David Bowie Sings Impressions of Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits & More In Studio Outtakes (1985)

We knew David Bowie could pret­ty much do it all—glam rock, jazz, funk, Philly soul, cabaret, pop, drum and bass, folk, avant-garde, you name it. In front of the cam­era, he could stretch him­self into the beau­ti­ful but wound­ed alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth, the scary-sexy-cool Gob­lin King of Labyrinth, the mys­ti­cal genius Tes­la in The Pres­tige. Noth­ing he attempt­ed seemed beyond his grasp, includ­ing, as you can hear above, off-the-cuff, most­ly spot-on impres­sions of friends and fel­low singers like Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, and Bruce Spring­steen.

The audio clip you hear comes from out­takes pro­duc­er Mark Saun­ders hap­pened to cap­ture on tape dur­ing the 1985 ses­sions for the Absolute Begin­ners film sound­track (“a bet­ter sound­track than it was a movie!” Saun­ders remarks).

While record­ing a lead vocal, Saun­ders writes, Bowie “broke into the imper­son­ations and I real­ized that these might get erased at some point, so I quick­ly put a cas­sette in and hit ‘record.’” You can read his full rec­ol­lec­tions at The Talk­house in a short essay he wrote to accom­pa­ny the audio—introduced by Zach Stag­gers of indie band the So So Glos, who writes:

Bowie goes through a hand­ful of sung impres­sions, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to, Bruce Spring­steen, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Loud Reed and Antho­ny New­ly, who was such a big influ­ence on the icon­ic singer that the imper­son­ation almost sounds like Bowie mim­ic­k­ing him­self. Between takes you can hear Bowie hav­ing fun and going back and forth with the engi­neers. Jokes.

Bowie also does what sounds like Bob Dylan (or Tom Pet­ty, or Marc Bolan as some have spec­u­lat­ed?) in the sec­ond take and a pass­able Neil Young in the last. His Spring­steen, Reed, and Pop are excel­lent (Bowie called the Iggy impres­sion “dif­fi­cult, he’s some­where between all of them.”)  He clos­es the impromp­tu per­for­mance with “That’s it, night night.”

Bowie did indeed have jokes, though any­one who fol­lowed him over the decades knows of his comedic tal­ents, whether play­ing straight man to Ricky Ger­vais’ obnox­ious super­fan or dis­play­ing impec­ca­ble tim­ing in his dead­pan deliv­ery of “Bowie Secrets” from Late Night With Conan O’Brien in 2002.

Despite the kiss-off he gives Ger­vais in their com­e­dy bit, those who knew and worked with Bowie all tes­ti­fy that he nev­er took him­self too seri­ous­ly or, as Saun­ders remem­bers, threw his weight around by “using a big rock star ‘Hey, I’m David Bowie and I want it done my way.” He may have seemed to many like an alien or a god, but he was appar­ent­ly in per­son a pret­ty hum­ble, and very fun­ny, guy.

via Rolling Stone

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie Per­forms a Live Acoustic Ver­sion of “Heroes,” with a Bot­tle Cap Strapped to His Shoe, Keep­ing the Beat

David Bowie Gives Grad­u­a­tion Speech At Berklee Col­lege of Music: “Music Has Been My Door­way of Per­cep­tion” (1999)

David Bowie (RIP) Sings “Changes” in His Last Live Per­for­mance, 2006

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

Ursula Le Guin Gives Insightful Writing Advice in Her Free Online Workshop

ursula k le guin writing advice

Image by Gor­thi­an, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Though it’s some­times regard­ed as a pre­ten­tious-sound­ing term for genre writ­ers who don’t want to asso­ciate with genre, I’ve always liked the phrase “spec­u­la­tive fic­tion.” J.G. Bal­lard, Philip K. Dick, Shirley Jack­son, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman… A touch of sur­re­al­ist humor, a high­ly philo­soph­i­cal bent, and a some­what trag­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty can be found among them all, and also in the work of Ursu­la K. Le Guin, who does not shy away from the genre labels of sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy, but who approach­es these cat­e­gories in the way of, say, Vir­ginia Woolf in her Orlan­do: as fem­i­nist thought exper­i­ments and fables about human eco­log­i­cal fail­ings and inter-cul­tur­al poten­tial.

That’s not to say that Le Guin’s writ­ing is dri­ven by polit­i­cal agen­das, but that she has a very clear, uncom­pro­mis­ing vision, which she has real­ized over the course of over five decades in nov­els, short sto­ries, and chil­dren’s fic­tion. LeGuin’s writ­ing takes us away from the famil­iar to worlds we rec­og­nize as alter­na­tives to our own.

Like those in ancient epics, her char­ac­ters under­take jour­neys to realms unknown, where they learn as much or more about them­selves as about the alien inhab­i­tants. And though we expe­ri­ence in her sto­ries the thrill of dis­cov­ery and dan­ger com­mon to fan­ta­sy and sci-fi, we also enter a world of ideas about who we are as human beings, and how we might be dif­fer­ent. For Le Guin, fic­tion is a ves­sel that can car­ry us out of our­selves and return us home changed.

Le Guin stat­ed last year that she no longer has the “vig­or and sta­mi­na” for writ­ing nov­els, and hav­ing giv­en up teach­ing as well, said she missed “being in touch with seri­ous pren­tice writ­ers.” Thus, she decid­ed to start an online writ­ing work­shop at the site Book View Café, describ­ing it as “a kind of open con­sul­ta­tion or infor­mal ongo­ing work­shop in Fic­tion­al Nav­i­ga­tion.” In keep­ing with the metaphor of sea voy­ag­ing, she called her work­shop “Nav­i­gat­ing the Ocean of Sto­ry” and declared that she would not take read­er ques­tions about pub­lish­ing or find­ing an agent: “We won’t be talk­ing about how to sell a ship, but how to sail one.” Read­er ques­tions poured in, and Le Guin did her best to answer as many as she could, post­ing advice every oth­er Mon­day for all of the sum­mer and much of the fall of 2015.

The first ques­tion she received was a doozy—“How do you make some­thing good?”—and her lengthy answer sets the tone for all of her coun­sel to fol­low. She is wit­ty and hon­est, and sur­pris­ing­ly help­ful, even when con­front­ed with such a vague, seem­ing­ly unan­swer­able query. The dozens of ques­tions she select­ed in the fol­low­ing weeks tend to deal with much more man­age­able issues of style and tech­nique, and in each instance, Le Guin offers the quer­ent a clear set of coor­di­nates to help them nav­i­gate the waters of their own fic­tion­al jour­neys. Below are just a few choice excerpts from the many hun­dreds of words Le Guin gen­er­ous­ly donat­ed to her read­ing com­mu­ni­ty.

  • The prob­lem of expo­si­tion:

In answers to two read­ers’ ques­tions about pro­vid­ing suf­fi­cient back­sto­ry, Le Guin refers to an old New York­er fea­ture called “The Depart­ment of Fuller Expla­na­tion, where they put tru­ly and grand exam­ples of unnec­es­sary explain­ing.” Most of us, Le Guin writes, “tend to live in the Depart­ment of Fuller Expla­na­tion” when writ­ing; “We are telling our­selves back­sto­ry and oth­er infor­ma­tion, which the read­er won’t actu­al­ly need to know when read­ing it.”

To avoid the “Expos­i­to­ry Lump or the Info­dump,” as she calls it, Le Guin advis­es the writer to “decide—or find out when revising—whether the infor­ma­tion is actu­al­ly nec­es­sary. If not, don’t both­er. If so, fig­ure out how to work it in as a func­tion­al, for­ward-mov­ing ele­ment of the sto­ry… giv­ing infor­ma­tion indi­rect­ly, by hint and sug­ges­tion.”

  • The prob­lem of descrip­tion:

When it comes to describ­ing char­ac­ters’ appear­ances, Le Guin sug­gests get­ting spe­cif­ic:

It’s not just facial features—a way of mov­ing, a voice qual­i­ty, can ’embody’ a char­ac­ter. Spe­cif­ic fea­tures or man­ner­isms (even absurd­ly spe­cif­ic ones!) can help fix a minor char­ac­ter in the read­er’s mind when they turn up again…. To work on this skill, you might try describ­ing peo­ple you see on the bus or in the cof­fee shop: just do a sen­tence about them in your head, try­ing to catch their looks in a few words.

  • The prob­lem of set­ting:

Le Guin answers a read­er who con­fess­es to trou­ble with “world build­ing” by point­ing out the cen­tral impor­tance of set­ting:

 Event requires loca­tion. Where we are affects who we are, what we say and and do, how and why we say and do it. It mat­ters, doesn’t it, whether we’re in Mia­mi or Mum­bai — even more whether we’re on Earth or in Made-Up Place? So, I don’t know if it would work to try and build up a world– “all those details” – and tack it onto what you’ve writ­ten. If invent­ing a world isn’t your thing, OK. Stick close to this world, or use ready­made, con­ven­tion­al sf and fan­ta­sy props and scenery. They’re there for all of us to use.

  • The prob­lem of dia­logue:

Le Guin offers some very prac­ti­cal advice on how to make speech sound con­vinc­ing and gen­uine:

All I can rec­om­mend is to read/speak your dia­logue aloud. Not whis­per­ing, not mut­ter­ing, OUT LOUD. (Vir­ginia Woolf used to try out her dia­logue in the bath­tub, which great­ly enter­tained the cook down­stairs.) This will help show you what’s fakey, hokey, book­ish — it just won’t read right out loud. Fix it till it does. Speak­ing it may help you to vary the speech man­ner­isms to suit the char­ac­ter. And prob­a­bly will cause you to cut a lot. Good! Many con­tem­po­rary nov­els are so dia­logue-heavy they seem all quo­ta­tion marks — dis­em­bod­ied voic­es yad­der­ing on in a void.

  • Get­ting start­ed:

Many read­ers wrote to ask Le Guin about their dif­fi­cul­ty in get­ting a sto­ry start­ed at all. She replied with the caveat that “no answer to this ques­tion is going to fit every writer.” While some writ­ers work from “a rough sketch, notes as to where the sto­ry is head­ed and how it might get there, with more extend­ed notes about the world it takes place in,” for oth­ers, “a com­plete out­line is absolute­ly nec­es­sary before start­ing to write.” What­ev­er the method:

A sto­ry is, after all, and before every­thing else, dynam­ic: it starts Here, because it’s going There. Its life prin­ci­ple is the same as a riv­er: to keep mov­ing. Fast or slow, straight or errat­ic, head­long or mean­der­ing, but going, till it gets There. The ideas it express­es, the research it embod­ies, the time­less inspi­ra­tions it may offer, are all sub­or­di­nate to and part of that onward move­ment. The end itself may not be very impor­tant; it is the jour­ney that counts. I don’t know much about “flow” states, but I know that the onward flow of a sto­ry is what car­ries a writer from the start to the end of it, along with the whole boat­load of char­ac­ters and ideas and knowl­edge and mean­ing — and car­ries the read­er in the same boat.

There are dozens more ques­tions from read­ers, and dozens more insight­ful, fun­ny, and very help­ful answers from Le Guin. Whether you are a writer of sci­ence fic­tion, fan­ta­sy, spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, or none of the above, much of her advice will apply to any kind of fic­tion writ­ing you do—or will give you unique insights into the tech­niques and tri­als of the fic­tion writer. Read all of the ques­tions and Le Guin’s answers in her “Nav­i­gat­ing the Ocean of Sto­ry” posts at Book View Café.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Toni Mor­ri­son Dis­pens­es Writ­ing Wis­dom in 1993 Paris Review Inter­view

Hear Ursu­la K. Le Guin’s Pio­neer­ing Sci-Fi Nov­el, The Left Hand of Dark­ness, as a BBC Radio Play

Hear Inven­tive Sto­ries from Ursu­la LeGuin & J.G. Bal­lard Turned Into CBC Radio Dra­mas

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

The 20 Most Influential Academic Books of All Time: No Spoilers

kant critique

Image by Let Ideas Com­pete, via Flickr Com­mons

Some­times I’ll meet some­one who men­tions hav­ing writ­ten a book, and who then adds, “… well, an aca­d­e­m­ic book, any­way,” as if that did­n’t real­ly count. True, aca­d­e­m­ic books don’t tend to debut at the heights of the best­seller lists amid all the eat­ing, pray­ing, and lov­ing, but some­times light­ning strikes; some­times the sub­ject of the author’s research hap­pens to align with what the pub­lic believes they need to know. Oth­er times, aca­d­e­m­ic books suc­ceed at a slow­er burn, and it takes read­ers gen­er­a­tions to come around to the insights con­tained in them — a less favor­able roy­al­ty sit­u­a­tion for the long-dead writer, but at least they can take some sat­is­fac­tion in the pos­si­bil­i­ty.

His­to­ry has shown, in any case, that aca­d­e­m­ic books can become influ­en­tial. “After a list of the top 20 aca­d­e­m­ic books was pulled togeth­er by expert aca­d­e­m­ic book­sellers, librar­i­ans and pub­lish­ers to mark the inau­gur­al Aca­d­e­m­ic Book Week,” writes The Guardian’s Ali­son Flood, “the pub­lic was asked to vote on what they believed to be the most influ­en­tial.” The short­list of these most impor­tant aca­d­e­m­ic books of all time runs as fol­lows (and you can read many of them free by fol­low­ing the links from our meta list of Free eBooks):

The top spot went to Dar­win’s On the Ori­gin of Species, which Flood quotes the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow’s Andrew Prescott as call­ing “the supreme demon­stra­tion of why aca­d­e­m­ic books mat­ter,” one that “changed the way we think about every­thing – not only the nat­ur­al world, but reli­gion, his­to­ry and soci­ety. Every researcher, no mat­ter whether they are writ­ing books, cre­at­ing dig­i­tal prod­ucts or pro­duc­ing art­works, aspires to pro­duce some­thing as sig­nif­i­cant in the his­to­ry of thought as Ori­gin of Species.”

Kan­t’s Cri­tique of Pure Rea­son placed a still impres­sive fifth, giv­en its sta­tus, in the words of philoso­pher Roger Scru­ton, as “one of the most dif­fi­cult works of phi­los­o­phy ever writ­ten,” — but one which aims to “show the lim­its of human rea­son­ing, and at the same time to jus­ti­fy the use of our intel­lec­tu­al pow­ers with­in those lim­its. The result­ing vision, of self-con­scious beings enfold­ed with­in a one-sided bound­ary, but always press­ing against it, hun­gry for the inac­ces­si­ble beyond, has haunt­ed me, as it has haunt­ed many oth­ers since Kant first expressed it.”

So you want to write an aca­d­e­m­ic book this influ­en­tial? You may have a tough time doing it delib­er­ate­ly, but it could­n’t hurt to steep your­self in the mate­ri­als we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured relat­ed to the cre­ation of this top twen­ty, includ­ing 16,000 pages of Dar­win’s writ­ing on evo­lu­tion (as well as the man’s per­son­al library), Orwell’s let­ter reveal­ing why he would write 1984, as well as Marx and Kan­t’s rig­or­ous work habits — and Kan­t’s even more rig­or­ous cof­fee habit, though if there exists any 21st-cen­tu­ry aca­d­e­m­ic in need of encour­age­ment to drink more cof­fee, I have yet to meet them.

via The Guardian

Relat­ed Con­tent:

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

Read 700 Free eBooks Made Avail­able by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press

The 10 Great­est Books Ever, Accord­ing to 125 Top Authors (Down­load Them for Free)

28 Impor­tant Philoso­phers List the Books That Influ­enced Them Most Dur­ing Their Col­lege Days

Life-Chang­ing Books: Your Picks

Dar­win: A 1993 Film by Peter Green­away

Darwin’s Per­son­al Library Goes Dig­i­tal: 330 Books Online

16,000 Pages of Charles Darwin’s Writ­ing on Evo­lu­tion Now Dig­i­tized and Avail­able Online

George Orwell Explains in a Reveal­ing 1944 Let­ter Why He’d Write 1984

The Dai­ly Habits of High­ly Pro­duc­tive Philoso­phers: Niet­zsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

Philoso­phers Drink­ing Cof­fee: The Exces­sive Habits of Kant, Voltaire & Kierkegaard

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

David Bowie Lists His 25 Favorite LPs in His Record Collection: Stream Most of Them Free Online


Image by Adam Bielaws­ki, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

This is the kind of thing we usu­al­ly just men­tion on our Twit­ter stream. But per­haps you’re not fol­low­ing us there, and we did­n’t want you to miss this.…

In 2003, David Bowie rum­maged through his col­lec­tion of 2500 vinyl LPs and cre­at­ed a list of his 25 favorite albums for Van­i­ty Fair. The list came pref­aced by these (and oth­er) words:

If you can pos­si­bly get your hands on any of these, I guar­an­tee you evenings of lis­ten­ing plea­sure, and you will encour­age a new high-mind­ed cir­cle of friends, although one or two choic­es will lead some of your old pals to think you com­plete­ly barmy. So, with­out chronol­o­gy, genre, or rea­son, here­with, in no par­tic­u­lar order, 25 albums that could change your rep­u­ta­tion.

Just as eclec­tic as you might expect, the list rec­om­mends every­thing from blues tunes by John Lee Hook­er, min­i­mal­ist com­po­si­tions by Steve Reich, avant garde rock by The Vel­vet Under­ground, elec­tron­ic music by The Elec­trosoniks, psy­che­del­ic folk music by The Incred­i­ble String Band, and the last works of Richard Strauss. You can view a copy of Bowie’s list here (and per­haps cou­ple it with his list of 100 Favorite Books).

And despite his con­cerns about find­ing these albums in sup­ply, you can stream most of his favorite albums for free on Spo­ti­fy using the playlist above. (Yes, we got a lit­tle inspired and pulled it togeth­er.) If you need the soft­ware, down­load it here.

via @stevesilberman

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:

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Bri­an Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion & 59 Books For Build­ing Your Intel­lec­tu­al World

Kurt Cobain Lists His 50 Favorite Albums: Fea­tures LPs by David Bowie, Pub­lic Ene­my & More

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Jazz ‘Hot’: The Rare 1938 Short Film With Jazz Legend Django Reinhardt

Here’s a remark­able short film of the great gyp­sy jazz gui­tarist Djan­go Rein­hardt, vio­lin­ist Stéphane Grap­pel­li and their band the Quin­tette du Hot Club de France per­form­ing on a movie set in 1938. The film was hasti­ly orga­nized by the band’s British agent Lew Grade as a way to intro­duce the band’s unique style of gui­tar- and vio­lin-based jazz to the British pub­lic before their first UK tour. As Michael Dreg­ni writes in Gyp­sy Jazz: In Search of Djan­go Rein­hardt and the Soul of Gyp­sy Swing:

The Quin­tette was unknown to the British pub­lic, and there was no telling how their new music would res­onate. So, Grade sought to edu­cate his audi­ence. He hired a movie crew to film a six-minute-plus pro­mo­tion­al short enti­tled Jazz “Hot” to be shown in British the­aters pro­vid­ing a les­son in jazz appre­ci­a­tion to warm up the crowds.

That would explain the didac­tic tone of the first two and a half min­utes of the film, which plods along as a reme­di­al les­son on the nature of jazz. It opens with an orches­tra giv­ing a note-for-note per­for­mance of Han­del’s “Largo,” from the opera Xerx­es, which the nar­ra­tor then con­trasts to the free­dom of jazz impro­vi­sa­tion.

But the film real­ly comes alive when Djan­go arrives on the screen and launch­es into a jazz arrange­ment of the pop­u­lar French song “J’at­tendrai.” (The name means “I will wait,” and it’s a rework­ing of a 1933 Ital­ian song, “Tornerai” or “You Will Return,” by Dino Olivieri and Nino Rastel­li.) Although the sequences of Rein­hardt and the band play­ing were obvi­ous­ly syn­chro­nized to a pre­vi­ous­ly record­ed track, Jazz “Hot” is the best sur­viv­ing visu­al doc­u­ment of the leg­endary gui­tarist’s two-fin­gered fret­ting tech­nique, which he devel­oped after los­ing the use of most of his left hand in a fire. To learn more about Rein­hardt and to watch a full-length doc­u­men­tary on his life, see our August 2012 post, “Djan­go Rein­hardt and the Inspir­ing Sto­ry Behind His Gui­tar Tech­nique.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Djan­go Rein­hardt Demon­strates His Gui­tar Genius in Rare Footage From the 1930s, 40s & 50s

How Djan­go Rein­hardt, After Los­ing Two Fin­gers, Devel­oped An Inno­v­a­tive Style & Inspired Black Sab­bath Gui­tarist Toni Iom­mi to Do the Same

Hear Lost Record­ing of Pink Floyd Play­ing with Jazz Vio­lin­ist Stéphane Grap­pel­li on “Wish You Were Here”

How to Make a Book From Scratch

In a new video series from “How To Make Every­thing” — a Youtube chan­nel ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing out how to break down com­plex pro­duc­tion process­es and make things from scratch — you can watch Andy George cre­ate a book using very tra­di­tion­al tech­niques. And when I say tra­di­tion­al, I mean tra­di­tion­al. He cre­ates papyrus, parch­ment, ink and leather book cov­ers by hand. And be warned, some parts may make you a bit squea­mish. “The How to Make a Book” series is divid­ed into eight sep­a­rate videos. If you click play above, you can watch them all from start to fin­ish.

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!

via Devour

Relat­ed Con­tent

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

Watch a Japan­ese Crafts­man Lov­ing­ly Bring a Tat­tered Old Book Back to Near Mint Con­di­tion

The Birth and Decline of a Book: Two Videos for Bib­lio­philes

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

Kraftwerk’s First Concert: The Beginning of the Endlessly Influential Band (1970)

“No, I have not short­ed out or fall­en in love with a cyborg,” insist­ed Robert Christ­gau in his review of Kraftwerk’s 1977 album Trans-Europe Express, which he cred­it­ed with “a sim­ple-mind­ed air of mock-seri­ous fas­ci­na­tion with melody and rep­e­ti­tion” and tex­tures that “sound like par­o­dies by some cos­mic school­boy of every lush syn­the­siz­er surge that’s ever stuck in your gul­let — yet also work the way those surges are sup­posed to work.” To elec­tron­ic music fans, Kraftwerk now have a sta­tus even beyond that of the grand old men of the tra­di­tion, but con­tin­ue to tour the world enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly (with their own detached, bio­me­chan­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of enthu­si­asm), per­form­ing the delib­er­ate­ly tech­no­log­i­cal, some­times star­tling­ly jagged, some­times star­tling­ly rhyth­mic music they invent­ed.

The world got their first taste of it, in an ear­ly exper­i­men­tal form, a few short years before suc­cess­ful and rel­a­tive­ly main­stream Kraftwerk records like Trans-Europe Express or Auto­bahn came along. The group debuted onstage in their native Ger­many (in the town of Soest, to be pre­cise) in the 1970 con­cert cap­tured on video. Watch the gig above, or find it on YouTube. Togeth­er, the footage cap­tures with unex­pect­ed clar­i­ty the avant-gardism of both Kraftwerk’s per­for­ma­tive sen­si­bil­i­ty and tech­no­log­i­cal set­up as well as the reac­tion of the crowd, on the whole more pleased than bewil­dered. Now, in an age where per­form­ers play­ing from lap­tops onstage have become com­mon­place — even Kraftwerk them­selves have joined that rather intro­vert­ed par­ty — it does­n’t seem as strik­ing as all that.

But the genre of “kraut rock” (which All Music Guide describes as made by “legions of Ger­man bands of the ear­ly ’70s that expand­ed the son­ic pos­si­bil­i­ties of art and pro­gres­sive rock,” going in “mechan­i­cal and elec­tron­ic” direc­tions by “work­ing with ear­ly syn­the­siz­ers and splic­ing togeth­er seem­ing­ly uncon­nect­ed reels of tape”) began in a dif­fer­ent real­i­ty — in an era when Christ­gau could still, review­ing a lat­er Kraftwerk album in 1981, write that every time he hears their lyric “ ‘I pro­gram my home computer/Bring myself into the future,’ I want to make a tape for all those zealots who claim a word proces­sor will change my life.”

The com­plete 1970 con­cert is on YouTube here.

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via Side Line/Vice

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meet the Dr. Who Com­pos­er Who Almost Turned The Bea­t­les’ “Yes­ter­day” Into Ear­ly Elec­tron­i­ca

Mr. Rogers Intro­duces Kids to Exper­i­men­tal Elec­tron­ic Music by Bruce Haack & Esther Nel­son (1968)

Thomas Dol­by Explains How a Syn­the­siz­er Works on a Jim Hen­son Kids Show (1989)

Pio­neer­ing Elec­tron­ic Com­pos­er Karl­heinz Stock­hausen Presents “Four Cri­te­ria of Elec­tron­ic Music” & Oth­er Lec­tures in Eng­lish (1972)

Meet the “Tel­har­mo­ni­um,” the First Syn­the­siz­er (and Pre­de­ces­sor to Muzak), Invent­ed in 1897

Hear Sev­en Hours of Women Mak­ing Elec­tron­ic Music (1938–2014)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Nietzsche Lays Out His Philosophy of Education and a Still-Timely Critique of the Modern University (1872)


In a recent entry in the New York Times’ phi­los­o­phy blog “The Stone,” Robert Frode­man and Adam Brig­gle locate a “momen­tous turn­ing point” in the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy: its insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion in the research uni­ver­si­ty in the late 19th cen­tu­ry. This, they argue, is when phi­los­o­phy lost its way—when it became sub­ject to the dic­tates of the acad­e­my, placed in com­pe­ti­tion with the hard sci­ences, and forced to prove its worth as an instru­ment of prof­it and progress. Well over a hun­dred years after this devel­op­ment, we debate a wider cri­sis in high­er edu­ca­tion, as uni­ver­si­ties (writes Mimi Howard in the Los Ange­les Review of Books) “increas­ing­ly resem­ble glob­al cor­po­ra­tions with their inter­na­tion­al cam­pus­es and multi­bil­lion dol­lar endow­ments. Tuition has sky­rock­et­ed. Debt is astro­nom­i­cal. The class­rooms them­selves are more often run on the backs of pre­car­i­ous adjuncts and grad­u­ate stu­dents than by real pro­fes­sors.”

It’s a cut­throat sys­tem I endured for many years as both an adjunct and grad­u­ate stu­dent, but even before that, in my ear­ly under­grad­u­ate days, I remem­ber well watch­ing pub­lic, then pri­vate, col­leges suc­cumb to demand for lean­er oper­at­ing bud­gets, more encroach­ment by cor­po­rate donors and trustees, and less auton­o­my for edu­ca­tors. Uni­ver­si­ties have become, in a word, high-priced, high-pow­ered voca­tion­al schools where every dis­ci­pline must prove its val­ue on the open mar­ket or risk mas­sive cuts, and where stu­dents are treat­ed, and often demand to be treat­ed, like con­sumers. Expen­sive pri­vate enti­ties like for-prof­it col­leges and cor­po­rate edu­ca­tion­al com­pa­nies thrive in this envi­ron­ment, often promis­ing much but offer­ing lit­tle, and in this envi­ron­ment, phi­los­o­phy and the lib­er­al arts bear a crush­ing bur­den to demon­strate their rel­e­vance and prof­itabil­i­ty.

Howard writes about this sit­u­a­tion in the con­text of her review of Friedrich Niet­zsche’s lit­tle-known, 1872 series of lec­tures, On the Future of Our Edu­ca­tion­al Insti­tu­tions, pub­lished in a new trans­la­tion by Damion Searls with the pithy title Anti-Edu­ca­tion. Niet­zsche, an aca­d­e­m­ic prodi­gy, had become a pro­fes­sor of clas­si­cal philol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel at only 24 years of age. By 27, when he wrote his lec­tures, he was already dis­il­lu­sioned with teach­ing and the stric­tures of pro­fes­sion­al acad­e­mia, though he stayed in his appoint­ment until ill­ness forced him to retire in 1878. In the lec­tures, Niet­zsche exco­ri­ates a bour­geois high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tem in terms that could come right out of a crit­i­cal arti­cle on the high­er ed of our day. In a Paris Review essay, his trans­la­tor Searls quotes the surly philoso­pher on what “the state and the mass­es were appar­ent­ly clam­or­ing for”:

as much knowl­edge and edu­ca­tion as possible—leading to the great­est pos­si­ble pro­duc­tion and demand—leading to the great­est hap­pi­ness: that’s the for­mu­la. Here we have Util­i­ty as the goal and pur­pose of edu­ca­tion, or more pre­cise­ly Gain: the high­est pos­si­ble income … Cul­ture is tol­er­at­ed only inso­far as it serves the cause of earn­ing mon­ey. 

Per­haps lit­tle has changed but the scale and the appear­ance of the uni­ver­si­ty. How­ev­er, Niet­zsche did admire the fact that the school sys­tem “as we know it today… takes the Greek and Latin lan­guages seri­ous­ly for years on end.” Stu­dents still received a clas­si­cal edu­ca­tion, which Niet­zsche approv­ing­ly cred­it­ed with at least teach­ing them prop­er dis­ci­pline. And yet, as the cliché has it, a lit­tle knowl­edge is a dan­ger­ous thing; or rather, a lit­tle knowl­edge does not an edu­ca­tion make. Though many pur­sue an edu­ca­tion, few peo­ple actu­al­ly achieve it, he believed. “No one would strive for edu­ca­tion,” wrote Niet­zsche, “if they knew how unbe­liev­ably small the num­ber of tru­ly edu­cat­ed peo­ple actu­al­ly was, or ever could be.” For Niet­zsche, the uni­ver­si­ty was a scam, trick­ing “a great mass of peo­ple… into going against their nature and pur­su­ing an edu­ca­tion” they could nev­er tru­ly achieve or appre­ci­ate.

While it’s true that Niet­zsche’s cri­tiques are dri­ven in part by his own cul­tur­al elit­ism, it’s also true that he seeks in his lec­tures to define edu­ca­tion in entire­ly dif­fer­ent terms than the util­i­tar­i­an “state and masses”—terms more in line with clas­si­cal ideals as well as with the Ger­man con­cept of Bil­dung, the term for edu­ca­tion that also means, writes Searls, “the process of form­ing the most desir­able self, as well as the end point of the process.” It’s a res­o­nance that the Eng­lish word has lost, though its Latin roots—e duc­ere, “to lead out of” or away from the com­mon and conventional—still retain some of this sense. Bil­dung, Searls goes on, “means enter­ing the realm of the ful­ly formed: true cul­ture is the cul­mi­na­tion of an edu­ca­tion, and true edu­ca­tion trans­mits and cre­ates cul­ture.”

Niet­zsche the philol­o­gist took the rich valence of Bil­dung very seri­ous­ly. In the years after pen­ning his lec­tures on the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem, he com­plet­ed the essays that would become Untime­ly Med­i­ta­tions (includ­ing one of his most famous, “On the Use and Abuse of His­to­ry for Life”). Among those essays was “Schopen­hauer as Edu­ca­tor,” in which Niet­zsche calls the gloomy philoso­pher Arthur Schopen­hauer his “true edu­ca­tor.” How­ev­er, writes Peter Fitzsi­mons, the “image” of Schopen­hauer “is more a metaphor for Niet­zsche’s own self-educa­tive process.” For Niet­zsche, the process of a true edu­ca­tion con­sists not in rote mem­o­riza­tion, or in attain­ing cul­tur­al sig­ni­fiers con­sis­tent with one’s class or ambi­tions, or in learn­ing a set of prac­ti­cal skills with which to make mon­ey. It is, Fitzsi­mons observes, “rather an exhor­ta­tion to break free from con­ven­tion­al­i­ty, to be respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing our own exis­tence, and to over­come the iner­tia of tra­di­tion and custom”—or what Niet­zsche calls the uni­ver­sal con­di­tion of “sloth.” In “Schopen­hauer as Edu­ca­tor,” Niet­zsche defines the role of the edu­ca­tor and expli­cates the pur­pose of learn­ing in delib­er­ate­ly Pla­ton­ic terms:

…for your true nature lies, not con­cealed deep with­in you, but immea­sur­ably high above you, or at least above that which you usu­al­ly take your­self to be. Your true edu­ca­tors and for­ma­tive teach­ers reveal to you what the true basic mate­r­i­al of your being is, some­thing in itself ined­u­ca­ble and in any case dif­fi­cult of access, bound and paral­ysed: your edu­ca­tors can be only your lib­er­a­tors.

As in Pla­to’s notion of innate knowl­edge, or anam­ne­sis, Niet­zsche believed that edu­ca­tion con­sists main­ly of a clear­ing away of “the weeds and rub­bish and ver­min” that attack and obscure “the real ground­work and import of thy being.” This kind of edu­ca­tion, of course, can­not be for­mal­ized with­in our present insti­tu­tions, can­not be mar­ket­ed to a mass audi­ence, and can­not serve the inter­ests of the state and the mar­ket. Hence it can­not be obtained by sim­ply pro­gress­ing through a sys­tem of grades and degrees, though one can use such sys­tems to obtain access to the lib­er­a­to­ry mate­ri­als one pre­sum­ably needs to real­ize one’s “true nature.”

For Niet­zsche, in his exam­ple of Schopen­hauer, achiev­ing a true edu­ca­tion is an enter­prise fraught with “three dangers”—those of iso­la­tion, of crip­pling doubt, and of the pain of con­fronting one’s lim­i­ta­tions. These dan­gers “threat­en us all,” but most peo­ple, Niet­zsche thinks, lack the for­ti­tude and vig­or to tru­ly brave and con­quer them. Those who acquire Bil­dung, or cul­ture, those who real­ize their “true selves,” he con­cludes “must prove by their own deed that the love of truth has itself awe and pow­er,” though “the dig­ni­ty of phi­los­o­phy is trod­den in the mire,” and one will like­ly receive lit­tle respite, rec­om­pense, or recog­ni­tion for their labors.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dig­i­tal Niet­zsche: Down­load Nietzsche’s Major Works as Free eBooks

What is the Good Life? Pla­to, Aris­to­tle, Niet­zsche, & Kant’s Ideas in 4 Ani­mat­ed Videos

Down­load Wal­ter Kaufmann’s Lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre & Mod­ern Thought (1960)

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

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