Calm Down & Study with Relaxing Piano, Jazz & Harp Covers of Music from Hayao Miyazaki Films

Calling all pediatric dentists!

Cat Trumpet, aka musician and anime lover Curtis Bonnett, may have inadvertently hit on a genius solution for keeping young patients calm in the chair: relaxing piano covers of familiar tunes from Studio Ghibli’s animated features.

The results fall somewhere between pianist George Winston’s early 80s seasonal solos and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack for the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Let us remember that most of these tunes were fairly easy on the ears to begin with. Composer Joe Hisaishi, who has collaborated with director Hayao Miyazaki on every Studio Ghibli movie save Castle of Cagliostro, isn't exactly a punk rocker.

Many listeners report that the playlist helps them stay focused while studying or doing homework. Others succumb to the emotional riptides of childhood nostalgia.

Tender prenatal and newborn ears might prefer Cat Trumpet’s even gentler harp covers of seven Ghibli tunes, above.

Meawhile, the Japan-based Cafe Music BGM Station provides hours of jazzy, bossa-nova inflected Studio Ghibli covers to hospitals, hair salons, boutiques, and cafes. You can listen to three-and-a-half-hours worth, above. This, too, gets high marks as a homework helper.

 

Cat Trumpet’s Relaxing Piano Studio Ghibli Complete Collection

00:00:03 Spirited Away - Inochi no Namae

00:04:14 Howl's Moving Castle - Merry Go Round of Life

00:07:16 Kiki's Delivery Service - Town With An Ocean View

00:09:31 The Secret World of Arrietty - Arrietty's Song

00:13:29 Laputa Castle In The Sky - Carrying You

00:17:05 Porco Rosso - Theme

00:19:55 Whisper of the Heart - Song of the Baron

00:22:33 Porco Rosso - Marco & Gina's Theme

00:26:19 Only Yesterday - Main Theme

00:29:07 From Up On Poppy Hill - Reminiscence

00:34:12 Spirited Away - Shiroi Ryuu

00:37:06 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Tori no Hito

00:41:14 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind -  Kaze no Densetsu

00:43:25 My Neighbor Totoro - Kaze no Toori Michi

00:47:48 Castle of Cagliostro - Fire Treasure

00:51:38 Princess Mononoke - Tabidachi nishi e

00:53:07 Tales From Earthsea - Teru's Theme

00:58:17 My Neighbor Totoro - Tonari no Totoro

01:02:35 Whisper of the Heart - Theme

01:06:03 Ponyo - Rondo of the Sunflower House

01:10:34 Howl's Moving Castle - The Promise of the World

 

Cat Trumpet’s Relaxing Harp Studio Ghibli Collection Playlist

00:03 Spirited Away - Inochi no Namae

04:01 Spirited Away - Waltz of Chihiro

06:43 Howls Moving Castle - Merry Go Round of Life

09:45 Howl's Moving Castle - The Promise of the World

13:15 Laputa Castle In The Sky - Main Theme

16:55 Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - Main Theme

20:15 Tonari no Totoro - Kaze no Toori Michi

 

Cafe Music BGM’s Relaxing Jazz & Bossa Nova Studio Ghibli Cover Playlist (song titles in Japanese)

0:00 海の見える街  〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

4:10 もののけ姫  〜もののけ姫/Princess Mononoke

7:28 君をのせて 〜天空の城ラピュタ/Laputa, the Castle of the Sky

11:09 風の通り道 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

16:26 ひこうき雲 〜風立ちぬ/THE WIND RISES〜

19:48 空とぶ宅急便 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

25:05 人生のメリーゴーランド

〜ハウルの動く城/Howl's Moving Castle

28:07 いつも何度でも 〜千と千尋の神隠し/Spirited Away

32:08 となりのトトロ 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

36:40 さんぽ 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

38:40 崖の上のポニョ 〜崖の上のポニョ/Ponyo

42:08 ねこバス 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

46:06 旅路 〜風立ちぬ/THE WIND RISES

49:16 アシタカとサン 〜もののけ姫/Princess Mononoke

53:38 おかあさん 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

58:19 旅立ち 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

1:02:25 風の谷のナウシカ 〜風の谷のナウシカ/Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

1:06:59 やさしさに包まれたなら 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

 

Tune in to Cat Trumpet’s Spotify channel for his relaxing takes on Disney and anime, as well as Studio Ghibli. They are available for purchase on iTunes and Google Play, or enjoy some free downloads by patronizing his Patreon. He takes requests, too.

Tune in to Cafe Music’s BGM Spotify channel for Studio Ghibli jazz, in addition to some relaxing Hawaiian guitar jazz and a selection of nature-based mellow tunes. They are available for purchase on iTunes.

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

Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Cover for On the Road (1952)

This falls under the category, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself."

In 1950, when Jack Kerouac released his first novel, The Town and the City, he was less than impressed by the book cover produced by his publisher, Harcourt Brace. (Click here to see why.) So, in 1952, when he began shopping his second novel, the great beat classic On the Road, Kerouac went ahead and designed his own cover. He sent it to a potential publisher A.A. Wyn, with a little note typed at the very top:

Dear Mr. Wyn:

I submit this as my idea of an appealing commercial cover expressive of the book. The cover for “The Town and the City” was as dull as the title and the photo backflap. Wilbur Pippin’s photo of me is the perfect On the Road one … it will look like the face of the figure below.

J.K.

Wyn turned down the novel, and it wouldn't get published until 1957. It would, however, become a bestseller and be published with many different covers through the years. They're all on display here.

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Note: This fine drawing appeared on our site back in 2012.

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New Digital Archive Puts Online 4,000 Historic Images of Rome: The Eternal City from the 16th to 20th Centuries

The poet Tibullus first described Rome as "The Eternal City" in the first century BC, and that evocative nickname has stuck over the thousands of years since. Or rather, he would have called it "Urbs Aeterna," which for Italian-speakers would have been "La Città Eterna," but regardless of which language you prefer it in, it throws down a daunting challenge before any historian of Rome. Each scholar has had to find their own way of approaching such a historically formidable place, and few have built up such a robust visual record as Rodolfo Lanciani, 4000 items from whose collection became available to view online this year, thanks to Stanford Libraries.

As an "archaeologist, professor of topography, and secretary of the Archaeological Commission," says the collection's about page, Lanciani, "was a pioneer in the systematic, modern study of the city of Rome."

Having lived from 1845 to 1929 with a long and fruitful career to match, he "collected a vast archive of his own notes and manuscripts, as well as works by others including rare prints and original drawings by artists and architects stretching back to the sixteenth century." After he died, his whole library found a buyer in the Istituto Nazionale di Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte (INASA), which made it available to researchers at the 15th-century Palazzo Venezia in Rome.

Enter a team of professors, archaeologists, and technologists from Stanford and elsewhere, who with a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and in partnership with Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the National Institute, began digitizing it all. Their efforts have so far yielded an exhibition of about 4,000 of Lanciani's drawings, prints, photographs and sketches of Rome from the 16th century to the 20th. Not only can you examine them in high-resolution in your browser as well as download them, you can also see the locations of what they depict pinpointed on the map of Rome. That feature might come in especially handy when next you pay a visit to The Eternal City, though for many of the features depicted in Lanciani's collection, you hardly need directions. Enter the digital collection here.

via Stanford News

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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.

An Online Trove of Historic Sewing Patterns & Costumes

As Halloween draws nigh, our thoughts turn to costumes.

Not those rubbery, poorly constructed, sexy and/or gory off-the-rack readymades, but the sort of lavish, historically accurate, home-sewn affairs that would have earned praise and extra candy, if only our mother had been inclined to spend the bulk of October chained to a sewing machine.

Not that one needs the excuse of a holiday to suit up in a fluffy 50’s crinoline, a Tudor-style kirtle gown, or a 16th-century Flemish outfit with all the trimmings....

Accountant Artemisia Moltabocca, creator of the historical and cosplay costuming blog Costuming Diary, has primed our pump with a list of free historical medieval, Elizabethan and Victorian patterns, including ones for the garments mentioned above.

Click through the many links on her site and you may find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole of some other cos-player's generosity.

That link to the custom corset pattern generator may set you on the road to creating a perfectly fitted Viking apron or a good-for-beginners tunic. (Bring out yer dead!)

Fancy even more choices? Moltabocca’s Free Historical Costume Patterns Pinterest board is a veritable trove of dress-up fun.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Costume and Textiles Project has detailed downloadable PDFs to walk you through construction of such anachronistic finery as a 1940’s Zoot Suit, a 19th-century boy’s frock (above), and a man’s vest with removable chest pads (hubba hubba).

An 1812 Ohio Militia Officer’s Coat from the Ohio Historical Society.

A pair of Nankeen Trousers courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum.

A bullet bra (hubba bubba redux!)—pair it with a 1940s Vogue hat and handbag and you’re ready to go!

A Regency Drawn Bonnet and an Improved Seamless Whalebone Underskirt from E. & J. Holmes & Co, Boston, 1857.

If you’re feeling less than confident about your sewing abilities, you might make like an upper-class Roman in an Ionian chiton.

Or just curl a synthetic wig!

Press someone else’s seams with a straightening iron (above), then kick back and enjoy the vintage ads, photos of antique garments, and the period information that often accompanies these how-tos. And check out the 1913 patent application for Marie Perillat’s Bust Reducer, a miracle invention designed to “prevent flesh bulging while providing self adjustable, comfortable, hygienic support.”

Begin with some of Costuming Diary’s historical sewing patterns before delving into its massive pattern collection board on Pinterest.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her current sewing project is 19 headpieces for Theater of the Apes Sub-Adult Division’s upcoming production of Animal Farm at the Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

“The Philosopher’s Web,” an Interactive Data Visualization Shows the Web of Influences Connecting Ancient & Modern Philosophers

How do we begin to read philosophy? Can we slide a book from the shelf, thumb through it casually, picking out the bits of wisdom that make sense?

Should we find a well-known “important” work, sit in a quiet study, read the preface, translator’s introduction, etc…

How soon we discover we know less about the book than when we started.

We go wandering, lose ourselves in secondary sources, glosses, footnotes, comments sections, Wikipedia articles…. The important book remains unread….

In-between these two extremes are a variety of approaches that work well for many an autodidact. When data scientist Grant Louis Oliveira decided he wanted to undertake a self-guided course of study to “more rigorously explore my ideas,” he began with the honest admission, “I find the world of philosophy a bit impenetrable.”

Where some of us might make an outline, a spreadsheet, or a humble reading list, Oliveira created a complex “social network visualization” of “a history of philosophy” to act as his guide.

“What I imagined,” he writes, “is something like a tree arranged down a timeline. More influential philosophers would be bigger nodes, and the size of the lines between the nodes would perhaps be variable by strength of influence.”

The project, called “Philosopher’s Web,” shows us an impressively dense collection of names—hundreds of names—held together by what look like the bendy filaments in a fiber-optic cable. Each blue dot represents a philosopher, the thin gray lines between the dots represent lines of influence.

The data for the project comes not from academic scholarship but from Wikipedia, whose “semantic companion” dbpedia Oliveira used to construct the web of “influenced” and “influenced by” connections. (Read about his method here.)

As you zoom in, click around, and access different views, the dots and lines wave like tendrils of a sea anemone. Oliveira describes the process thus: “the more influential the philosopher, the thicker and more numerous the lines emanating from him. You can click on any one of these nodes to see which philosopher it represents. If you click and hold, it will display the network of philosophers he has been influenced by, and has influenced. Each line has an arrow at the end to denote the direction of the relationship.” (Despite his use of the masculine pronoun, Oliveira's web of connections is not exclusively male.)

Both the project's site and Daily Nous have more nuanced, detailed instructions. While at first glance the Philosopher’s Web can itself seem a bit impenetrable, it reveals more of its inner workings the more you use it. Press and hold on one of the blue dots, and it expands into a smaller cluster of its own, showing a cloud of connections hovering around the central figure. Toggle the “focus” and you get secondary and tertiary relationships.

 

Click on the lines of influence and see, instead of an explanation, a somewhat mystifying “influence score.” Click on the “Filter” tab under "Settings" and find a range of filters that allow you to narrow or widen the scope of the map to certain historical periods.

In addition to individual philosophers, the web also contains the names of several writers, journalists, columnists, and popular public intellectuals, like Paul Krugman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It also displays several movements or schools of thought as blue dots. Want to know the big names in “Insurrectionary Anarchism”? Click on the node and chose your levels of specificity.

The weaknesses of the approach are perhaps immediately apparent. What good is a cluster of unfamiliar names to the beginner, especially since each one appears devoid of historical and intellectual context? Oliveira discloses some other problems, including an issue with the software rendering accents and foreign characters (as you can see in Slavoj Žižek's entry above.)

But the more one uses the Philosopher’s Web, the more its utility becomes apparent. “Hopefully based on context,” writes Oliveira, “you should be able to figure out who these people are with a little bit of google.” Visualizing the connections between them gives one an instant sense of the communities and continuities to which they belong, and among each cluster will always be at least one or two familiar names, at least in passing, to act as an anchor.

All in all, the Philosopher’s Web should prove to be a useful application for a certain kind of learner, and it represents a step-up from the ritual of clicking through Wikipedia links to try and put the puzzle pieces together one at a time. The Philosopher's Web joins a number of other similar visualizations (see the links below) that aim at creating similar maps of the discipline.

Should you find the approach a little sterile and schematic, well... there's always that book you put down a few hours ago....

via Daily Nous

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

The Films of Christopher Nolan Explored in a Sweeping 4-Hour Video Essay: Memento, The Dark Knight, Interstellar & More

Cameron Beyl does not play by the rules when it comes to video essays. Instead of short, under-10 minute explorations we’ve come to expect from the ever-increasing coterie of YouTube essayists, Beyl, in his Directors Series on Vimeo, devotes hours to exploring the filmographies of some of cinema’s great auteurs. We’ve already introduced you in previous posts to his extended hagiographies of Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

Now comes his latest work, a multi-part exploration of Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre, covering his hardscrabble years all the way through his Hollywood blockbusters and ending with Interstellar. (This writer, having thought higher of Dunkirk than his previous works, will just have to wait a few years until the next chapter.)

In the video above, Beyl starts off with some prehistory about Christopher and his brother Jonathan, his early years making Super 8 movies, his time spent at University College London, and the very rare first films, “Tarantella” and “Larceny,” the single-gag short “Doodlebug,” and how that crew--including his lead actor Jeremy Theobald and his producer-soon-to-be-wife Emma Thomas--stayed with him through his $6000 debut feature Following and its thematic and stylistic cousin Memento, made for $4.5 million.

Part 2 shows Nolan navigating the studio system. Given a chance by executive producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh to remake the Norwegian thriller Insomnia, he indulged in his love of Michael Mann by working with Al Pacino, who plays a character not unlike his role in 1995’s Heat. Then Nolan takes on a moribund comic book franchise and reboots it into Batman Begins, a move that studio execs have since done over and over to rethink various properties with different directors. He ends with a less enthusiastic examination of 2006’s The Prestige.

Part 3 takes on both The Dark Knight and Inception, two huge blockbusters and one that took Nolan into the pantheon of critical and popular acclaim. If undecided on Nolan, Beyl’s obsequious tone might put one off: “Simply put, the late 2000s saw Nolan operating at the height of his powers, locked in sync with the cultural zeitgeist to such a degree that his efforts were actively steering it.” (Please have that debate in the comments.) However, Beyl makes some nice comparisons between The Dark Knight and Heat here.

Part Four shows Nolan concluding his Batman trilogy, failing to top The Dark Knight, but then going all Kubrick with Interstellar. He’s a director who has gladly played with all the toys multi-million dollar Hollywood productions have at their disposal, and he’s never been afraid of being epic. Beyl leaves off, noting that after expanding into the universe with Interstellar, Nolan has nowhere to turn but inward. So far that has resulted in the historical Dunkirk. But whether Nolan can return to more modest work has yet to be seen.

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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.

Maria Anna Mozart Was a Musical Prodigy Like Her Brother Wolfgang, So Why Did She Get Erased from History?

When people ask why we have specifically black histories, or queer histories, or women’s histories, it can be hard for many who do historical research to take the question seriously. But in fairness, such questions point to the very reason that alternative or “revisionist” histories exist. We cannot know what we are not told about history—at least not without doing the kind of digging professional scholars can do. Virginia Woolf’s tragic, but fictional, history of Shakespeare’s sister notwithstanding, the claims made by cultural critics about marginalization and oppression aren’t based on speculation, but on case after case of individuals who were ignored by, or shut out of, the wider culture, and subsequently disappeared from historical memory.

One such extraordinary case involves the real sister of another towering European figure whose life we know much more about than Shakespeare’s. Before Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began writing his first compositions, his older sister Maria Anna Mozart, nicknamed Nannerl, had already proven herself a prodigy.

The two toured Europe together as children—she was with her brother during his 18-month stay in London. “There are contemporaneous reviews praising Nannerl,” writes Sylvia Milo, “and she was even billed first.” A 1763 review, for example, sounds indistinguishable from those written about young Wolfgang.

Imagine an eleven-year-old girl, performing the most difficult sonatas and concertos of the greatest composers, on the harpsichord or fortepiano, with precision, with incredible lightness, with impeccable taste. It was a source of wonder to many.

18th century classical audiences first came to know Wolfgang as part of a brother-sister duo of “wunderkinder.” But the sister half has been airbrushed out of the picture. She does not appear in the definitive Hollywood treatment, Milos Forman’s Amadeus. And, moreover, she only recently began to emerge in the academic and classical worlds. “I grew up studying to be a violinist,” writes Sylvia Milo. “Neither my music history nor my repertoire included any female composers.”

With my braided hair I was called “little Mozart” by my violin teacher, but he meant Wolfi. I never heard that Amadeus had a sister. I never heard of Nannerl Mozart until I saw that family portrait.

In the portrait (top), Nannerl and Wolfgang sit together at the harpsichord while their father Leopold stands nearby. Nannerl, in the foreground, has an enormous pompadour crowning her small oval face. Of the hairdo, she wrote to her brother, in their typically playful rapport, “I am writing to you with an erection on my head and I am very much afraid of burning my hair.”

After discovering Nanerl, Milo poured through the historical archives, reading contemporary accounts and personal letters. The research gave birth to a one-woman play, The Other Mozart, which has toured for the last four years to critical acclaim. (See a trailer video above). In her Guardian essay, Milo describes Nannerl’s fate: “left behind in Salzberg” when she turned 18. “A little girl could perform and tour, but a woman doing so risked her reputation…. Her father only took Wolfgang on their next journeys around the courts of Europe. Nannerl never toured again.” We do know that she wrote music. Wolfgang praised one composition as “beautiful” in a letter to her. But none of her music has survived. “Maybe we will find it one day,” Milo writes. Indeed, an Australian researcher claims to have found Nannerl’s “musical handwriting” in the compositions Wolfgang used for practice.

Other scholars have speculated that Mozart’s sister, five years his senior, certainly would have had some influence on his playing. “No musicians develop their art in a vacuum,” says musical sociologist Stevan Jackson. “Musicians learn by watching other musicians, by being an apprentice, formally or informally.” The question may remain an academic one, but the life of Nannerl has recently become a matter of popular interest as well, not only in Milo’s play but in several novels, many titled Mozart’s Sister, and a 2011 film, also titled Mozart’s Sister, written and directed by René Féret and starring his daughter in the titular role. The trailer above promises a richly emotional period drama, which—as all entertainments must do—takes some liberties with the facts as we know, or don't know, them, but which also, like Milo's play, gives flesh to a significant, and significantly frustrated, historical figure who had, for a couple hundred years, at least, been rendered invisible.

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

2,000+ Architecture & Art Books You Can Read Free at the Internet Archive

Somebody once called writing about music like dancing about architecture, and the description stuck. But what's writing about architecture like? Even if you already know — especially if you already know — know that the Internet Archive makes it easy to binge on some of the finest architecture writing around and find out, and completely for free at that. The site, as Archdaily's Becky Quintal reports, has implemented a “lending feature that allows users to electronically 'borrow' books for 14 days. With over 2,000 borrowable books on architecture, patrons from across the globe can read works by Reyner Banham, Walter Gropius, Ada Louise Huxtable and Jonathan Glancey. There are also helpful guides, dictionaries and history books.”

Quintal recommends a variety of titles from Glancey's The Story of Architecture and Banham's Theory and Design in the First Machine Age to Gropius' The New Architecture and the Bauhaus and Tom Wolfe's famous jeremiad From Bauhaus to Our Our House.

Other borrowable books in the collection can take you even farther around our built world: Boston Architecture, French Architecture, Japanese Architecture, Moorish Architecture in Andalusia, The Art and Architecture of China, The Art and Architecture of Medieval Russia. As you can see, and as in a “real” library or bookstore, writing about architecture at some point transitions into writing about art, quite a few volumes of which — on art history, art technique, and even museum work — the Internet Archive also lets you check out.

But before you get your two weeks with any of these books from the Internet Archive's virtual library, you'll need your virtual library card. To get it, visit Archive.org's account creation page and come up with a screen name and password. As soon as you've agreed to the site's terms and conditions, you've got a card. If you'd like to read these books on devices other than your computer, you'll need to download Adobe's free Digital Editions software. Out digital century has made binging on all kinds of reading material incomparably easier than before, but just like brick-and-mortar libraries, the Internet Archive has only so many “copies” to lend out, so be warned that if you want an especially popular book, you may have to get on a waitlist first. Me, I'm hoping Experimental Architecture in Los Angeles will come in any day now, but the art or architecture book you most want to read may just be waiting for you to check it out. Scan the collection here.

via Archdaily

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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.

Alan Turing Algorithmically Approximated by Ellipses: A Computer Art Project

Just a cool find on Twitter, a work of computer art created by Jeremy Kun, a math PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now an engineer at Google.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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via BoingBoing

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Ingmar Bergman’s 1950s Soap Commercials Wash Away the Existential Despair

Ingmar Bergman is usually remembered for the intensely serious nature of his films. Death, anguish, the absence of God--his themes can be pretty gloomy. So it might come as a surprise to learn that Bergman once directed a series of rather silly soap commercials.

The year was 1951. Bergman was 33 years old. The Swedish film industry, his main source of income, had just gone on strike to protest high government taxes on entertainment. With two ex-wives, five children, a new wife and a sixth child on the way, Bergman needed to find another way to make money.

A solution presented itself when he was asked to create a series of commercials for a new anti-bacterial soap called Bris ("Breeze," in English). Bergman threw himself into the project. He later recalled:

Originally, I accepted the Bris commercials in order to save the lives of my self and my families. But that was really secondary. The primary reason I wanted to make the commercials was that I was given free rein with money and I could do exactly what I wanted with the product's message. Anyhow, I have always found it difficult to feel resentment when industry comes rushing toward culture, check in hand.

Bergman enlisted his favorite cinematographer at that time, Gunnar Fischer, and together they made nine miniature films, each a little more than one minute long, to be screened in movie theaters over the next three years. Bergman used the opportunity to experiment with visual and narrative form.

Many of the stylistic devices and motifs that would eventually figure into his masterpieces can be spotted in the commercials: mirrors, doubles, the telescoping in or out of a story-within-a-story. You don't need to understand Swedish to recognize the mark of the master.

In the window above we feature Episode 1, "Bris Soap," which is perhaps the most basic of the commercials. They become progressively more imaginative as the series moves along:

  • Episode 2, Tennis Girl: An innocent game of tennis sets the stage for an epic battle between good (Bris soap) and evil (bacteria). Can you guess which side wins?
  • Episode 3, Gustavian: Bad hygiene in the 17th century court of King Gustav III. Plenty of foppishness, but no Bris.
  • Episode 4, Operation: "Perhaps the most intriguing of the commercials," writes Swedish film scholar Fredrik Gustafsson. "In this one Bergman is deconstructing the whole business of filmmaking, using all the tricks of his disposal to trick and treat us."
  • Episode 5, The Magic Show: Another battle between good and evil, this time in miniature.
  • Episode 6, The Inventor: A man heroically invents anti-bacterial soap, only to awaken and realize it was all a dream. (And anyway, the makers of Bris had already done it.)
  • Episode 7, The Rebus: Bergman uses montage to create a game of "rebus," a heraldic riddle (non verbis, sed rebus: "not by words but by things"), to piece together the slogan, "Bris kills the bacteria--no bacteria, no smell."
  • Episode 8, Three-Dimensional: Bergman thought 3-D films were "ridiculously stupid," and in this episode he takes a few playful jabs.
  • Episode 9, The Princess and the Swineherd: In this reinvention of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Swineherd," a 15-year-old Bibi Andersson, who went on to star in many of Bergman's greatest films, makes her screen debut as a beautiful princess who promises a swineherd 100 kisses in exchange for a bar of soap. Not a bad deal for the swineherd.

To learn more about Bergman's soap commercials you can watch a 2009 report by Slate film critic Dana Stevens here. (Note the video requires a flash player.)

Note: This post first appeared on our site in 2011. It's one of our favorites. So we're bringing it back.

Related Content:

The Mirrors of Ingmar Bergman, Narrated with the Poetry of Sylvia Plath

Ingmar Bergman Visits The Dick Cavett Show, 1971

Fellini’s Fantastic TV Commercials





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