrolled.

"The course focuses both on positive psychology — the characteristics that allow humans to flourish, according to Dr. Santos — and behavioral change, or how to live by those lessons in real life," writes The New York Times' David Shimer. "Students must take quizzes, complete a midterm exam and, as their final assessment, conduct what Dr. Santos calls a 'Hack Yo’Self Project,' a personal self-improvement project." The body of knowledge underlying it all is hardly obvious: "Scientists didn’t realize this in the same way 10 or so years ago, that our intuitions about what will make us happy, like winning the lottery and getting a good grade — are totally wrong," the article quotes Santos as saying.

So what, according to the up-to-date research of Santos and others, does make us happy? Now, you don't need to go Yale to find out: you can simply take "The Science of Well-Being," the new online version of Santos' course, on Coursera. "The first half of the course reveals misconceptions we have about happiness and the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do," says its description. "The second half of the course focuses on activities that have been proven to increase happiness along with strategies to build better habits."

Now open for enrollment, "The Science of Well-Being" officially starts in March, and its number of students certainly won't be limited by the capacity of Woolsey Hall. If you'd like to get a sense of the learning experience on offer, have a look at the course's trailer above, in which Santos explains the origin and development of the course, which began in her own home and now, with a potentially worldwide audience, uses not just the latest science but a specially developed app to help its students develop the elements of their own good life. Will you finish the course perfectly happy? She doesn't promise that, but nobody ever lost their way to happiness by knowing a bit about it.

Enroll in "The Science of Well-Being" here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

What’s the Origin of Time Travel Fiction?: New Video Essay Explains How Time Travel Writing Got Its Start with Charles Darwin & His Literary Peers

The idea of time travel is probably as old as the feeling of regret, but the desire to go back in time is not the same as the theoretical notion that it might actually be possible to do so. Where, the Nerdwriter wonders above, did this idea originate? And where did time travel narratives come from in general? Time travel, he argues, “as a device to tell stories, is a relatively recent phenomenon.” And time travel as a specific genre of literature is just a little over a hundred years old.

An important point of clarification: We find instances of time travel—or at least a kind of parallax—in many ancient texts, where some characters experience time differently in different realms and dimensions and can thus see the past or future in our world. In the Ramayana, a figure named Kakbhushubdi lives like the Watchers in the Marvel Comics’ universe—outside of time, observing millennia passing. (It is said he sees the same events happen over and over, with different outcomes each time.)

This is not strictly what we mean by time travel. Yet many ancient stories do show humans going back in time, or going to sleep and waking up in the future, through divine agency. In the Buddhist Pali texts, we learn that the Devas experience one hundred human years as a single day (an idea echoed in the Bible). In the Japanese legend of Urashima Taro, a man visits the palace of the Dragon God, and when he comes back 300 years have passed. But the Nerdwriter is talking about something different than these many narrative instances of time dilation (hundreds of years before Einstein elaborated the concept), though the same devices appear in modern time travel stories.

A significant distinction, the video suggests, lies in the very concept of time. Many ancient people believed that time was cyclical—hence the many variations on the same themes in Kakbhushubdi’s experience—or that time was malleable, subject to divine interruption and disruption. After Darwin’s Origin of Species and the rapid acceptance of evolution (if not natural selection), popular notions of time changed. The modern time travel genre begins with broadly Darwinian ideas as a central premise. In the popular imagination, evolution meant inevitable, linear progress, and thus was born a form of literature called the Utopian Romance.

One such novel, Edward Bellamy’s 1888 Looking Backward, has the distinction of being the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben Hur, with over one million copies sold. Why haven’t you heard of it before? Probably because the book envisions a character who falls asleep and wakes up in a socialist utopia 113 years in the future (the year 2000). It exerted significant influence on the many socialist movements of the time, and “Bellamy clubs” sprang up around the country, advocating for the nationalization of private property. Few Americans, at least, have learned about the widespread popularity of socialism in the U.S. during the late 19th century because… well, you tell me.

But Bellamy’s ideas are embedded in the genre, in work after work we are familiar with (take the parody version in Futurama). In the modern time travel novel, utopias “are no longer on a lost island or a different world, they were in the future.” This observation applies most readily to a more famous foundational text from 1895, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which borrows from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, but sets the action not in a distant land but in the very distant future, the year 802701. Wells’ “subterranean workers, the Morlocks, and the decadent Eloi” who profit from their labor, notes the British Library, do not differ that much from humans of the past or the present—they have evolved technologically and physically, but are still subject to exploitation and violence.

Where Gulliver’s Travels can be read as a misanthropic undermining of notions of cultural superiority, Wells’ novel satirizes the idea that human evolution implies an improvement in human beneficence. The book set a pattern "for science-fiction to critique extreme developments of class." In both Bellamy and Wells, time travel—whether achieved by science or a Rip Van Winkle sleep—presents an occasion for utopian or dystopian allegory. The time travel genre took on a new dimension after Einstein, when the science of relativity replaced Darwinian evolution as the central preoccupation, and paradoxes and rules became central concerns. This shift highlights another important feature of the modern time travel genre—its obsession with cause and effect, and therefore with the very nature and possibility of story itself.

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

Animation Brings to Life “Man as Industrial Palace,” the 1926 Lithograph Depicting the Human Body as a Modern Factory

In 1926, Fritz Kahn, a German gynecologist and anatomy textbook author, produced a lithograph called Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) that depicted the human body as a factory, a chemical plant of sorts. Kahn's body came complete with mechanical lungs, a rock-sorting stomach, gears for a throat, and a switchboard for a brain, and it illustrated rather metaphorically the degree to which industrialization had taken over Western life, creating deep anxiety for some and curiosity for others.

More than 80 years later, Henning Lederer, a German artist, has brought Kahn's mechanical body to life with some gifted animation. To learn more about Lederer's project, you will want to spend more time on IndustriePalast.com and particularly with this helpful PDF. Other animation by Lederer can be found on Vimeo.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on our site in 2011.

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A One-Man Pink Floyd Band Creates Note-Perfect Covers of “Echoes,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Mother” & Other Classics: Watch 19-Year-Old Wunderkind Ewan Cunningham in Action

If you’re a 19-year-old wunderkind like Ewan Cunningham, who can play any number of instruments, it’s a great time to be alive. Recording is cheap, video is just as cheap, and YouTube provides a venue to share a slew of his homemade covers of rock classics.

Above is one of his most ambitious ventures: a full note-for-note cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” all 20 minutes, that uses video trickery to have four Ewans side-by-side playing at Dobbie Hall. (From what we can tell, Dobbie Hall is located in Larbert, Scotland, a town about equidistant between Glasgow and Edinburgh.)

Diving down into all six years of Ewan’s videos and we find, at first, not a 13-year-old Ewan, but his dad, playing and singing an acoustic cover of Coldplay’s “Paradise”. So we know where Ewan got the music bug.

In fact, he tells us “I started playing drums at the age of 4 and continued to only play drums until I started branching out into other instruments such as guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals. I've been teaching myself to mix, record and film music since I was 10 years old and this is my passion.”

Ewan started uploading drum covers at 14, playing along to everyone from Evanescence to Foo Fighters. At 16 he uploaded his first Floyd drum cover (“Brain Damage/Eclipse”) and, like many a teen before him, fell hard for the band.

Then the covers begin in earnest, with him sharing duties with his dad (“Wot’s...Uh the Deal” and “Brain Damage”) and then on to “Grantchester Meadows” (from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma) and finally on January 1, 2017, when Ewan premiered his three song set from Dobbie Hall, featuring “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “Careful with that Axe, Eugene,” and the aforementioned “Echoes.”

After a successful Indiegogo campaign, he returned later in 2017 to Dobbie Hall for three covers from “The Wall,” which cheekily included a papier-mache airplane crashing into the stage at the end of “In the Flesh?”.

The question this raises is obvious: does Ewan record anything original? Indeed, a few months ago he started a new YouTube channel of his own songs. It’s up to you, dear reader, to check them out.

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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.

How to Get Over the Anxiety of Public Speaking?: Watch the Stanford Video, “Think Fast, Talk Smart,” Viewed Already 11 Million Times

How many of us fear public speaking more than death: four out of five, nine out of ten, 99 out of 100? We've all heard a variety of statistics, all of them suggesting the formidability — perceived or real — of the task of getting up and talking in front of other people. But perhaps you'll get an even clearer sense of that from the number 11,175,098: the total view count, as of this writing, racked up by "Think Fast, Talk Smart," an hour-long talk on public speaking techniques by communication coach and Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Matt Abrahams.

The pedants among us, myself included, will have already taken note of that linguistic infelicity in the very title of the talk, but Abrahams himself wastes little time pointing it out himself. He also points out its value: you've got to catch the attention of your audience, and a deliberately made mistake (or even a non-deliberately made one) catches it as well as anything.

He goes on to elaborate on various other techniques we can use not just to get other people listening well, but to get ourselves talking well, the first priority being to get ourselves to stop tripping over our innate desire to talk perfectly.

Abrahams leads his audience through several short "games," instructing them to do things like explaining their weekends to one another by spelling out loud and selling one another Slinkys, with the underlying goal of breaking the habits that have so often impeded our ability to simply get up and speak. He also provides physical techniques, like doing push-ups or taking a walk around the block before giving a talk in order to get your mind more "present," and intellectual ones, like always adhering to a structure, no matter how simple and no matter how ordinary the situation. ("I practice these structures on my kids," he notes.)

Taking the wider view, we shouldn't look at speaking as a challenge, according to Abrahams, but as a chance to explain and influence. "A Q&A session is an opportunity for you," he says, and practicing what he preaches, he opens one up at the end of the talk, underscoring that we can improve our public speaking skills by doing as he says, but even more so by doing as he does. Some of those more than eleven million views surely come from people who have watched more than once, studying Abrahams' own use of language, both verbal and body. He also demonstrates a good deal of humor, though brevity, as Shakespeare wrote, being the soul of wit, you might consider chasing his talk with the four-minute Big Think video on the same subject just above.

Abrahams regularly teaches courses on Public Speaking at Stanford Continuing Studies. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, give his classes a look. Also see his books, Speaking Up without Freaking Out: 50 Techniques for Confident and Compelling Presenting.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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 Do Computers Work?: New Video Series Explains the Inner Workings of the Device You Use Every Day

How do computers work? Yes, that appliance you use every day? To help answer the question, Code.org (a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science) has put together a collection of primers that explain some of the oft-discussed components of computers--circuits, memory, CPU, etc. And how they all fit together.

The first video starts off with an introduction by Bill Gates. Watch the remaining five videos (each about five minutes long) just by letting the playlist run above. Or see this video collection on YouTube.

h/t Paul

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