Movie Accent Expert Analyzes 31 Actors Playing Other Famous People: Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan, and More

Well-known figures' voices are often as distinctive as their thousand-watt smiles and influential hairdos.

While there is some evidence as to the accents and idiosyncratic speech patterns of such historical heavy hitters as Thomas Edison, Florence Nightingale, and Harry Houdini, technological improvements have really upped the ante for those charged with impersonating real life people from the mid 20th-century onward.




Natalie Portman had to sustain her Jackie Kennedy impersonation for an entire feature-length biopic, a performance dialect coach Erik Singer gives high marks, above. Portman, he explains, has truly internalized Jackie’s idiolect, the individual quirks that add yet another layer to such signifiers as class and region.

As evidence, he submits a side-by-side comparison of the First Lady’s famous 1962 televised tour of the White House renovations she had spearheaded, and Portman’s recreation thereof.

Portman has done her homework with regard to breath pattern, pitch, and the refinement that strikes most 21st century ears as a bit stilted and strange. Most impressive to Singer is the way Portman transfers Kennedy’s oddly musical elongation of certain syllables to other words in the script. Tis no mere parrot job.

Jamie Foxx’s Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles succeeds on copious research and his ability to inhabit Charles’ habitual smile. Obviously, the posture in which an individual holds their mouth has a lot to do with the sound of their voice, and Foxx was blessed with plenty of source material.

The 1982 epic Gandhi provided the versatile Ben Kingsley with the opportunity to showcase not one, but two, idiolects. The adult Gandhi underwent a dramatic and well documented evolution from the British accent he adopted as a young law student in London to a proudly Indian voice better suited to inspiring a nation to unify against its British colonizers.

It’s likely that many of us have never considered the speech-related building blocks Singer scrutinizes while analyzing 29 other performances for the WIRED video, above—epenthesis, tongue positions, relative degrees of emphatic muscularity, and retroflex consonants—but it’s easy to see how they play a part.

Singer invites you to expand his research and teaching library by recording yourself speaking extemporaneously and reading from two sample texts here. Pray that whoever plays you in the biopic gets it right.

Related Content:

Peter Sellers Gives a Quick Demonstration of British Accents

Why Do People Talk Funny in Old Movies?, or The Origin of the Mid-Atlantic Accent

Watch Meryl Streep Have Fun with Accents: Bronx, Polish, Irish, Australian, Yiddish & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City through December 20th in the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Art Institute of Chicago Puts 44,000+ Works of Art Online: View Them in High Resolution

After the fire that totally destroyed Brazil’s Museu Nacional in Rio, many people lamented that the museum had not digitally backed up its collection and pointed to the event as a tragic example of why such digitization is so necessary. Just a couple decades ago, storing and displaying this much information was impossible, so it may seem like a strange demand to make. And in any case, two-dimensional images stored on servers—or even 3D printed copies—cannot replace or substitute for original, priceless artifacts or works of art.

But museums around the world that have digitized most--or all--of their collections don’t claim to have replicated or replaced the experience of an in-person visit, or to have rendered physical media obsolete.




Digital collections provide access to millions of people who cannot, or will not, ever travel to the major cities in which fine art resides, and they give millions of scholars, teachers, and students resources once available only to a select few.

We can’t all take the day off like Ferris Bueller and stand in front of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. But thanks to the Art Institute of Chicago, we can all view and download the 1884 pointillist painting in high resolution, zoom in closely like the troubled Cameron to specific details, share the digital image under a Creative Commons Zero license, and similarly interact with an oil sketch for the final painting and several conté crayon studies.

And if that weren’t enough, the museum also includes a bibliography, exhibition history, notes on provenance, audio and video histories and descriptions, and educational resources like teacher manuals, lesson plans, and exams. This goes for many of the 44,312—with more to come—digital images online, including such famous works of art as Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s 1930 American Gothic, Pablo Picasso’s 1903-4 blue period painting The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks, Mary Cassatt’s 1893 The Child’s Bath, and so many more that it boggles the mind.

Browse Impressionism, Pop Art, works from the African Diaspora, Cityscapes, Fashion, Mythological Works, and other genres and categories. Search artists, dates, styles, media, departments, places, and more.

A personal visit to the Art Institute is an awe-inspiring, and somewhat overwhelming experience, if you can get the day to go. You can visit the website, with full unrestricted access, and gather information, study, marvel, and casually browse, at any time of day—every day if you like. No, it’s not the same, but as a learning experience, in some ways, it's even better. And if, by some awful chance, anything should happen to this art, we won’t have to rely on user-submitted photos to reconstruct the cultural memory.

The launch of this collection comes as part of the museum’s website redesign, and it is an extensive, and expensive, endeavor. The Art Institute, which charges for entry, can afford to make its collections free online. Some other museums charge image fees to support their online work. Ideally, as art historian Bendor Grosvenor writes at Art History News, museums should offer free and open access to both physical and online collections, and some institutions, like Sweden’s Nationalmuseum, have shown that this is possible.

And, as Grosvenor shows, the success of open access online collections has yielded another benefit, for both viewers and museums alike. The more people are exposed to art online, the more likely they are to visit museums in person. Chicago awaits you. Until then, virtually immerse yourself in the Art Institute’s many thousands of treasures here.

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

Legendary Studio Musician Carol Kaye Presents 150 Free Tips for Practicing & Playing the Bass

The work required to become an accomplished singer or instrumentalist can seem burdensome. Many an aspiring musician may seek to avoid years of apprenticeship, especially now that getting famous for being famous has become a real career ambition, soon to appear in a course catalog at your local college. But there are still plenty of hard-working players hacking away at building up their chops. Next to a good in-person music teacher, their best resources are materials put out by a rare breed of musicians’ musicians, expert players who also teach—not only for a paycheck but also from a desire to share their enthusiasm for their art.

When it comes to playing electric bass, there are lessons online aplenty, some of them from big names like Jaco Pastorius and Marcus Miller, both of whom have recorded solid advice on video. But if you really want to dig deep into the fine nuances of bass playing, and learn from a world-renowned player who is also a master teacher, you cannot miss Carol Kaye’s Playing Tips. Packaged in a charming Web 1.0 format on her website, these tips--150 in total--preserve her responses to message board questions from the 90s. The format may be dated, but her discussions of technique are timeless.




Some of the tips tackle very specific issues, and others, like the essential #40 below, describe musical wisdom of the ages in encouraging, succinct, accessible writing.

PRACTICING. Set aside a quiet time, about 1 hour day if you can… Try going over a difficult pattern at slow tempos, and put a "loop" on it, play it over and over and over... until it feels comfortable for you. Make your practice time a fun time by mixing up the various things you have to do, and do them first before allowing yourself some "jam" time.... Tho' you might not feel like practicing, not in the mood, have tensions of many things on your mind, tell yourself: "this is my time away from everyone and everything, I deserve this time to myself" and make yourself get on the instrument. By focusing in on the music and practicing, your fingers will thank you, your brain will relax and you'll get some good work done to help you play better -- no better feeling than this, even if it's just 45 min. a day, it's "your time," a little of this, a little of that, and you're playing better and better....

Not only does Kaye answer questions about practice and theory, but she also addresses important issues of tone. Her advice below in #100 on techniques for muting the strings may come as a revelation to many players who have relied on using their palm.

The way I mute the strings is by folding over a piece of felt muting (buy at the sewing section at Target, Walmart etc.) so it's doubled to a width of about 1-1/2". Take it and tape it (I use masking tape) to on top of the bridge area, but laying slightly ahead of the bridges.... Thus, it lays on top of the strings and kills the over- and under-tones, making your bass sounds more defined....

“You'll notice an immediate difference in sound,” she assures her readers/students, “and your band will too as well as the audience.... In recording, it's a must.” Kaye advises on “chordal thinking," soloing, playing jazz patterns, and, of course, “groove,” in tip #1:

A good way to get your groove-sense together is to take a piece of music (a chord chart of some kind), put an electric metronome on, and have it beat on every beat (at first) while you pat your left foot. Now, with the metronome beating 1-2-3-4, count the bars while patting your left foot 1-2-3-4. Count: 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4, 4-2-3-4, then start over on the next 4 bars…. Now start over and reduce the speed of the metronome to 1/2 that speed… try to place it on beats 2 and 4 by counting 1-1234... so you can feel its beats as off-beats 1 and 3 while it beats on 2 and 4 (like a drummer's snare drum beat). This is critical that you leave the holes of 1 and 3, those are your spots to play (no pun intended)….  I guarantee it that you will start to feel a groove and be able to find your place in the music a lot better as you aim for the downbeats in the bars.

It's important to note that Kaye’s tips are not meant as standalone lessons but were generally supplementary to her many books, teaching CDs, and DVD courses, which you can purchase here. Kaye also offers private Skype lessons for $65 each (note: “no punk or heavy metal players”), a fairly modest price given the stature of the instructor.

If somehow you haven’t heard the name Carol Kaye, you have definitely heard the playing of this most prolific of session musicians, on classic albums from the Beach Boys to Neil Young to Ike & Tina Turner to Ray Charles to… too many classic artists to list. Part of the legendary L.A. group of musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, Kaye brought to rock and R&B a prodigious talent for playing jazz, her first love, and even her simplest bass lines shine with perfect timing and unforgettable hooks. Learn more about Kaye in the short documentary at the top, at her site’s biography, and at the links below.

You can find Kaye's 150 bass playing tips on three separate pages: here, here and here.

via Tina Weymouth

Related Content:

Meet Carol Kaye, the Unsung Bassist Behind Your Favorite 60s Hits

How Carol Kaye Became the Most Prolific Session Musician in History

Jazz Legend Jaco Pastorius Gives a 90 Minute Bass Lesson and Plays Live in Montreal (1982)

Paul McCartney Offers a Short Tutorial on How to Play the Bass Guitar

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

Watch 13 Comedians Take “The Bob Ross Challenge” & Help Raise Money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The late Bob Ross, the almost laughably calm host of PBS’ popular how-to series, the Joy of Painting, was a boss of many things—business, branding, the 16th-century wet-on-wet ”Alla Prima” technique...

Also speed, as thirteen New York City comedians recently discovered firsthand.

Invited to participate in The Bob Ross Challenge, a web series-cum-fundraiser hatched by comedians Micah Sherman and Mark Stetson, they gamely plunged ahead, regardless of artistic talent or familiarity with the master.

Some like, Julia Duffy, are simply too young to have encountered Ross in his public television heyday.

(For the record, all 403 episodes of Ross' painting show are now viewable online for free.)

Others, like Aparna Nancherla, above, chanced upon reruns screened for ironic effect in dive bars...

Or, like Keisha Zollar, they’re in a romantic relationship with someone who uses The Joy of Painting to combat insomnia.

The majority seem to share a latch key kid’s fondness for the gentle Ross, whose show proved a chill pairing with afterschool snacks.

“We spent about $1000 on official Bob Ross supplies,” Sheman reports. From easel to the fan brush, everything was set up for the participating comedians’ success. Like Ross, who typically shot a season's worth of episodes over a single weekend, the first season's shoot transpired over a few days.

The ground rules were simple. Armed with an arsenal of officially sanctioned supplies, each comedian entered a studio where a Joy of Painting episode was screening, charged with recreating that canvas in real time. At the end of the episode, it was “brushes down” whether or not the canvas bore passing resemblance to Bob’s.

“Our original title was Bob Ross Fails, but people were actually succeeding,” Sherman confesses.

That said, there’s a definite edge. The participants may be trained in improv, but as performers, there's an imperative to get over, and, as stated, Ross moves fast. In the time it takes an average mortal to apply a sky wash, he’s likely fan brushed in a couple of happy little trees.

Tough nuts.

The rules of the game decree that the stopwatch abides.

As Ralf Jean-Pierre observes, it’s a race against time.

Though not everyone plays by the rules…

David Carl, above, creator of Trump Lear, declares (in character) that he not only defeated Bob Ross, but that “no one’s ever had a better tree than that” and that his clouds are “beautifully tremendous.”

Sherman and his co-creator Mark Stetson have conceived of The Bob Ross Challenge as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Like Ross, Stetson’s father was prematurely claimed by lymphoma. Make a donation in their honor here.

Watch the first season of The Bob Ross Challenge here.

#BobRossIsABoss

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her recent trip to Mexico City is the inspiration for her latest short play at The Tank in New York City on August 23, Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Paint Like Kandinsky, Picasso, Warhol & More: A Video Series from the Tate

Learn How to Print like Warhol… in five minutes?

That sounds like fun! My Saturday’s pretty open…

Unfortunately, The Tate’s How To series is a bit of a misnomer. This is not the anyone-can-do-it approach of PBS legend Bob Ross and his Happy Little Trees

Yes, the short video demonstrations come with supply lists and step-by-step instructions, but without an existing fine arts background, you may feel more than a little bit daunted, pining for the sort of kid-friendly modifications that help second graders mimic famous artists with such aplomb.




Rather than relegate your freshly-purchased screens, roll of acetate, and economy-sized container of photo-emulsion to the same closet where your cross country skis, foreign language cassettes, and beer-making kit are currently spending eternity, we suggest that you not buy them at all.

Instead, appreciate the way these videos bridge “the gap between Art History and Art Creation,” in the words of one viewer.

So THAT’S how Warhol and untold thousands of other artists, including this segment’s guide Marianne Keating, make their prints! A lot of equipment! A lot of precise steps. Maybe some day you’ll take a stab at it.

’Til then… Keating picked former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley as her subject. Who would you choose?

Artist Sui Kim’s segment on Wassily Kandinsky’s approach to painting inspires a semi-abstract scene from her South Korean childhood, using the same color palette as Kandinsky’s Cossacks.

What would you paint?

Though before blithely slapping a second-grader rainbow on your vision and assuming you now know how to paint like Kandinsky (whether or not you know how to paint), check out the Tate’s description of the original:

Painted between 1910 and 1911, Cossacks is an expression of Kandinsky’s belief in the power of art “to awaken this capacity for experiencing the spiritual in material and in abstract phenomena.” The dynamic tension between abstract form and concrete content may be read as a manifestation of the wider conflict between the forces of political oppression – Kandinsky had been deeply moved by the strikes and upheavals in Odessa a few years earlier – and the hunger for spiritual rejuvenation consequent upon the rise of soulless modernity. Like his contemporaries Piet Mondrian and Henri Matisse, Kandinsky saw painting as an extension of religion, capable, as he wrote in his Reminiscences (1913), of revealing ‘new perspectives and true truths’ in ‘moments of sudden illumination, resembling a flash of lightning.’ The echo of the Ancient Greek writer Longinus’s notion of sublime speech, which similarly strikes like a bolt of lightning, is carried over into Kandinsky’s description of the spiritual mission of the modern artist. In his 1911 essay On the Spiritual in Art, he compares the life of the spirit to ‘a large, acute-angled triangle,’ at the apex of which stands the solitary artistic genius dispensing spiritual food to the multitudes below.

Pretty complex stuff!

Perhaps Picasso is a more straightforward proposition.

Reckon you could rope a friend into modeling for a Cubist portrait a la Bust of a Woman (1909)? If so, which friend, and what might you do for them in return?

Other artists in the Tate’s How To series include J.M.W. Turner and sculptor Rachel Whiteread. Watch them all here.

Related Content:

Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy Of Painting Free Online: 403 Episodes Spanning 31 Seasons

The MoMA Teaches You How to Paint Like Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning & Other Abstract Painters

What Makes The Death of Socrates a Great Work of Art?: A Thought-Provoking Reading of David’s Philosophical & Political Painting

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

David Lynch Teaches Typing: A New Interactive Comedy Game

Typing programs demand some patience on the part of the student, and David Lynch Teaches Typing is no exception.

You’ve got 90 seconds to get acclimated to the cruddy floppy disc-era graphics and the cacophonous voice of your instructor, a dead ringer for FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, the hard-of-hearing character director David Lynch played on his seminal early 90s series, Twin Peaks.

Things perk up about a minute and a half in, when students are instructed to place their left ring fingers in an undulating bug to the left of their keyboards.

That second "in"? Not a typo (though you'll notice plenty of no doubt intentional boo-boos in the teacher's pre-programmed responses...)




The bug in question may well put you in mind of the mysterious baby in Lynch’s first feature length film, 1977’s Eraserhead.

On the other hand, it might not.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is actually a short interactive comedy game, and many of the millennial reviewers covering that beat have had to play catch-up in order to catch the many nods to the director’s work contained therein.

One of our favorites is the Apple-esque name of the program’s retro computer, and we'll wager that frequent Lynch collaborator, actor Kyle MacLachlan, would agree.

Another reference that has thus far eluded online gaming enthusiasts in their 20s is Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Take a peek below at what the virtual typing tutor’s graphics looked like around the time the original Twin Peaks aired to discover the creators of David Lynch Teaches Typing’s other inspiration.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is available for free download here. If you’re anxious that doing so might open you up to a technical bug of nightmarish proportions, stick with watching the play through at the top of the page.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her March 20 in New York City for the second edition of Necromancers of the Public Domain, a low budget variety show born of a 1920 manual for Girl Scout Camp Directors. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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.

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