Final Show of Metallica’s North American Tour Now Streaming Free Online

A quick fyi: Metallica wrapped up their North American tour on Friday night in Edmonton--their first North American tour in eight years. The show was live-streamed on YouTube, and it's now fully viewable online, thanks to MetallicaTV. Enjoy all 2 hours and 41 minutes of it. You can see a setlist for the show here.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Because of Pink Floyd, I’ve Spent Decades Undoing the Idea That There’s a Dark Side of the Moon”

In 1973, Pink Floyd released their influential concept album, The Dark Side of the Moon, which garnered both critical and commercial success. The album sold some 45 million copies, and remained on Billboard's Top LPs & Tapes chart for 741 weeks (from 1973 to 1988). All of which was great for Pink Floyd. But not so much for science and education.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson explains above. "That Pink Floyd had an album with that title meant I spent decades having to undo [that fact] as an educator." That's because "there is no dark side of the moon." "There's a far side and there's a near." "But all sides of the moon receive sunlight across the month."




To delve deeper into this, it's worth reading this short article (Mythbusters: Is There Really a Dark Side of the Moon?) from Yale Scientific Magazine. There, they elaborate:

No matter where we are on Earth, we see and always have seen only one face of the moon. Since the moon rotates on its axis in the same amount of time that it takes the body to orbit our planet, the same half face of the moon is consistently exposed to viewers on Earth. This timing is caused by a phenomenon called tidal locking, which occurs when a larger astronomical body (Earth) exerts a strong gravitational pull on a smaller body (the moon), forcing one side of the smaller body to always face the larger one....

[T]he fact that we earthlings cannot see the far side of the moon does not mean that this face is never exposed to sunlight. In fact, the far side of the moon is no more and no less dark than the hemisphere we do see.

Get the rest here.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Hear the Beach Boys’ Angelic Vocal Harmonies in Four Isolated Tracks from Pet Sounds: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B” & “Good Vibrations”

I didn’t get the Beach Boys for a while. They had provided the soundtrack to an alien world, one I knew mostly from chewing gum commercials. They were “uncool—cornball,” writes Ben Ratliff, “unenlightened” purveyors of “beach privilege.” The “narrators of Beach Boys songs used their time as they liked: amusement parks, surfing, drag racing, dating, sitting in their rooms.” They had no cares, no real burdens, just shallow summer loves and heartaches. They came off as some of the blandest, safest-sounding people on earth.

Then, in a puzzling turn in the nineties, indie artists like Neutral Milk Hotel, Jim O’Rourke, and The Sea and Cake began experimenting with the complex arrangements, odd instrumentation, and sunny melodies of 60s pop artists like The Beach Boys and Burt Bacharach.




This is music that can seduce us into thinking it is simplistic, childish, uninspired vanilla. Its use as background muzak in supermarkets and shopping malls confirms the impression. But critical listening explodes it. (Dig the phrasing in the otherwise silly, Bacharach/Hal David-composed “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”)

Yes, it took a retro-hip return to '60s lounge music, bossa nova, and surf pop for many people to reconsider the Beach Boys as serious artists. And while the trend became a little cloying, once I put on the headphones and gave the radical Pet Sounds a few dozen spins, as so many songwriters I admired had gushed about doing, I got it. Of course. Yes. The arrangements, and those harmonies…. It isn’t only the technical wizardry, though there’s that. It’s how thoroughly weird those classically-inspired arrangements are. Perhaps a better way to put it would be, totally counterintuitive.

What nearly any other pop arranger would naturally do with a harmony or rhythm part—just to get the house in order and showcase more important “lead” parts—Brian Wilson almost never does. As the minimalist composer John Adams put it, “more than any other songwriter of that era, Brian Wilson understood the value of harmonic surprise.” At least in Pet Sounds and the long-unfinished “labyrinth of melody” SMiLE, each part of the song sustains its own individual interest without breaking away from the miniature symphonic whole.

Even within the harmonies, there is a strange tension, an off-kilter wobbling as in a machine whose gears are all just a bit off-center. Instruments and voices go in and out of key, tempos slow and quicken. The vocal harmonies are angelic, but troubled, uncertain, maudlin, and underlined with unexpected intensity given the innocuousness of their lyrics. In the isolated vocal tracks here for “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B,” and “Good Vibrations,” you may catch it, or not. It isn’t foreboding, exactly, but a kind of uneasy recognition that the pleasures these songs celebrate will soon pass away. An Arcadian theme in the California pastoral.

The tension is there in Wilson’s idol Phil Spector’s compositons as well, but the contrast is remarkably greater in Pet Sounds, of longing, nostalgia, and youth at its peak. The utopia they imagine may only appeal to a specific subset of boomer Americans, but their intricate, melodically complex, yet harmoniously appealing soundworld belongs to everyone. As Zack Schonfeld observed in a sadly prophetic review of Wilson’s Pet Sounds performance in Brooklyn last summer, “it is hard to imagine modern indie or indie-pop—or pop in general—without Pet Sounds.” (That includes, of course The Beatles, who answered with Sgt. Peppers.) “A world without Pet Sounds is a frightening dystopia,” he writes, “like imagining a world without beaches or one in which Donald Trump is president.” Maybe as you sit back and listen to the otherworldly beauty of these naked harmonies, think of all those lovely beaches we still have left.

via Twisted Sifter

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

Prince Gets an Official Purple Pantone Color

Image by Ann Althouse, via Flickr Commons

It was bound to happen...

The Pantone Color Institute has announced that they've created "a standardized custom color to represent and honor international icon, Prince." Called "Love Symbol #2", the color (below) draws inspiration from Prince's Yamaha purple piano. Somewhere, Marie Schrader is jealous.

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Hear 9 Hours of Hans Zimmer Soundtracks: Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight & Much More

No name has become more synonymous with the very concept of "movie music" than that of Hans Zimmer. Beginning in the 1980s by composing for such cult filmmakers of distinctive vision as Jerzy Skolimowski, Nico Mastorakis, and Nicolas Roeg, Zimmer soon rose to Hollywood heights, creating the scores for big hits like Rain ManThe Lion KingAs Good as It Gets, Gladiator, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In recent years, he has entered into an ongoing collaboration with the director Christopher Nolan, himself an indie favorite turned blockbuster king, scoring his Batman movies as well as InceptionInterstellar, and Nolan's new World War II picture Dunkirk, whose unusual sonic intensity the Vox video above explains.

"My weakness is that I didn’t go to music school, and that my formal education is two weeks of piano lessons," Zimmer told Indiewire a couple years ago, after the release of Interstellar. "My strength is that I know how to listen," and "the way Chris Nolan and I work is we listen to each other."




Unlike many productions where "the composer is this nearly uncontrollable element that comes into the film" and to whom the director must defer, Zimmer starts working on Nolan's movies from the beginning, a process he describes as a conversation: "While he was writing, while he was shooting, I was writing, and the music was happening sort of in a — to use an Interstellar term — parallel universe, really." With no need for the dreaded "temp score," the drama of Zimmer's music and Nolan's stories develop together.

You can hear the results of Zimmer's process in this nine-hour playlist, which includes Zimmer's work for Nolan's films up to Dunkirk--its sound based in part on the ticking of a watch Nolan had given him--and others besides. (The playlist also includes Zimmer's soundtracks for Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Black Hawk Down, Sherlock Holmes, Gladiator, and The Thin Red Line.) If it leaves you with the desire to learn a bit more about how this instinctive master of movie music does it, have a look at the trailer above for "Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring," his $90 course from the online educational platform Masterclass. The very first piece of wisdom he offers reflects the fact that his instinct for back-and-forth collaboration extends well beyond his partnership with Nolan to his view on the craft itself: "In music, you're basically having a conversation" — with your artistic collaborators, with your fellow musicians, with anyone to whom you can listen.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Download 400,000 Free Classical Musical Scores & 46,000 Free Classical Recordings from the International Music Score Library Project

The pleasure of listening to classical music, as every classical music aficionado knows, goes well beyond listening to one's favorite piece. You can't have a favorite piece without having a favorite performance of that piece, played by certain musicians, presided over by a certain conductor, and recorded in a certain hall. And even so, many other recordings of that piece may well exist that you haven't heard yet, one of which could one day usurp your personal top spot. About many compositions there also exists a near-infinite amount to learn and understand, especially for those of us with musical training or score-reading ability.

This aesthetically and intellectually rewarding process of seeking out and comparing — and indeed, the enterprise of classical music-listening itself — has become much easier with the advent of resources like the International Music Score Library Project. Founded in 2006, it has by this point expanded to contain "123,134 works, 404,963 scores, 46,610 recordings, 15,404 composers, and 445 performers," all online and many free for the downloading. Just search for the name of a piece or composer with the window on the upper right — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for instance — and the IMSP will show you all the related items it currently has.




Mozart's well-known and widely heard 1787 composition Eine kleine Nachtmusik (known numerically as K.525) has its own page in the IMSP's database, where you'll find not just 29 scores and parts and 28 arrangements and transcriptions in the sheet music section but two complete performances in the recording section: one by the Boston chamber orchestra A Far Cry and one by the Netherlands' Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. You can listen to them right on the site, or download them by first clicking on the down arrow (↓) next to the words "complete performance," then on the down arrow (↓) that appears to the right of the volume controller when the file starts playing.

Or if you're not in the mood for a little night music, perhaps the IMSP can interest you in Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 or Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations. But then, as the San Francisco Symphony's Michael Tilson Thomas once said, "You can't have Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as your favorite composers. They simply define what music is!" So if you'd prefer to go beyond the definition and hear more of the variations classical music has to offer — variations being one of the prime sources of its aforementioned pleasure — the IMSP's vast archive has plenty of recordings to satisfy that desire as well, with more added all the time.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Stream 35 Hours of Classic Blues, Folk, & Bluegrass Recordings from Smithsonian Folkways: 837 Tracks Featuring Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie & More

Image of Woody Guthrie by Al Aumuller, via Wikimedia Commons

Marshall McLuhan’s chestnut “the medium is the message” contains some of the most important theory about mass media to have emerged in the past century. In its honor, we might propose another slogan—less conceptually tidy and alliterative—that brings to mind the arguments of critical theorists like Theodor Adorno: “the economy is the culture”—the economic mechanisms that govern the “culture industry,” as Adorno would say, determine the kinds of productions that saturate our shared environment. In a purely corporate capitalist model, we consume culture—that which is marketed most aggressively and distributed most plentifully—and often discard it just as quickly. In an economy that doesn’t make profit the fulcrum of its every move, things go otherwise. The lines between consumers, creators, and communities become blurred in weird and wonderful ways.

This can happen in decentralized environments like the wilds of the early internet. And it can happen in institutions that code it into their design. The Smithsonian is one of those institutions. The public collections in its vast network of museums has remained, outside of special exhibits and films, free and “open access” for everyone. And one of their key cultural contributions, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, has devoted itself since its founding in the late sixties to “culture of, by, and for the people.”




Even if you’ve never taken the time to delve into their curatorial efforts (and you should), you’ll know their work through Folkways Recordings, the record label created in  by Moses Asch—founder of Folkways Records in 1949. After he passed away in 1986, Asch's family donated over 2,000 records, his entire discography, to the Smithsonian, with the proviso that they always remain in print, whether or not they made a buck.

This has meant that scholars and fans of folk from all over the world have always been able to find the work of Pete Seeger, The Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, and Lead Belly, to name but a few of the label’s “stars.” There are many more: Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Elizabeth Cotten, Reverend Gary Davis…. So many names in the pantheon of folk giants Robert Crumb immortalized in his colorful, and unusually tasteful, Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country. But Folkways has preserved much more besides. Kentucky’s Old Regular Baptist Church’s a capella hymns, Kilby Snow’s autoharp, Snooks English’s New Orleans street singing, Alice Gerrard and Hazel Dickens’ 60s interpretations of traditional bluegrass…. Music that appealed to small but culturally rich communities in its day, and that may have disappeared along with those communities in the scrum of cultural history, dominated as it is by mass entertainments.

The small, regional creations, some teetering on genius, some haunting in their artlessness, are critical documents of old America, the hollers, deserts, streets, swamps, low country, back country, mountains, valleys….  Hear it all in the Spotify playlist above (or access it here), 837 tracks of Folkways recordings. Smithsonian Folkways is perhaps best known for its North American artists, but it has released recordings from all over the world. Rather than creating commodities, the institution functions as a repository of global cultural memory, collecting and preserving “people’s music.” Since Asch’s endowment, Folkways has created an additional six labels under its umbrella and released over 300 new recordings. In 2003, they partnered with the American Folklife Center for the “Save Our Sounds” project, which aims to preserve recordings like those made by Thomas Edison on wax cylinders. Folkways opens a window on an alternate world where cultural production is not a perpetual struggle for ratings, reviews, and sales dominance.

It’s not entirely a utopian vision. There is the danger of a paternalizing approach. Curators like Asch, Harry Smith, John and Alan Lomax, and hundreds more serious enthusiasts and ethnographers have their own agendas, interests, biases, and blind spots. What we understand now as traditional Delta blues, for example, is a product of selection bias—it excludes many artists and varieties that didn’t catch on with collectors. Still Folkways remedies much of this shortcoming by including work from a broad spectrum of unknown composers, interpreters, and performers. There may be no form of modern folk music today that hasn’t been crafted and molded by the music industry, which might mean, by definition, that there is no modern folk music. For such a thing to exist—the “people’s music”—perhaps more democratic economies and institutions must prevail.

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

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