Herbie Hancock Now Teaching His First Online Course on Jazz

A quick update to something we first mentioned last June. On Masterclass, jazz legend Herbie Hancock is now teaching his first online course on jazz. In 25 video lessons, the 14-time Grammy winner shares his approach to improvisation, composition, and harmony, and gives students access to 10+ original piano transcriptions, including 5 exclusive solo performances. Plus there's a downloadable workbook. The cost is $90. You can enroll yourself, or give the course as a gift. Check it out here.

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Note: MasterClasss and Open Culture have a partnership. If you sign up for a MasterClass course, it benefits not just you and MasterClass. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

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Watch Herbie Hancock Rock Out on an Early Synthesizer on Sesame Street (1983)

What Miles Davis Taught Herbie Hancock: In Music, as in Life, There Are No Mistakes, Just Chances to Improvise 

Herbie Hancock Presents the Prestigious Norton Lectures at Harvard University: Watch Online

Bob Woodward to Teach an Online Course on Investigative Journalism–a Course for Our Time

Bob Woodward made his bones as an investigative journalist when he and fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein blew open the Watergate scandal in 1972. Their reporting exposed the "dirty tricks" of Richard Nixon's re-election committee. Government investigations followed and the president eventually resigned.

Today we're living in another age when investigative journalism is of paramount importance. Only now it's under attack. But, take heart, Bob Woodward is gearing up to teach an online course on investigative journalism. In 20 video lessons, he'll teach you the importance of human sources, how to gather information, how to interview people, establish facts, and build a story. He reminds us, "This is the time when we're being tested. Let's tell the truth, let's not be chickenshit." Amen to that.

You can pre-enroll in his course, which costs $90 and will start in early 2018. Early enrollees will get access to other course materials created by Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet, and Jane Goodall.

Woodward's course is offered by MasterClass, whose roster also now includes these other classes:

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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.

Note: MasterClasss and Open Culture have a partnership. If you sign up for a MasterClass course, it benefits not just you and MasterClass. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

Yale Presents a Free Online Course on Miguel de Cervantes’ Masterpiece Don Quixote

Among the literary works that emerged in the so-called Golden Age of Spanish culture in the 16th and 17th centuries, one shines so brightly that it seems to eclipse all others, and indeed is said to not only be the foundation of modern Spanish writing, but of the modern novel itself. Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote synthesized the Medieval and Renaissance literature that had come before it in a brilliantly satirical work, writes popular academic Harold Bloom, with “cosmological scope and reverberation.” But in such high praise of a great work, we can lose sight of the work itself. Don Quixote is hardly an exception.

“The notion of ‘literary classic,’” Simon Leys writes at the New York Review of Books, “has a solemn ring about it. But Don Quixote, which is the classic par excellence, was written for a flatly practical purpose: to amuse the largest possible number of readers, in order to make a lot of money for the author (who needed it badly).” To mention these intentions is not to diminish the work, but perhaps even to burnish it further. To have created, as Yale’s Roberto González Echevarría says in his introductory lecture above, “one of the unquestioned masterpieces of world literature, let alone the Western Canon,” while seeking primarily to entertain and make a buck says quite a lot about Cervantes’ considerable talents, and, perhaps, about his modernism.




Rather than write for a feudal patron, monarch, or deity, he wrote for what he hoped would be a profitable mass-market. In so doing, says Professor González, quoting Gabriel García Márquez, Cervantes wrote “a novel in which there is already everything that novelists would attempt to do in the future until today.” González’s course, “Cervantes’ Don Quixote,” is now available online in a series of 24 lectures, available on YouTube and iTunes. (Stream all 24 lectures below.) You can download all of the course materials, including the syllabus and overview of each class, here. There is a good deal of reading involved, and you’ll need to get your hands on a few extra books. In addition to the weighty Quixote, “students are also expected to read four of Cervantes’ Exemplary Stories, Cervantes’ Don Quixote: A Casebook, and J.H. Elliott’s Imperial Spain.” It would seem well worth the effort.

Professor González goes on in his introduction to discuss the novel’s importance to such figures as Sigmund Freud, Jorge Luis Borges, and British scholar Ian Watt, who called Don Quixote “one of four myths of modern individualism, the others being Faust, Don Juan, and Robinson Crusoe.” The novel’s historical resume is tremendously impressive, but the most important thing about it, says González, is that it has been read and enjoyed by millions of people around the world for hundreds of years. Just why is that?

The professor quotes from his own introduction to the Penguin Classics edition he asks students to read in providing his answer: “Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s masterpiece has endured because it focuses on literature’s foremost appeal: to become another, to leave a typically embattled self for another closer to one’s desires and aspirations. This is why Don Quixote has often been read as a children’s book, and continues to be read by and to children.” Critics might be prone to dismiss such enjoyable wish fulfilment as trivial, but the centuries-long success of Don Quixote shows it may be the foundation of all modern literary writing.

Don Quixote will be added to our collection of Free Online Literature courses, a subset of our larger collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Free Online Literature Courses 

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

Watch 94 Free Lectures From the Great Courses: Dystopian Fiction, Astrophysics, Guitar Playing & Much More

I can certainly appreciate that many of us spend too much time reading news and opinion, seeking firmer footing amidst alarming current events. But let us not neglect our intellects, and become easier marks for the con-artists constantly preying on our attention. As we try to do our best at Open Culture to show week after week, despite creeping online toxicity, the web is still a great place to get an education on virtually any subject, often up to the college and graduate level, often for free, and on your own time/at your own pace. Learn a language, learn to play an instrument, learn physics, math, biology, philosophy, read novels and poems, hear symphonies, see the world’s museums….

Or here's another option for you: Watch 94 half-hour lectures on the Great Courses YouTube channel. As we have told you before, the Great Courses Plus is a video subscription service that lets you watch free courses across a wide range of subjects, all taught by some of the best lecturers in the country. The topics cover everything from literature, physics, history and economics, to math, photography, cooking, drawing, stress management, and “How to Grow Anything.” If you want to watch complete courses from the Great Courses Plus, feel free to try sign up for a free trial (get details here). But if you're looking for something a little less sustained, then the 47 hours of free lectures on Youtube might have some good options for you.

For example, learn the history of the Islamic Golden Age, British India, the Fall of the Roman Empire, or the Ottoman Empire during World War I. And learn about the political imagination of earlier periods in history, such as the first Gilded Age, at the end of the nineteenth century, a period of staggering economic inequality and dizzying industrial development. That's when Edward Bellamy published his 1888 Looking Backward, a futurist utopian novel set in the year 2000, drawing on Marx and utopian socialist Charles Fourier.

Bellamy foresaw a technologically advanced American utopia that reflected, he wrote, “the true self-interest of a rational unselfishness, and [appeals] to the social and generous instincts of men.” His book became the top-selling novel of the 19th century after Uncle Tom's Cabin and kicks off a lecture on “Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature” offered by the Great Courses and taught by Professor Pamela Bedore of the University of Connecticut. See her lecture at the top of the post, then leap to an entirely different academic frame with a talk on "Two Prototype Theories of Everything" by Don Lincoln, Senior Scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, further up, or on Astrophysics, just above, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

You can even learn to play guitar, or at least get a 30-minute lesson on how to practice, with Colin McAllister, above. Take a look at all 94 of the Great Courses free video lectures on their YouTube channel here. And again find out how to sign up for a free trial to watch complete courses here.

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

900+ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in November: Enroll Today

A quick fyi: 900+ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) will be getting underway this month, giving you the chance to take free courses from top flight universities. With the help of Class Central, we've pulled together a complete list of November MOOCS. And below we've highlighted several courses that piqued our interest, starting with "The Music of the Beatles," whose trailer you can watch above.

Here's one tip to keep in mind: If you want to take a course for free, select the "Full Course, No Certificate" or "Audit" option when you enroll. If you would like an official certificate documenting that you have successfully completed the course, you will need to pay a fee.

You can browse through the complete list of November MOOCs here.

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Death: A Free Philosophy Course from Yale Helps You Grapple with the Inescapable

It pays to think intelligently about the inevitable. And this course taught by Yale professor Shelly Kagan does just that, taking a rich, philosophical look at death. Here's how the course description reads:

There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? This course will examine a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality. The possibility that death may not actually be the end is considered. Are we, in some sense, immortal? Would immortality be desirable? Also a clearer notion of what it is to die is examined. What does it mean to say that a person has died? What kind of fact is that? And, finally, different attitudes to death are evaluated. Is death an evil? How? Why? Is suicide morally permissible? Is it rational? How should the knowledge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life?

Major texts used in this course include Plato's PhaedoTolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, and John Perry's A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.

You can watch the 26 lectures above. Or find them on YouTube and iTunes in video and audio formats. For more information on this course, including the syllabus, please visit this Yale site.

This course has been added to our list of Free Online Philosophy courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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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Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting in a New Online Course, Drawing on His Iconic Pulp Fiction Performance & Others

With an actor as prolific and as long in the game as Samuel L. Jackson, a fan can pick a favorite performance only with great difficulty. Should it come from his roles in Hollywood blockbusters like Jurassic ParkDie Hard with a Vengeance, the Star Wars prequels, or the comic-book spectacles of Marvel Studios? His roles for iconoclastic auteurs like Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, and Paul Thomas Anderson? His role — immortal title line and all — in Snakes on a Place? For many, though, Jackson attains prime Jacksonianism in only one context: his ongoing collaboration with Quentin Tarantino.

Whenever Jackson appears in a Tarantino film, whichever character he plays immediately becomes one of the most memorable in cinema's past 25 years. But will any ever surpass Pulp Fiction's Jheri-curled hitman Jules Winnfield for sheer impact per moment onscreen? Tarantino wrote the part especially for Jackson after seeing what he could do with a thuggish character in Tony Scott's True Romance, whose script Tarantino had also written. Tarantino's second feature film (and Jackson's thirtieth) rocketed the actor to the top of the zeitgeist, not least on the strength of what we now call the "Ezekiel speeches," the scenes in which Jackson-as-Winnfield quotes what he describes as the Bible passage Ezekiel 25:17:

Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.

Jackson's first Ezekiel speech (which owes as much to martial-arts star Sonny Chiba as to any holy text) comes toward the beginning of the movie, as he and his partner in killing Vincent Vega (a role that also did a great deal for its performer John Travolta, returning him to his former cultural prominence) turn up to an apartment to do a job. He delivers his final one in the highly Tarantinian setting of a Los Angeles diner booth, and both Tarantino and Jackson do their utmost to make it reveal his character's transformation in his journey through the story.

It makes sense, then, that Jackson would break down and recreate that diner scene in the online course "Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting," newly offered (for a fee of $90) by the education startup Masterclass. "I made a decision early in life that I wasn't going to live and die in Chattanooga, Tennessee," he says in its trailer, a line that could belong to the kind of monologue he delivers so powerfully in the movies. "Being able to embody a lot of different characters in film has been very cathartic, being able to let go of the anger or the disappointment that I had in my life." Jackson's Masterclass promises coverage of script breakdown, voice, characterization, auditioning, collaboration, and voiceover acting — catharsis, it seems, comes as a bonus. You can pre-enroll now and get early access to the 20-lesson course. It should be available in Winter 2017.

Note: Masterclass has other acting courses taught by Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Spacey.

Related Content:

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See Flannery O’Connor’s Story “The Displaced Person” Adapted to a Film Starring a Young Samuel L. Jackson (1977)

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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