1930s Phonograph Doubled as an Alarm Clock, Letting People Start Their Day with Their Favorite Record

The Deutsches Uhrensmuseum introduces the French-made Peter Pan clock above as follows:

Even as early as 1930, people were trying to find a way to replace the unpleasant sound of the alarm clock. The inventor of this gramophone alarm clock had a brilliant idea. The gramophone works like the standard alarm clock of those days; however, instead of a bell, the gramophone motor switches on when the alarm goes off and your favourite record begins to play to the lively crackling sound of a typical gramophone. The motor plays this side of the record twice in succession. The opened lid of the box serves as a resonator. Even the name is what dreams are made of: Peter Pan Alarm Clock. Who would not want to be a child again and fly off to Never Never Land?

This great find comes from the always interesting Twitter feeds of jazz critic Ted Gioia and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. You can watch the clock in action below.

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Haruki Murakami Will Host a Radio Show & Help Listeners “Blow Away Some of the Corona-Related Blues”

Image by Ilana Simon

Characters in Haruki Murakami’s books see emotions in colors and hear them in sounds—the sounds, specifically, of The Beatles, Shostakovich, Sarah Vaughan, and thousands more folk, pop, rock, classical, and jazz artists in the novelist’s immense record collection. We must occasionally suspend some disbelief as readers, not only in the fantastic elements in Murakami’s work, but in characters who seem to know almost as much as the author does about music, who are always ready with references to deep cuts. Murakami “is not (quite) a musician,” writes Dre Dimura at Flypaper, “but he has a greater command of music as an art form than most musicians I know, myself included. How is that possible?”

Dimura’s explanation touches on aspects of Murakami’s life we’ve covered before at Open Culture: his longstanding passion for jazz, and time spent as the owner of a jazz bar before he became a novelist; his penchant for listening to music in his study for hours and hours on end as he undertakes his marathon writing sessions.

Murakami has not only shared his encyclopedic musical knowledge through fictional characters; he also hopes to turn his massive collection of approximately 10,000 records into a public archive, along with all his books and papers: “a place,” he says, “of open international exchanges for literature and culture.”

Four decades after his jazz club days, Murakami again became a DJ in 2018 when he took to the airwaves to play several 55-minute sets called Murakami Radio on Tokyo FM. Now, amidst the uncertainty and anxiety of COVID-19 lockdowns, he will again play records for his fans in Japan on a show this Friday called Stay Home Special. “I’m hoping that the power of music can do a little to blow away some of the corona-virus related blues that have been piling up.”

Murakami isn’t being Pollyannish about the “power of music.” The phrase may be cliché, but fans know from reading his books how music plays a significant role in even the most mundane of social interactions, the kind we’d come to take for granted before the virus spread around the world. The author offers music as a friendly overture. In a characteristic image, he wrote before his first radio broadcast in 2018:

It has been my hobby to collect records and CDs since my childhood, and thanks to that, my house is inundated with such things. However, I have often felt a sense of guilt toward the world while listening to such amazing music and having a good time alone. I thought it may be good to share such good times with other people while chatting over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Though he’s been characterized as a novelist of isolation, and is “regarded as a recluse in Japan,” Murakami sees the need to make deep connections these days. And he recognizes music’s power to create shared emotional spaces, the kind of thing it seems so hard to find in our new fragmented, quarantined lives.

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A 3,350-Song Playlist of Music from Haruki Murakami’s Personal Record Collection

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

DEVO Is Now Selling COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment: Energy Dome Face Shields

According to DEVO's co-principle songwriter and bassist Gerald Casale, the experimental art band turned early MTV pop-punk darlings were “pro-information, anti stupid conformity and knew that the struggle for freedom against tyranny is never-ending.”

Their singular performance garb also set them apart, and none more so than the bright red plastic Energy Dome helmets they donned 40 years ago this month, upon the release of their third album, Freedom of Choice.

The record, which the band conceived of as a funk album, exploded into mainstream consciousness. The visuals may have made an even more lasting impact than the music, which included the chart topping "Whip It."

Even the most anti-New Wave metalhead could identify the source of those domes, which have been likened to upturned flower pots, dog bowls, car urinals, and lamp shades.

What they probably don’t know is the Energy Dome was “designed according to ancient ziggurat mount proportions used in votive worship. Like the mounds, it collects energy and recirculates it. In this case, the dome collects energy that escapes from the crown of the human head and pushes it back into the Medula Oblongata for increased mental energy.”

Thus sayeth Casale, anyway.

DEVO’s 2020 concert plans were, of course, scotched by the coronavirus pandemic, but the band has found an alternative way to mark the 40th anniversary of Freedom of Choice and the birth of its iconic headgear.

In addition to face masks emblazoned with the familiar red tiered shape, DEVOtees with money and confidence to spare can ante up for a DIY Personal Protective Equipment kit that transforms a standard-issue Energy Dome into a face shield.

It’s worth noting that before taking your converted energy dome out for a particle deflecting spin, you’ll have to truffle up a hard hat suspension liner and install it for a proper fit.

Casale heralded the opening of DEVO’s merch store in a Facebook post:

Here we are 40 years later, living in the alternate reality nightmare spawned by Covid 19 and the botched response of our world “leaders” to do the right thing quickly. We are not exaggerating when we say that 2020 could be the last time you might be able to exercise your freedom of choice. If you don’t use it, you can certainly lose it.

Uh, he’s talking about voting, right, rather than storming the capitol building to demand the premature reopening of inessential businesses or making outsized threats in response to grocery store mask policies?

Perhaps the power of the Energy Dome is such that it could reawaken the pro-information, anti-stupidity sensibilities of some dormant DEVO fans among the unmasked rank and file.

As Casale himself posited in an interview with American Songwriter: "You make it taste good so that they don’t realize there’s medicine in it."

Pre-order masks and PPE kits from DEVO’s official merch store.

Download instructions for installing a hard hat suspension replacement inside the Energy Dome prior to attaching the shield.

via Consequence of Sound

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Here latest project is an animation and a series of free downloadable posters, encouraging citizens to wear masks in public and wear them properly. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Archive of 1,000 “Peel Sessions” Available Online: Hear David Bowie, Bob Marley, Elvis Costello & Others Play in the Studio of Legendary BBC DJ John Peel

Before he became the most influential music broadcaster of all time on the BBC, John Peel had to become John Peel. Born and raised in England, he spent a stretch of his early twenties in the United States, working for a cotton producer (his father's industry), selling insurance, and writing punchcard computer programs before finding his way onto the airwaves. Hosting work in such locales as Dallas, Oklahoma City, and San Bernardino primed him to return to his homeland and take his radio career underground — or rather offshore, to the former minesweeper anchored in the North Sea from which Radio London broadcast in the mid-1960s. In those days, British "pirate radio" took place on actual ships, and it was on Radio London's MV Galaxy that the returned son of Heswall, born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, quite literally made his name.

Pirate radio existed because the BBC couldn't, or wouldn't, play the quantity and variety of pop and rock music younger audiences demanded — and over in the States, were already getting. After Radio London's 1967 shutdown, Peel joined the Beeb's newly launched pop station, Radio 1. But even there limitations continued to apply, and today they sound draconian: the Musicians' Union and Phonographic Performance Limited, for instance, once limited the number of commercially released records that could be played on air.

The BBC's solution was to cover popular songs with its in-house orchestra; Peel's less square solution, as it evolved, was to bring the bands in to do it themselves. Over Peel's 37-year career at the BBC, these "Peel Sessions" would number over 4,000, about a thousand of which you can enjoy on Youtube today.

Compiled by a fan named Dave Strickson, this list of Peel Sessions available on Youtube goes all the way from the Mancunian pop-punk of A Certain Ratio in 1979 and 1981 to the Glaswegian new wave of Zones in 1978. (Yes, the list technically begins with the numeral-featuring acts as 14 Iced Bears and 23 Skidoo.) In between, Peel's guests include A Flock of Seagulls (1981), Billy Bragg (1983, 1991), Bob Marley and the Wailers (1973), Cocteau Twins (1982, 1983, 1984), David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1977, 1978, 1978, 1980), Fairport Convention (1968, 1969, 1969, 1974), Joy Division (1979), Morrissey (2004), Roxy Music (1972, 1972), Shonen Knife (1992), Sonic Youth (1986, 1988, 1989), Tears for Fears (1982), The Jesus and Mary Chain (1984, 1985, 1985, 1988, 1989), and Yo La Tengo (1997).

And of course, Strickson's list also includes no fewer than eight Peel Sessions by The Fall (1978, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1991, 2003, 2004), the legendary DJ's favorite band — or at least the band that took up the most shelf space in his formidable record collection. But as Peel's fans know, he only met The Fall's mastermind Mark E. Smith (like Peel, an outspoken Northerner) two brief times in his life. One such fan, a Metafilter commenter by the name of Paul Slade, notes that "Peel used to make a point of staying away from session recordings, partly because he didn't want to hear the new music till it went out live. That way, he knew he'd be able to react honestly on-air to anything in the session that surprised or delighted him." His between-song comments do indeed constitute an unexpected charm of these vintage broadcasts, though surprisingly many have nothing to do with the session at hand. Peel undoubtedly loved music, but he seems to have loved Liverpool Football Club even more.

via Metafilter

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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.

Roger Waters Performs a Socially-Distanced Version of Pink Floyd’s “Mother”

The video comes prefaced with these words: "Social distancing is a necessary evil in Covid world. Watching 'Mother' reminds me just how irreplaceable the joy of being in a band is."

He's joined here by his band: vocalists Holly Laesig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius, keyboardist Drew Erickson, guitarists Dave Kilminster and Jonathan Wilson, bassist Gus Seyffert, and drummer Joey Waronker.

Find more socially distanced performances in the Relateds below.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Jambase

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Japanese Health Manual Created During the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic Offers Timeless Wisdom: Stay Away from Others, Cover Your Mouth & Nose, and More

In August of 1918, a group of sumo wrestlers returned to Japan from an exhibition in Taiwan. When they came down with an illness it was first diagnosed as bronchitis or pneumonia. In fact, they had returned with the Spanish Flu.

The “Sumo Flu,” as it was first called by some in the Japanese press, was not taken as seriously as the more prevalent cholera, which had a higher death rate at the time. But cholera was not as infectious. By the time the Spanish Flu had burned its way through the population of Japan it would leave behind nearly half a million dead, either from the flu itself or secondary health complications.

These posters (seen above and throughout this post) were part of Japan’s Central Sanitary Bureau’s plan to educate the public, part of a 455-manual that detailed symptoms and prescriptions, and suggested four rules to avoid contracting the virus and spreading it to others.

Right now, a lot of us are trying to do number one--Stay Away from Others--without going crazy, some of us are following number two (Cover Your Mouth and Nose), everybody’s waiting for number three (Get Vaccinated), and if you replace “Gargle” (Rule Number 4) with “anxiety drinking,” well we’ve got number four covered.

Back up to Number Three: the vaccine in question at that time helped with symptoms of pneumonia, which was a secondary cause of death. If a person’s immune system could fight off the lung infection part of the flu, they stood a better chance of survival.

And for Number Two, the Japanese response of wearing face masks to fight infection has continued to this day. Anyone who has visited Japan, especially during cold and flu season, will have noticed the routine use of masks. Will other countries see this become a tradition in the future? We will have to wait and find out.

The central government of Japan, as well as most places around the globe in 1918, did not have the science or knowledge to treat the virus or enforce rules. A lot of decisions for the public were left to various prefectures to decide. Most doctors and researchers were already busy fighting cholera (as mentioned above) and tuberculosis. For a while, the virus was misidentified as a bacteria. And just like in America in 1919, the Japanese public thought things had gotten back to normal when the initial cases dropped--they were sadly mistaken and, after letting its guard down, the Japanese were hit with a second wave, with a mortality rate five times that of the first wave. As it spread from the city to the countryside, the Spanish Flu wiped out entire villages. Quackery and snake oil salesmen promised miracle cures. Others turned to spiritualism, prayer, and special devotional temple visits. The virus didn’t care.

But it also soon fizzled out. Japan reported no new cases in June of 1919, and that was that. (Currently, that does not seem to be the case in Wuhan or Germany.)

As the saying goes, history doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes, and so take these posters as a warning and as a form of reassurance that we will get through this.

via Spoon and Tamago

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

John Mayer Teaches Guitarists How to Play the Blues in a 45-Minute Masterclass

Playing the blues is easy, many a budding guitarist thinks—their starry eyes fixed on the mathiest, proggiest, djent-iest (or whatever) guitar pyrotechnics of their favorite 7- or 8-string slinger. Learn a minor pentatonic blues scale, a few barre chords, some sexy bends, a 12-bar progression and you’re off, right? Why spend time trying to play like Albert King (Jimi Hendrix’s idol) or Buddy Guy when you’re reaching for the ultimate sweep-picking technique, or whatever, in the competitive gamesmanship of guitar heroics?

I’ve encountered this kind of thinking among guitar players quite often and find it baffling given the blues essential place in rock and roll, metal included—and given how much more there is to playing blues than the stereotypical formulas to which the music gets reduced. Black Sabbath started as a blues band, Led Zeppelin never stopped being one, and it was Robert Johnson who turned the devil into rock's brooding, Byronic hero.

The crossroads story has been told in hindsight as a metaphor for Johnson's troubled, cursedly short life. But at the time, it was about envy on the part of his fellow bluesmen, who couldn’t believe how good he’d gotten in seemingly no time. Want to emerge from quarantine and inspire similar envy? The devil isn’t offering online lessons, but you can learn the blues from contemporary legend, John Mayer, who posted the lesson above on his Instagram Live a few days back.

As with all such online lessons, everyone will respond differently to the teacher’s style. The format does not allow for Q&A, obviously, but you can pause and rewind indefinitely. Mayer doesn’t move too quickly; if you’re an intermediate player with a grasp on the basics, it won’t be too hard to keep up. He comes across as easygoing and humble (not a quality he’s always been known for), and explains concepts clearly, relating them back to the fretboard each time.

As always, one will get out of the lesson what they put into it. Maybe no one will accuse you of conspiring with the evil one when you’ve mastered some of these techniques and incorporated them into your own playing. But you won’t have to lie, exactly, if you tell people you’ve been jamming with John Mayer. Or, if that’s not cool in your circles, come up with your own legend—abduction by a conspiracy of blues-playing aliens, perhaps.

However you explain it to your friends when we get out of the woodshed, I have no doubt that becoming a better blues player can improve whatever else you plan to do with the guitar.

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

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