Joni Mitchell on “When Free is Not Enough”

A faith­ful read­er sent in lyrics that seemed quite apro­pos to Ed’s piece yes­ter­day on free music in the sub­way. Let’s post them. (Thanks John.)

Real Good for Free
©1974 by Joni Mitchell

I slept last night in the Fair­mont Hotel
I went shop­ping today for jew­els
Wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the chil­dren let out from the schools

I was stand­ing on the noisy cor­ner
I was wait­ing for the walk­ing green
Across the street he stood and he played real good
On his clar­inet for free

Now me, I play for for­tune
And those vel­vet cur­tain calls
I got a black lim­ou­sine and six­teen gen­tle­men
Escort­ing me to these halls

And I play if you have the mon­ey
Or if you’re some kind of friend to me
But the one man band by the quick lunch stand
He was play­ing real good for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he’d nev­er been on their TV
So they passed his good music by

I meant to go over to him and ask for a song
Maybe put on some kind of har­mo­ny
I heard his refrain as that sig­nal changed
He was play­ing real good, for free.

Joshua Bell Plays Multimillion Dollar Fiddle in D.C. Metro

Recent­ly a Wash­ing­ton Post staff writer, Gene Wein­garten, decid­ed to con­duct an usu­al exper­i­ment about high cul­ture. He talked one of the world’s finest vio­lin­ists, Joshua Bell, into tak­ing his mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar fid­dle to the Wash­ing­ton D.C. metro and play­ing incog­ni­to for com­muters dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour. The result? Hard­ly any­one slowed down, let alone stopped to lis­ten. Wein­garten’s arti­cle explores what hap­pened in fas­ci­nat­ing detail and rais­es trou­bling ques­tions about how we expe­ri­ence free cul­ture. Does art only mat­ter when we enjoy it in the right con­text? After a few min­utes in the sub­way, Bell said his own expec­ta­tions were rad­i­cal­ly low­ered, to the point that he was sick­en­ing­ly grate­ful when some­one dropped a dol­lar instead of a quar­ter into his (mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar) vio­lin case. Check out his amaz­ing per­for­mance (appar­ent­ly the acoustics were pret­ty good in the metro sta­tion):

You can lis­ten to the full ver­sion of Bel­l’s impromp­tu con­cert on the Wash­ing­ton Post web­site here. Inci­den­tal­ly, he went on to win the pres­ti­gious Avery Fish­er Prize this week. Mean­while Garten, the Wash­ing­ton Post writer who mas­ter­mind­ed the stunt, dis­cussed the expe­ri­ence on On the Media last Fri­day (iTunesFeedSite).

Pop!Tech Pop!Casts (and Some New TED Talks)

PoptechEach Octo­ber, Pop!Tech brings togeth­er 550+ lead­ers in sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, busi­ness, social
entre­pre­neur­ship, the arts, cul­ture and media to “explore the social impact of inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies, break­through sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies and orig­i­nal approach­es to tack­ling human­i­ty’s tough­est chal­lenges.”  And quite nice­ly some of the major talks are cap­tured and made avail­able to you via video pod­casts (iTunesFeedWeb Site). Among the down­load­able record­ings, you’ll find talks by Thomas Fried­man (New York Times writer and author of The World is Flat), Car­olyn Por­co (who leads the Imag­ing Sci­ence Team on the Cassi­ni mis­sion to Sat­urn), Richard Dawkins (where does­n’t this guy speak these days?), Chris Ander­son (author of The Long Tail and ubiq­ui­tous speak­er), and Mar­tin Mar­ty (a lead­ing com­men­ta­tor on reli­gion and cul­ture).

Just to give you a lit­tle more con­text, the lat­est con­fer­ence was orga­nized around the fol­low­ing agen­da:

What is a “dan­ger­ous” idea? It’s one that upends con­ven­tions, chal­lenges assump­tions and breaks taboos, reorder­ing our sense of the world and our place with­in it. It’s an idea, as Vic­tor Hugo said, whose time has come.… Here’s just some of what we’ll be dis­cussing:

  • The nature of risk in the con­nect­ed age
  • Bright green pos­si­bil­i­ties
  • Globalization’s great sur­pris­es
  • The role of faith and fun­da­men­tal­ism
  • Pan­demics and their pre­ven­tion
  • New approach­es to edu­ca­tion
  • The cre­ative imper­a­tive
  • New fron­tiers of explo­ration
  • What tech­nol­o­gy wants from us
  • Our con­struct­ed selves
  • Con­flict, res­o­lu­tion and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of peace

Final­ly, it’s worth men­tion­ing that TED Talks, a rather sim­i­lar con­fer­ence that brings togeth­er the cognoscen­ti, has just re-launched its web site and also released videos from its April con­fer­ence. Though they’re not yet acces­si­ble on iTunes, you can grab these talks from the web site and feed. Tune in and give a lis­ten to Bill Clin­ton, E.O. Wil­son, Thomas Dol­by, Jeff Bezos and more.

How Einstein Became Einstein

      Einstein_3The nar­ra­tive of Albert Ein­stein’s life pro­vides hope to every under­achiev­er out there. Ein­stein was slow to start speak­ing. His teach­ers pre­dict­ed ear­ly on that he’d nev­er amount to much. When he com­plet­ed his grad­u­ate work, he was the only stu­dent in his cohort who could­n’t land a uni­ver­si­ty posi­tion. And so he wound up work­ing at a patent office in Switzer­land. The young Ein­stein was appar­ent­ly “no Ein­stein.” 

But it was at the patent office that young Albert fleshed out his the­o­ries on rel­a­tiv­i­ty, and he’d even­tu­al­ly win a Nobel Prize. Lat­er, when he trav­eled to the Unit­ed States, he was wel­comed as a rock star. All of this is recount­ed in Wal­ter Isaac­son’s new biog­ra­phy, Ein­stein: His Life and Uni­verse, which John Updike reviewed in a recent New York­er. The for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor at Time mag­a­zine and head of CNN, Isaac­son writes biogra­phies that are rich but approach­able. To get a feel for his style, you can lis­ten to him talk about Ein­stein dur­ing an appear­ance on Fresh Air (iTunesFeed). And, just as an inter­est­ing aside, you can down­load Ein­stein’s Rel­a­tiv­i­ty: The Spe­cial and Gen­er­al The­o­ry as a free audio book from Lib­rivox (full zip fileindi­vid­ual mp3 files).

Tell a Friend About Open Cul­ture

Dig into Open Cul­ture’s pod­cast col­lec­tions.

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Jazz Podcasts — A New Collection Begins

TraneWe’ve pre­vi­ous­ly put you in touch with great clas­si­cal music pod­casts (here and here). Now it’s time to
focus on jazz. Today, we’re high­light­ing 16 pod­casts that will keep you cur­rent on today’s jazz scene. You’ll know what’s hap­pen­ing in Chica­go, Detroit, New York and beyond. You’ll also find some pod­casts that explore some jazz greats — name­ly, John Coltrane and Son­ny Rollins. This list will grow as we encounter more qual­i­ty mate­r­i­al. If you see that we’re miss­ing a good one, drop us a line. In the future, you’ll be able to find these pod­casts in our larg­er col­lec­tion of Arts & Cul­ture Pod­casts. For all of our pod­casts, click here.

  • Bend­ing Cor­ners  Feed  Web Site
    • Bend­ing­Corners explores the groove with­in: acid jazz, afro-beat, bop, cool jazz, cos­mic jazz, dub, down­tem­po, elec­tro-jazz, fusion, future jazz, groove jazz, jaz­za­tron­ic, jazz dance, jazz-funk, jazz-rock, kozmi­groov, modal, phu­sion, pro­gres­sive, mod­ern, nu-jazz, soul-jazz, spir­i­tu­al, and world. (If you don’t know how to work with feeds, see our Pod­cast Primer.)
  • Brook­lyn Jazz Under­ground  iTunes  Web Site  Blog
    • A pod­cast look­ing at the Brook­lyn jazz scene. Part music, part inter­view.
  • Chris­t­ian McBride Pod­casts  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Talks with and pefor­mances by bassist Chris­t­ian McBride. Includes some video clips.
  • Detroit Jazz Stage  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • A month­ly pod­cast fea­tur­ing the best in the Detroit jazz scene.
  • In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • From Jazz mas­ters of past and present to emerg­ing new artists per­form­ing hard-bop jazz and fusion. Fea­tur­ing Inde­pen­dent Jazz artists from around the world. A pop­u­lar pod­cast.
  • Jazz Cor­ner Innerviews   Feed  Web Site
    • innerviews are vignettes with insight­ful com­men­tary, inter­est­ing sound bites and lots of great music with great jazz mas­ters and up and com­ing musi­cians. Each pod­cast ranges in time from 4 min­utes to more than an hour.
  • Jazz in Chica­go  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Inter­views and infor­ma­tion about the jazz scene in Chica­go.
  • Jazz Pod­cast from Mag­natune  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • 60 min­utes of straight, high qual­i­ty jazz.
  • NPR Piano Jazz Shorts  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • For more than twen­ty-five years, pianist Mar­i­an McPart­land has wel­comed
      a stel­lar line-up of jazz artists for con­ver­sa­tion and impro­vi­sa­tion on
      her Peabody Award-win­ning pro­gram. Piano Jazz show­cas­es both acclaimed artists and up-and-com­ing per­form­ers.
  • Pat Methe­ny — The Song X Podu­men­tary  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Gui­tarist Pat Methe­ny explores his influ­ences, record­ings, music and more on this inti­mate pod­cast series.
  • Port­land Jazz Jams Pod­show  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Live jazz jams, inter­views with great play­ers, and instruc­tion­al mate­ri­als, all com­ing out of the Port­land jazz scene.
  • Son­ny Rollins Pod­cast  iTunes  Web Site
    • A 12-part video pod­cast series to be released in month­ly install­ments. It intro­duces Son­ny Rollins, a major Amer­i­can jazz fig­ure, to new
  • Swing is in the Air  iTunes  Web Site
    • Although swing is some­thing of a focus here, this pod­cast com­ing out of Cana­da also looks at oth­er jazz forms.
  • The Jazz Suite  Feed  Web Site
    • This is a pod­cast ded­i­cat­ed to Jazz played by inde­pen­dent and indie artists that the major music labels have missed.
  • The Night Pas­sage Jazz Pod­cast  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • An Eng­lish-lan­guage pod­cast com­ing out of Rome, Italy.
  • The Tra­neu­men­tary  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • A series of pod­casts fea­tur­ing the work of the jazz great, John Coltrane.

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Houdini Photo Retrospective

The Smith­son­ian

has come out with a nice pho­to essay look­ing back on the leg­endary escape artist Har­ry Hou­di­ni. It begins:

Houdini_jump_2Har­ry Hou­di­ni freed him­self from chains after jump­ing off a pier into Boston’s Charles Riv­er, wig­gled out of a strait jack­et while hang­ing upside down in Times Square and appeared alive and well after being sub­merged in his Water Tor­ture Cell. The great escape artist defied belief and enter­tained hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple through­out the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry until he died on Hal­loween in 1926, at age 52. His death cer­tifi­cate blames a rup­tured appen­dix, but rumors cir­cu­lat­ed that he may have been mur­dered.

A new biog­ra­phy, The Secret Life of Hou­di­ni by William Kalush and Lar­ry Slo­man, has caused many peo­ple, includ­ing the magi­cian’s great-nephew, to recon­sid­er these rumors. Hou­di­ni, they believe, may have been poi­soned by Spir­i­tu­al­ists, a group who claimed to speak to the dead through séances. Hou­di­ni went to great lengths to debunk their prac­tices, often expos­ing their tricks on the stage. In late March, foren­sic pathol­o­gists announced that they will exhume Hou­dini’s body to deter­mine once and for all what hap­pened to the escape artist.

In this pho­to essay, explore the extra­or­di­nary life of Har­ry Hou­di­ni: BEGIN SLIDESHOW>

Steve Jobs on Life

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Com­put­er, deliv­ered this speech at Stan­ford’s com­mence­ment cer­e­mo­ny in June 2005. I’ve watched it a cou­ple times now, with about 6 months in between view­ings, and each time it has struck me as worth watch­ing every so often to keep focused on what mat­ters.

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Kurt Vonnegut in Second Life

We’re not exact­ly break­ing news here today in men­tion­ing that author Kurt Von­negut has passed away. (Get the NY Times obit here.) In mem­o­ry of the writer, we thought that we’d present a fit­ting­ly uncon­ven­tion­al inter­view that was con­duct­ed last year in Sec­ond Life. (And, by the way, the irony of talk­ing today about a Von­negut inter­view in some­thing called Sec­ond Life is not exact­ly lost on us. Let’s hope that he’ll indeed have one.)

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.