Watch the Dave Brubeck Quartet on the Classic Jazz 625 Show, 1964

The great jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, who died in December only a day short of his 92nd birthday, pulled off a rare feat: He made music that was at once experimental and highly popular. His quartet’s 1959 album Time Out, with its unconventional time signatures and unique blending of exotic and classical influences, is a landmark in jazz history.

On June 9, 1964 the Dave Brubeck Quartet played a pair of half-hour sets for the Jazz 625 show in London. We’re happy to bring you one of those two episodes in its complete form. It’s an excellent show, featuring performances of five numbers, famous and obscure, and a discussion between Brubeck and host Steve Race about Brubeck’s composing methods. The quartet is made up of Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums. Here’s the set list:

  1. Danny’s London Blues (D. Brubeck)
  2. Dialogues for Jazz Combo & Orchestra, 2nd Movement (H. Brubeck)
  3. The Wright Groove (E. Wright)
  4. Take Five (P. Desmond)
  5. Sounds of the Loop (D. Brubeck)

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A Bird Ballet in Southern France

Look at what Neels Castillon unexpectedly captured on film while doing some shooting at a Marseille airport. Birds doing a pretty incredible ballet in the sky. If you enjoy watching murmurations, you’ll want to watch this other footage shot in Rome and especially this breathtaking (no hyperbole here) clip from Ireland. It’s all quite stunning.

via Andrew Sullivan

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Alistair Cooke’s Historic Letter From America (1946 – 2004) Now Online, Thanks to the BBC

Think of Masterpiece Theater and you might think of Downton Abbey, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, or even the Cookie Monster. But the man who really made the series famous was broadcaster Alistair Cooke, the series’ crisp, avuncular host. Seated in a leather chair, surrounded by bound volumes, Cooke introduced all of the great British programming brought to the States by WGBH—I, Claudius and Upstairs, Downstairs and The Six Wives of Henry VIIIand brought a cozy gravitas to American television.

Cooke died in 2004 and left a legacy as a broadcast essayist: Letter from America, a series of 15-minute radio pieces now collected into an extensive digital archive by BBC Radio 4. The essays aired weekly throughout the world for 58 years, beginning in 1946, sending Cooke’s slightly amused voice over the airwaves. He gave us his ex-pat take on everything from American holidays (including his personal involvement in making George Washington’s birthday a national holiday), to the ways American English varies from British English, to major events in American history.

Cooke captured America’s grief after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but his eyewitness account of Bobby Kennedy’s death would become one of his most powerful reports. Cooke was in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel when Kennedy was shot and used scratch paper to scribble down his impressions of the chaos.

He was brilliant at crafting character-driven stories about issues. His piece about John Lennon’s death (above) segued neatly into an exploration of gun violence in America. He reported on the suicide of actress Jean Seberg and used the obituary as an opportunity to discuss the excesses of FBI surveillance and witch-hunting.

Cooke wasn’t as good a writer as he was a reporter (view his original scripts in the Boston University archive) and he audibly sighs during some broadcasts, as if he is either tired or bored. But his point of view is priceless: an observant, charming outsider who fell in love with his adopted country, warts and all.

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Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Read more of her work at .

Read Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Free Online


“Currently, it seems, Jane Austen is hotter than Quentin Tarantino.” Martin Amis wrote this in the New Yorker back in 1996, when Tarantino had cultural heat to spare. Even today, as the filmmaker rides high on another one of his periodic waves of pop-cultural exuberance and controversy-courting violence, Austen may still win the popularity contest. Her much-read, often-adapted second novel Pride and Prejudice has, in fact, just passed its 200th anniversary of publication, and its reputation as a reliably sharp and engaging comedy seems stronger than ever.

Especially striking for a novel of its age, this reputation appears to have also grown wider than ever. Though some have always dismissed her — and will always dismiss her — as a writer of mere romantic fiction meant solely for women, admiration for Austen knows no demographic boundaries. Just look at her high-profile living male enthusiasts, a group that ranges from Amis to venture capitalist and essayist Paul Graham, who names Austen as one of his heroes. “In her novels I can’t see the gears at work,” Graham writes. “Though I’d really like to know how she does what she does, I can’t figure it out, because she’s so good that her stories don’t seem made up.”

“When I was introduced to the novel, at the age of fourteen,” Amis writes of Pride and Prejudice, “I read twenty pages and then besieged my stepmother’s study until she told me what I needed to know. I needed to know that Darcy married Elizabeth. (I needed to know that Bingley married Jane.) I needed this information as badly as I had ever needed anything. Pride and Prejudice suckers you. Amazingly — and, I believe, uniquely — it goes on suckering you.” And if that 200-year-old novel fails to sucker you, perhaps its 202-year-old predecessor Sense and Sensibility or its 199-year-old successor Mansfield Park will. You can browse Austen’s hand-written manuscripts pertaining to these and other of her novels in Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts, an online joint project from the University of Oxford and King’s College London. Austen’s fanbase, perhaps because of its broadness, seems to contain relatively few obsessive exegetes (compared to, say, acolytes of Thomas Pynchon), but you can only read her six novels so many times before feeling a need, if a vain one, to glimpse those “gears at work.” And if this contact with Austen’s creative spirit moves you to write your own adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, why not think outside the box and check on Tarantino’s availability to direct?

Copies of Pride and Prejudice can be found in our collection of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

You can also download free audio versions of Jane Austen novels if you take part in the free trial programs offered by and

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Two Very Early Concert Films of R.E.M., Live in ‘81 and ‘82

There are always those bands that you’d wish you’d seen live—bands that seem like they’ll go on forever (maybe so long you wish they’d quit already). But then you never get around to it, and, Bam!, one day the chance is lost. One of those bands for me is R.E.M., the only U.S. band in my book whose early work stood up to almost everything The Smiths put out. Since I was such a young lad when I first heard them circa-Document, it wasn’t easy for me to get out to concerts. And by the time I was old enough, they’d moved on some from their early jangle and stomp, garage-rock, post-punk sound, and I’d moved on to other favorites. That’s a shame, in hindsight, but now thanks to the heavenly magic (or devilry) of YouTube, I can (and do) spend hours catching up on concert film of bands like R.E.M. that I was born too late to see live in their prime.

Whether or not you had the privilege of seeing Michael Stipe and company in person, there’s little chance that you were at the show above (if so, speak up!). It’s probably one of their first, at the 688 Club in Atlanta, opening for Tex-Mex “Nuevo wavo” guitarist, Joe “King” Carrasco.

This gig took place on either February 2oth or 21st, 1981, a full eighteen months before their debut release, the EP Chronic Town. There are a few tunes here that never resurfaced in later recordings (“Narrator,” “Dangerous Times”) and a couple that became classics (“Gardening at Night,” “Radio Free Europe”). The film opens with them in the midst of covering the Sonny West-penned 1950’s classic “Rave On” (one of Buddy Holly’s last hits). And of course it makes perfect sense that they would owe a debt to this sound, but they transformed it so completely in their original songwriting that it isn’t always evident. They pull it off with panache.

The whole gig is a testament to what a together band they were even at this early stage. It’s all there—Stipe’s vocal quirks and full-body dance attacks, Mike Mills’ bouncing bass lines and angelic vocal harmonies, Peter Buck’s right-handed Rickenbacker arpeggios (and dapper vest), and drummer Bill Berry’s ever-reliable backbeat. Never known as overly technical musicians (an overrated quality in rock, in my opinion), what R.E.M. may have lacked in virtuosity, they made up for in personality. Another complete concert film below, from October 10th, 1982, shows them on a high, two months after Chronic Town’s release. Filmed at the Raleigh Underground, this gig included a number of songs that would appear on their first full-length, the moody, confident, and timeless Murmur.

via Slicing Up Eyeballs

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Josh Jones is a writer, editor, and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness

Get Ready for MIT’s “Introduction to Biology: The Secret of Life” on edX

edX announced today what looks like a promising new open course — Introduction to Biology: The Secret of Life. Hosted by professor Eric Lander, one of the leaders of the Human Genome Project, this course will give students a grounding in “topics taught in the MIT introductory biology courses and many biology courses across the world.” The course will cover everything from the basics of DNA to the intricacies of genomics. And it won’t run you any money. But it will require some time — about 6-8 hours per week, across 12 weeks (March 5 – May 28). Plus here’s a nice perk: any student who earns a passing grade will receive “a certificate of mastery,” also free of charge. You can enroll in the course right here.

We have added Introduction to Biology: The Secret of Life to our ever-growing list of MOOCs/Free Certificate Courses, along with another primo edx course, a MOOC version of Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?. Be sure to check it out.

W.H. Auden Recites His 1937 Poem, ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’


Today we bring you one of the best-loved poems of W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening,” read (below) by the poet himself. Auden wrote the poem in 1937 and first published it in his 1940 volume, Another Time. The poem is a variant of the ballad form, made up of 15 rhymed quatrains. It’s a meditation on love and the remorselessness of time, told in three voices: the narrator, a rapturous lover, and the reproachful clocks that speak back to the lover.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,
     For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
    And the first love of the world.’

But all the clocks in the city
    Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
    You cannot conquer Time

Auden made a number of audio recordings over the years, and we were unable to track down the time and place of this one. It may be a 1953 recording originally released by Caedmon Records. “As I Walked Out One Evening” is included in the Random House audio collection, Voice of the Poet: W.H. Auden.

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Kingsley Browne, Wayne State Law Prof, Embarrasses Himself Spectacularly on The Daily Show

Jon Stewart and company can make pretty much anyone look like an imbecile. Some nights they have to put a lot of elbow grease into it. Some nights less. And, some nights, they can just leave the elbow grease on the workroom shelf. Like Monday night, when Kingsley Browne, law professor at Wayne State, gave an interview to The Daily Show and opined on whether women should take part in frontline combat. While some conservatives have opposed widening women’s role in combat by pointing to “anatomical facts,” Kingsley pulled some pop psycho-biology out of his dusty storehouse of patrician knowledge. “Girls become women by getting older; boys become men by accomplishing something, by proving something.” Samantha Bee could have just stayed home and collected a paycheck that night. 1950s prattle just sounds increasingly foolish and funny in 2013 (even if its effects are still pernicious). But, even so, Bee did add the Andy Griffith fade-to-black & white, and that was a pretty nice touch.

Note: If Mr. Browne feels like his views weren’t adequately expressed on The Daily Show, we would welcome him to elaborate on his views in the comments section below.

Also note, if you’re looking for more musty musings from the living museum, you can catch Mr. Browne on CNN.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.