The Gestapo Points to Guernica and Asks Picasso, “Did You Do This?;” Picasso Replies “No, You Did!”

His­to­ry remem­bers Pablo Picas­so first as an inno­v­a­tive painter, and sec­ond as an unin­hib­it­ed per­son­al­i­ty. The lat­ter espe­cial­ly gen­er­at­ed many an anec­dote in his long life, some sure­ly apoc­ryphal but most prob­a­bly true. A short Guardian edi­to­r­i­al on one of his most famous can­vas­es begins with the sto­ry of when, “in occu­pied Paris, a Gestapo offi­cer who had barged his way into Picasso’s apart­ment point­ed at a pho­to of the mur­al, Guer­ni­ca, ask­ing: ‘Did you do that?’ ‘No,’ Picas­so replied, ‘you did’, his wit fizzing with the anger that ani­mates the piece” — a piece that took no small amount of bold­ness to paint in the first place.

Guer­ni­ca, much more of a vis­cer­al expe­ri­ence than the aver­age paint­ing, resists straight­for­ward descrip­tion, but the arti­cle offers one: “In black and white, the piece has the urgency of a news­pa­per pho­to. Flail­ing bulls and hors­es show that the vis­cer­al hor­rors of war are not just an affront to human civil­i­sa­tion, but to life.”

Paint­ed in June 1937 at Picas­so’s home in Paris, in response to the bomb­ing by Nazi Ger­many and Fas­cist Italy of the Basque vil­lage from which the work would take its name, Guer­ni­ca raised aware­ness of (as well as relief funds for) the Span­ish Civ­il War when it debuted at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris and sub­se­quent­ly toured the world itself.

Call­ing Picas­so’s paint­ing “prob­a­bly the most suc­cess­ful art­work about war ever cre­at­ed,” Slate’s Noah Char­ney cites play­wright Bertolt Brecht’s use of Ver­frem­dungsef­fekt, or the “alien­ation effect,” where­in “the idea was to no longer encour­age the tra­di­tion­al, Aris­totelian approach that the audi­ence of a play (or view­er of an art­work) should engage with the artwork/performance with a ‘will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief,’ vol­un­tar­i­ly pre­tend­ing that what is hap­pen­ing on stage is real. Instead, Brecht want­ed to make it clear that the audi­ence was look­ing at a work of art, an arti­fi­cial per­for­mance that nev­er­the­less touch­es on real human emo­tions and issues.” Both Brecht and Picas­so used this tech­nique to effect social change with their work.

Guer­ni­ca also chal­lenges its view­ers in the best way, look­ing almost play­ful at first glance but almost imme­di­ate­ly demand­ing that they con­front the hor­ror it actu­al­ly con­tains. “A real­is­tic image of the bomb­ing of the town of Guer­ni­ca, with corpses and screams in the night, would like­ly have felt melo­dra­mat­ic, sac­cha­rine, dif­fi­cult to look at,” writes Char­ney. “It might have been Roman­ti­cized or it might have been so grit­ty that our reac­tion would be to shut down our abil­i­ty to sym­pa­thize, as a defense mech­a­nism. The fig­ures are almost car­toon­ish, but then of course, when you look more close­ly, when you know the con­text, they are not. But the child­like abstrac­tion pulls us in, where­as the same sub­ject, han­dled as a pho­to­re­al­ist blood-fest, would repel us.”

You can learn more about Guer­ni­ca, the events that inspired it, and the artist that turned those events into one of the most endur­ing images from the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry with the short BBC News clip above, and also this chap­ter in Khan Acad­e­my’s online art-his­to­ry course, this video primer and 3D tour, and Alain Resnais and Robert Hes­sens’ 1950 short film, almost as haunt­ing as the paint­ing itself. After all that, the only step that remains is to go see it in per­son at the Museo Nacional Cen­tro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, where it has resided since 1992. And though Guer­ni­ca may now be safe from pry­ing Gestapo hands, the need for vig­i­lance against the kinds of destruc­tive ide­ol­o­gy that fired Picas­so up to paint it will nev­er go away.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Guer­ni­ca: Alain Resnais’ Haunt­ing Film on Picasso’s Paint­ing & the Crimes of the Span­ish Civ­il War

A 3D Tour of Picasso’s Guer­ni­ca

How to Under­stand a Picas­so Paint­ing: A Video Primer

The Mys­tery of Picas­so: Land­mark Film of a Leg­endary Artist at Work, by Hen­ri-Georges Clouzot

Picas­so Makes Won­der­ful Abstract Art

Watch Picas­so Cre­ate Entire Paint­ings in Mag­nif­i­cent Time-Lapse Film (1956)

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.

Watch Simon & Garfunkel Sing “The Sound of Silence” 45 Years After Its Release, and Just Get Hauntingly Better with Time

The leg­end of Simon & Gar­funkel is big­ger than either per­former, though only one of them remained a major star after their breakup, while the oth­er became… too often the butt of unkind jokes. At the pin­na­cle of their fame in 1970, Art Gar­funkel, the tall angel­ic singer with the gold­en halo of curls, walked away from the duo as their rela­tion­ship soured. Gar­funkel moved to Con­necti­cut and became a math teacher for a spell. “I would talk them through a math prob­lem,” he remem­bered in 2015, “and ask if any­one had any ques­tions and they would say: ‘What were the Bea­t­les like?’”

Paul Simon, Gar­funkel recalled of the acri­mo­nious split, “was get­ting on my nerves. The jokes had run dry.” Per­haps it’s for the best they quit when they were ahead since their friend­ship nev­er recov­ered. After their famous Cen­tral Park reunion con­cert in 1981, a planned tour fell apart when they stopped speak­ing to each oth­er. At their 1990 induc­tion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the duo played three songs and report­ed­ly left with­out a word exchanged between them. “Arthur and I agree about almost noth­ing,” Simon remarked. Their split has all the qual­i­ties of a ter­ri­ble divorce.

Luck­i­ly for their fans, the two have infre­quent­ly giv­en their part­ner­ship anoth­er shot, stag­ing tours in 1993 and 2004. And in 2009, Gar­funkel showed up for three songs dur­ing a Simon con­cert at New York’s Bea­con the­ater. This led to a tour of Asia and Aus­tralia and, as you can see up top, an appear­ance togeth­er at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniver­sary Con­cert at Madi­son Square Gar­den, where they played one of their biggest hits—and arguably one of Simon’s great­est songs—“The Sound of Silence” (1964). If you didn’t already know that they can’t stand each other’s com­pa­ny, you’d hard­ly guess it from the video.

After Simon’s gen­tly plucked gui­tar intro, they exchange brief but gen­uine smiles, then launch into har­mo­ny, their voic­es blend­ing with all the haunt­ing beau­ty of their hey­day. In fact, it’s pos­si­ble that—despite the bit­ter­ness and wear of sev­er­al decades—they sound bet­ter than they ever did. Com­pare this per­for­mance to that below, a live Cana­di­an TV appear­ance from 1966. (Simon earnest­ly, and iron­i­cal­ly in hind­sight, intro­duces the song as a com­ment on strained com­mu­ni­ca­tion.) The ear­ly per­for­mance seems rushed and man­nered com­pared to their impas­sioned reunion in 2009.

It’s a tru­ly haunt­ing expe­ri­ence fit­ting a tru­ly haunt­ing song, and made all the more poignant by the fact that they may nev­er per­form togeth­er again. In 2010, what is like­ly their last reunion end­ed when Garfunkel’s voice failed him. Diag­nosed with a con­di­tion called “vocal pare­sis,” he’s spent the past few years regain­ing his singing abil­i­ties. But, while Simon has ruled out anoth­er reunion, Gar­funkel, for all his ran­cor and regret, holds out hope. “When we get togeth­er,” he told The Tele­graph in 2015, “it’s a delight to both of our ears. A lit­tle bub­ble comes over us and it seems effort­less. We blend. So as far as this half is con­cerned, I would say, ‘Why not, while we’re still alive?’” They may have made a very unhap­py cou­ple, but the mag­ic that brought them togeth­er clear­ly has­n’t suf­fered for it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Paul Simon Feelin’-Very-Groovy Moment

Paul Simon, Then and Now: Cel­e­brat­ing His 70th Birth­day

Art Gar­funkel Lists 1195 Books He Read Over 45 Years, Plus His 157 Favorites (Many Free)

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

Stevie Ray Vaughan Plays the Acoustic Guitar in Rare Footage, Letting Us See His Guitar Virtuosity in Its Purest Form

Ask accom­plished blues and south­ern rock gui­tarists who they lis­ten to and you’ll hear a num­ber of names come up: Duane All­man, Albert King, Bud­dy Guy… the list of gui­tarists’ gui­tarists could go on and on. One name you’ll hear from near­ly every­one: Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an, the king of Texas blues, before whom even the very best play­ers stand in awe, a gui­tarist whose leg­end has only grown in stature since the music world lost him in a trag­ic, fatal heli­copter crash in 1990.

The most icon­ic gui­tarists get asso­ci­at­ed with their instru­ments of choice, and Vaugh­an is no excep­tion. The Fly­ing V defines the look and sound of Albert King; the cus­tom black Gib­son 335 (“Lucille”) that of B.B. King. And when we think of Vaugh­an, we may imme­di­ate­ly think of “Num­ber One,” the beat up Fend­er Stra­to­cast­er he loved so much he called it the “first wife.” One of a num­ber of Strats Vaugh­an played through­out his too-brief career, “Num­ber One” has become “a cen­ter­piece” at the Texas State His­to­ry Muse­um, and for very good rea­son.

Almost no gui­tarist before or since has ripped such raw emo­tion and sear­ing pow­er from an instru­ment, with the excep­tion per­haps of Vaughan’s hero, Jimi Hen­drix. Like Hen­drix, Vaugh­an is known entire­ly as an elec­tric gui­tarist, his tone so leg­endary it has inspired a cult fol­low­ing all its own. But give SRV, as his fans call him, an acoustic gui­tar and you’ll see right away why the most the dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of that myth­ic tone is how sparkling clean it is.

Vaugh­an need­ed no effects to pro­duce his mas­sive sound, though he used a few on occa­sion (most notably a clas­sic Vox wah ped­al that once belonged to Jimi). The tone, as old­er gui­tarists will for­ev­er tell aspir­ing new­bies, was in his fingers—in the dynam­ics of his pick­ing, his bends and slides, his inti­mate, force­ful engage­ment with the fret­board. In the rare acoustic ses­sions here, see just why Vaugh­an is so revered. Above watch him launch into a six-string 12-bar acoustic blues.

And just above, see Vaugh­an tear it up on a 12-string acoustic gui­tar in his MTV Unplugged appear­ance in 1990, the year of his death. Gui­tarists and seri­ous fans of the blues and coun­try gui­tar will often namecheck Dan­ny Gat­ton—the Wash­ing­ton, DC wun­derkind so incred­i­bly tal­ent­ed that he earned the nick­name “The Humbler”—as the great­est gui­tarist they’ve ever seen. It’s hard to argue with that assess­ment. But Vaugh­an wasn’t just an amaz­ing play­er, he was also a beau­ti­ful­ly under­stat­ed per­former. Here we have the unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to see his show­man­ship and skill stripped to their essence.

via Soci­ety of Rock

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jimi Hen­drix Plays the Delta Blues on a 12-String Acoustic Gui­tar in 1968, and Jams with His Blues Idols, Bud­dy Guy & B.B. King

B.B. King Changes Bro­ken Gui­tar String Mid-Song at Farm Aid, 1985 and Doesn’t Miss a Beat

Ste­vie Ray Vaughan’s Ver­sion of “Lit­tle Wing” Played on Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment, the Gayageum

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

LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman Creates a New Podcast Offering Wisdom on Nurturing & Scaling New Businesses

How do you cre­ate and even­tu­al­ly scale a suc­cess­ful busi­ness? It’s a com­pli­cat­ed ques­tion. And you can do worse than get answers from Reid Hoff­man. He’s cur­rent­ly a part­ner at the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Grey­lock Part­ners. But you prob­a­bly know him best as the co-founder of LinkedIn, the pro­fes­sion­al social net­work site recent­ly acquired by Microsoft for $26 bil­lion dol­lars. In his new pod­cast, Mas­ters of Scale, Hoff­man looks at how com­pa­nies grow from zero users to a gazil­lion by inter­view­ing fel­low Sil­i­con Val­ley entre­pre­neurs who have crossed that bridge. Guests include Facebook’s Mark Zucker­berg & Sheryl Sand­berg, Netflix’s Reed Hast­ings, and Google’s Eric Schmidt, among oth­ers.

Even if you work in a busi­ness with more mod­est aspi­ra­tions, there’s some wis­dom you can take away from these wide-rang­ing con­ver­sa­tions. Hoff­man’s con­ver­sa­tion with Airbn­b’s CEO Bri­an Chesky (above) about hand-craft­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ences would help you run almost any busi­ness. You can find the Mas­ters of Scale pod­cast on iTunes, Stitch­, Spo­ti­fy, and Google Play. Also find cours­es from oth­er sea­soned entre­pre­neurs right below.

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:

How to Start a Start-Up: A Free Course from Y Com­bi­na­tor Taught at Stan­ford

Seth Godin’s Start­up School: A Free Mini-Course for New Entre­pre­neurs

Peter Thiel’s Stan­ford Course on Star­tups: Read the Lec­ture Notes Free Online

Start Your Start­up with Free Stan­ford Cours­es and Lec­tures

Down­load Marc Andreessen’s Influ­en­tial Blog (“Pmar­ca”) as a Free eBook

150 Free Online Busi­ness Cours­es

When Bowie & Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street” Music Video Becomes a Silent Film

You might remem­ber it. Back in 1985, Mick Jag­ger and David Bowie record­ed “Danc­ing in the Street” to raise mon­ey for Live Aid, the famine relief mega-con­certs orga­nized by Bob Geld­of. Orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten by Mar­vin Gaye, and first made famous by Martha and the Van­del­las in 1964, “Danc­ing in the Street” topped the British charts when Bowie and Jag­ger record­ed their ver­sion in 13 short hours. The col­lab­o­ra­tion also yield­ed what’s pos­si­bly the worst music video ever made. Or so this sur­vey by The Guardian would con­clude. NME ranks it as the 11th worst of all-time.

Shot by David Mal­let at the Lon­don Dock­lands, the orig­i­nal video (see below) fea­tures “Bowie in an over­sized yel­low rain­coat and leop­ar­dish jump­suit and Jag­ger in yel­low sneak­ers and a floun­cy elec­tric-green blouse,” writes Mark Kurlan­sky in his book, Ready For a Brand New Beat: How “Danc­ing in the Street” Became the Anthem.

He adds, “It is hard to under­stand what is going on in this video of two men danc­ing and hop­ping around each oth­er.” And if you turn the sound off, it only gets worse … if that’s pos­si­ble.

Above, see what hap­pened when writer & direc­tor Strack Azar cre­at­ed a “silent” ver­sion of the Jagger/Bowie video last year. It’s laugh-out-loud fun­ny at times. It’s also a good reminder that when you watch some­thing visu­al, you can’t dis­count the impact that the sound­track makes on the total expe­ri­ence.

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 Releas­es 36 Music Videos of His Clas­sic Songs from the 1970s and 1980s

Bob Geld­of Talks About the Great­est Day of His Life, Step­ping on the Stage of Live Aid, in a Short Doc by Errol Mor­ris

Mick Jag­ger Tells the Sto­ry Behind ‘Gimme Shel­ter’ and Mer­ry Clayton’s Haunt­ing Back­ground Vocals

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Relax with 8 Hours of Classical Space Music: From Richard Strauss & Haydn, to Brian Eno, Philip Glass & Beyond

If I had one piece of advice to pass on to a younger gen­er­a­tion it would be this: lis­ten to more space rock. The 60s/70s sub­genre of progressive/psychedelic rock gets its name as much from its sub­ject mat­ter as from its loose, hyp­not­ic, futur­is­tic son­ic character—“Third Stone from the Sun,” “Space Odd­i­ty,” “Inter­stel­lar Over­drive,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Sil­ver Machine”… you know…. It mel­lows you out, man, some­thing every­one could use right now, and inspires visions of a groovi­er future, though not with­out the occa­sion­al dystopic edge.

Alter­nate­ly, I would rec­om­mend that every­one acquire a col­lec­tion of cos­mic jazz, the Afro­fu­tur­ist genre pio­neered by Sun Ra and John and Alice Coltrane. But maybe you don’t like space rock or free jazz, yet you still dream about space? Maybe you pre­fer more clas­si­cal, min­i­mal­ist, or ambi­ent fare? Nev­er fear, we’ve got a sound­track for you—one sure to mel­low you out and inspire you, who­ev­er you are.

Cre­at­ed to cel­e­brate Stephen Hawking’s 75th birth­day this past Jan­u­ary, the “Space-Themed Clas­si­cal Music” Playlist below draws togeth­er pieces you’ll rec­og­nize from clas­sic sci-fi films, like Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathus­tra; pieces writ­ten espe­cial­ly for such films—such as John Williams’ E.T. score and Jer­ry Goldsmith’s main title for Alien; and music inspired by space themes, such as Bri­an Eno’s “Under Stars” and Judith Lang Zaimont’s Jupiter’s Moons. The Spo­ti­fy playlist con­tains a total of 75 tracks of space-themed or inspired clas­si­cal works. (If you need Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware down­load it here.) The YouTube ver­sion at the top only has 62 of those tracks.

The com­pi­la­tion does give a lit­tle nod to space rock with the inclu­sion, at the very end, of Pink Floyd’s “Keep Talk­ing” from The Divi­sion Bell. And the penul­ti­mate track nods to the very space-inspired genre of trip-hop, with John D. Boswell’s Carl Sagan- and Stephen Hawk­ing-sam­pling “A Glo­ri­ous Dawn.” I don’t know about you, but Sagan’s mel­liflu­ous voice—autotuned or no—never fails to bright­en my mood and make me more curi­ous about what’s out there.

Of course, apart from sci-fi sound­tracks, there is a long tra­di­tion of com­posers writ­ing space-inspired music, stretch­ing back before sci­en­tists like Sagan and his Russ­ian coun­ter­parts helped send astro­nauts and satel­lites into orbit. Clas­si­cal sta­tion WQXR has put togeth­er a list of 11 such com­posers: from the 18th cen­tu­ry Franz Joseph Haydn to the 20th cen­tu­ry Karl­heinz Stock­hausen.

Then there’s Gus­tav Holst, who wrote a suite about all 8 plan­ets between 1914 and 1916—before Pluto’s dis­cov­ery (and lat­er dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion). I’ve always been par­tial to the bom­bas­tic “Jupiter,” above. Even if you haven’t heard it, Holst’s suite will sound very famil­iar, hav­ing inspired every­thing from video game music, to the Rug­by World Cup theme, to the score for Brave­heart. It has also—showing that clas­si­cal space music is a bona fide sub­genre in con­ver­sa­tion with itself—directly influ­enced John Williams’ Star Wars music and the main theme of Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca. In what­ev­er form it takes, I think we could all do with a lot more space music in our lives. Lis­ten, for exam­ple, to the excerpt from Alan Sil­vestri’s score for the 2014 Cos­mos reboot, below, and tell me oth­er­wise. For anoth­er fla­vor of a space­man’s sound­track, check out’s “Astro­naut’s Playlist” here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Clas­si­cal Music in Stan­ley Kubrick’s Films: Lis­ten to a Free, 4 Hour Playlist

Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” Pro­vides a Sound­track for the Final Scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

The His­to­ry of Spir­i­tu­al Jazz: Hear a Tran­scen­dent 12-Hour Mix Fea­tur­ing John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Her­bie Han­cock & More

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

Why Catchy Songs Get Stuck in Our Brains: New Study Explains the Science of Earworms

What’s your cur­rent ear­worm?

For obvi­ous yet sad rea­sons, “Rasp­ber­ry Beret” and “Ash­es to Ash­es” have tun­neled into my brain in the past year. Can’t seem to shake ‘em loose, though it cer­tain­ly could be worse. Wan­der through a shop­ping mall (while they still exist), go to a chain restau­rant or gro­cery store. You may pick up an unwant­ed passenger—the tune of a song you loathe, yet can­not for the life of you for­get.

But can the Prince/Bowie sound­track in my mind prop­er­ly be called an “ear­worm”? Accord­ing to researchers at Durham Uni­ver­si­ty, Gold­smiths, Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tub­in­gen, this is a sci­en­tif­ic ques­tion. Music psy­chol­o­gist Kel­ly Jakubows­ki of Durham Uni­ver­si­ty and her col­leagues pub­lished a study last year titled “Dis­sect­ing an Ear­worm: Melod­ic Fea­tures of Song Pop­u­lar­i­ty Pre­dict Invol­un­tary Musi­cal Imagery.” In it, they define the prop­er­ties of songs that pro­duce “invol­un­tary” recall.

You can read the study your­self here. It begins with a sum­ma­ry of the pre­vi­ous research on “the con­cepts of musi­cal ‘catch­i­ness’ and song ‘hooks,’” as well as the advice suc­cess­ful musi­cians often give for writ­ing “hooks” that will stick with lis­ten­ers for life. It’s not as easy as it looks, though one of the hall­marks of a suc­cess­ful ear­worm is sim­plic­i­ty. As Joan­na Klein writes at the New York Times, Jakubows­ki and her col­leagues “found that ear­worm songs tend­ed to be fast, with a com­mon, sim­ple melod­ic struc­ture that gen­er­al­ly went up and down and repeat­ed, like ‘Twin­kle Twin­kle Lit­tle Star.’”

How­ev­er, ear­worms also unset­tle our expec­ta­tions of sim­ple melodies, with “sur­pris­ing, unusu­al inter­vals,” as in the cho­rus of Lady Gaga’s insid­i­ous “Bad Romance” or, bane of every gui­tar store employ­ee, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Research on ear­worms began, notes Klein, in 2001, “when James Kel­laris, a mar­ket­ing researcher and com­pos­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cincin­nati trans­lat­ed the Ger­man word for ear­wig, Ohrwürmer, into that ‘cog­ni­tive itch’ he called an ‘ear­worm.’”

Kel­laris esti­mat­ed that around “98 per­cent of peo­ple expe­ri­ence this phe­nom­e­non at some point in time.” In order to ana­lyze the ear­worm, Jakubows­ki and her team col­lect­ed lists of songs from 3,000 study par­tic­i­pants. They attempt­ed to iso­late vari­ables such as “pop­u­lar­i­ty and recen­cy” that “could affect the like­li­hood of the song becom­ing stuck in the mind.” Before con­trol­ling for these fac­tors, “Bad Romance” appeared at the top of a list of “Songs Most Fre­quent­ly Named as Invol­un­tary Musi­cal Imagery (INMI).”

It’s a tune that might—under cer­tain cir­cum­stances, be used as a weapon—along with two oth­er Gaga songs at num­bers 8 and 9. See the full list below:

1. “Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga
2. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie Minogue
3. “Don’t Stop Believ­ing,” Jour­ney
4. “Some­body That I Used to Know,” Gotye
5. “Moves Like Jag­ger,” Maroon 5
6. “Cal­i­for­nia Gurls,” Katy Per­ry
7. “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” Queen
8. “Ale­jan­dro,” Lady Gaga
9. “Pok­er Face,” Lady Gaga

The study goes on, in some tech­ni­cal detail, to account for chart posi­tion, length of time on the charts, etc. Unless you’re famil­iar with the meth­ods and jar­gon of this par­tic­u­lar kind of psy­cho­log­i­cal research, it’s a bit dif­fi­cult to fol­low. But Klein sum­ma­rizes some of the upshot: “While it may feel like ear­worms exist only to annoy you, researchers say they may actu­al­ly serve a pur­pose.… ear­worms could be rem­nants of how we learned before writ­ten lan­guage, when infor­ma­tion was more often passed through song.”

The sur­vival of this mech­a­nism can be used for good or ill—as was so humor­ous­ly illus­trat­ed in my favorite scene from Pixar’s psy­cho-dram­e­dy for kids, Inside Out. Adver­tis­ing jin­gles, annoy­ing pop songs that we mind­less­ly buy and stream because we can’t stop singing them, and—not least—perhaps the most effec­tive ear­worms of all time, TV sit­com theme songs.

The hey­day of unfor­get­table theme songs, the 80s, left us with some real gems: Klein names Grow­ing Pains (“show me that smile again!”). But I’m guess­ing we could get togeth­er in the thou­sands for an impromp­tu cho­rus of Cheers, Charles in Charge, Fam­i­ly Ties, Fam­i­ly Mat­ters, Step by Step, or my new ear­worm Sil­ver Spoons (thanks YouTube). As these examples—and so many hun­dreds more—prove, musi­cal ear­worms have been used by clever hacks to hack into our brains for quite some time now. When song­writ­ers we like do it, we can at least enjoy the invol­un­tary intru­sions.

Feel free to share your own unshake­able ear­worms in the com­ments sec­tion below.

via The New York Times

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear “Weight­less,” the Most Relax­ing Song Ever Made, Accord­ing to Researchers (You’ll Need It Today)

Music That Helps You Sleep: Min­i­mal­ist Com­pos­er Max Richter, Pop Phe­nom Ed Sheer­an & Your Favorites

The Neu­ro­science & Psy­chol­o­gy of Pro­cras­ti­na­tion, and How to Over­come It

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

Watch Matthew McConaughey’s Audition Tape for Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, the Indie Comedy That Made Him a Star

In 1992, Richard Lin­klater faced one of the most for­mi­da­ble chal­lenges in the life of any suc­cess­ful film­mak­er: fol­low­ing up on his break­through. The pre­vi­ous year he’d become an art-house star with Slack­er, an exam­i­na­tion of the var­i­ous lives aim­less­ly but amus­ing­ly lived at the Generation‑X periph­ery of Austin, Texas, a film whose delib­er­ate­ly wan­der­ing form per­fect­ly matched its sub­stance. That got him enough of a pro­file to com­mand the rel­a­tive­ly huge bud­get of $8 mil­lion (ver­sus Slack­er’s $23,000) to make Dazed and Con­fused, the sto­ry of a bunch of Austin teenagers on the last day of high school in 1976. While the movie hard­ly turned block­buster, it did help solid­i­fy Lin­klater’s place among the Amer­i­can auteurs — and almost acci­den­tal­ly launched the career of one of today’s biggest movie stars.

Matthew McConaugh­ey stole Dazed and Con­fuseds show, as many crit­ics and fans saw it, as David Wood­er­son, an ear­ly-twen­tysome­thing who still prefers the com­pa­ny of high-school­ers. You can watch a piece of his orig­i­nal audi­tion tape, made avail­able by the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion, at the top of the post. “He is a char­ac­ter we’re all too famil­iar with in the movies,” wrote the Austin Chron­i­cle’s Mar­jorie Baum­garten, “but McConaugh­ey nails this guy with­out a hint of con­de­scen­sion or whim­sy, claim­ing this char­ac­ter for all time as his own.”

Some of the most mem­o­rable moments of his per­for­mance, which you can see in its final form in the clips just above and below, owe to its impro­visato­ry nature: orig­i­nal­ly a small part with just a cou­ple of lines, the char­ac­ter of Wood­er­son grew with every res­o­nant on-set inven­tion.

“Of the many great peo­ple I met in the process of cast­ing this movie, you were select­ed because I had a gut impulse about you,” wrote Lin­klater in the let­ter that accom­pa­nied the 1970s mix­tape he sent out to inspire Dazed and Con­fused’s cast. “Know your char­ac­ter so we can for­get about it and build some­thing new, some­thing spe­cial, in its like­ness. As I’ve said before, if the final movie is 100% word-for-word what’s in the script, it will be a mas­sive under­achieve­ment.” And in a sense, McConaugh­ey’s cast­ing itself, as he and cast­ing direc­tor Don Phillips told it in a Texas Month­ly oral his­to­ry of the movie, hap­pened impro­vi­sa­tion­al­ly as well. It came as the result of a chance encounter at an Austin hotel, where Phillips spot­ted “this real­ly good-look­ing girl at the end of the bar with this pret­ty cool-look­ing guy.”

That cool-look­ing guy was, of course, McConaugh­ey, who’d turned up for the drink dis­count from the bar­tender, his film-school bud­dy. “Hey, man, the guy down at the end of the bar is in town pro­duc­ing a film,” said the bar­tender to the aspir­ing actor by way of a tip, and before they know it, in McConaugh­ey’s words, “We’re talk­ing about life and women and some great golf hole he’s played.” By the time of their ejec­tion from the bar, they’d devel­oped enough instant cama­raderie for Phillips to offer McConaugh­ey an audi­tion: “Maybe we’ll put you on tape to see what you look like.” Though Lin­klater at first balked at his fel­low Tex­an’s exces­sive hand­some­ness, he even­tu­al­ly came to real­ize his suit­abil­i­ty for the part, and the rest — up to and includ­ing McConaugh­ey’s reprisal as a fortysome­thing but oth­er­wise unchanged Wood­er­son in the music video for The Black Wid­ows’ “Syn­the­siz­ers” — is cin­e­ma his­to­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Great Mix­tapes Richard Lin­klater Cre­at­ed to Psych Up the Actors in Dazed and Con­fused and Every­body Wants Some!!

Watch Free Online: Richard Linklater’s Slack­er, the Clas­sic Gen‑X Indie Film

Scenes from Wak­ing Life, Richard Linklater’s Philo­soph­i­cal, Fea­ture-Length Ani­mat­ed Film (2001)

In Dark PSA, Direc­tor Richard Lin­klater Sug­gests Rad­i­cal Steps for Deal­ing with Tex­ters in Cin­e­mas

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.

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