Keith Moon Plays Drums Onstage with Led Zeppelin in What Would Be His Last Live Performance (1977)

When Led Zeppelin appeared in late 1968, they already had the makings of a supergroup, so to speak, though only founding member Jimmy Page was a famous rock star. Four equally talented and seasoned musicians, each integral to the band’s sound. But it might have been otherwise. Page first intended to create a literal supergroup, joining his fellow former Yardbird Jeff Beck and The Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle.

Who knows what might have come of it? Moon supposedly quipped that it would go down like a lead balloon, inspiring the name of the band that was to come. This history makes all the more poignant the fact that Moon’s last onstage performance before his death was with Led Zeppelin.

Moon joined the band during the L.A. stop of their 1977 tour to ramble drunkenly into the microphone and sit in on a drum and tambourine with John Bonham during a nearly 20-minute drum solo on “Moby Dick.”

Moon also joined the band during the two-song encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock & Roll.” See parts of those performances at the top in audience footage. His brief moments behind John Bonham’s drums cannot be considered representative of what a hypothetical Keith Moon-backed Led Zeppelin might sound like. Not only was he playing another drummer’s kit—a significant handicap for Moon—but also, the Keith Moon of 1977 was not the Keith Moon of 1968. These documents of rock history can’t tell us what might have been, only, for a brief moment, what was.

Moon has been regarded as one of the greatest drummers in rock for his huge musical personality. “No drummer in a true rock & roll band has ever been given—has ever seized, perhaps—so much space and presence,” wrote Greil Marcus in tribute when Moon died the year after his Led Zeppelin cameo. Moon, “as Jon Landau pointed out years ago… played the parts conventionally given over to the lead guitar.” Moon called himself, with typical sarcasm, “the best Keith Moon-type drummer,” an insight into just how singular his playing was. His total lack of restraint fit The Who perfectly.

But history would decree that Bonham become the ideal Led Zeppelin-type drummer. He played lead parts as well, but never at the expense of rhythm. The pitfall of a supergroup—or a group of equally superb musicians—is that everyone can tend to overplay. Bonham was a superb musician, but also a drummer who knew exactly how to accommodate others’ virtuosity—building spacious rhythmic structures that held together the bombast of Plant and Page in a coherent whole. Bonham could follow Page’s riffs just as often as he could deploy his own thundering hooks.

Keith Moon was at his best playing Keith Moon, sounding “as if he came out of nowhere to take over the world,” wrote Marcus. The Who’s “best singles and album tracks not only featured Moon, they were built around him,” Entwistle and Townshend providing structure while Moon supplied the fiery core. Hear him at his incandescent best in the isolated drum track for “Wont’ Get Fooled Again” above and read more about what made him so indelibly unique in Marcus’ eulogy for “the best drummer in the history of rock ‘n roll.” Listen to a full audience audio recording of that 1977 concert just below.

via JamBase

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

Discover Kōlams, the Traditional Indian Patterns That Combine Art, Mathematics & Magic

Have accomplished abstract geometrical artists come out of any demographic in greater numbers than from the women of South Asia? Not when even the most demanding art-school curriculum can't hope to equal the rigor of the kōlam, a complex kind of line drawing practiced by women everywhere from India to Sri Lanka to Malaysia to Thailand. Using humble materials like chalk and rice flour on the ground in front of their homes, they interweave not just lines, shapes, and patterns but religious, philosophical, and magical motifs as well — and they create their kōlams anew each and every day.

"Feeding A Thousand Souls: Kōlam" by Thacher Gallery at the University of San Francisco is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

"Taking a clump of rice flour in a bowl (or a coconut shell), the kōlam artist steps onto her freshly washed canvas: the ground at the entrance of her house, or any patch of floor marking an entrypoint," writes Atlas Obscura's Rohini Chaki.

"Working swiftly, she takes pinches of rice flour and draws geometric patterns: curved lines, labyrinthine loops around red or white dots, hexagonal fractals, or floral patterns resembling the lotus, a symbol of the goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi, for whom the kōlam is drawn as a prayer in illustration."

Colorful Kolam - Sivasankaran - Own work

Kōlams are thought to bring prosperity, but they also have other uses, such as feeding ants, birds, and other passing creatures. Chaki quotes University of San Francisco Theology and Religious Studies professor Vijaya Nagarajan as describing their fulfilling the Hindu "karmic obligation" to "feed a thousand souls." Kōlams have also become an object of genuine interest for mathematicians and computer scientists due to their recursive nature: "They start out small, but can be built out by continuing to enlarge the same subpattern, creating a complex overall design," Chaki writes. "This has fascinated mathematicians, because the patterns elucidate fundamental mathematical principles."

"Kolam" by resakse is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Like any traditional art form, the kōlam doesn't have quite as many practitioners as it used to, much less practitioners who can meet the standard of mastery of completing an entire work without once standing up or even lifting their hand. But even so, the kōlam is hardly on the brink of dying out: you can see a few of their creators in action in the video at the top of the post, and the age of social media has offered kōlam creators of any age — and now even the occasional man — the kind of exposure that even the busiest front door could never match. Some who get into kōlams in the 21st century may want to create ones that show ever more complexity of geometry and depth of reference, but the best among them won't forget the meaning, according to Chaki, of the form's very name: beauty.

Read more about kōlams at Atlas Obscura.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Graduation Highlight: Billionaire Robert F. Smith Announces That He’ll Pay Off the Student Loans of Morehouse’s Class of 2019

Robert F. Smith, the billionaire CEO of Vista Equity Partners, received an honorary degree from Morehouse College on Sunday. And he gave something back--a grant to retire the student loans of Morehouse's 2019 graduating class. Like that an estimated $40 million in debt was gone.

Meanwhile, in other news, a titan of industry spent $90 million this week on a Jeff Koons rabbit statue. And now it will likely serve as an ornament piece in a walled-off mansion somewhere. Imagine how that money could have been put to more productive use...

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Pink Floyd Songs Played Splendidly on a Harp Guitar: “Comfortably Numb,” “Wish You Were Here” & More

Harp guitars have been around since at least the 19th century, and if you want a good, enthusiastic, intellectual argument on the exact date of its birth, you’ll find many an organologist ready to do that. (Here’s a page filled with information about the subject.) But it was only recently, in 2014, that the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments finally recognized the harp guitar as its own thing. New- or old-fangled as it might be, the harp guitar contains both the usual six strings and fretted neck and a neighboring series of unstopped open strings. Well known musicians who have played them include John McLaughlin, David Lindley, and Robbie Robertson.

But look up the instrument on the ‘net and there’s one name that will pop up before anybody else: 29 year old Canadian Jamie Dupuis. He’s earned millions of views on his YouTube channel for arranging and performing covers of rock and metal classics.

He’s certainly a fan of Pink Floyd, as you can see above in his cover of “Comfortably Numb.” The ringing, echoing quality of the harp guitar’s body suit the song well, as it starts to resemble a sort of synth-string wash.

The acoustic-based Floyd songs work as well as you might expect. “Wish You Were Here” for example.
Dupuis shows his skill with the more experimental electronics of Dark Side of the Moon. He adds a slide guitar and effects to “Time”:

...which works even better on “Breathe”:

And he brings out the very strange looking Dyer Electric Guitar Harp for “Welcome to the Machine,” using some double-tracking to give him some soloing space.

You can hear all his Floyd covers as a playlist here, and then check out his other Harp Guitar covers from Ozzy Osbourne to Tears for Fears here as well as some classical arrangements.

Oh and yes, he also plays regular ol’ acoustic guitar and some banjo. The man certainly knows his way around a fret: enjoy!

via Laughing Squid

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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 and/or watch his films here.

A New Archive Transcribes and Puts Online the Diaries & Notebooks of Women Artists, Art Historians, Critics and Dealers

While one is still comparatively young, one has many more thoughts & certainly sentiments than one is able to make use of. It seems as if these might be stored up so that in old age or when one became less prolific one could find matter to use. Every thought or suggestion could be of use.

- Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitneysculptor, collector, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1906

There are very few moral defenses for rummaging inside another’s private diary or sketchbook, until that person shuffles off this mortal coil … and even then snoopers may get burned by what they read.

Or not.

Boredom is another strong possibility.

Best to stick with figures of historical import.

With all due respect to Frida Kahlo, I prefer those whom history hasn’t turned into mega-celebs.

It’s fun to discover a fascinating person via her own words and doodles, rather than seek them out as a bedazzled fan girl.

The Women’s History Project at the Archives of American Art is scanning a trove of handwritten papers as part of a year long mission to preserve and pass along the creative processes and daily doings of various women artists, art historians, critics, dealers, and gallery owners. Fascinating reading awaits those who can get past the enigmatic antique scrawl. More on that below.

A sample:

Portraitist Cecilia Beaux’s letters to her friend, frequent sitter, and possible lover, actress Dorothea Gilder. (See Beaux's painting of “Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and daughter Ethel" from 1902 up top.)

The notebook of sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd, stuffed with quotes, poems, research, definitions, and autobiographical musings, dated the same year that she founded the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks for severely disfigured WW1 vets.

The above mentioned Whitney’s 1914 travel diary, when she made several trips to France in the name of establishing and supporting a hospital in north-central France.

Ready to explore?

You can do more than that.

The project is a part of the Smithsonian Transcription Center, which depends upon the public to take a crack at deciphering the obscure cursive of these handwritten pages, strike-throughs, marginalia, and all.  You can try your hand at a single sentence or tackle an entire collection or diary. No worries if you have no transcription experience. The Center has easy to follow instructions here.

Your efforts will make the digitized documents keyword searchable, while preserving the original creators’ memories for future generations. New content will be added monthly through March 2020.

Begin your explorations of the Women’s History Project at the Archives of American Art here.

via Hyperallergic

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

What Did Etruscan Sound Like? An Animated Video Pronounces the Ancient Language That We Still Don’t Fully Understand

Readers of Open Culture no doubt have more pronounced polyglot tendencies than average web-surfers, and perhaps even toward relatively unlikely languages, but let us ask this: how many Etruscan speakers do you know? You've probably heard that name, which refers to the civilization that existed in ancient Italy between roughly the eleventh and third century BC and in roughly the era of modern-day Tuscany. The Etruscans had their own language, but it didn't survive their civilization's assimilation into the Roman Republic in complete enough shape for us to understand it today. But even if we can't understand texts composed in Etruscan, we've at least determined what spoken Etruscan sounded like.

The animated NativLang video above tells the story of the Etruscan language's rediscovery, from its appearance on the linen wrappings of a mummy in a sarcophagus purchased by a European in the mid-1800s; to the determination that many of the letters European languages use descended from it (first passed down from the Phoenicians and then to the Greeks); to the frustrated search for an "Etruscan Rosetta Stone."

It also breaks down several Etruscan words : creice, meaning "Greece"; ruma, meaning "Rome"; and phersu, meaning "mask," but which "lives on right at the heart of our English vocabulary as person." Along the way, the video's narrator provides examples of quite a few Etruscan sounds and how we now know they were pronounced.

Linguists have figured all this out with a relative paucity of sources, making each and every artifact inscribed with Etruscan writing invaluable to their quest for full comprehension: the Cippus Perusinus, for example, a legal contract literally etched in stone, or the aforementioned mummy wrappings, the meaning of which remains obscure. "We don't know how this text got to Egypt. But thanks to all this work, we can tell it's a kind of ritual calendar, and sometimes we can follow whole threads of text." The narrator pronounces a few of them, and "it's almost like, if you close your eyes, I could take you right back to the days of fluent Etruscan. But ask how to say a simple yes or no, and we're lost again."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Who and Jimmy Fallon Sing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with Classroom Instruments

Don't miss the very end. And don't miss The Who on tour this summer...

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