Leonard Bernstein Presents “The Greatest 5 Minutes in Music Education”

We’ve previously written about one of Leonard Bernstein’s major works, The Unanswered Question, the staggering six-part lecture that the multi-disciplinary artist gave as part of his duties as Harvard's Charles Eliot Norton Professor. Over 11 hours, Bernstein attempts to explain the whither and the whence of music history, notably at a time when Classical music had come to a sort of crisis point of atonality and anti-music, but was still pre-Merzbow.

But, as Bernstein said “...the best way to ‘know’ a thing is in the context of another discipline,” and these six lectures bring in all sorts of contexts, especially Chomsky’s linguistic theory, phonology, semantics, and more. And he does it all with frequent trips to the piano to make a point, or bringing in a whole orchestra—which Bernstein kept in his back pocket for times just like this.

Joking aside, this is still a major scholarly work that has plenty inside to debate. That's pertinent a half a century after the fact, especially when so much music feels like it has stopped advancing, just recycling.

The above clip is just one of the gems to be found among the lectures, something that one viewer found so stunning they recorded it off the television screen and posted to YouTube.

In the clip, Bernstein uses the melody of “Fair Harvard,” also known as “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms” by Thomas Moore—recognizable to the young’uns as the fiddle intro to “Come On, Eileen”—as a starting point. He assumes a prehistoric hominid humming the tune, then the younger and/or female members of the tribe singing along an octave apart.

From this moment of musical and human evolution, Bernstein brings in the fifth interval-—only a few million years later-—and then the fourth. Then polyphony is born out of that and...well, we don’t want to spoil everything. Soon Bernstein brings us up to the circle of fifths, compressing them into the 12 tones of the scale, and then 12 keys.

Bernstein can hear the potential for chaos, however, in the possibilities of “chromatic goulash,” and so ends with Bach, the master of “tonal control” who balanced the chromatic (which uses notes outside a key’s scale) with the diatonic (which doesn’t). (It all comes back to Bach, doesn’t it?)

And there the video ends, but you know where to find the rest. And finally we’ll leave you with this other, more explosive, rendering of “Fair Harvard.”

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Leonard Bernstein’s First “Young People’s Concert” at Carnegie Hall Asks, “What Does Music Mean?”

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

The “Weird Objects” in the New York Public Library’s Collections: Virginia Woolf’s Cane, Charles Dickens’ Letter Opener, Walt Whitman’s Hair & More

On March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf took her final walk, into the River Ouse near her home in Sussex. She did it with her trusty cane in hand, the very cane you can see laid out alongside other Woolf-related artifacts in the New Yorker video above. Its five minutes provide a short introduction to the "weird objects" of the New York Public Library's Berg Collection, an archive containing, in the words of the New Yorker's Gareth Smit, "roughly two thousand linear feet of manuscripts and archival materials" donated in 1940 by the brothers Henry W. and Albert A. Berg, doctors who were also "avid collectors of English and American literature — and of literary paraphernalia."

The NYPL labels as "realia" such non-paper items as  Woolf's cane as well as "Charlotte Brontë’s writing desk, with a lock of her hair inside; trinkets belonging to Jack Kerouac, including his harmonicas, and a card upon which he wrote 'blood' in his own blood; typewriters belonging to S. J. Perelman and Paul Metcalf; Mark Twain’s pen and wire-rimmed glasses; Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly drawings; and the death masks of the poets James Merrill and E. E. Cummings." We've previously featured Nabokov-drawn butterflies here on Open Culture, as well the letter opener seen in the video that Charles Dickens had made from the foot of his beloved cat Bob.

All this may sound on the grim side, but these objects bring their beholders that much closer to the long-passed literary figures who once possessed them. "If you are looking at, say, Jack Kerouac's lighter or his boots, you're seeing the man, in a sense," the NYPL's director of exhibitions Declan Kiely says in the video. "What you're trying to get closest to is the creative spirit at work, and I think that's why these objects are so evocative." Though visitors to the Berg Collection can only do so by appointment, the library, as Kiely told Smit, "does intend to have an exhibition to present these and other treasures in the Gottesman Hall by 2020." Something to look forward to for anyone who yearns to approach the creative spirit — and who among us doesn't?

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Vladimir Nabokov’s Delightful Butterfly Drawings

Charles Dickens Gave His Cat “Bob” a Second Life as a Letter Opener

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.

Frank Zappa’s 1980s Appearances on The David Letterman Show

I’ve never been a huge fan of Frank Zappa’s music and gravitated more toward the bizarre yet bluesy sonic world of his sometime collaborator and lifelong frenemy Captain Beefheart. But I get the appeal of Zappa’s wildly virtuoso catalog and his sardonic, even caustic, personality. The phrase may have devolved into cliché, but it’s still worth saying of Zappa: he was a real original, a truly independent musician who insisted on doing things his way. Most admirably, he had the talent, vision, and strength of will to do so for decades in a business that legendarily chews up and spits out artists with even the toughest of constitutions.

Zappa, notes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its profile, “was rock and roll’s sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic… the most prolific composer of his age,” who “bridged genres—rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music—with masterful ease.” Recording “over sixty albums’ worth of material in his fifty-two years,” he famously discovered, nurtured, and collaborated with some of the most technically proficient and accomplished of players. He was indie before indie, and “confronted the corrupt politics of the ruling class” with ferocious wit and unsparing satire, holding “the banal and decadent lifestyles of his countrymen to unforgiving scrutiny.”

Needless to say, Zappa himself was not prone to banality or decadence. He stood apart from his contemporaries with both his utter hatred of trends and his commitment to sobriety, which meant that he was never less than totally lucid, if never totally clear, in interviews and TV appearances. Unsurprisingly, David Letterman, champion of other fiercely talented musical oddballs like Warren Zevon, was a Zappa fan. Between 1982 and 83, Zappa came on Letterman three times, the first, in August of 82, with his daughter Moon (or “Moon Unit," who almost ended up with the name “Motorhead,” he says).

The younger Zappa inherited her father’s deadpan. “When I was little,” she says, “I wanted to change my name to Beauty Heart. Or Mary." But Zappa, the “musical and a sociological phenomenon,” as Letterman calls him, gets to talk about more than his kids’ weird names. In his June, 83 appearance, further up, he promotes his London Symphony Orchestra album. As he explains, the experience of working with cranky classical musicians on a very tight schedule tested his perfectionistic (some might say controlling) temperament. The album gave rise, writes Eduardo Rivadavia at Allmusic, “to his well-documented love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with symphony orchestras thereafter.”

But no matter how well or badly a project went, Zappa always moved right along to the next thing. He was never without an ambitious new album to promote. (In his final Letterman appearance, on Halloween, above, he had a musical, which turned into album, the triple-LP Thing-Fish.) Since he never stopped working for a moment, one set of ideas generating the next—he told Rolling Stone in answer to a question about how he looked back on his many records—“It’s all one album.” See a supercut below of all of Zappa’s 80s visits to the Letterman set, with slightly better video quality than the individual clips above.

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

A Modern Drummer Plays a Rock Gong, a Percussion Instrument from Prehistoric Times

Rock Gong. It sounds like a B-52s song. But a rock gong is not a New Wave surf-rock party groove. It’s not a neo-synthpop act, hip hop group, or indie band (not yet). It’s a prehistoric instrument—as far away in time as one can get from synthesizers and electric guitars. Rock gongs are ancient, maybe as old as humankind. But they’re still groovy, in their way. As they say, the groove is in the player, not the instrument.

Rock gongs, or “lithophones,” if you want to get technical, have been found all over the African continent, in South America, Australia, Azerbaijan, England, Hawaii, Iceland, India, and everywhere else prehistoric people lived. Not the cultural property of any one group, the rock gong came, rather, from a universal human insight into the natural sonic properties of stone. (One theory even speculates that Stonehenge might have been a massive collection of rock gongs.)

Though some scholars have suggested that the term “rock gong” should be reserved for stationary, rather than portable, rocks that were used as instruments, the British Museum seems untroubled by the distinction. In the video above, archaeologist Cornelia Kleinitz explains the principles of rock gongs found in Sudan to modern rock drummer Liam Williamson of the band Cats on the Beach.

You can hear one of those Nubian rock gongs in its natural habitat, before it was moved to the British Museum, in the clip just above. The rock, the narrator tells us, has been “worn smooth by the action of people playing it more than 7,000 years ago. Long before the Romans, long before the Pharaohs.” Early humans would have searched long and hard for rocks that resonated at particular frequencies, for ringing rocks that could be combined into scales for early xylophones or produce a variety of tones like a steel drum.

Despite their antiquity, the study of rock gongs is a rather recent phenomenon, part of the emerging field of archaeoacoustics. “Methodologically,” write the authors of a 2016 paper on the subject, “this field of research is still  in its infancy,” and there is much researchers do not know about the uses and varieties of rock gongs around the world. As Kleinitz explains to Williamson in the video at the top, archaeologists are trying to understand the context in which the Nubian gongs at the British Museum would have been played, whether as instruments for rituals, signaling, fun, or all of the above.

As for the techniques involved in rock gong playing, we can only guess, but Williamson does his best to adapt his drum chops to the ancient stone kit. One critical difference between our modern human musical instruments and this ancient kind, Kleinitz notes, is that the latter were integrated into the landscape; their distinctive sound depended not only on the rock itself, but on its interaction with the wild and unpredictable environment around it.

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

A Visionary 115-Year-Old Color Theory Manual Returns to Print: Emily Noyes Vanderpoel’s Color Problems

Nobody can doubt that we can live in an age of screen-reading, nor that it has brought a few problems along with its considerable conveniences. To name just one of those problems, each of us reads on our own screen, and each screen reproduces the information fed into it to display differently. A color, for instance, might well not look quite the same to any given reader of an e-book as it did to the designer who originally chose it. This imbues with a new relevance the old dorm-room philosophical question of whether what I call "blue" really looks the same as what you call "blue," and at least the more controllable nature of old-fashioned print books takes the issue of screen variation out of the equation.

Hence the value in bringing back to print certain visually-oriented books, even when we can already read them on our screens. This goes especially for volumes like Emily Noyes Vanderpoel's Color Problems: a Practical Manual for the Lay Student of Color, which deals directly with issues of color in the physical world and its representation. Vanderpoel, an artist and historian, first published the book "under the guise of flower painting and decorative arts, subjects that were appropriate for a woman of her time," writes Colossal's Kate Sierzputowski. But "the study provided an extensive look at color theory ideas of the early 20th century," and one whose techniques proved silently influential over time. "Many of the included studies predict design and art trends that wouldn’t occur for several decades, such as a concentric square format that predates Joseph Albers’s Homage to the Square by fifty years."

You can read a digitized version of Color Problems at the Internet Archive (or embedded right above), but know that publisher The Circadian Press and Sacred Bones Records recently raised well over $200,000 on Kickstarter to republish the book in its full paper glory. "With this new edition we have taken meticulous measures to reproduce the original artifact at an affordable price," says the project's about page. "Working with the Historical Society that Emily Noyes Vanderpoel helped establish, we are the first to invest the time, money, and love it takes to replicate this brilliant collection of color studies accurately. Using the most current digital methods and archival printing production, we aim to finally do justice to Vanderpoel’s forgotten legacy as visionary and pioneer."

This new edition will also feature an introduction by design scholar Alan P. Bruton meant to "reflect on her incredible body of work from the vantage point of 21st century art history and women's movements, helping to illustrate that Vanderpoel remains one of the most important, underrated, and contemporarily relevant artists of her time and of the last century." Had Vanderpoel published Color Problems thirty years later, writes John F. Ptak in his examination of the book, "we’d call it some sort of constructivist/constructionist art form. But since the artwork in the book comes a decade before the first non-representational artwork in human history (or so), I don’t know exactly what to call it." Its republication will allow generations of new readers, seeing it in the way Vanderpoel intended it to be seen, to come to conclusions like Ptak's: "I still do not know what this book is trying to tell me, but I do know that it is remarkable."

via Colossal

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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.

Aldous Huxley to George Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949)

orwell huxley

In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher.

Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel.

Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.”

Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book, writing, “Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.” (Listen to him read a dramatized version of the book here.)

Basically while praising Nineteen Eighty-Four, Huxley argues that his version of the future was more likely to come to pass.

In Huxley's seemingly dystopic World State, the elite amuse the masses into submission with a mind-numbing drug called Soma and an endless buffet of casual sex. Orwell’s Oceania, on the other hand, keeps the masses in check with fear thanks to an endless war and a hyper-competent surveillance state. At first blush, they might seem like they are diametrically opposed but, in fact, an Orwellian world and a Huxleyan one are simply two different modes of oppression.

Obviously we are nowhere near either dystopic vision but the power of both books is that they tap into our fears of the state. While Huxley might make you look askance at The Bachelor or Facebook, Orwell makes you recoil in horror at the government throwing around phrases like "enhanced interrogation" and "surgical drone strikes."

You can read Huxley’s full letter below.

Wrightwood. Cal.

21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud's inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world's rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

via Letters of Note

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in March, 2015.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Italian Street Musician Plays Amazing Covers of Pink Floyd Songs, Right in Front of the Pantheon in Rome

Before Pink Floyd, rock and roll was all about attitude. After Pink Floyd, it could be all atmosphere. Though perfectly suited for headphones and hi-fis, their sound is architectural, and almost requires the grandest of settings for its full realization. The bombast of the band’s stadium shows, with all their theatrical excesses, seems entirely justified by the music, unlike the Spinal Tap-like pretensions of many other arena rock bands. In 1989, Pink Floyd (sans Roger Waters) played for 20,000 Italian fans from a massive stage floating in the canals of Venice, a fascinating contrast to a 1972 performance, when the band played for no one but a film crew, in an amphitheater in the ruined city of Pompeii.

Invoking these magical moments, a street musician named Serin plays the music of Pink Floyd in the streets of Rome, parking himself right in front of the Pantheon. With pre-recorded backing tracks and a black Stratocaster reminiscent of David Gilmour’s signature instrument, Serin not only nails the songs, he gets the atmosphere just right, an achievement no doubt aided by his choice of setting. At the top, see him play “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” just above, “Comfortably Numb” and, below, an excellent rendition of “Time” (on a white Strat this time). For comparison’s sake, watch Pink Floyd themselves play “Echoes” at Pompeii, further down. (Stream more clips of their Pompeii concert film here).

For another version of the one-man-Pink Floyd-cover band concept, see 19-year-old Ewan Cunningham cover “Echoes,” “Comfortably Numb” and other songs, multitracking himself on every instrument.

via Laughing Squid

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

Hunter S. Thompson Sends a Letter to the Indianapolis Colts, Urging Them to Pick Ryan Leaf Over That “Peyton Manning Kid” (1998)

The 1998 NFL draft was a memorable one. A debate raged around whether the Indianapolis Colts should use their first round pick to select Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning. Everyone had an opinion about these two quarterbacks, including Hunter S. Thompson. The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell's Angels sent a letter to Colts owner Jim Irsay, urging him to select the highly-touted Leaf.

Dear James,

In response to yr addled request for a quick $30M loan to secure the services of the Manning kid — I have to say No, (sic) at this time

But the Leaf boy is another matter. He looks strong & Manning doesn’t — or at least not strong enough to handle that “Welcome to the NFL” business for two years without a world-class offensive line.

How are you fixed at left OT for the next few years, James? Think about it. You don’t want a china (sic) doll back there when that freak [Warren] Sapp comes crashing in.

Okay. Let me know if you need some money for Leaf. I expect to be very rich when this [Johnny] depp (sic) movie comes out.

Yr. faithful consultant,


Twenty years later, we know how things played out. The Colts ultimately picked Manning, who became one of the most productive and celebrated quarterbacks ever. As for Leaf, he played four seasons and exited the sport, considered by some the No. 1 "draft bust" in NFL history. But he's certainly a good sport. Leaf posted Thompson's letter (above) on his Twitter stream last month

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How Zildjian Cymbals Were Created by an Alchemist in the Ottoman Empire, Circa 1618

When it comes to musical instruments, there are brands and then there are legacies—names so unquestionably indicative of quality and craftsmanship that players swear by them for life. Martin Guitars, for example, have inspired this kind of loyalty among musicians like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Martin's story—dating back to 1833—inspires book-length histories and documentaries. In the drum world, the longest-lived and most-storied brand would have to be Zildjian, the famed cymbal maker known the world over, beloved by the best drummers in the business.

But Zildjian is far older than Martin Guitars, or any other contemporary instrument manufacturer. Indeed, the company may be the world’s oldest existing manufacturer of almost any product. Though incorporated in the U.S. in 1929, Zildjian was actually founded 400 years ago in Constantinople by Armenian metalworker Avedis, who in 1622 “melted a top-secret combination of metals,” writes Smithsonian, “to create the perfect cymbal.” The short film above recreates in dramatic fashion the alchemy of Avedis’ discovery and the global history of Zildjian.

The brief Smithsonian history can seem a little sensational and may not be entirely accurate at points. Lara Pellegrinelli, writing at The New York Times, dates Avedis’ “secret casting process” to four years earlier, 1618. (The company itself dates its founding to 1623.) Pellegrinelli notes that Avedis' “new bronze alloy” pleased the Sultan, Osman II, who “granted the young artisan permission to make instruments for the court and gave him the Armenian surname Zildjian (meaning ‘son of cymbal maker’). The family set up shop in the seaside neighborhood of Samatya in Constantinople, where metal arrived on camel caravans and donkeys powered primitive machines.”

Zildjian cymbals were admired by Mozart and his contemporaries, and “what came to be known simply as 'Turkish cymbals’ were assimilated by European orchestras and, in the first half of the 19th century, into new military and wind band styles” of the East and West. In 1851, Zildjian cymbals set sail on a 25-foot schooner bearing the family name, bound for London’s Great Exhibition. Kerope Zildjian introduced the K Zildjian line of cymbals in 1865, still in production and widely in use today. (The old K's can still be heard in several major symphony orchestras.)

As the jazz scene took off in the 1920’s, many music shops exclusively carried Zildjians, and drummers like Gene Krupa helped refine and develop the famous instruments even further, making them thinner, more responsive, and able to cut through the big band sound. The story of Zildjian is the story of Western music and its unmistakable Eastern influence, an incredible history four centuries in the making, full of intrigue and brilliant innovation, and containing at its heart an alchemical mystery, a secret recipe still closely guarded by the Zildjian family.

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

Filmmaker Wim Wenders Explains How Mobile Phones Have Killed Photography

Smartphones have made us all photographers — or maybe they've made it so that none of us is a photographer. A century ago, merely possessing and knowing how to use a camera counted as a fairly notable accomplishment; today, nearly all of us carry one at all times whether we want to or not, and its operation demands no skill whatsoever. "I do believe that everybody's a photographer," says celebrated filmmaker Wim Wenders, director of movies like The American FriendParis, Texas and Wings of Desire, in the BBC clip above. "We're all taking billions of pictures, so photography is more alive than ever, and at the same time, it's more dead than ever."

Wenders made this claim at an exhibition of his Polaroid photographs, which we've previously featured here on Open Culture. In a sense, the Polaroid camera — easy to use, near-instant results, and highly portable by the standards of its era — was the smartphone camera of the 20th century, but Wenders doesn't draw the same kind of inspiration from phone shots as he did from Polaroids. "The trouble with iPhone pictures is that nobody sees them," he says, and one glance at the speed with which Instagram users scroll will confirm it. "Even the people who take them don't look at them anymore, and they certainly don't make prints."

Having worked in cinema for around half a century now (and for a time with the late cinematographer Robby Müller, one of the most respected and idiosyncratic in the industry), Wenders has seen firsthand how our relationship to the image has changed in that time. "I know from experience that the less you have, the more creative you have to become," he says, asked about the preponderance of photographic filters and apps. "Maybe it's not necessarily a sign of creativity that you can turn every picture into its opposite." Still, he has no objection to camera-phone culture itself, and even admits to taking selfies himself — with the caveat that "looking into the mirror is not an act of photography."

If selfie-taking and everything else we do with the cameras in our smartphones (to say nothing of the image manipulations we perform) isn't photography, what is it? "I'm in search of a new word for this new activity that looks so much like photography, but isn't photography anymore," Wenders says. "Please, let me know if you have a word for it." Some commenters have put forth "fauxtography," an amusing enough suggestion but not one likely to satisfy a creator like Wenders who, in work as in life, seldom makes the obvious choice.

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See The First “Selfie” In History Taken by Robert Cornelius, a Philadelphia Chemist, in 1839

Lynda Barry on How the Smartphone Is Endangering Three Ingredients of Creativity: Loneliness, Uncertainty & Boredom

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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