Cornell Creates a Database of Fugitive Slave Ads, Telling the Story of Those Who Resisted Slavery in 18th & 19th Century America

While the value of slaves in the U.S. from the colonial period to the Civil War rose and fell like other market goods, for the most part, enslaved people constituted the most valuable kind of property, typically worth even more than land and other highly valued resources. In one study, three University of Kansas historians estimate that during most of the 18th century in South Carolina, slaves “made up close to half of the personal wealth recorded in probate inventory in most decades.” By the 19th century, slaveholders had begun taking out insurance policies on their slaves as Rachel L. Swarns documents at The New York Times.

“Alive,” Swarns writes, “slaves were among a white man’s most prized assets. Dead, they were considered virtually worthless…. By 1847, insurance policies on slaves accounted for a third of the policies in a firm”—New York Life—“that would become one of the nation’s Fortune 100 companies.” Given the huge economic incentives for perpetuating the system of chattel slavery, the fact that people did not want to be held in forced labor for life—and to condemn their children and grandchildren to the same—presented slaveholders with a serious problem.

For over 250 years, countless numbers of enslaved people attempted to escape to freedom. And thousands of slaveowners ran newspaper ads to try and recover their investments. These ads are likely familiar from textbooks and historical articles on slavery; they have long been used singly to illustrate a point, “but they have never been systematically collected,” notes Cornell University’s Freedom on the Move project, which intends to “compile all North American slave runaway ads and make them available for statistical, geographical, textual, and other forms of analysis.” While the database is still in progress, examples of the ads are being shared on the @fotmproject Twitter account.

The ongoing project presents a tremendous opportunity for historical scholars of the period. “If we could collect and collate all of these ads,” the project’s researchers write, “we would create what might be the single richest source of data possible for understanding the lives of the approximately eight million people who were enslaved in the U.S.” It is estimated that 100,000 or more such ads survive “from the colonial and pre-Civil War U.S.,” though they might represent a fraction of those published, and of the number of attempted, and successful, escapes.

Many of the ads casually reveal evidence of brutal treatment, listing scars and brands, missing fingers, speech impediments, and halting walks. They show many of the escaped slaves to have been skilled in several trades and speak multiple languages. A large number of the escapees are children. As University of New Orleans historian Mary Niall Mitchell tells Hyperallergic, “ironically, in trying to retrieve their property—the people they claimed as things—enslavers left us mounds of evidence about the humanity of the people they bought and sold.” (Mitchell is one of the projects three lead researchers, along with University of Alabama’s Joshua Rothman and Cornell’s Edward Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told.)

The slaveholders who ran ads also left evidence of what they made themselves believe in order to hold people as property. One ad describes a runaway slave named Billy as having been “persuaded to leave his master by some villain,” as though Billy must surely have been contented with his lot. In the overwhelming majority of cases, we will never know with certainty what most people thought about being enslaved. Yet the fact that hundreds of thousands attempted to escape at great personal risk, often without any help—to such a degree that extreme, inflammatory measures like the Fugitive Slave Act were eventually deemed necessary—should offer sufficient testament, if the relatively few written narratives aren’t enough. “For some” of the people in the ads, says Mitchell, “this may be the only place something about them survives, in any detail, in the written record,”

Freedom on the Move, writes Hyperallergic’s Allison Meier, “expands on the history of resistance against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.” It offers a compelling picture of two intolerably irresolvable views—those of slaveholders who viewed enslaved people as proprietary investments; and those of the enslaved who refused to be reduced to objects for others’ pleasure and profit.

Visit Freedom on the Move and find out more.

via Hyperallergic

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The History of the U.S. Civil War Visualized Month by Month and State by State, in an Infographic from 1897

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

Martin Scorsese Teaches His First Online Course on Filmmaking: Features 30 Video Lessons

Last September, online education company Masterclass announced that they'd soon launch Martin Scorsese's very first online course, "Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking." Now it has opened for enrollment, at the usual Masterclass cost of $90 for the individual course or $180 for an all-access pass to all the courses on the site, a list that also includes Spike Lee and Werner Herzog's takes on the same subject. For a company that has quickly made its name by enlisting famous instructors, they could hardly do better than Scorsese, whose own name has become a byword for auteurism in late 20th- and early 21st-century American cinema.

"If you're intrigued by moviemaking as a career, this isn't the class for you," Scorsese says in the class' trailer above. "But if you need to make movies, if you feel like you can't rest until you've told this particular story that you're burning to tell, then I could be speaking to you." Its 30 lessons, which cover everything from his life and education to developing a style to casting actors to shooting on a low budget, might also appeal to those who simply love Scorsese's movies.

He illustrates his instructional points by drawing on his own formidable filmography and the vast experience that has gone into it (including the physical illness that descends upon him before viewing each rough cut), a process that no doubt provides countless insights into what makes his work so powerful.

But the curriculum also goes well beyond Scorsese-on-Scorsese, as one might expect from a man unabashedly driven by a pure love of cinema — of, seemingly, all of cinema. In the final section of the course, Scorsese breaks down scenes from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past, François Truffaut's Jules and Jim, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, examining the technical elements that fill them with their distinctive magic. His enthusiasm has surely inspired almost as many of his fans to go into filmmaking as has his work itself, but even those who lack the burning desire to tell cinematic stories themselves know that if there's any viewing experience as compelling as watching a Scorsese movie, it's watching Scorsese talk about movies.

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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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.

How the Iconic Eames Lounge Chair Is Made, From Start to Finish

In 1956, Charles and Ray Eames unveiled a lounge chair that did something special. It took modern design and made it comfortable. It placed “the sitter into a voluptuous luxury that few mortals since Nero have known.” Below, you can revisit the original unveiling of the Eames Lounge Chair, which took place on the Home Show, an American daytime TV program hosted by Arlene Francis. And above, you can watch the making of the Eames Lounge Chair, which remains very much in production and demand today. It's still a staple of the Herman Miller furniture collection. Some aspects of the production have gotten a bit more high tech, of course. And the original Brazilian rosewood has been replaced by a more sustainable Palisander rosewood. But the high-touch process remains otherwise largely the same. Originally priced at $310, the Eames Lounge Chair will now set you back $5,295.

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Dress Like an Intellectual Icon with Japanese Coats Inspired by the Wardrobes of Camus, Sartre, Duchamp, Le Corbusier & Others

If you follow men's style in the 21st century, you know that the same names tend to come up as references again and again, from actors like Cary Grant and Steve McQueen to businessmen like Gianni Agnelli and royalty like Prince Charles. But what if we looked to other, less conventional realms of culture for inspiration on what to wear and, more importantly, how to wear it? Over the past few years, Japanese label Cohérence has done just that, designing coats modeled after those worn by the likes of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Marcel Duchamp, and Le Corbusier — and improving upon them with new materials and details.

“I love Dada and Surrealism, jazz music, writers connected to the Lost Generation, and New Wave cinema. Along with the art and culture, there were also the clothes – the heavier fabrics and fuller silhouettes," says Cohérence designer Kentaro Nakagomi as quoted by men's style blogger Derek Guy of Die, Workwear! "They were classic, but also modern at the same time.”

If it strikes you as odd that a Japanese operation would dedicate itself to the styles of particular cultural moments in the West, know that modern Japan has quite a history of not just replicating them but reinventing them, told most recently by W. David Marx in his book Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style. Americans, thus far, haven't constituted a major presence in Cohérence's collections, though the jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Sidney Bechet did inspire a Balmacaan.

Though Frenchmen (also including The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and writer-artist-filmmaker Jean Cocteau) dominate the label's list of inspirations, it has also made several coats in honor of Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, the Japanese painter and printmaker who in the early 20th century brought the artistic techniques of his ancestral homeland to his adopted homeland of France. In a way, Foujita stands as a symbol of the whole project, premised as it is on the union of classicism and modernity as well as exchange between Japan and Europe. And were he around today, Foujita, like Cohérence, would surely also have made good use of Instagram.

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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.

John Lennon Extols the Virtues of Transcendental Meditation in a Spirited Letter Written to a Beatles Fan (1968)

An Indian guru travels to the West with teachings of enlightenment, world peace, and liberation from the soul-killing materialist grind. He attracts thousands of followers, some of them wealthy celebrities, and founds a commercial empire with his teachings. No, this isn’t the story of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the head of the religious movement in Wild Wild Country. There was no miraculous city in the Oregon wilds or fleet of Learjets and Rolls Royces. No stockpile of automatic weapons, planned assassinations, or mass poisonings. Decades before those strange events, another teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi inspired mass devotion among students around the world with the peaceful practice of Transcendental Meditation.

Rolling Stone’s Claire Hoffman—who grew up in a TM community—writes of the movement with ambivalence. For most of his disciples, he was a “Wizard of Oz-type character,” she says, distant and mysterious. But much of what we popularly know about TM comes from its most famous adherents, including Jerry Seinfeld, Katy Perry, David Lynch, the Beach Boys, and, of course, The Beatles, who famously traveled to India in 1968, meditated with Mia Farrow, Donovan, and Mike Love, and wrote some of their wildest, most inventive music after a creative slump following the huge success of Sgt. Pepper’s.

“They stayed in Rishikesh,” writes Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, “a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas, considered the capital of yoga. Immersed in this peaceful community and nurtured by an intensive daily meditation practice, the Fab Four underwent a creative growth spurt—the weeks at Rishikesh were among their most fertile songwriting and composing periods, producing many of the songs on The White Album and Abbey Road.” Unlike most of the Maharishi’s followers, The Beatles got a personal audience. The Indian spiritual teacher “helped them through the shock” of their manager Brian Epstein’s death, and helped them tap into cosmic consciousness without LSD.

They left on a sour note—there were allegations of impropriety, and Lennon, being Lennon, got a bit nasty, originally writing The White Album's “Sexy Sadie” with the lyrics “Maharishi—what have you done? You made a fool of everyone.” But before their falling out with TM’s founder, before even the trip to India, all four Beatles became devoted meditators, sitting for two twenty-minute sessions a day and finding genuine peace and happiness—or “energy,” as Lennon and Harrison describe it in a 1967 interview with David Frost. The next year, happily practicing, and feverishly writing, in India, Lennon received letters from fans, and responded with enthusiasm.

In answer to a letter from a fan named Beth, evidently a devout Christian and apparently threatened by TM and concerned for the bands' immortal souls, Lennon wrote the following (see his handwritten reply at the top):

Dear Beth:

Thank you for your letter and your kind thoughts. When you read that we are in India searching for peace, etc, it is not that we need faith in God or Jesus — we have full faith in them; it is only as if you went to stay with Billy Graham for a short time — it just so happens that our guru (teacher) is Indian — and what is more natural for us to come to India — his home. He also holds courses in Europe and America — and we will probably go to some of these as well — to learn — and to be near him.

Transcendental meditation is not opposed to any religion — it is based on the basic truths of all religions — the common denominator. Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” — and he meant just that — “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” — not in some far distant time — or after death — but now.

Meditation takes the mind down to that level of consciousness which is Absolute Bliss (Heaven) and through constant contact with that state — “the peace that surpasses all understanding” — one gradually becomes established in that state even when one is not meditating. All this gives one actual experience of God — not by detachment or renunciation — when Jesus was fasting etc in the desert 40 days & nights he would have been doing some form of meditation — not just sitting in the sand and praying — although me it will be a true Christian — which I try to be with all sincerity — it does not prevent me from acknowledging Buddha — Mohammed — and all the great men of God. God bless you — jai guru dev.

With love,
John Lennon

This hardly sounds like the man who imagined no religion. A fan in India wrote Lennon less to inquire and more to acquire, namely money for a trip around the world so that he could “discover the ‘huge treasure’ necessary for achieving inner peace.” Lennon responded with a brief rebuke of the man’s material aspirations, then recommended TM, “through which all things are possible.” (He signs both letters with “jai guru dev,” or “I give thanks to the Guru Dev,” the Maharishi’s teacher. The phrase also appears as the refrain in his “Across the Universe.”)

The letters come from an excellent collection of his correspondence, The John Lennon Letters, which includes other missives extolling the virtues of transcendental meditation. We might take his word for it based on the strength of the creative work he produced during the period. We could also take the word of David Lynch, who describes meditation as the way he catches the creative “big fish.” Or we could go out and find our own methods for expanding our minds and tapping into creative potential.

via Brain Pickings

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

Listen to an Archive of Recordings by Delia Derbyshire, the Electronic Music Pioneer & Composer of the Dr. Who Theme Song

Delia Derbyshire, composer of the Dr. Who theme song and musical pioneer, has not quite become a household name, but readers of this site surely know who she is, as well should every student of avant garde, electronic, and experimental pop music. Along with other often unsung female electronic composers of the 60s and beyond—like fellow BBC Radiophonic Workshop doyenne, Daphne Oram—Derbyshire brought the early electronic techniques of musique concrete and tape manipulation to a wider audience, who mostly had no idea where the sounds they heard came from.

As part of the unit responsible for creating the sounds of British television, Derbyshire’s unusual instincts took her to places no composer had ever ventured before. In her sound work for a documentary called The World About Us, on the Tuareg people of the Sahara, she “used her voice for the sound of the [camels'] hooves,” writes her onetime colleague Brian Hodgson at The Guardian, “cut up into an obbligato rhythm. And she added a thin, high electronic sound using virtually all the filters and oscillators in the workshop.” As Derbyshire recalls it:

My most beautiful sound at the time was a tatty BBC lampshade. It was the wrong colour, but it had a beautiful ringing sound to it. I hit the lampshade, recorded that, faded it up into the ringing part without the percussive start. I… reconstructed the sound of the workshop’s famous 12 oscillators to give it a whooshing sound. So the camels rode off into the sunset with my voice in their hooves and a green lampshade on their backs.

What the color of the lampshade had to do with the sound, only Derbyshire could know for sure. But it clearly had a psychological impact on the way she heard it. “I suppose in a way,” she said, “I was experimenting in psycho-acoustics.”

This was an immersive experience for her, and for everyone who heard the results, no matter whether they could identify what it was they were hearing. Derbyshire’s sound design revolutionized the industry, but we cannot overlook her extracurricular work—experimental sound collages and musical pieces made with several close collaborators, including Hodgson, which sound remarkably ahead of their time.

In 1964, Derbyshire collaborated with poet and dramatist Barry Bermange on The Dreams, a work that showed her, Hodgson writes, “at her elegant best.” The two put together a collage, with people describing their dreams in snippets of cut-up monologues, backed by a pulsing, throbbing, buzzing, humming ominous score. (Listen to “Running” further up.) In 1966, she worked with David Bowie’s favorite performer Anthony Newley on “Moogles Bloogles,” above, which Ubuweb calls “an unreleased perv-pop classic in the 1966 novelty vein.” She was not privy to what the song would become. “I’d written this beautiful innocent tune,” she said, “all sensitive love and innocence, and he made it into a dirty old raincoat song. But he was really chuffed!”

In the late sixties, Derbyshire joined Hodgson and bass player David Vorhaus to form White Noise, an experimental electronic pop project whose “Love Without Sound” you can hear at the top of the post (behind scenes from Jean Cocteau’s Orphée.) In 1972, Derbyshire teamed with Hodgson and Don Harper, all “moonlighting from day jobs” at the BBC, for an album called Electrosonic, a “haunting batch of spare electronic tracks.” Just above, hear “Liquid Energy (Bubbling Rhythm)” from that collection.

These tracks represent just a fraction of the Derbyshire music available at Ubuweb’s Delia Derbyshire library, including a compilation of Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack pieces like “Environmental Studies,” above, from 1969, as well as an audio documentary on her work made in 2010. Soon after her early 70s musical experiments, Derbyshire retired from music to work as a radio operator and in an art gallery and bookshop, disgusted with the state of contemporary sound. But in her last few years, she had the pleasure of watching a new generation discover her work. As Hodgson writes in his touching eulogy, “the technology she had left behind was finally catching up to her vision.”

Hear more recording at Ubuweb’s Delia Derbyshire library.

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

An Avalanche of Novels, Films and Other Works of Art Will Soon Enter the Public Domain: Virginia Woolf, Charlie Chaplin, William Carlos William, Buster Keaton & More

There may be no sweeter sound to the ears of Open Culture writers than the words “public domain”—you might even go so far as to call it our “cellar door.” The phrase may not be as musical, but the fact that many of the world’s cultural treasures cannot be copyrighted in perpetuity means that we can continue to do what we love: curating the best of those treasures for readers as they appear online. Public domain means companies can sell those works without incurring any costs, but it also means that anyone can give them away for free. “Anyone can re-publish” public domain works, notes Lifehacker, “or chop them up and use them in other projects.” And thereby emerges the remixing and repurposing of old artifacts into new ones, which will themselves enter the public domain of future generations.

Some of those future works of art may even become the next Great American Novel, if such a thing still exists as anything more than a hackneyed cliché. Of course, no one seriously goes around saying they’re writing the “Great American Novel,” unless they’re Philip Roth in the 70s or William Carlos Williams (top right) in the 20s, who both somehow pulled off using the phrase as a title (though Roth’s book doesn't quite live up to it.) Where Roth casually used the concept in a light novel about baseball, Williams’ The Great American Novel approached it with deep concern for the survival of the form itself. His modernist text “engages the techniques of what we would now call metafiction,” writes literary scholar April Boone, “to parody worn out formulas and content and, ironically, to create a new type of novel that anticipates postmodern fiction.”

We will all, as of January 1, 2019, have free, unfettered access to Williams’ metafictional shake-up of the formulaic status quo, when “hundreds of thousands of… books, musical scores, and films first published in the United States during 1923” enter the public domain, as Glenn Fleishman writes at The Atlantic. Because of the complicated history of U.S. copyright law—especially the 1998 “Sonny Bono Act” that successfully extended a copyright law from 50 to 70 years (for the sake, it's said, of Mickey Mouse)—it has been twenty years since such a massive trove of material has become available all at once. But now, and “for several decades from 2019 onward,” Fleishman points out, “each New Year’s Day will unleash a full year’s worth of works published 95 years earlier.”

In other words, it’ll be Christmas all over again in January every year, and while you can browse the publication dates of your favorite works yourself to see what’s coming available in coming years, you’ll find at The Atlantic a short list of literary works included in next-year’s mass-release, including books by Aldous Huxley, Winston Churchill, Carl Sandburg, Edith Wharton, and P.G. Wodehouse. Lifehacker has several more extensive lists, which we excerpt below:

Movies [see many more at Indiewire]

All these movies, including:

  • Cecil B. DeMille’s (first, less famous, silent version of) The Ten Commandments
  • Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!, including that scene where he dangles off a clock tower, and his Why Worry?
  • A long line-up of feature-length silent films, including Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitalityand Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim
  • Short films by Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and Our Gang (later Little Rascals)
  • Cartoons including Felix the Cat(the character first appeared in a 1919 cartoon)
  • Marlene Dietrich’s film debut, a bit part in the German silent comedy The Little Napoleon; also the debuts of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fay Wray

Music

All this music, including these classics:

  • “King Porter Stomp”
  • “Who’s Sorry Now?”
  • “Tin Roof Blues”
  • “That Old Gang of Mine”
  • “Yes! We Have No Bananas”
  • “I Cried for You”
  • “The Charleston”—written to accompany, and a big factor in the popularity of, the Charleston dance
  • Igor Stravinsky’s “Octet for Wind Instruments”

Literature

All these booksand these books, including the classics:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Cane by Jean Toomer
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud
  • Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier
  • Whose Body?, the first Lord Peter Wimsey novel by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Two of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Murder on the Links
  • The Prisoner, volume 5 of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (note that English translations have their own copyrights)
  • The Complete Works of Anthony Trollope
  • George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan
  • Short stories by Christie, Virginia Woolf, H.P. Lovecraft, Katherine Mansfield, and Ernest Hemingway
  • Poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, E.E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Sukumar Ray, and Pablo Neruda
  • Works by Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Jean Cocteau, Italo Svevo, Aldous Huxley, Winston Churchill, G.K. Chesterton, Maria Montessori, Lu Xun, Joseph Conrad, Zane Grey, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs

Art

These artworks, including:

  • Constantin Brâncuși’s Bird in Space
  • Henri Matisse’s Odalisque With Raised Arms
  • Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)
  • Yokoyama Taikan’s Metempsychosis
  • Work by M. C. Escher, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, and Man Ray

Again, these are only partial lists of highlights, and such highlights…. Speaking for myself, I cannot wait for free access to the very best (and even worst, and weirdest, and who-knows-what-else) of 1923. And of 1924 in 2020, and 1925 and 2021, and so on and so on….

via The Atlantic

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

Watch Roxy Music Play Live with Brian Eno in Early Groundbreaking Performances (1972)

Just what, exactly, is Roxy Music? Those encountering the band for the first time when their self-titled debut came out in 1972 had questions. Were these 50s R&B throwbacks? Ziggy Stardust/Slade/T-Rex like glam rockers? Experimental art-rock-retro-futurists dressed like a Stax funk band on acid? Yes, yes, yes, and then some. The album, “at once postmodern, strange, sensual and thrilling,” writes Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot, “mapped out a new frontier, even as bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin dominated the rock landscape.”

In the very same year that Bowie’s Ziggy landed to re-make rock in its image, Brian Ferry and his virtuoso band—including standouts Phil Manzanera on guitar and Brian Eno on synths, tape effects, and various “treatments”—prefigured a somehow even sexier, weirder, funkier, more disturbing future for pop, charting the territory for bands like Duran Duran, the Cars, Eurythmics, Pulp, and too many more to name. Roxy Music was so effortlessly original that once Bowie exhausted his space alien phase, he turned to Ferry and Eno for inspiration.

Like Bowie, Roxy Music favored saxophones, courtesy of Andy Mackay, who also played… the oboe? Manzanera’s psychedelic flights were reminiscent of The Doors’ Robby Krieger, with a Latin American flavor from his early days playing revolutionary Cuban folk songs. Paul Thompson’s rhythmic pounding and smooth, country-ish grooves improbably married Moe Tucker and Kenny Buttrey.

Graham Simpson played the bass with “an exuberant rush,” writes Kot.  “They were specialists in their field,” remarks Ferry,” who himself drew from the rockers every British child of the 50s loved, but was also obsessed with Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Billie Holliday, Kurt Weill, the Beats, T.S. Eliot, Fred Astaire, and Cole Porter.

And Eno? “With his deep interest in experimental music,” says Ferry, Eno turned raunchy retro-fusion rock ‘n’ roll into soundtracks for spaceships, his synth lines swooping wildly and burbling ominously behind Ferry’s quavering melisma. “Those textures,” the singer recalled recently, “the synth sounds were washes, colours, textures, mood enhancers, and so on.” Arriving fully-formed in 1972, they “sounded as if they had just beamed down from outer space and brought along the music of the spheres,” Dangerous Minds’ Paul Gallagher writes. “Roxy Music was the sound of the future—but we just didn’t realize it then. Roxy was so overwhelmingly new. No one knew what to think.”

"Try to imagine," writes Gallagher, "how insane this TV footage looked" at the time. Imagine tuning in to Top of the Pops and catching them playing their debut single “Virginia Plain” (top), a song “named after a packet of cigarettes.” (Read about how they recorded those motorcycle sounds.) Imagine seeing Mackay dressed like a Flash Gordon villain, playing oboe over Eno’s sci-fi synth washes in the intro to “Ladytron” on the Old Grey Whistle Test, or seeing the band confidently stomp through “Re-make/Re-model,” “Ladytron,” and “Grey Lagoons,” on the BBC’s Full House, further up.

In that later 1972 live televised performance, Roxy Music was already delivering the sound of its future with “Grey Lagoons” from the following year’s brilliant For Your Pleasure, the final album to feature Eno, who would go on to even stranger things in his solo work. Now imagine you happened to tune in to The Old Grey Whistle Test in ’73 just in time to catch that album’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” a warbly, sinister, Ballardian love song written for a blow-up doll.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

The Brian Eno Discography: Stream 29 Hours of Recordings by the Master of Ambient Music

The Story of Ziggy Stardust: How David Bowie Created the Character that Made Him Famous

Meet the World’s Worst Orchestra, the Portsmouth Sinfonia, Featuring Brian Eno

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

What Made Studio Ghibli Animator Isao Takahata (RIP) a Master: Two Video Essays

Among the many acclaimed animated films of Studio Ghibli — and indeed among recent Japanese animated films in general — those directed by the outspoken, oft-retiring-and-returning Hayao Miyazaki tend to get the most attention. But even casual viewers overlook the work of the late Isao Takahata (1935-2018), the older animator formerly of Toei with whom Miyazaki founded the studio in 1985, at their peril. Though he most often played the role of producer at Ghibli, he also directed several of its films, first and most memorably 1988's Grave of the Fireflies, the story of an orphaned brother and sister's struggle for survival at the very end of the Second World War.

"Grave of the Fireflies is an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation," wrote Roger Ebert in 2000, adding the picture to his "Great Movies" canon. "When anime fans say how good the film is, nobody takes them seriously. [ ... ] Yes, it’s a cartoon, and the kids have eyes like saucers, but it belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made."

No Western critic would frame it quite the same way now, with the implicit disclaimer about the nature of Japanese animation, thanks in no small part to what animators like Takahata have done to show the entire world the true potential of their medium since.

The quarter-century after Grave of the Fireflies saw Takahata direct four more features, Only YesterdayPom PokoMy Neighbors the Yamadas, and his visually unconventional, long-in-the-making final work The Tale of Princess Kaguya. You can get a sense of Takahata's distinctive sensibilities and sensitivities as an animation director in the Royal Ocean Film Society video essay "Isao Takahata: The Other Master" at the top of the post. It gets into the questions of why Takahata chose to tell essentially realistic, drawn-from-life stories in a form most know for its way with the fantastical, and how the visual exaggerations in his films somehow imbue them with a more solid feel of reality.

Just above, "Isao Takahata Doesn't Get Enough Respect (A Retrospective)," by Youtuber Stevem, goes in other directions, exploring the director's technique as well as his career, life, and personality, drawing not just from his work with Ghibli but the considerable amount he did before the studio's foundation as well. Still, Grave of the Fireflies may well remain most filmgoers' gateway into his filmography for the foreseeable future, not least because of its still-refreshing "anti-Hollywood" qualities. "Hollywood will have you believe that heroes are needed when times are tough," says writer on Japanese culture Roland Kelts in a recent BBC piece on the movie. "Isao Takahata shows us the humble opposite, that when times are tough what you need most is humility, patience and self-restraint. That's how one survives."

Related Content:

Insanely Cute Cat Commercials from Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki’s Legendary Animation Shop

Software Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Studio Becomes Open Source & Free to Download

How the Films of Hayao Miyazaki Work Their Animated Magic, Explained in 4 Video Essays

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.

Stream Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize In Music

Yesterday, Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his 2017 album, DAMN, a "virtuosic song collection," writes the Pulitzer board, "unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life." This is the first time (since its inception in 1943) that the prize has gone, notes NPR, "to an artist outside of the classical or jazz community." Other recipients have included Aaron Copland, Wynton Marsalis, and Ornette Coleman. You can stream DAMN, which comes with a Parental Advisory warning, on Spotify or right below.

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