The Only Surviving Behind-the-Scenes Footage of I Love Lucy, and It’s in Color! (1951)

The enduring popularity of comedian Lucille Ball’s 6-season sitcom, I Love Lucy, has resulted in so many full-color collectibles, occasional viewers may forget that the show was filmed in black and white.

More ardent fans may have tuned in for the special colorized episodes CBS aired a couple of years ago, but the only existing color footage of Lucy and her husband and co-star, Desi Arnaz, was captured by a stealthy studio audience member.

The ubiquity of smart phones have made unauthorized celebrity shots commonplace, but consider that this regular Joe managed to smuggle a 16mm movie camera into the bleachers of producer Jess Oppenheimer's tightly controlled set. This covert operation on October 12, 1951 shed light on the true colors of both the Tropicana nightclub and Ricardo apartment sets.

Oppenheimer’s son, Jess, eventually obtained the footage, inserting it into the appropriate scenes from "The Audition,” the episode from which they were snagged.

The Harpo Marx-esque Professor character Lucy plays is a holdover from both the pilot and the vaudeville show she and Arnaz created and toured nationally in 1950, in an attempt to convince CBS that audiences were ready for a comedy based on a “mixed marriage” such as their own.

In addition to Arnaz’ unbridled conga playing, the home movie, above, contains a lovely, unguarded moment at the 2:40 mark, of the stars calmly awaiting slating, side by side on the soundstage.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

1910 Fairground Organ Plays Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and It Works Like a Charm

First built in Paris by Charles Marenghi in 1910, the organ above quickly found a home in a Belgian restaurant. And there it remained for many years ... until 1967, when it traveled abroad, to a Texas fairground. Imagine the culture shock it must have felt. But that's not where it ends.

Nowadays, you can watch the 81-key organ play Queen's 1975 hit "Bohemian Rhapsody," quite different than whatever it was playing in Antwerp a century ago. Alexey Rom wrote the arrangement for the song, and programmed it using the strip of cards being fed through the instrument. Hopefully this isn't the last stop on this organ's grand journey.

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The Physics of Playing a Guitar Visualized: Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” Viewed from Inside the Guitar

Give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed. While the first 30 seconds of the video above may resemble an amateur iPhone prank, it soon becomes something unexpectedly enchanting—a visualization of the physics of music in real-time. The Youtuber places his phone inside an acoustic guitar, then plays Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters" against a backdrop of clouds and blue sky. Due to what Twisted Sifter identifies as the phone camera’s rolling shutter effect, the actual waves of the vibrating guitar strings are as clearly visible as if they were on an oscilloscope.

The comparison is an apt one, since we might use exactly such a device to measure and visualize the acoustic properties of stringed instruments. “A guitar string”---writes physicist and musician Sam Hokin in his short explanation---is a common example of a string fixed at both ends which is elastic and can vibrate.

The vibrations of such a string are called standing waves, and they satisfy the relationship between wavelength and frequency that comes from the definition of waves.”

Those with a physics background might appreciate The Physics Classroom's technical description of guitar string vibration, with several technical diagrams. For others, the video above by Youtube physics teacher Doc Shuster may be a better format. Shuster explains such entities as nodes and antinodes (you’ll have to tell me if you get any of his jokes). And at about 2:25, he digresses from his musings on these phenomena to talk about guitar strings specifically, which “make one note for a given tightness of the string, a given weight of the string, and a given length of the string.”

This is, of course, why changing the length of the string by pressing down on it changes the note the string produces, and it applies to all stringed instruments and the piano. Other factors, says Shuster, like the body of the guitar, use of pickups, etc., have a much smaller effect on the frequency of a guitar string than tightness, weight, and length. We see how the complexity of different standing wave forms relates to harmonics (or overtones). And when we return to the Metallica video at the top, we'll have a better understanding of how the strings vibrate differently as they produce different frequencies at different harmonics.

Shuster’s video quickly lapses into calculus, and you may or may not be lost by his explanations. The Physics Classroom has some excellent, free tutorials on various types of waves, pitch frequency, vibration, and resonance. Perhaps all we need to keep in mind to understand the very basics of the science is this, from their introduction: “As a guitar string vibrates, it sets surrounding air molecules into vibrational motion. The frequency at which these air molecules vibrate is equal to the frequency of vibration of the guitar string.” The action of the string produces an equal and opposite reaction in the air, which then creates “a pressure wave which travels outward from its source.” The pressure waves strike our eardrums, our brains interpret sound, and there you have it.

via Twisted Sifter

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

J.M. Coetzee on the Pleasures of Writing: Total Engagement, Hard Thought & Productiveness

Martin Amis once criticized his fellow novelist J.M. Coetzee for writing in a style "predicated on transmitting absolutely no pleasure." This confused those of us readers who enjoy both men's books, but then British tradition, of which Amis has been an inheritor as well as a critic, says that if someone gets put on a pedestal, you must at least try to knock them down. The South African Coetzee, winner of one Nobel Prize and two Bookers, doesn't exactly want for acclaim, but his stark prose and ascetic, ultra-serious images hardly make him seem like an author drunk on his own literary power.

In a controversial profile, Coetzee's countryman Rian Malan wrote that "a colleague who has worked with him for more than a decade claims to have seen him laugh just once." We might expect the author of books like Waiting for the BarbariansDisgrace, and Elizabeth Costello to declare what he declares in the interview clip above: "Writing, in itself, as an activity, is neither beautiful nor consoling. It's industry." Yet he does credit it with certain pleasures, "the pleasures of total engagement, hard thought, verifiable activity, verifiable results. Productiveness."

"Having written the book, being able to look back on having completed the book, may or may not be consoling, but writing a book is quite different." Work, asks the interviewer? "Yes. It's good work." And why do this work in the first place? Coetzee would advise against the mission of "transforming the world into the world as it should be. That would be too much of a task if one undertook it every time." He finds "grasping the world as it is, putting it within a certain frame, taming it to a certain extent" — taming "its wildness, its disorder, its chaos" — "quite enough of an ambition."

These words come from an episode of the Dutch documentary series Of Beauty and Consolation on Coetzee which aired in 2000, after the publication of Boyhood but before that of Youth and Summertime, the books of his trilogy of partially fictionalized "autrebiography" in which he grasps frames, and tames the events of his own experience. "I haven't forgotten the miseries of my childhood," he says, going on to insist that misery has no beauty in itself. "I have plenty of happy moments in my childhood, many of which are in the book. The richness of those moments depends very heavily on their being embedded in a certain life. A book is a way to bring that life to life," in its pleasures and sorrows alike.

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

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” Played on Korean Instrument Dating Back to 6th Century

Gayageum player Luna Lee has been on a bit of a viral video roll recently. First it was her cover of "Space Oddity" by David Bowie that earned her 110,000 plus views, and just two days ago we featured her covers of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall," "Great Gig in the Sky," and “Comfortably Numb.” Back in her archives from a year ago, we’ve also found the above video of her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Although Lee’s rock covers add bass and drums to keep the energy up, this version just features three overdubbed gayageums and a very subtle synth string line, leaving the bittersweet melody to come to the fore. No pyrotechnics here.

The best known of Cohen’s songs and the most covered, thanks mostly to Jeff Buckley’s version, “Hallelujah” was not considered a classic originally. In this fine story of the song told by Malcolm Gladwell on his Revisionist History podcast (stream it below), it took 15 years for its genius to be unveiled, by which time it just seemed obvious, like we had known it all along.

Gladwell interviews Alan Light, who wrote an entire book on the evolution of the song, the composition of which “bedeviled” Cohen the most, resulting in 80 or so verses that Cohen wrote and rejected until he found the perfect combo. The song took years to complete. (This segment of the podcast starts at 18:54 in, but you should really listen to the whole thing as it also explores Cezanne's art and Elvis Costello’s writing methods.) The story also involves Bob Dylan, a failed original recording described as "turgid", and the endless tinkering in Cohen's live concerts. The twists and turns that follow are both coincidental and tragic, and we will let you discover all of them by listening to the podcast.

Alan Light also spoke to NPR about the song following Cohen’s death earlier this month.

“September 11 comes,” he says, “and Jeff Buckley's recording of "Hallelujah" really became sort of an anthem in the aftermath, emotional shorthand for melancholy and for sadness.”

Sounds like that time of darkness has come around again, and we still have “Hallelujah,” needed more than ever.

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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.

Alice’s Restaurant: An Illustrated Version of Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic

Alice’s Restaurant. It’s now a Thanksgiving classic, and something of a tradition around here. Recorded in 1967, the 18+ minute counterculture song recounts Arlo Guthrie’s real encounter with the law, starting on Thanksgiving Day 1965. As the long song unfolds, we hear all about how a hippie-bating police officer, by the name of William "Obie" Obanhein, arrested Arlo for littering. (Cultural footnote: Obie previously posed for several Norman Rockwell paintings, including the well-known painting, "The Runaway," that graced a 1958 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.) In fairly short order, Arlo pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge, pays a $25 fine, and cleans up the thrash. But the story isn't over. Not by a long shot. Later, when Arlo (son of Woody Guthrie) gets called up for the draft, the petty crime ironically becomes a basis for disqualifying him from military service in the Vietnam War. Guthrie recounts this with some bitterness as the song builds into a satirical protest against the war: "I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the Army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." And then we're back to the cheery chorus again: "You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant."

We have featured Guthrie’s classic during past years. But, for this Thanksgiving, we give you the illustrated version. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who plans to celebrate the holiday today.

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Hear a 9-Hour Tribute to John Peel: A Collection of His Best “Peel Sessions”

If you took a job as a radio DJ at the BBC prior to 1988, you had to labor under something called "needle time," a law promoted by the Musicians' Union and Phonographic Performance Limited (and ultimately the major record labels) that put a cap on the amount of recorded music transmissible over the airwaves. Before 1967, the BBC could legally drop the needles of their turntables onto record albums for a mere five hours per day. This may sound positively draconian in our time when music flows freely from all directions, but it did create jobs for in-house radio-station musicians who could cover the hits of the day — and, more importantly, gave rise to DJ John Peel's legendary Peel Sessions.

"A lot of the things that I listened to and that had a big influence on me I first heard on John Peel," said artist and music producer Brian Eno, who describes Peel's first playing of a Velvet Underground record nearly fifty years ago as "like a lightning bolt for me." In an interview we featured a few years back, Eno named the "two things that really make for good records: deadlines and small budgets," one of his many eloquent statements on not just the importance but the necessity of limitations to art. The limitation of needle time made Peel get creative as well, overcoming his inability to spin all the records he wanted by inviting the musicians he'd discovered into the radio station to lay down tracks right there in its studios.

The fruits of these Peel Sessions often came out with an energy altogether different than that of the original album, and during Peel's 37 years on BBC Radio 1, he oversaw the recording of over 4000 of them. They and other efforts at the innovative edges of popular music made Peel a cultural force, and indeed one of British music's most influential figures, whose broadcasts gave thousands of listeners their first taste of the likes of David Bowie, Joy Division, Bob Marley, and Nirvana. Peel died in 2004, but his legacy has lived on in several forms, including the John Peel Center for Creative Arts and the annual John Peel Lecture, delivered last year by Eno himself.

London-based online radio station NTS, in its own way very much a continuation of Peel's project, has put together a tribute to Britain's most astute DJ in the form of a nine-hour broadcast of some of the best Peel Sessions. Broken into four parts, it gathers performances captured at the BBC from artists like Gang of Four, The Fall, My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies, Aphex Twin, Cabaret Voltaire, and many others. "Blimey, he was really at the center of everything," says Eno. "He was putting so many things together. He was the first person who realized pop music was serious, and that it was a place people could really meet and talk to each other. It became the center of a conversation." A dozen years after Peel's passing, the conversation continues.

via Electronic Beats

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

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