Istanbul Captured in Beautiful Color Images from 1890: The Hagia Sophia, Topkaki Palace’s Imperial Gate & More

Even those who know nothing else about Istanbul know that it used to be called Constantinople. The official renaming happened in 1930, meaning that the photographs you see here, all of which date from around 1890, were taken, strictly speaking, not in Istanbul but Constantinople. But under any name, and despite all the other changes that have occurred over the past 130 years, the Turkish metropolis on the Bosphorus remains recognizable as the gateway between East and West it has been throughout recorded history. This is thanks in part to its oldest landmarks, above all the cathedral-turned-mosque-turned-museum known as Hagia Sophia, pictured above.

In the 1890s Hagia Sophia was still a mosque, and as we recently posted here, it has just this year become one again. But as a historically rich structure even by the standards of such a historically rich city, it will no doubt remain Istanbul's prime tourist attraction in the 2020s, much as it must have been in the 19th century.




For those who couldn't make the trip in those days — or who could make the trip and wanted to bring home souvenirs that could convey as richly as possible what they'd seen on their travels — there were Photocrom prints. Though not technically a color photography process, Photocrom could produce fairly convincing images by applying color to black-and-white pictures.

Hence Photocrom's use in capturing vistas from the great European cities, including Rome, Venice, and Paris, all previously featured here on Open Culture. Photocrom prints, explains the Library of Congress' web site, "are ink-based images produced through 'the direct photographic transfer of an original negative onto litho and chromographic printing plates,'" a technology that allowed for the mass production of images that could then be widely distributed. Thanks to the ventures of licensees like the Detroit Publishing Company, those on the other side of the world could behold a city like Istanbul — or rather Constantinople — through what looked "deceptively like color photographs."

The subjects of these prints, all of which you can view and download at the Library of Congress' online archive, include not just Hagia Sophia but the fountain of Sultan Ahmed, Topkaki Palace's imperial gate, and the Galata Bridge (for which Leonardo da Vinci himself once submitted a design). Other pictures depict the city's street life with views of the Eminönü bazaar as well as barbers and cooks plying their trade in the open air. The colors and contrasts of the Photocrom process gives all of them a sense of reality more vivid, in a way, than reality itself — but as those who've been there know, the reality of Istanbul is vivid enough for anybody.

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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.

Explore the Ruins of Timgad, the “African Pompeii” Excavated from the Sands of Algeria

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Fifteen centuries after its fall, the Roman Empire lives on in unexpected places. Take, for instance, the former colonial city of Timgad, located in Algeria 300 miles from the capital. Founded by the Emperor Trajan around 100 AD as Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi, it thrived as a piece of Rome in north Africa before turning Christian in the third century and into a center of the Donatist sect in the fourth. The three centuries after that saw a sacking by Vandals, a reoccupation by Christians, and another sacking by Berbers. Abandoned and covered by sand from the Sahara from the seventh century on, Timgad was rediscovered by Scottish explorer James Bruce in 1765. But not until the 1880s, under French rule, did a proper excavation begin.

Today a visitor to the ruins of Timgad can see the outlines of exactly where each of its buildings once stood (especially if they have the aerial view of the photo above, recently tweeted out by Architecture Hub). This, in part, is what qualified the place for inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List.




"With its square enclosure and orthogonal design based on the cardo and decumanus, the two perpendicular routes running through the city, it is an excellent example of Roman town planning," says UNESCO's web site. Its "remarkable grid system" — quite normal to 21st-century city-dwellers, much less so in second-century Africa — makes it "a typical example of an urban model" that "continues to bear witness to the building inventiveness of the military engineers of the Roman civilization, today disappeared."

"Within a few generations of its birth," writes Messy Nessy," the outpost had expanded to over 10,000 residents of both Roman, African, as well as Berber descent. "The extension of Roman citizenship to non-Romans was a carefully planned strategy of the Empire," she adds. "In return for their loyalty, local elites were given a stake in the great and powerful Empire, benefitted from its protection and legal system, not to mention, its modern urban amenities such as Roman bath houses, theatres, and a fancy public library." Timgad's library, which "would have housed manuscripts relating to religion, military history and good governance," seems to have been fancy indeed, and its ruins indicate the purchase Roman culture managed to attain in this far-flung settlement.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Timgad's library is just one element of what UNESCO calls its "rich architectural inventory comprising numerous and diversified typologies, relating to the different historical stages of its construction: the defensive system, buildings for the public conveniences and spectacles, and a religious complex." Having outgrown its original street grid, Timgad "spread beyond the perimeters of its ramparts and several major public buildings are built in the new quarters: Capitolium, temples, markets and baths," most of which date from the city's "Golden Age" in the Severan period between 193 and 235.

Image Alan and Flora Botting via Flickr Commons

This makes for an African equivalent of Pompeii, the Roman city famously buried and thus preserved in the explosion of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79. But it is lesser-known Timgad, with its still clearly laid-out blocks, its recognizable public facilities, and its demarcated "downtown" and "suburbs," that will feel more familiar to us today, whichever city in the world we come from.

via Architecture Hub/MessyNessy

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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.

The Iconic Album Covers of Hipgnosis: Meet “The Beatles of Album Cover Art” Who Created Unforgettable Designs for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel & Many More

Try calling to mind Nirvana’s Nevermind without its naked, swimming baby; or London Calling without Paul Simenon smashing his bass. Think of Sgt. Pepper’s or Abbey Road without thinking about their sleeves. Classic rock albums and classic, unforgettable album covers are inseparably intertwined.

Imagine Dark Side of the Moon without its prism….

Hipgnosis, the design team behind the nearly 50-year-old album cover/t-shirt/poster/bumper sticker/coffee mug/etc. completely nailed it, as they say, with this design. They did so after several less-than-iconic but still memorable attempts to represent the band’s sound with a single image.

Made up of designers Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell, and, later, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Hipgnosis first got its start when the former art school friends of Pink Floyd asked to design the sleeve for the band’s 1968 A Saucerful of Secrets, their second studio album and first without founding singer/songwriter Syd Barrett. Thereafter followed designs for More, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, and Obscured by Clouds.

In-between Pink Floyd albums, Hipgnosis picked up commissions from dozens of other musicians, including well-known names like T. Rex, Wishbone Ash, The Hollies, The Pretty Things, Electric Light Orchestra, Rory Gallagher, and many others.




Once the Dark Side prism appeared in 1973, “all the top high-profile bands who could afford the London designers’ artwork showed up at their door,” as one account puts it.

Led Zeppelin knocked, as did Peter Frampton, Nazareth, Bad Company, Genesis, Peter Gabriel… Hipgnosis’ recognition as premier graphic interpreters of rock, most notably of albums that emerged in the post-PF progressive boom of the 70s, was fully secured by a string of unforgettable covers. Many other album designs from their 190-cover career you may have never seen, and may not find nearly as compelling as, say, Wish You Were Here, whose man-on-fire handshake burns into the retinas.

The team had an unusual approach with many of their post-Dark Side covers, recalling the 60s with psychedelic and satirical imagery, especially on album art for bands who got their start the previous decade. But they updated the aesthetic, inventing the “techno-psychedelic visual identity” of the 70s, as The Guardian writes, and turning flower power into machine power, post-industrial landscapes, apocalyptic fantasies, and pop art collages. The influence of Christopherson, who became a full partner in 1978, helped pull the designers into the sleeker 1980s with covers for Peter Gabriel, The Police, and Scorpions.

Many classic album artists find a visual brand and stick with it. Some, like H.R. Giger, are already extremely niche. Others, like the legendary design team at Blue Note records, have the mandate of defining not only an individual album’s look, but also that of an entire record label. One of the remarkable things about Hipgnosis is their range—a characteristic that further fits with their reputation as “The Beatles of album cover art,” writes Why It Matters. “Nobody has ever done it better than the British design firm.”

As free agents, they could approach each record as a singular work. They were as comfortable working with photography as they were creating original artwork. They could represent brooding English folk and neon New Wave. Album covers have sold popular music for about as long as it has existed as a commodity, but Hipgnosis significantly raised the bar, especially in their continued work with Pink Floyd and their Led Zeppelin covers.

Some Hipgnosis covers are timeless, some dated, some baffling conceptual experiments that surely made more sense in the planning stages. A NSFW theme of female torsos predominates. It’s hard to say to what degree each band had a hand in choosing and directing each image. The designers’ last cover was for Led Zeppelin’s Coda, released in 1982. “There’s quite a bit of poetry in that. In their fifteen years together the firm produced many of the most iconic covers in music history.” As for correlations between the quality of the music and the quality of the cover art—that’s an investigation we leave to you. See many more Hipgnosis covers at Why It Matters and The Guardian. And if you can swing it, see Thorgerson and Powell's book, For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis. Or Powell's Vinyl, Album, Cover Art: The Complete Hipgnosis.



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

James Baldwin Talks About Racism in America & Civil Rights Activism on The Dick Cavett Show (1969)

There are many reasons, some quite literal, that it can be painful to talk about racism in the U.S. For one thing, it often seems that writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, or James Baldwin, have already confronted questions of racial violence without hedging or equivocation. Yet each time racist violence happens, there seems to be a decorous need in politics and media to pretend to be surprised by what's right in front of us, to pretend to have discovered the place for the first time, and yet to already have a supply of readymade platitudes and denunciations at hand.

For example, just recently, a former white U.S. President just dismissed an important civil rights leader at the funeral of another civil rights leader, while the oppressive conditions both leaders fought against are amplified to military grade in cities around the country. Sports fans demand that elite Black athletes shut up and entertain them. The fans will be the ones to say what gestures are acceptable, like standing for the national anthem at a televised for-profit sporting event that has more to do with gambling than patriotism.




Maybe standing and kneeling are both spectacles, but they do not carry equal weight. When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees refused to support his teammates’ mild protest against murder, he tried to make it right by posting on social media a stock photo of a black hand and a white hand clasped together. In his N+1 essay “Such Things Have Done Harm,” a worthy application of Baldwin’s furious logic to the present, Blair McClendon writes:

The spectacle of reconciliation is irresistible. There may be a war in the streets, but from time to time there is a Christmas truce and we are to take those as visions of a better, calmer future. Here is the coming peace without all the grisly details that prevent us from getting there…. Holding up a picture of black and white people together intimately, in camaraderie, or even just mutual recognition and respect, as proof of something “possible” implies an otherwise brutal vision of the world “as it is”... We should be willing to demand more than fellow feeling.

The foreclosure of conflict, the bypassing of reality with sentimental fantasies of harmony, lies at the heart of the exceptionalism argument that seems to make so many people irrationally angry with Black athletes. You are highly paid, successful entertainers, and we consider that a sign of progress, therefore we judge this protest illegitimate. For Baldwin, as Ellen Gutoskey writes at Mental Floss, this standard measurement of progress “is only progress as defined by white people of privilege.”

When Dick Cavett voiced the question to Baldwin in 1969—citing those who point to the success of “the rising number of Black Americans in sports, politics, and entertainment”—Baldwin explained the real problem: No one has asked for this opinion, and certainly not at that time, as Gutoskey points out, "with the violence of 1968—Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassinations, a riotous Democratic National Convention, countless civil rights protests, and so on—still very fresh in the public consciousness." Baldwin puts is plainly:

Insofar as the American public wants to think there has been progress, they overlook one very simple thing: I don’t want to be given anything by you. I just want you to leave me alone so I can do it myself. And it also overlooks another very important thing: Perhaps I don’t think that this republic is the summit of human civilization. Perhaps I don’t want to become like Ronald Reagan or like the president of General Motors. Perhaps I have another sense of life… Perhaps I don’t want what you think I want.

Repeatedly, the hallowed democratic notion of self-determination has been denied Black Americans—perhaps the single most enduring thread that runs through the country’s history. The denial of agency is complicated, however, by the necessity of assigning blame to people deemed not fully human: “I have nothing to say about the idea that people who are the descendants of property are bound to respect the property rights of Gucci or CVS beyond the desire to point out its obscenity,” Blair McClendon writes. “What was called violence and chaos in any other circumstance would be read as something much simpler: self-defense.”

Again and again, those who resist the most brutal conditions—including outright murder in the streets, in quiet homes at night, in cars, at playgrounds, by agents of the state—are called villains and insurrectionists. Cavett asks Baldwin to explain radical leaders like H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael, “who frighten us the most" (making the word “us” do a lot of work here). Baldwin responds, “[When] any white man in the world says ‘Give me liberty, or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds. When a Black man says exactly the same thing, word for word, he is judged a criminal and treated like one….”

I doubt the irony of quoting Patrick Henry (also known for saying “If this be treason, make the most of it!”) was in any way lost on Baldwin. As one recent biographer puts it, Henry was the first American revolutionary “to call for independence, for revolution against Britain, for a bill of rights, and for as much freedom as possible from government—American as well as British." Patrick Henry was also a slaveowner, something he considered, in his own words, a “lamentable evil.”

Henry wrote, “I will not, I cannot justify [owning slaves],” but he was “not conflicted enough to actually set anyone free,” writes Michael Schaub at NPR. Declarations of high moral principles, while one openly commits, or ignores, what one admits is “evil,” still feature prominently in official stories of the moment. Baldwin, writes McClendon, “knew what a story was, he knew what a film was, he knew what a revolution was and he may have known forgiveness, too.”

Baldwin did not know willful forgetting, however, except to call it out when he saw it used as a weapon. Raoul Peck's excellent, aptly-titled film I Am Not Your Negro begins with the Cavett interview, then unravels a "radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America," writes YouTube Movies, who offers the film free to screen online, "using Baldwin's original words and a flood of rich archival material" to reconstruct his last unfinished book, Remember This House.

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

What Does the United States’ Coronavirus Response Look Like Abroad?: Watch the Rest of the World Stare Aghast at Our Handling of COVID-19

"Even in third world countries, like Senegal, it isn't like this..."

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The Map of Quantum Physics: A Colorful Animation Explains the Often Misunderstood Branch of Science

In our time, few branches of science have taken as much public abuse as quantum physics, the study of how things behave at the atomic scale. It's not so much that people dislike the subject as they see fit to draft it in support of any given notion: quantum physics, one hears, proves that we have free will, or that Buddhist wisdom is true, or that there is an afterlife, or that nothing really exists. Those claims may or may not be true, but they do not help us at all to understand what quantum physics actually is. For that we'll want to turn to Dominic Walliman, a Youtuber whose channel Domain of Science features clear visual explanations of scientific fields including physics, chemistry, mathematics, as well as the whole domain of science itself — and who also, as luck would have it, is a quantum physics PhD.

With his knowledge of the field, and his modesty as far as what can be definitively said about it, Wallman has designed a map of quantum physics, available for purchase at his web site. In the video above he takes us on a guided tour through the realms into which he has divided up and arranged his subject, beginning with the "pre-quantum mysteries," inquiries into which led to its foundation.




From there he continues on to the foundations of quantum physics, a territory that includes such potentially familiar landmarks as particle-wave duality, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and the Schrödinger equation — though not yet his cat, another favorite quantum-physics reference among those who don't know much about quantum physics.

Alas, as c explains in the subsequent "quantum phenomena" section, Schrödinger's cat is "not very helpful, because it was originally designed to show how absurd quantum mechanics seems, as cats can't be alive and dead at the same time." But then, this is a field that proceeds from absurdity, or at least from the fact that its observations at first made no sense by the traditional laws of physics. There follow forays into quantum technology (lasers, solar panels, MRI machines), quantum information (computing, cryptography, the prospect teleportation), and a variety of subfields including condensed matter physics, quantum biology, and quantum chemistry. Though detailed enough to require more than one viewing, Walliman's map also makes clear how much of quantum physics remains unexplored — and most encouragingly of all, leaves off its supposed philosophical, or existential implications. You can watch Walliman's other introduction to Quantum Physics below.

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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.

Revisit Scenes of Daily Life in Amsterdam in 1922, with Historic Footage Enhanced by Artificial Intelligence

Welkom in Amsterdam… 1922.

Neural network artist Denis Shiryaev describes himself as “an artistic machine-learning person with a soul.”

For the last six months, he’s been applying himself to re-rendering documentary footage of city life—Belle Epoque ParisTokyo at the start of the the Taishō era, and New York City in 1911—the year of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

It’s possible you’ve seen the footage before, but never so alive in feel. Shiryaev’s renderings trick modern eyes with artificial intelligence, boosting the original frames-per-second rate and resolution, stabilizing and adding color—not necessarily historically accurate.




The herky-jerky bustling quality of the black-and-white originals is transformed into something fuller and more fluid, making the human subjects seem… well, more human.

This Trip Through the Streets of Amsterdam is truly a blast from the past… the antithesis of the social distancing we must currently practice.

Merry citizens jostle shoulder to shoulder, unmasked, snacking, dancing, arms slung around each other… unabashedly curious about the hand-cranked camera turned on them as they go about their business.

A group of women visiting outside a shop laugh and scatter—clearly they weren’t expecting to be filmed in their aprons.

Young boys looking to steal the show push their way to the front, cutting capers and throwing mock punches.

Sorry, lads, the award for Most Memorable Performance by a Juvenile goes to the small fellow at the 4:10 mark. He’s not hamming it up at all, merely taking a quick puff of his cigarette while running alongside a crowd of men on bikes, determined to keep pace with the camera person.

Numerous YouTube viewers have observed with some wonder that all the people who appear, with the distant exception of a baby or two at the end, would be in the grave by now.

They do seem so alive.

Modern eyes should also take note of the absences: no cars, no plastic, no cell phones…

And, of course, everyone is white. The Netherlands’ population would not diversify racially for another couple of decades, beginning with immigrants from Indonesia after WWII and Surinam in the 50s.

With regard to that, please be forewarned that not all of the YouTube comments have to do with cheeky little boys and babies who would be pushing 100…

The footage is taken from the archival collection of the EYE filmmuseum in Amsterdam, with ambient sound by Guy Jones.

See more of Denis Shiryaev’s  upscaled vintage footage in the links below.

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

Zamrock: An Introduction to Zambia’s 1970s Rich & Psychedelic Rock Scene

The story of popular music in the late 20th century is never complete without an account of the explosive psychedelic rock, funk, Afrobeat, and other hybrid styles that proliferated on the African continent and across Latin American and the Caribbean in the 1960s and 70s. It’s only lately, however, that large audiences are discovering how much pioneering music came out of Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and other postcolonial countries, thanks to UK labels like Strut and Soundway (named by The Guardian as “one of the 10 British Labels defining the sound of 2014” and named “Label of the Year” in 2017).

Germany’s Analogue Africa, a label that reissues classic albums from the era, puts it this way: “the future of music happened decades ago.” Only most Western audiences weren’t paying attention—with notable exceptions, of course: superstar drummer Ginger Baker apprenticed himself to Fela Kuti and became an evangelist for African drumming; Brian Eno and Talking Heads’ David Byrne (who also introduced thousands to “world music”) imported the sound of African rock to New Wave in the 80s, as did post-punk bands like Orange Juice and others in Britain, where music from Africa generally had a bigger impact.




But the fusion of African polyrhythms with rock instruments and song structures had been done, and done incredibly well, already by dozens of bands, including several in the East African country of Zambia, which had been British-controlled Northern Rhodesia until its independence in 1964. In the decade after, bands formed around the country to create a unique form of music known as “Zamrock,” as it came to be called, “forged by a particular set of national circumstances,” writes Calum MacNaughton at Music in Africa.

Zamrock bands were influenced by the funk and soul of James Brown and the heavy rock of Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Cream—the same music everyone else was listening to. As Rikki Ililonga from the band Musi-O-Tunya says in the Vinyl Me, Please mini-documentary above, says, “the hippie time, the flowers, love and everything, Woodstock. We were a part of that culture too. If the record was in the Top 10 in the UK, it was in the Top 10 here.” But Zambia had its own concerns, and its own powerful musical traditions.

“As much as we wanted to play rock from the Western world, we are Africans,” says Jagari Chanda, vocalist for a band called WITCH (“we intend to cause havoc”), “so the other part is from Africa—Zambia. So it’s Zambian type of rock—Zamrock.” The term was coined by Zambian DJ Manasseh Phiri. The music itself “was the soundtrack of Kenneth Kaunda’s socialist ideology of Zambian Humanism,” MacNaughton notes. “In fact, Zamrock owed much of its existence to the nation’s first president and founding father. A guitar-picker who took great pleasure in song” and who promoted local music “via a quota system” imposed on the newly-formed Zambia Broadcasting Service (ZBS).

Vinyl Me, Please has collaborated with MacNaughton and others from Now-Again Records to release 8 Zamrock albums, “7 of which have never been reissued in their original form.” The video above, “The Story of Zamrock,” reflects their decade-long journey to rediscover the 70s scene and its pioneers. In the video at the top from Bandsplaining, you can learn more about Zamrock, which has been gaining prominence in album reissues for the last several years, and which “deserves to be a part of the musical history of Africa in a much bigger way than it has been up to now,” Henning Goranson Sandberg writes at The Guardian. See all of the music featured in the video at the top in the tracklist below.

0:00 WITCH - "Living In The Past"

0:40 Keith Mlevhu - "Love and Freedom"

1:05 Paul Ngozi - "Bamayo"

3:11 WITCH - "Introduction"

4:19 Musi-O-Tunya - "Mpondolo"

4:32 Musi-O-Tunya - "Dark Sunrise"

5:28 Rikki Ililonga - "Sheebeen Queen"

5:37 WITCH - "Lazy Bones"

6:00 Paul Ngozi - "Anasoni"

6:16 The Peace - "Black Power"

6:46 Keith Mlevhu - "Ubuntungwa"

7:06 Amanaz - "Khala my Friend"

7:24 WITCH - "Living In The Past"

8:19 The Blackfoot - "When I Needed You"

8:39 Salty Dog - "See The Storm"

9:30 Salty Dog - "Fast"

10:42 Rikki Ililonga & Derick Mbao - "Madzi A Moyo"

10:54 Paul Ngozi - "Nshaupwa Bwino"

11:43 Amanaz - "Sunday Morning"

12:38 The Blackfoot - "Lonley Highway"

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

Why “The Girl from Ipanema”‘ Is a Richer & Weirder Song Than You Ever Realized

Say what you want about YouTube’s negative effects (endless soy faces, influencers, its devious and fascist-leaning algorithms) but it has offered to creators a space in which to indulge. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve been a fan of Adam Neely’s work. A jazz musician and a former student at both the Berklee College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, his YouTube channel is a must for those with an interest in the how and why of music theory. If not for Neely’s talent and YouTube’s platform we wouldn’t have the above: a 30 minute (!) exploration of the bossa nova standard, "The Girl from Ipanema." And it is worth every single minute. (Even the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim himself could not have convinced traditional television execs to give him that long an indulgence.)

Seeings we haven’t featured Neely on Open Culture before, let this be a great introduction, because this is one of his better videos. (Being stuck inside with no jazz venues has given him more time to create content, no doubt). It also helps that the subject matter just happens to be one of the most covered standards in pop history.




Its legacy is one of lounge lizards and kitsch. Neely shows it being used as a punchline in The Blues Brothers and as mood music in V for Vendetta. I remember it being hummed by two pepperpots (Graham Chapman and John Cleese) in a Monty Python skit (about 3:20 in). And Neely gives us the "tl;dw" ("too long, didn't watch") summary up front: the song’s history concerns blues music, American cultural hegemony, and the influence of the Berklee College’s “The Real Book.” There’s also loads of music theory thrown in too, so it helps to know just a little going in.

Neely first peels back decades of elevator music covers to get to the birth of the song, and its multiple parents: the Afro-Cuban music called Samba, the hip nightclubs of Rio de Janeiro during the 1950s, the hit film Black Orpheus which brought both samba and bossa nova (the “new wave”) to an international audience, Jobim and other musicians interest in American blues and jazz chords, and American interest from musicians like Stan Getz. All this is a back and forth circuit of influences that result in this song, which borrows its structure from Tin Pan Alley composers like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, and inserts a sad, self-pitying B section after two A section lyrics about a young woman passing by on a beach (lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, who also wrote the screenplay to Black Orpheus).

The key in which you play the song also reveals the cultural divide. Play it in F and you are taking sides with the Americans; play it in Db and you are keeping it real, Brazilian style. Neely breaks apart the melody and the chord sequences, pointing out its repetition (which makes it so catchy) but also its ambiguity, which explains endless YouTube videos of musicians getting the chord sequence wrong. And, what exactly *is* the true chord sequence? And how is it a riff on, of all things, Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train”? Neely also shows the progression of various covers of the song, and what’s been added and what’s been deleted. Leaving things out, as he illustrates with a clip from Leonard Bernstein’s 1973 Harvard lectures, is what gives art its magic.

There’s so much more to this 30 minute clip, but you really should watch the whole thing (and then hit subscribe to his channel). This essay is exactly what YouTube does best, and Neely is the best of teachers, a smart, self-deprecating guy who mixes intellect with humor. Plus, you’ll be humming the song for the rest of the day, just a bit more aware of the reason behind the ear worm.

Related Content:

“The Girl from Ipanema” Turns 50; Hear Its Bossa Nova Sound Covered by Sinatra, Krall, Metheny & Others

David Sedaris Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online

Remembering the “Father of Bossa Nova” João Gilberto (RIP) with Four Classic Live Performances: “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Corcovado” & More

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.

Take an 360° Interactive Tour Inside the Great Pyramid of Giza

You can’t take it with you if you've got nothing to take with you.

Once upon a time, the now-empty Great Pyramid of Giza was sumptuously appointed inside and out, to ensure that Pharaoh Khufu, or Cheops as he was known to the Ancient Greeks, would be well received in the afterlife.

Bling was a serious thing.




Thousand of years further on, cinematic portrayals have us convinced that tomb raiders were greedy 19th- and 20th-century curators, eagerly filling their vitrines with stolen artifacts.

There’s some truth to that, but modern Egyptologists are fairly convinced that Khufu’s pyramid was looted shortly after his reign, by opportunists looking to grab some goodies for their journey to the afterlife.

At any rate, it’s been picked clean.

Perhaps one day, we 21st-century citizens can opt in to a pyramid experience akin to Rome Reborn, a digital crutch for our feeble imagination to help us past the empty sarcophagus and bare walls that have defined the world’s oldest tourist attraction’s interiors for … well, not quite ever, but certainly for FlaubertMark Twain, and 12th-century scholar Abd al-Latif.

Fast forwarding to 2017, the BBC’s Rajan Datar hosted "Secrets of the Great Pyramid," a podcast episode featuring Egyptologist Salima Ikram, space archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak, and archaeologist, Dr Joyce Tyldesley.

The experts were keen to clear up a major misconception that the 4600-year-old pyramid was built by aliens or enslaved laborers, rather than a permanent staff of architects and engineers, aided by Egyptian civilians eager to barter their labor for meat, fish, beer, and tax abatement.

Datar’s question about a scanning project that would bring further insight into the Pyramid of Giza's construction and layout was met with excitement.

This attraction, old as it is, has plenty of new secrets to be discovered.

We’re happy to share with you, readers, that 3 years after that episode was taped, the future is here.

The scanning is complete.

Witness the BBC’s 360° tour inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Use your mouse to crane your neck, if you like.

As of this writing, you could tour the pyramid in person, should you wish—the usual touristic hoards are definitely dialed down.

But, given the contagion, perhaps better to tour the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber, and the Grand Gallery virtually, above.

(An interesting tidbit: the pyramid was more distant to the ancient Romans than the Colosseum is to us.)

Listen to the BBC’s "Secrets of the Great Pyramid" episode here.

Tour the Great Pyramid of Giza here.

Related Content:

What the Great Pyramid of Giza Would’ve Looked Like When First Built: It Was Gleaming, Reflective White

How the Egyptian Pyramids Were Built: A New Theory in 3D Animation

The Met Digitally Restores the Colors of an Ancient Egyptian Temple, Using Projection Mapping Technology

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





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