Historic Console Used to Record “Stairway to Heaven” and Other Rock Classics Goes Up for Auction Today

The amount of money one is willing to spend—should one have amounts of money—for a vintage recording console will vary greatly depending on who one is. The average person will see an enormous, heavy, wonky, wood and metal space hog with no apparent purpose. The musician, engineer, producer, or studio owner, on the other hand, will see a finely-tuned instrument, whose preamps, EQs, compressors, meters, and circuitry promise worlds of sonic warmth and depth.

In the case of one particular recording console, the so-called “Heliocentric Helios Console,” everyone will see a piece of music history, one that rightly belongs in a museum on public view. Such a fate is unlikely for this artifact, which goes on sale today at auction house Bonhams in London. It will end up in some well-heeled private hands, fetching a hefty sum for reasons far beyond its classic engineering.




“Songs and albums recorded on this bespoke console and its original parts rank among some of the most recognizable and best-loved pieces of music in existence, and have resulted in Grammys, Brit Awards and multiple number one spots,” says Bonham’s Claire Tole-Mole. “This console is a piece of Britain’s modern cultural history.” Actually an amalgam of two different historic consoles, combined in 1996, the Island Record section of the mixing desk was used by Led Zeppelin to record IV, the album featuring their most famous song, “Stairway to Heaven.”

This tantalizing bit is only a taste of the HeliosCentric console’s extensive provenance. Bob Marley recorded Catch a Fire and Burnin’ on the machine, Jimmy Cliff recorded “Many Rivers to Cross”; Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” emerged from the console, as did songs and albums made by George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Mick Fleetwood, Steven Stills, Jimi Hendrix, Ronnie Wood, David Bowie, Free, The Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, Harry Nilsson, Cat Stevens, Jeff Beck, Mott the Hoople, Humble Pie, Paul Weller, Supergrass, Sia, KT Tunstall, Squeeze, the Pet Shop Boys, Keane, and Dido… among many more.

The number of top-notch artists who have used one or both parts of the console is astonishing, and its combining also provides devotees of rock history with a great story: the founder of Helios Electronics himself, Dick Swettenham, who formerly worked at Abbey Road, personally consulted on the construction of the new console, which was put together by Elvis Costello and Squeeze's Chris Difford. You can read the machine’s full history at Bonhams, as great a story as you’re ever likely to hear about a piece of specialized studio equipment the size of a small car. The HelioCentric Console is expected to fetch six figures, but as Rolling Stone points out, the auction house recently sold the console used to record Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for $1.8 million. What’s another few dozen classic albums and singles worth?

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

Jimmy Page Tells the Story of “Stairway to Heaven”: How the Most Played Rock Song Came To Be

Producer Tony Visconti Breaks Down the Making of David Bowie’s Classic “Heroes,” Track by Track

Brian Eno Presents a Crash Course on How the Recording Studio Radically Changed Music: Hear His Influential Lecture “The Recording Studio as a Compositional Tool” (1979)

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

In 1964, Isaac Asimov Predicts What the World Will Look Like Today: Self-Driving Cars, Video Calls, Fake Meats & More

Painting of Asimov on his throne by Rowena Morill, via Wikimedia Commons

Isaac Asimov's readers have long found something prophetic in his work, but where did Asimov himself look when he wanted to catch a glimpse of the future? In 1964 he found one at the New York World's Fair, the vast exhibition dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe" that history now remembers as the most elaborate expression of the industrial and technological optimism of Space Age America. Despite the fanciful nature of some of the products on display, visitors first saw things there — computers, for instance — that would become essential in a matter of decades.

"What is to come, through the fair's eyes at least, is wonderful," Asimov writes in a piece on his experience at the fair for the New York TimesBut it all makes him wonder: "What will life be like, say, in 2014 A.D., 50 years from now? What will the World's Fair of 2014 be like?" His speculations begin with the notion that "men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better," which they certainly have, though not so much through the use of "electroluminescent panels" that will make "ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button." Still, all the other screens near-constantly in use seem to provide all the glow we need for the moment.




"Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs," Asimov predicts, and so it has, though our kitchens have yet to evolve to the point of preparing "'automeals,' heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on." He hits closer to the mark when declaring that "robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence." He notes that IBM's exhibit at the World's Fair had nothing about robots to show, but plenty about computers, "which are shown in all their amazing complexity, notably in the task of translating Russian into English. If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the 'brains' of robots."

"The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords," Asimov writes, and in the case of our all-important mobile phones, that has turned out to be at least half-true. But we still lack the "long-lived batteries running on radioisotopes" produced by "fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity." The real decade of the 2010s turned out to be more attached to the old ways, not least by cords and cables, than Asimov imagined. Even the United States of America hasn't quite mastered the art of designing highways so that "long buses move on special central lanes" along them, let alone forms of ground travel that "take to the air a foot or two off the ground."

But one advance in transportation Asimov describes will sound familiar to those of us living in the 2010s: "Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with 'Robot-brains,' vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver." Indeed, we hear about few reportedly imminent technologies these days as much as we hear about self-driving cars and their potential to get us where we're going while we do other things, such as engage in communications that "will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone," on a screen used "not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books."

Conversations with the moon colonies, Asimov needlessly warns us, "will be a trifle uncomfortable" because of the 2.5-second delay. But immediately thereafter comes the much more realistic prediction that "as for television, wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set." Still, "all is not rosy" in the world of 2014, whose population will have swelled to 6,500,000,000 — or 7,298,453,033, as it happened. This has many implications for development, housing, and even agriculture, though the "mock-turkey" and "pseudosteak" eaten today has more to do with lifestyle than necessity. ("It won't be bad at all," Asimov adds, "if you can dig up those premium prices.")

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, "the world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders." Asimov foresees the need for a change in education to accommodate that, one hinted at even in General Electric's exhibit in 1964, which "consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process." His envisioned high-school curriculum would have students master "the fundamentals of computer technology" and get them "trained to perfection in the use of the computer language."

But even with all these developments, "mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity." The "serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences" of that will make psychiatry an important medical specialty, and "the lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine." Though Asimov may have been surprised by what we've come up with in the quarter-century since his death, as well as what we haven't come up with, he would surely have understood the sorts of anxieties that now beset us in the future-turned-present in which we live. But even given all the ways in which his predictions in 1964 have proven more or less correct, he did miss one big thing: there was no World's Fair in 2014.

Related Content:

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Arthur C. Clarke Predicts in 2001 What the World Will Look By December 31, 2100

Arthur C. Clarke Predicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

Walter Cronkite Imagines the Home of the 21st Century … Back in 1967

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 or on Facebook.

See the Complete Works of Vermeer in Augmented Reality: Google Makes Them Available on Your Smartphone


No museum could ever put on a complete Vermeer exhibition. The problem isn't quantity: thus far, only 36 works have been definitively attributed to the 17th-century Dutch painter of domestic scenes and portraits, most famously Girl with a Pearl Earring. But they all hang in collections scattered around the world, not just in places like Amsterdam and The Hague but London, New York, Paris, and elsewhere besides. Some have become too fragile to travel, and one, The Concert, was stolen in 1990 and hasn't been seen since. But all of this makes a complete Vermeer exhibition the perfect concept to execute in virtual reality, or rather augmented reality — a concept just recently executed by the Mauritshuis museum and Google Arts & Culture.

"In total, 18 museums and private collections from seven countries contributed high-resolution images of the Vermeers in their possession, which were then compiled into a virtual museum by Google," writes Gizmodo's Victoria Song.




"To view the Meet Vermeer virtual museum, you can download the free Google Arts and Culture app for iOS and Android. So long as you have a smartphone with a working camera, all you have to do is point your phone at a flat surface, wave it in a circle, and voila — you, too, can have a virtual museum floating above your bed and nightstand. After that, you can pinch and zoom on each of the seven rooms to 'enter' the AR museum to view the paintings." If you enter the virtual museum on a computer, you can navigate a completely virtual version of those themed rooms, of which you can catch glimpses in the GIF below.

Google's augmented-reality technology, in other words, allows not just the creation of an entire virtual museum in which to view Vermeer's body of work together, but the creation of such a museum in any location where you might possibly open the app. Those of us who tend toward fantasies of a high-powered art collection will, of course, want to give it a try in our homes and get a taste of what it would look like if we had the cash on hand to round up all the Vermeers in the world ourselves. Whether the impecunious Vermeer himself — impecunious in part, no doubt, due to his lack of prolificacy — entertained such dreams of wealth, history hasn't recorded, though given the unabashed domesticity of his subjects, he might well agree that, for an exhibition of everything he ever painted, there's no place like home.

Again, to view the Meet Vermeer virtual museum, you can download the free Google Arts and Culture app for iOS and Android.

Related Content:

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Take a Virtual Tour of The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the World-Famous Collection of Renaissance Art

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 or on Facebook.

Anatomy of a Fake: Forgery Experts Reveal 5 Ways To Spot a Fake Painting by Jackson Pollock (or Any Other Artist)

In the old days, determining an art forgery was mostly a matter of narrative deduction, a la Sherlock Holmes.

Thiago Piwowarczyk and Jeffrey Taylor, founders of New York Art Forensics, employ such techniques to establish provenance, tracing the chain of ownership of any given work back to its original sale by researching catalogues, title transfers, and correspondence.




But they also bring a number of high tech tools to the table, to further prove—or in the case of the alleged Jackson Pollock drip painting above, disprove—a work’s authenticity.

In the WIRED video above, these experts, whose pedigree includes degrees in Chemistry, Forensic Science, and Comparative History, a Visual Arts Management textbook, and two Frick Collection Fellowships, break the sleuthing process down to five critical steps:

1. Establish provenance

Obsolete technology has a place in the process too, in the form of a highly unreliable fax, allegedly sent in 1997. It purports to be a photocopy of a typewritten letter from 1970, written by a gallery owner who talked one of the artist’s former girlfriends into parting with a number of works after his death.

Unfortunately for the painting’s current owner, Piwowarczyk and Taylor could find no proof that the gallery or its owner ever existed. The letter also botches Pollock’s death date and oddly, there’s a blank where the sender’s number would normally be.

Due diligence reveals nothing resembling this painting in the catalogue raisonné of Pollock’s work.

2. Close up visual analysis

This can be accomplished with tools as simple as the flashlight and plastic caliper Taylor uses to examine the staple holes found at regular intervals along the unsigned canvas’ edges. In the 1940s, artists started gravitating toward staples over tacks as a method for securing their canvases to stretcher bars, but would Pollock have done so? Likely not, to hear him tell it:

I hardly ever stretch my canvas before painting. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface.

Piwowarczyk and Taylor draw on their other senses, too, when performing this in-depth visual inspection. A deep sniff reveals that teabags were used to discolor the canvas, in hope of making it appear older than it is.

3. Photography with a multispectral imaging camera 

This camera’s ability to see the Ultra-Violet spectrum allows our forensic experts to spot restorations, underdrawing, and pentimenti. Here, the camera revealed an underlying painting whose geometric layout is uncharacteristic of Pollock, as well as a suspiciously amateurish patch job on the back of the canvas, another attempt to make the painting appear older than it is.

4. Examination with an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer

It looks like a cool Star Wars prop, and allows the examiners to identify elements in the pigment. Here, our “Pollock” gets a pass. There’s titanium (as in Titanium White) in evidence, but that’s permissible for anything painted from the 30s onward.

5. Molecular Imaging and Analysis by Raman Spectroscopy

The forger might have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids and their Raman Spectroscope! The minuscule samples of paint Piwowarczyk harvests from the canvas reveal all sorts of organic debris that have no place in a Pollock, such as drywall dust and an acrylic that didn’t come into use ‘til the 1960s.

In conclusion, exercise caution and consult the experts before purchasing a high value drip painting this holiday season! According to Piwowarczyk, the fakes—over 100 and presumably still counting—outstrip the number of drip paintings Pollock created throughout his lifetime.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC from December 6 - 20 for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The First House Powered by Coffee

Since 2006, Dunkin' Donuts has used the tagline "America Runs on Dunkin'," presumably alluding to the coffee and donuts that get millions of Americans through each morning. But maybe, all along, they've had something more in mind. Above, Dunkin' presents a tiny home powered by biofuel made from spent coffee grounds, a process masterminded by a company called Blue Marble Biomaterials. Working with luxury tiny homebuilder New Frontier Tiny Homes, they've created a process--notes a Dunkin' press release--that works something like this:

  • Step 1: Extract excess oils in the spent coffee grounds. There can be natural oils left in spent coffee grounds, all depending on the coffee bean type and original processing methods.
  • Step 2: Mix and react. These oils are then mixed with an alcohol to undergo a chemical reaction known as transesterification. This produces biodiesel and glycerin as a byproduct.
  • Step 3: Refine. The biodiesel is washed and refined to create the final product.

When all is said and done, 170 pounds of used coffee grounds translates into one gallon of fuel. From 65,000 pounds of coffee grounds, you got enough juice to power a 275 square foot home, at least for a while.

Take a 360 degree interactive tour of the tiny home here.

via New Atlas

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David Lynch Directs a Mini-Season of Twin Peaks in the Form of Japanese Coffee Commercials

J.S. Bach’s Comic Opera, “The Coffee Cantata,” Sings the Praises of the Great Stimulating Drink (1735)

“The Virtues of Coffee” Explained in 1690 Ad: The Cure for Lethargy, Scurvy, Dropsy, Gout & More

Hear How Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” Would Sound If Sung by Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Frank Sinatra & 38 Other Artists

I consider Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson as the greatest performers of all time. Their vocal abilities are what I look up to as a vocalist.  - Anthony Vincent

Anthony Vincent, the creator of Ten Second Songs, has a flowing mane, a lean physique, and the cocksure manner of a 20th century rock god.

He also spends hours in his home studio, peering at a computer monitor through reading glasses.

His latest effort, above, Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the style of 42 other artists, could seem like a gimmick at first glance.

Consider, however, all the research, time, and musicianship that went into it.




The YouTube star disappeared from the internet for a month in order to tackle the beast that fans had long been begging him for.

He emerged from this self-imposed sabbatical refreshed, recommending that perhaps “everyone should start producing songs in multiple styles just so they too could take a vacation from social media.”

Good idea, though I doubt many of us can mimic the wide range of vocal styles the largely self taught Vincent does, from  Muse’s lead singer Matt Belamy’s fabled high notes to the late Joe Strummer’s extremely English punk attitude to Janis Joplin at her most unfettered.

He also displays an impressive facility with a variety of arrangements and instruments, though a couple of off-handed comments in the Making Of video, below, may not endear him to drummers, despite his obvious respect for the essential role percussion plays in structuring his projects.

Various elements suggested which artist to pair with each bite-sized section of "Bohemian Rhapsody," including similarity of lyrics, notes, and arrangements. ("Mama mia" was a no brainer…as was “Mama, didn’t mean to make you cry.”)

By definition, the multi-style "Bohemian Rhapsody" required him to look beyond his own personal favorites for artists to highlight, a process he applies to all of his mash ups. As he said in a 2015 interview with Radio Metal:

Obviously I don’t listen to Enya in my free time, I don’t go and put on a Gregorian chant and listen to it to relax. If I’m going to put an artist in there, it’s because I have some kind of respect for them in some way… At first my intention was to promote my business and now my intentions are to show that there are different ways that a song can be heard and that there’s nothing wrong with liking different things. You shouldn’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. Just because someone is growling doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just a way of expressing a song, there is really nothing else to it.

His "Bohemian Rhapsody" tribute is comprised of over 1800 carefully labelled tracks, an inspiring display of digital organization as well as technical prowess.

While some of Vincent’s chosen 42—David Bowie, Dream Theater—did cover "Bohemian Rhapsody" in its entirety, an unfortunate side effect of his impersonations are the way they whet our appetite for full covers we’ll never get to enjoy from the likes of Johnny Cash, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin….

Ultimately, no one can hold a candle to the original, but there’s no harm in trying.

Readers, do you have a favorite from the line up below? Anyone you wish you could add to the list?

01. Queen

02. Me

03. The Chordettes

04. Johnny Cash

05. David Bowie

06. Ozzy Osbourne

07. Frank Sinatra

08. Sam Cooke

09. Boyz II Men

10. Daft Punk

11. Janis Joplin

12. Scott Joplin (King Of Ragtime)

13. Skrillex

14. Hendrix (Michael Winslow Version)

15. Kenny G

16. Bobby McFerrin

17. Star Wars

18. N.W.A.

19. Kendrick Lamar

20. System Of A Down

21. Elvis Presley

22. BOLLYWOOD

23. Bad Religion

24. Bruno Mars

25. Death Grips

26. Chuck Berry

27. Michael jackson

28. The Clash

29. Ray Charles

30. Aretha Franklin

31. Soggy Bottom Boys

32. Death

33. ABBA

34. Ghost

35. Muse

36. Vitas

37. Medieval Music

38. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

39. Tool

40. Prince

41. Nirvana

42. Dream Theater

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.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her 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.

Related Content:

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Wikipedia Leads Effort to Create a Digital Archive of 20 Million Artifacts Lost in the Brazilian Museum Fire

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

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