Watch a Shot-by-Shot Remake of Kubrick’s The Shining, a 48-Minute Music Video Accompanying the New Album by Aesop Rock

In this increasingly atomized world of music, how does one get a new record release noticed above the hum of the internet? If you’re Beyoncé, you just drop the whole thing unannounced and watch the media play catch up. If you’re not Beyoncé you might consider rapper Aesop Rock’s tactic.

This week, the wordsmithiest of hip hop artists and animator Rob Shaw released a shot-by-shot remake of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, created with miniatures and made with what looks like spare change as a budget. All of which plays as background video to a full stream of The Impossible Kid, Aesop Rock’s seventh album and his first in four years.

Rob Shaw created the hipster rats skits for Portlandia as well as videos for They Might Be Giants and previous Aesop Rock tracks, but this Shining remake is something else. First you notice the gleeful cheapness of the production, but then as Aesop Rock’s rap lyrics flow over the visuals, memory starts to fill in the gaps of the images. Shaw’s handiwork is literally in the video: we can see his hand in the bathtub scene, or his body’s shadow as he moves the wooden Jack Torrance down the Overlook’s halls. And the tiny camera replicates the film’s Steadicam shots well, creating a work that is like a delirium of the actual movie.

Now, does this have anything to do with The Impossible Kid, really? Well, the rapper did go to live in a Portland barn after divorce and the death of a friend, and instead of writing "All Work and No Play…" over and over wrote this album, and nobody got hurt. Either way, by the time you've finished watching you'll have heard the album, and that's just one way to play the new music game.

via Noisey

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

The Cover of George Orwell’s 1984 Becomes Less Censored with Wear and Tear

1984 before

In 2013, Penguin released in the UK a series of new covers for five works by George Orwell, including a particularly bold cover design for Orwell's best-known work, 1984. According to Creative Review, the designer, David Pearson, made it so that the book's title and Orwell's name were debossed, then almost completely obscured by black foiling, leaving just "enough of a dent for the title to be determined.” (Get a glimpse here.) No doubt, the design plays on the whole idea of censorship, "referencing the rewriting of history carried out by the novel’s Ministry of Truth."

Three years later, you'll have difficulty buying new copies of Pearson's design. They're in pretty short supply. But anyone with a well-worn copy of the book might discover what one Redditor has also observed--that the cover design "becomes less censored with wear." Compare the "before" image above to the "after" image down below. Was this all part of Pearson's long-range master plan? Or something of a design flaw? We'll probably never know. But if you're looking for a book that gets better with age, then this is one to add to your list.

1984 after

Looking for a free, professionally-read audio book version of Orwell's 1984? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with, you can download two free audio books of your choice, and that can include 1984. Get more details on the offer here.

via Reddit

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What Makes the Stradivarius Special? It Was Designed to Sound Like a Female Soprano Voice, With Notes Sounding Like Vowels, Says Researcher

What makes violins made by the Stradivari and Guarneri families as valuable to musicians as they are to collectors? And how do we measure the optimal sound quality of a violin? One answer comes from violin maker Anton Krutz, who speculates that these highly-prized classical instruments sing so sweetly because they are “made with proportions and spirals based on Golden Ratio geometry.”

Perhaps. But Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, discovered another, less lofty reason for the distinctive sound of these coveted instruments. As Texas A&M Today reports, during his 25 years of research on Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, Nagyvary found that the two makers “soaked their instruments in chemicals such as borax and brine to protect them from a worm infestation that was sweeping through Italy in the 1700s. By pure accident the chemicals used to protect the wood had the unintended result of producing the unique sounds that have been almost impossible to duplicate in the past 400 years.”

Though violins have always been made to imitate the human voice, the uniqueness of the Stradivari and Guarneri violins, Nagyvary set out to prove, results in especially humanlike tones. In a recent 2013 study published in the stringed instrument science periodical Savart Journal, Nagyvary presented research showing, writes Live Science, that these prized Italian instruments “produced several vowel sounds, including the Italian ‘i’ and ‘e’ sounds and several vowel sounds from French and English.” Whether by chemical accident or grand geometric design, “the great violin masters were making violins with more humanlike voices than any others of the time.”

Seeking, as Nagyvary says in the short video above, to “define what was the standard of excellence for the violin sound,” he decided to measure the Stradivari and Guarneri-made instruments against the original model for their timbre: the female soprano voice. To compare the two, he had Itzhak Perlman record a scale on a 1743 Guarneri violin, then asked Metropolitan Opera soprano Emily Pulley to record her voice while she sang various vowel sounds. Nagyvary analyzed the harmonic content of both recordings with a computer program and mapped the results against each other.

His project, writes Texas A&M Today, effectively “proved that the sounds of Pulley’s voice and the violin’s could be located on the same map… and their respective graphic images can be directly compared.” The Guarneri violin does indeed exactly mimic the tones of the singing human voice, replicating vowel sounds from Old Italian and other European languages.

Nagyvary thinks his findings “could change how violins may be valued”—for their sound rather than for the label inside the instrument. A violin maker himself, the former biochemistry professor also suggests a more practical application for his research findings: they might teach violin makers how to improve the quality of their instruments. Nagyvary’s scientific approach may offer luthiers the exact chemical composition and the measurable tonal qualities of the Stradivarius, enabling them to finally duplicate these beloved Renaissance instruments.

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

Hear Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” Performed by Orson Welles & Bing Crosby on Christmas Eve 1944

The most beloved fables have survived for ages, passed down from generation to generation in one form or another since time immemorial. It speaks to the genius of Oscar Wilde that his children's story "The Happy Prince" has attained that status despite having existed for less than 130 years. In that time it has captivated readers, listeners, and viewers (including the likes of Patti Smith) in the original text as well as in a variety of adaptations, including an orchestral performance, an animated film, a reading by Stephen Fry, and a rock opera. It also provided material for a number of radio broadcasts in the 1930s and 40s, including the one above, a reading by Orson Welles, Bing Crosby, and Lurene Tuttle.

Welles takes the Wildean role of the narrator. Crosby plays the titular prince immortalized in statue form without having ever, ironically, experienced happiness in life. Tuttle, a prolific actress of not just radio but vaudeville, film, and television, gives voice to the swallow who, left behind when his flock migrates to Egypt for the winter, alights on the prince's shoulder. In their shared lonesomeness, the bird and the statue become friends, and the prince asks the sparrow to distribute his decorations to the people of the impoverished town around them. What comes of these selfless deeds? The answer resides, with the rest of the story, in the hallowed realm of myth.

Welles, Crosby, and Tuttle's performance of "The Happy Prince" debuted on the Philco Radio Hall of Fame on Christmas Eve 1944. It proved popular enough that two years later, Decca commissioned the actors for another performance of the story and put it out as a record album. In becoming something of a holiday tradition, Wilde's immaculately crafted tale of companionship, sacrifice, and redemption has surely turned a few generations on to the work of one of the sharpest wits in western history. The prince and the swallow may come to an unfortunate end on Earth, but they enjoy the recognition their deeds have earned them in the kingdom of heaven. Wilde's own short life closed with a series of difficult chapters, but now we all recognize the preciousness of what he left behind.

Find more readings of Oscar Wilde classics in our collection, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Prince Plays Unplugged and Wraps the Crowd Around His Little Finger (2004)

Google the words “Prince” and “shade.” Go ahead. It’s worth it. Or just click here, lazybones. Listicle after article on how the departed genius was the “King of Shade.” And seriously, check out the memes. What the hell am I rambling on about? What’s “shade”? If you're feeling unhip, look no further than the video above, which has the added bonus of featuring The Artist in a solo acoustic performance at New York’s Webster Hall for an MTV Unplugged episode, doing a kind of highlights reel of some of his best-loved songs.

He is, of course, brilliant. You don’t need me to rhapsodize about what an amazing musician Prince was. You already knew that, and if you didn’t, the Internet has told you so several hundred times over and, for once, it didn't exaggerate one bit. But back to the shade. In Prince’s case, the subtle side-eye, the withering looks of disdain and disapproval, the WTF sneers…. When you take in the full range of the man’s expressions, you’ll see why Miles Davis compared his stage persona to Charlie Chaplin—he wasn’t just a musical genius, benefactor to many, film star, sexy MFer…. He was also a physical comedian.

Watch him toy with the audience above. He invites them to sing along as he starts with “Cream.” They do so badly off-key, Prince stops and throws shade. Audience shuts up, suitably shamed, then cracks up. Repeat. It’s fantastic crowd interaction from a man who could put on a Broadway-worthy production with all the smoke and pyrotechnics and a cast of thousands, or who could sit onstage alone with an acoustic guitar and wrap the crowd around his little finger. (Later during "Sweet Thing" he turns the mic around and lets the audience take over completely.) And his acoustic blues chops ain't bad either. See the full performance here.

As an added bonus, above, see Prince's very first televised interview, broadcast on MTV in 1985 and shot on the set of the "America" video. Watch him answer prescreened questions and explain to us how, "I'm just like everyone else. I need love... and water."

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

An Ancient Philosophical Song Reconstructed and Played for the First Time in 1,000 Years

Above and below, you can watch musicians perform "Songs of Consolation," a 1,000-year-old song set "to the poetic portions of Roman philosopher Boethius’ magnum opus The Consolation of Philosophy," an influential medieval text written during the 6th century. According to Cambridge University, the performance of the piece, which had been lost in time until recently, didn't come easily:

[T]he task of performing such ancient works today is not as simple as reading and playing the music in front of you. 1,000 years ago, music was written in a way that recorded melodic outlines, but not ‘notes’ as today’s musicians would recognise them; relying on aural traditions and the memory of musicians to keep them alive. Because these aural traditions died out in the 12th century, it has often been thought impossible to reconstruct ‘lost’ music from this era – precisely because the pitches are unknown.

Now, after more than two decades of painstaking work on identifying the techniques used to set particular verse forms, research undertaken by Cambridge University’s Dr Sam Barrett has enabled him to reconstruct melodies from the rediscovered leaf of the 11th century ‘Cambridge Songs’.

The song is performed here by Benjamin Bagby, Hanna Marti and Norbert Rodenkirchen, three members of the medieval music ensemble known as Sequentia.

via Cambridge/IFL Science

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Founding Fathers, A Documentary Narrated By Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Presents the True History of Hip Hop

Cranky, aging rock stars may kvetch and bitch, but it doesn’t really matter. Hip Hop is here to stay. The musical revolution that began in the Bronx has gone global, acquired billions of dollars in holdings, and pushed every other form of popular music to adapt to the world it created over the past several decades. And whether you’re a casual fan or die-hard hip hop head, you’ve probably learned a list of names—the names of the founding fathers of the genre: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Africa Bambaataa, the Sugar Hill Gang, DJ Kool Herc, Kurtis Blow….

The list goes on. Those are the inventors of rap, right? The men—and too often unsung women---who turned seventies disco, funk, and R&B into something else entirely, who re-invented NYC street and club culture, and eventually the world with only their voices, dances, graffiti, attitudes, turntables, and mobile sound systems? Not exactly. Maybe it wasn’t the Bronx in the late ‘70s. Maybe it was Brooklyn and Queens in the late ‘60s. And maybe the founding fathers had names like Grandmaster Flowers, Nu Sounds, King Charles, Master D, Charisma Funk....

Never heard of ‘em? You’re not alone. The documentary above, Founding Fathers—narrated by Chuck D of the immortal Public Enemy—makes the case that these obscure pioneers did it first, and never received the credit they deserve after the uptown artists picked up their styles and ran with them. The claim is attested not only by veterans of this original Brooklyn party scene, but also by New York scenester Fab 5 Freddy and Queens historian Danny Wells (who traces the origins of the genre back to Louis Armstrong, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers), among other observers---and by the end of the film, you'll have a very different understanding of where the music came from.

We learn that rapping began in 1970 with the rhyming patter of radio and club DJs, who imitated and one-upped each other in friendly competition over disco records, then created the call-and-response refrains that characterized the genre early on. And the musical “mixology” of hip hop began at the end of the '60s with Brooklyn DJ Grandmaster Flowers—“the first Grandmaster”—who got his start in public parks. DJing then evolved into an almost athletic event with twin brothers The Disco Twins. Constructed mainly from interviews and archival footage, Founding Fathers presents a history of hip hop that you’ve never heard before, one created by local stars who didn't achieve worldwide fame and glory, but who nonetheless forever changed the way the world sounds.

Founding Fathers (made available on Founding Fathers Youtube channel) will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via Kottke

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

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