Pete Seeger: To Hear Your Banjo Play (1946)

This past week­end, Pete Seeger marched through the streets of Man­hat­tan with the Occu­py Wall Street move­ment. He was a sprite­ly 92. It was the lat­est in a life­time of polit­i­cal engage­ment by Seeger, dat­ing all the way back to his youth­ful sup­port of the Span­ish Civ­il War. Today we bring you a film of Seeger when he was only 27 years old: To Hear Your Ban­jo Play. Released in 1946, To Hear Your Ban­jo Play is an engag­ing 16-minute intro­duc­tion to Amer­i­can folk music, writ­ten and nar­rat­ed by Alan Lomax and fea­tur­ing rare per­for­mances by Woody Guthrie, Bald­win Hawes, Son­ny Ter­ry, Brownee McGhee, Texas Glad­den and Mar­got May­o’s Amer­i­can Square Dance Group. To Hear Your Ban­jo Play is includ­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leg­endary Folk­lorist Alan Lomax’s ‘The Land Where the Blues Began’

Pete Seeger Teach­es You How to Play Gui­tar for Free in The Folksinger’s Gui­tar Guide (1955

The Pow­er­ful Mes­sages That Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger Inscribed on Their Gui­tar & Ban­jo: “This Machine Kills Fas­cists” and “This Machine Sur­rounds Hate and Forces it to Sur­ren­der”

Free: Download Copy of New Steve Jobs Biography

Just a few short weeks after the death of Steve Jobs comes a 627 page biog­ra­phy by Wal­ter Isaac­son, the for­mer Man­ag­ing Edi­tor of TIME and CEO of CNN. Isaac­son first dis­cussed writ­ing the book with Jobs sev­en years ago and has since inter­viewed the Apple CEO more than 40 times. Now, appear­ing on 60 Min­utes, he talks pub­licly about the new book sim­ply called Steve Jobs. It hit book­shelves yes­ter­day and already stands atop the Ama­zon Best­seller list.

The 29 minute inter­view (Part 1 here, Part 2 here) gives you a feel for the book that’s will­ing to tell the good, the bad and the some­times ugly of Jobs’ life. If you’re look­ing to get your hands on the biog­ra­phy, give this some thought: If you sign up for a 14-day free tri­al with Audible.com, you can down­load pret­ty much any audio book in Audible’s cat­a­logue for free. And that cat­a­logue now includes Isaac­son’s unabridged biog­ra­phy. Once the tri­al is over, you can con­tin­ue your Audi­ble sub­scrip­tion (as I did), or can­cel it, and still keep the free book. The choice is yours.

Note: CBS did­n’t allow the 60 Min­utes inter­view to appear on exter­nal sites like ours. Hence you will need to watch the inter­view on YouTube itself. We pro­vide the links above.

The Decline of Civilization’s Right Brain: Animated

The mind, they say, is a house divid­ed: The right hemi­sphere of the brain is pre­dom­i­nant­ly intu­itive; the left, pre­dom­i­nant­ly ratio­nal.

In his recent book, The Mas­ter and His Emis­sary: The Divid­ed Brain and the Mak­ing of the West­ern World, the British psy­chi­a­trist and writer Iain McGilchrist looks at the evo­lu­tion of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion through a neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal prism. In McGilchrist’s view our left hemi­sphere has, over the past four cen­turies, pro­gres­sive­ly pushed aside our right hemi­sphere. “My belief,” McGilchrist told The Morn­ing News last year, “is that it has now tak­en over our self-under­stand­ing, for a vari­ety of rea­sons, and is lead­ing us all down the road to ruin.”

McGilchrist is quick to point out that the old left-brain, right-brain clichés of the 1960s and 1970s were great­ly over­sim­pli­fied. Recent research has shown that both sides of the brain are deeply involved in func­tions such as rea­son and emo­tion. But the dichoto­my is still use­ful, McGilchrist says, and should not be aban­doned.

“The right hemi­sphere gives sus­tained, broad, open, vig­i­lant alert­ness, where­as the left hemi­sphere gives nar­row, sharply focused atten­tion to detail,” McGilchrist says in a new RSA Ani­mate fea­ture (see above). “Peo­ple who lose their right hemi­spheres have a patho­log­i­cal nar­row­ing of the win­dow of atten­tion.”  McGilchrist sees this nar­row­ing process occur­ring at the soci­etal lev­el. The left brain, he argues, con­ceives of the world as a set of decon­tex­tu­al­ized, sta­t­ic, mate­r­i­al, abstract things, where­as the right brain holis­ti­cal­ly embraces a world of evolv­ing, spir­i­tu­al, empath­ic, con­crete beings.

Both hemi­spheres are nec­es­sary, McGilchrist says in the Morn­ing News inter­view, “but one is more fun­da­men­tal­ly impor­tant than the oth­er, and sees more than the oth­er, even though there are some things that it must not get involved with, if it is to main­tain its broad­er, more complete–in essence more truthful–vision. This is the right hemi­sphere, which, as I demon­strate from the neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal lit­er­a­ture, lit­er­al­ly sees more, and grounds the under­stand­ing of the left hemisphere–an under­stand­ing which must ulti­mate­ly be re-inte­gret­ed with the right hemi­sphere, if it is not to lead to error. The left hemi­sphere is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly valu­able as an inter­me­di­ate, but not as a final author­i­ty.”

McGilchrist is not with­out his crit­ics. The British philoso­pher A.C. Grayling writes in the Lit­er­ary Review, “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if one accepts the log­ic of his argu­ment that our West­ern civil­i­sa­tion has declined from a right-hemi­sphere to a left-hemi­sphere dis­pen­sa­tion, we do not have to imag­ine what the for­mer would be like, because his­to­ry itself tells us: in it most of us would be super­sti­tious and igno­rant peas­ants work­ing a strip farm that we would nev­er leave from cra­dle to grave, under the thumb of slight­ly more left-hemi­spher­ic bul­lies in the form of the local baron and priest.”

After The Mas­ter and His Emis­sary was pub­lished, McGilchrist dis­cov­ered a quo­ta­tion attrib­uted to Albert Ein­stein that he felt neat­ly sup­port­ed his the­sis. He uses this quote at the end of his RSA talk: “The intu­itive mind is a sacred gift and the ratio­nal mind is a faith­ful ser­vant. We have cre­at­ed a soci­ety that hon­ors the ser­vant and has for­got­ten the gift.” But did Ein­stein actu­al­ly say that? The Inter­net is awash with dubi­ous Ein­stein quo­ta­tions, and we were unable to locate the orig­i­nal source of this one. If any read­er can ver­i­fy its authen­tic­i­ty (by cit­ing the orig­i­nal text, speech or con­ver­sa­tion) please leave a note in our com­ments sec­tion. Mean­while, you can watch McGilchrist’s entire half-hour RSA lec­ture here.

via Brain Pick­ings

Tim Burton: A Look Inside His Visual Imagination

Tim Bur­ton is a house­hold name with his creepy cre­ations and vivid sym­bol­ic imagery in film and art. Born in Bur­bank, Cal­i­for­nia in 1958, Bur­ton stud­ied at the Cal­i­for­nia Insti­tute of the Arts and worked as an ani­ma­tor for Dis­ney. After a time, he left to pur­sue an inde­pen­dent career, becom­ing famous for a wide vari­ety of films such as The Night­mare Before Christ­masBat­manBig Fish, and most recent­ly, Alice in Won­der­land.

The video above fea­tures Bur­ton dis­cussing the cul­ti­va­tion of his sig­na­ture style and the source of his unique images. The clip was shot in con­nec­tion with an exhib­it of Bur­ton’s work at the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, held in New York City in 2009–2010. The exhib­it has since moved to LACMA in Los Ange­les, and it traces the devel­op­ment of Bur­ton’s work from child­hood sketch­es to his mature work as a film­mak­er, bring­ing togeth­er hun­dreds of draw­ings, paint­ings, pho­tographs, mov­ing image works, con­cept art, sto­ry­boards, pup­pets, maque­ttes, cos­tumes, and cin­e­mat­ic ephemera from his films. The show con­tin­ues out­side the muse­um with a top­i­ary inspired by Edward Scis­sorhands and a ren­di­tion of Bal­loon Boy, a fig­ure com­bin­ing char­ac­ters from Bur­ton’s 1997 book The Melan­choly Death of Oys­ter Boy and Oth­er Sto­ries. You can catch the exhib­it at LACMA until Octo­ber 31st — a fit­ting end date, to be sure.

Hark­ing back to an ear­li­er post, here is a sam­ple of Bur­ton’s ear­ly film­mak­ing, cre­at­ed not long before he set out on his own. Nar­rat­ed by Vin­cent Price, the short film, Vin­cent, effec­tive­ly brings togeth­er two great tal­ents of the hor­ror genre … and will put any­one in the spir­it of Hal­loween if you’re not already there.

Anémic Cinéma: Marcel Duchamp’s Whirling Avant-Garde Film (1926)

Mar­cel Duchamp (1887–1968) made some heady art. His whole goal was to “put art back in the ser­vice of the mind,” or to cre­ate what Jasper Johns once called the “field where lan­guage, thought and vision act on one anoth­er.” And that’s pre­cise­ly what Ducham­p’s 1926 avant-garde film Anémic Ciné­ma deliv­ers.

Draw­ing on his inher­i­tance, Duchamp shot Anémic Ciné­ma (almost a palin­drome) in Man Ray’s stu­dio with the help of cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Marc Allé­gret. The Dada-inspired film fea­tures nine whirling opti­cal illu­sions, known as Rotore­liefs, alter­nat­ing with spi­ral­ing puns and com­plex word play. (Vision acts on lan­guage and thought, indeed.) The text of the puns appears below the jump. We did­n’t attempt to trans­late them, in part because there’s a con­vinc­ing case that trans­la­tions can’t do them jus­tice in any way.

Anémic Ciné­ma appears in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Birth of Film: 11 Firsts in Cin­e­ma

Rauschen­berg Eras­es De Koon­ing

Free Lan­guage Lessons (Bone up on your French)

Willie Nelson, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie at Occupy Wall Street

There’s some­thing hap­pen­ing here
What it is ain’t exact­ly clear…

The intel­lec­tu­als have paid a vis­it to Occu­py Wall Street (Joseph Stiglitz, Lawrence Lessig, Slavoj Zizek, etc.). And so have some icon­ic cul­tur­al fig­ures. This week, Willie Nel­son and his wife wrote and read a poem sup­port­ing the surg­ing move­ment.

Then last night, Pete Seeger marched some 30 blocks through the streets of mid­town, NYC. At 92, the leg­endary voice of protest can still raise some hell. If you have any doubts, just watch his musi­cal protest against British Petro­le­um per­formed last year.

Near 1:00 a.m., the fes­tiv­i­ties were capped off at Colum­bus Cir­cle with Arlo Guthrie and friends lead­ing a sin­ga­long to the folk clas­sic, “This Lit­tle Light of Mine.” As more cul­tur­al fig­ures pay a vis­it, we’ll post them…

H/T to @webacion

Watch ‘Jammin’ the Blues,’ One of the Most Stylish Jazz Films Ever Made (1944)

In recent days we’ve brought you doc­u­men­tary films explor­ing the birth­place of the blues and the genius of Theo­nious Monk. Today, we fea­ture one of the most styl­ish jazz films ever made: Jam­min’ the Blues, direct­ed by Life mag­a­zine pho­tog­ra­ph­er Gjon Mili in 1944.

Born in Alba­nia and trained as an engi­neer, Mili worked close­ly with the famed MIT researcher and inven­tor Harold Edger­ton to devel­op stop-action strobe pho­tog­ra­phy. At Life, Mili used his tech­ni­cal wiz­ardry to cre­ate a dis­tinc­tive aes­thet­ic style. High in con­trast and razor-sharp, Mil­i’s pic­tures often reveal ath­letes, dancers and oth­er per­form­ers at moments of peak action. He some­times used a rapid series of flash­es to trace the evo­lu­tion of a motion or ges­ture. His most famous images fea­ture bright­ly rim-lit sub­jects against a back­ground of pure black.

In 1944, Warn­er Broth­ers com­mis­sioned Mili to bring his trade­mark style to the movies. Jam­min’ the Blues looks as though it jumped right from the pages of Life. As the film fades in, we see only a pair of con­cen­tric cir­cles, a pure abstrac­tion. The cam­era pulls back to reveal the great tenor sax­o­phon­ist Lester Young in his pork pie hat. Young is soon joined by a group of top musi­cians, includ­ing Red Cal­len­der, Sweets Edi­son, Mar­lowe Mor­ris, Sid­ney Catlett, Bar­ney Kessel, Marie Bryant and Joe Jones. A spir­it­ed “jam ses­sion” is on.

Despite the impro­vi­sa­tion­al nature of the sub­ject, Jam­min’ the Blues was painstak­ing­ly con­struct­ed from many shots, with the per­form­ers mov­ing in synch to a pre-record­ed sound­track. The cin­e­matog­ra­phy is by Robert Burks, who went on to be the direc­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy on many of Alfred Hitch­cock­’s films, includ­ing North by North­west and Ver­ti­go.

Jam­min’ the Blues runs an exhil­a­rat­ing 10 min­utes, and has been added to our archive of Free Movies.

20 Christian Academics Speaking About God

This sum­mer, Jonathan Parara­jas­ing­ham cre­at­ed 50 Renowned Aca­d­e­mics Speak­ing About God and then Anoth­er 50 Renowned Aca­d­e­mics Speak­ing About God. If you’re count­ing, that makes 100. Right along­side these twin videos came 20 Chris­t­ian Aca­d­e­mics Speak­ing About God, a mon­tage fea­tur­ing some respect­ed fig­ures (save Dinesh D’Souza) try­ing to square reli­gious beliefs with their sci­en­tif­ic work.

You could per­haps add Karl W. Giber­son and Ran­dall J. Stephens to this list, two pro­fes­sors who teach at a Chris­t­ian lib­er­al arts col­lege in Boston. Ear­li­er this week, Giber­son and Stephens pub­lished The Anoint­ed: Evan­gel­i­cal Truth in a Sec­u­lar Age and an accom­pa­ny­ing op-ed in The New York Times called The Evan­gel­i­cal Rejec­tion of Rea­son. And it all points to a ten­sion with­in Amer­i­ca’s reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty — the one side that is “intel­lec­tu­al­ly engaged, hum­ble and for­ward-look­ing” (like some of the folks shown above) and the oth­er side that is “lit­er­al­is­tic, over­con­fi­dent and reac­tionary” and often hos­tile to basic sci­ence. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the authors argue, this back­ward-look­ing view has become the main­stream with­in evan­gel­i­cal cir­cles, and it does a strug­gling nation no favors.

Yes­ter­day, Giber­son appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. You can lis­ten to the inter­view here, or read the tran­script here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.