Wassily Kandinsky Syncs His Abstract Art to Mussorgsky’s Music in a Historic Bauhaus Theatre Production (1928)

Euro­pean moder­ni­ty may nev­er had tak­en the direc­tion it did with­out the sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence of two Russ­ian artists, Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky and Mod­est Mus­sorgsky. Kandin­sky may not have been the very first abstract painter, but in an impor­tant sense he deserves the title, giv­en the impact that his series of ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry abstract paint­ings had on mod­ern art as a whole. Inspired by Goethe’s The­o­ry of Col­ors, he also pub­lished what might have been the first trea­tise specif­i­cal­ly devot­ed to a the­o­ry of abstrac­tion.

The com­pos­er Mussorgsky’s most famous work, Pic­tures at an Exhi­bi­tion (lis­ten here), had a tremen­dous influ­ence on some of the most famous com­posers of the day when it debuted, which hap­pened to be after its author’s death. Writ­ten in 1874 as a solo piano piece, it didn’t see pub­li­ca­tion until 1886, when it quick­ly became a vir­tu­oso chal­lenge for pianists and a pop­u­lar choice for arrange­ments most notably by Mau­rice Rav­el and Niko­lai Rim­sky-Kor­sakov, who, along with Igor Stravin­sky and oth­ers, inter­pret­ed and expand­ed on many of Mus­sorgsky’s ideas into the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.

Mussorgsky’s ear­ly death in 1881 pre­vent­ed any liv­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion between the painter and com­pos­er, but it’s only nat­ur­al that his min­i­mal­ist musi­cal piece should have inspired Kandinsky’s only suc­cess­ful stage pro­duc­tion. In Kandinsky’s the­o­ry, musi­cal ideas oper­ate like pri­ma­ry col­ors. His paint­ings explic­it­ly illus­trate sound. In his stage adap­ta­tion of Pic­tures at an Exhi­bi­tion, he had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to paint sound in motion.

Kandin­sky was first inspired to paint, at the age of 30, after hear­ing a per­for­mance of Wagner’s Lohen­grin. “I saw all my col­ors in spir­it,” he remarked after­ward, “Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.” The Den­ver Art Museum’s Renée Miller writes of Kandinsky’s expe­ri­ence as an exam­ple of synes­the­sia. He drew from the work of Arnold Schoen­berg in his abstract expres­sion­ist can­vas­es, and “gave many of his paint­ings musi­cal titles, such as Com­po­si­tion and Impro­vi­sa­tion.”

For his part, Mus­sorgsky found inspi­ra­tion for his non­rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al work in the strange­ly uncan­ny rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al visu­al art of Russ­ian archi­tect and painter Vik­tor Hart­mann, his clos­est friend and mem­ber of a cir­cle of artists attempt­ing a nation­al­ist Russ­ian cul­tur­al revival. Mus­sorgsky’s Pic­tures at an Exhi­bi­tion sets music to a col­lec­tion of Hartmann’s paint­ings and draw­ings exhib­it­ed after the artist’s death, includ­ing sketch­es of opera cos­tumes and a mon­u­men­tal archi­tec­tur­al design.

The cre­ation of sev­er­al high­ly dis­tinc­tive musi­cal motifs is of a piece with Mus­sorgsky’s opera com­po­si­tions. Both he and Kandin­sky were drawn to opera for its dra­mat­ic con­junc­tion of visu­al art, per­for­mance, and music, or what Wag­n­er called Gesamtkunst­werk, the “total work of art.” And yet, despite their mutu­al admi­ra­tion for clas­si­cal forms and tra­di­tion­al Russ­ian folk­lore, both artists illus­trat­ed the title of Wagner’s essay on the sub­ject, “The Art­work of the Future,” more ful­ly than Wag­n­er him­self.

Mussorgsky’s piece, as com­posed solo on the piano, is will­ful­ly odd, ugly and pierc­ing­ly beau­ti­ful by turns, and always unset­tling, like the Hart­mann paint­ings that inspired it. So visu­al­ly descrip­tive is its musi­cal lan­guage that it might be said to induce a vir­tu­al form of synes­the­sia. In illus­trat­ing Pic­tures at an Exhi­bi­tion, Kandin­sky “took anoth­er step towards trans­lat­ing the idea of ‘mon­u­men­tal art’ into life,” notes the site Mod­ern Art Con­sult­ing, “with his own sets and light, col­or and geo­met­ri­cal shapes for char­ac­ters.”

On April 4, 1928, the pre­mière at the Friedrich The­ater, Dessau, was a tremen­dous suc­cess. The music was played on the piano. The pro­duc­tion was rather cum­ber­some as the sets were sup­posed to move and the hall light­ing was to change con­stant­ly in keep­ing with Kandinsky’s scrupu­lous instruc­tions. Accord­ing to one of them, “bot­tom­less depths of black” against a black back­drop were to trans­form into vio­let, while dim­mers (rheostats) were yet to be invent­ed.

Rather than trans­lat­ing Mussorgsky’s piece back into Hartmann’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al idiom, Kandin­sky cre­ates an oper­at­ic move­ment of geo­met­ri­cal fig­ures from the lex­i­con of the Bauhaus school. (Only “The Great Gate of Kiev,” at the top, resem­bles the orig­i­nal paint­ing.) Rather than cre­ate nar­ra­tive, “Kandinsky’s task was to turn the music into paint­ings,” says Har­ald Wet­zel, cura­tor of a recent exhib­it in Dessau fea­tur­ing many of the set designs. Those sta­t­ic ele­ments “give just a lim­it­ed impres­sion of the stage pro­duc­tion,” which was “con­stant­ly in motion.”

We may not have film of that orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion, but we do have a very good sense of what it might have looked like through its many re-stag­ings over the past few years, includ­ing the pro­duc­tion fur­ther up with pianist Mikhaïl Rudy at the théâtre de Brive in 2011 and the ani­mat­ed video remake above, which brings it even fur­ther into the future. See a selec­tion of pho­tos from the Kandin­sky exhib­it at Deutsche Welle and com­pare these paint­ings with the orig­i­nal pic­tures by Vik­tor Hart­mann that inspired Mussorgsky’s piece.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Who Paint­ed the First Abstract Paint­ing?: Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky? Hilma af Klint? Or Anoth­er Con­tender?

Time Trav­el Back to 1926 and Watch Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Make Art in Some Rare Vin­tage Video

Night on Bald Moun­tain: An Eery, Avant-Garde Pin­screen Ani­ma­tion Based on Mussorgsky’s Mas­ter­piece (1933)

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

Watch Author Chuck Palahniuk Read Fight Club 4 Kids

The first rule of Hors­ing Around Club is: You do not talk about Hors­ing Around Club.  ― Chuck Palah­niuk, Fight Club for Kids

Retool­ing a pop­u­lar show, film, or com­ic to fea­ture younger ver­sions of the char­ac­ters, their per­son­al­i­ties and rela­tion­ships vir­tu­al­ly unchanged, can be a seri­ous, if cyn­i­cal source of income for the orig­i­nal cre­ators.

The Mup­pets, Archie, Sher­lock Holmes, and James Bond have all giv­en birth to spin-off babies.

So why not author Chuck Palah­niuk?

Per­haps because spin-off babies are designed to gen­tly ensnare a new and younger audi­ence, and Palah­niuk, whose 2002 nov­el Lul­la­by hinged on a nurs­ery rhyme that kills chil­dren in their cribs, is unlike­ly to file down the dark, twist­ed edges that have won him a cult fol­low­ing.

That said, his most recent title is for­mat­ted as a col­or­ing book, with anoth­er due to drop lat­er this fall.

The same spir­it of mis­chief dri­ves Fight Club for Kids, which mer­ci­ful­ly will not be hit­ting the children’s sec­tion of your local book­store in time for the upcom­ing hol­i­day sea­son (or ever).

Much like Tyler Dur­den, Palah­niuk’s most infa­mous cre­ation, this title is but a fig­ment, exist­ing only in the above video, where it is read by its puta­tive author.

If you think Samuel L. Jackson’s nar­ra­tion of Go the F**k to Sleep—which can actu­al­ly be pur­chased in book form—rep­re­sents the height of adult read­ers run­ning off the rails, you ain’t heard noth­ing yet:

The horse­play would go on until it was done

And every­one who did it would always have fun

Espe­cial­ly the Boy Who Had No Name

Who once just, like, beat this dude, who was actu­al­ly Jared Leto in the movie, which was so fuckin’ cool and intense, and he’s just pum­mel­ing this guy and of course, being Jared Leto, he was essen­tial­ly a mod­el, but when our guy is done with him, he’s just this pur­ple, bloat­ed, chewed up bub­blegum-look­ing moth­er­fuck­er cov­ered in blood, head to toe!

(The sec­ond rule of Hors­ing Around Club is: You DO NOT TALK ABOUT HORSING AROUND CLUB!)

Find more print­able Chuck Palah­niuk col­or­ing pages here.

via Mash­able

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jane Austen’s Fight Club

What Are the Most Stolen Books? Book­store Lists Fea­ture Works by Muraka­mi, Bukows­ki, Bur­roughs, Von­negut, Ker­ouac & Palah­niuk

David Fos­ter Wallace’s Famous Com­mence­ment Speech “This is Water” Visu­al­ized in a Short Film

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Dr. Jane Goodall Is Now Teaching an Online Course on Conservation, Animal Intelligence & Activism

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Back in June, we men­tioned that the great pri­ma­tol­o­gist and anthro­pol­o­gist Dr. Jane Goodall was gear­ing up to teach her first online course on envi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion, ani­mal intel­li­gence, and activism. Now, it seemed worth giv­ing this quick update–Goodal­l’s course is ready to go. It fea­tures 29 lessons and costs $90. You can sign up and take the course through Mas­ter­Class here. (You can pur­chase an All-Access Annu­al Pass for every course in the Mas­ter­Class cat­a­log for $180.)

Above watch a trail­er that intro­duces the course. Below see her dis­cuss the course on the Tonight Show with Jim­my Fal­lon.

Oth­er cours­es cur­rent­ly offered by Mas­ter­class include:

Find more cours­es taught by star instruc­tors here.

Note: Mas­ter­Class is one of our part­ners. So if you sign up for a course, it ben­e­fits not just you and Mas­ter­Class. It ben­e­fits Open Cul­ture too. So con­sid­er it win-win-win.

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!

Marie Curie Invented Mobile X‑Ray Units to Help Save Wounded Soldiers in World War I

These days the phrase “mobile x‑ray unit” is like­ly to spark heat­ed debate about pri­va­cy, pub­lic health, and free­dom of infor­ma­tion, espe­cial­ly in New York City, where the police force has been less than forth­com­ing about its use of mil­i­tary grade Z Backscat­ter sur­veil­lance vans.

A hun­dred years ago, Mobile X‑Ray Units were a brand new inno­va­tion, and a god­send for sol­diers wound­ed on the front in WW1. Pri­or to the advent of this tech­nol­o­gy, field sur­geons rac­ing to save lives oper­at­ed blind­ly, often caus­ing even more injury as they groped for bul­lets and shrap­nel whose pre­cise loca­tions remained a mys­tery.

Marie Curie was just set­ting up shop at Paris’ Radi­um Insti­tute, a world cen­ter for the study of radioac­tiv­i­ty, when war broke out. Many of her researchers left to fight, while Curie per­son­al­ly deliv­ered France’s sole sam­ple of radi­um by train to the tem­porar­i­ly relo­cat­ed seat of gov­ern­ment in Bor­deaux.

“I am resolved to put all my strength at the ser­vice of my adopt­ed coun­try, since I can­not do any­thing for my unfor­tu­nate native coun­try just now…,” Curie, a Pole by birth, wrote to her lover, physi­cist Paul Langevin on New Year’s Day, 1915.

To that end, she envi­sioned a fleet of vehi­cles that could bring X‑ray equip­ment much clos­er to the bat­tle­field, shift­ing their coor­di­nates as nec­es­sary.

Rather than leav­ing the exe­cu­tion of this bril­liant plan to oth­ers, Curie sprang into action.

She stud­ied anato­my and learned how to oper­ate the equip­ment so she would be able to read X‑ray films like a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al.

She learned how to dri­ve and fix cars.

She used her con­nec­tions to solic­it dona­tions of vehi­cles, portable elec­tric gen­er­a­tors, and the nec­es­sary equip­ment, kick­ing in gen­er­ous­ly her­self. (When she got the French Nation­al Bank to accept her gold Nobel Prize medals on behalf of the war effort, she spent the bulk of her prize purse on war bonds.)

She was ham­pered only by back­wards-think­ing bureau­crats whose feath­ers ruf­fled at the prospect of female tech­ni­cians and dri­vers, no doubt for­get­ting that most of France’s able-bod­ied men were oth­er­wise engaged.

Curie, no stranger to sex­ism, refused to bend to their will, deliv­er­ing equip­ment to the front line and X‑raying wound­ed sol­diers, assist­ed by her 17-year-old daugh­ter, Irène, who like her moth­er, took care to keep her emo­tions in check while work­ing with maimed and dis­tressed patients.

“In less than two years,” writes Aman­da Davis at The Insti­tute, “the num­ber of units had grown sub­stan­tial­ly, and the Curies had set up a train­ing pro­gram at the Radi­um Insti­tute to teach oth­er women to oper­ate the equip­ment.” Even­tu­al­ly, they recruit­ed about 150 women, train­ing them to man the Lit­tle Curies, as the mobile radi­og­ra­phy units came to be known.

via Brain Pick­ings

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Marie Curie Attend­ed a Secret, Under­ground “Fly­ing Uni­ver­si­ty” When Women Were Banned from Pol­ish Uni­ver­si­ties

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Life & Work of Marie Curie, the First Female Nobel Lau­re­ate

Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioac­tive 100+ Years Lat­er

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her inter­est in wom­en’s wartime con­tri­bu­tions has man­i­fest­ed itself in comics on “Crazy Bet” Van Lew and the Maid­en­form fac­to­ry’s man­u­fac­ture of WWII car­ri­er pigeon vests. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

When Michel Foucault Tripped on Acid in Death Valley and Called It “The Greatest Experience of My Life” (1975)

Image by Nemo­main, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

French the­o­rist Michel Fou­cault rose to inter­na­tion­al promi­nence with his crit­i­cal histories—or “archaeologies”—of sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge and tech­no­crat­ic pow­er. His first book, Mad­ness and Civ­i­liza­tion, described the Enlight­en­ment-era cre­ation of insan­i­ty as a cat­e­go­ry set apart from rea­son, which enabled those labeled mad to be sub­ject­ed to painful, inva­sive treat­ments and lose their free­dom and agency dur­ing a peri­od he called “the Great Con­fine­ment.”

A fol­low-up, The Birth of the Clin­ic, appeared in 1963, intro­duc­ing the notion of the “med­ical gaze,” a cold, prob­ing ide­o­log­i­cal instru­ment that dehu­man­izes patients and allows peo­ple to be made into objects of exper­i­men­ta­tion. Fou­cault tend­ed to view the world through a par­tic­u­lar­ly grim, claus­tro­pho­bic, even para­noid lens, though one arguably war­rant­ed by the well-doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ries he unearthed and the con­tem­po­rary tech­no­crat­ic police states they gave rise to.

But Fou­cault also insist­ed that in all rela­tions of pow­er, “there is nec­es­sar­i­ly the pos­si­bil­i­ty of resis­tance.” His own forms of resis­tance tend­ed toward polit­i­cal activism, adven­tur­ous sex­u­al exploits, Zen med­i­ta­tion, and drugs. He grew pot on his bal­cony in Paris, did cocaine, smoked opi­um, and “deanat­o­mized the local­iza­tion of plea­sure,” as he put it, with LSD. The exper­i­men­ta­tion con­sti­tut­ed what he called a “lim­it expe­ri­ence” that trans­gressed the bound­aries of a social­ly-imposed iden­ti­ty.

But in a strange irony, the first time Fou­cault dropped acid, he him­self became the sub­ject of an exper­i­ment con­duct­ed on him by one of his fol­low­ers, Sime­on Wade, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Clare­mont Grad­u­ate School. In 1975 Fou­cault gave a sem­i­nar at UC Berke­ley, where he would lat­er fin­ish his career in the years before his death in 1984. While in Cal­i­for­nia, he accept­ed an invi­ta­tion from Wade and his part­ner Michael Stone­man to take a road trip to Death Val­ley. “I was per­form­ing an exper­i­ment,” Wade remem­bered in a recent inter­view on Boom Cal­i­for­nia. “I want­ed to see [how] one of the great­est minds in his­to­ry would be affect­ed by an expe­ri­ence he had nev­er had before.”

We went to Zabriskie Point to see Venus appear. Michael placed speak­ers all around us, as no one else was there, and we lis­tened to Elis­a­beth Schwarzkopf sing Richard Strauss’s, Four Last Songs. I saw tears in Foucault’s eyes. We went into one of the hol­lows and laid on our backs, like James Turrell’s vol­cano, and watched Venus come forth and the stars come out lat­er. We stayed at Zabriskie Point for about ten hours.

The desert acid trip, Wade says, changed Fou­cault per­ma­nent­ly, for the bet­ter. “Every­thing after this expe­ri­ence in 1975,” he says, “is the new Fou­cault, neo-Fou­cault…. Fou­cault from 1975 to 1984 was a new being.” The evi­dence seems clear enough. Fou­cault wrote Wade and Stone­man a few months lat­er to tell them “it was the great­est expe­ri­ence of his life, and that it pro­found­ly changed his life and his work…. He wrote us that he had thrown vol­umes two and three of his His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty into the fire and that he had to start over again.”

Fou­cault had suc­cumbed to despair pri­or to his Death Val­ley trip, Wade says, con­tem­plat­ing in his 1966 The Order of Things “the death of human­i­ty…. To the point of say­ing that the face of man has been effaced.” After­ward, he was “imme­di­ate­ly” seized by a new ener­gy and focus. The titles of those last two, rewrit­ten, books “are emblem­at­ic of the impact this expe­ri­ence had on him: The Uses of Plea­sure and The Care of the Self, with no men­tion of fini­tude.” Fou­cault biog­ra­ph­er James Miller tells us in the doc­u­men­tary above (at 27:30) —Michel Fou­cault Beyond Good and Evil— that every­one he spoke to about Fou­cault had heard about Death Val­ley, since Fou­cault told any­one who would lis­ten that it was “the most trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence in his life.”

There were some peo­ple, notes inter­view­er Heather Dun­das, who believed that Wade’s exper­i­ment was uneth­i­cal, that he had been “reck­less with Foucault’s wel­fare.” To this chal­lenge Wade replies, “Fou­cault was well aware of what was involved, and we were with him the entire time.” Asked whether he thought of the reper­cus­sions to his own career, how­ev­er, he replies, “in ret­ro­spect, I should have.” Two years lat­er, he left Clare­mont and could not find anoth­er full-time aca­d­e­m­ic posi­tion. After obtain­ing a nurs­ing license, he made a career as a nurse at the Los Ange­les Coun­ty Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal and Ven­tu­ra Coun­ty Hos­pi­tal, exact­ly the sort of insti­tu­tions Fou­cault had found so threat­en­ing in his ear­li­er work.

Wade also authored a 121-page account of the Death Val­ley trip, and in 1978 pub­lished Chez Fou­cault, a mimeo­graphed fanzine intro­duc­tion to the philoso­pher’s work, includ­ing an unpub­lished inter­view with Fou­cault. For his part, Fou­cault threw him­self vig­or­ous­ly into the final phase of his career, in which he devel­oped his con­cept of biopow­er, an eth­i­cal the­o­ry of self-care and a crit­i­cal take on clas­si­cal philo­soph­i­cal and reli­gious themes about the nature of truth and sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. He spent the last 9 years of his life pur­su­ing the new path­ways of thought that opened to him dur­ing those extra­or­di­nary ten hours under the hot sun and cool stars of the Death Val­ley desert.

You can read the com­plete inter­view with Wade at BoomCalifornia.com.

Relat­ed Con­tent:   

Michel Fou­cault: Free Lec­tures on Truth, Dis­course & The Self (UC Berke­ley, 1980–1983)

Hear Michel Foucault’s Lec­ture “The Cul­ture of the Self,” Pre­sent­ed in Eng­lish at UC Berke­ley (1983)

Watch a “Lost Inter­view” With Michel Fou­cault: Miss­ing for 30 Years But Now Recov­ered

Michel Fou­cault – Beyond Good and Evil: 1993 Doc­u­men­tary Explores the Theorist’s Con­tro­ver­sial Life and Phi­los­o­phy

Read Chez Fou­cault, the 1978 Fanzine That Intro­duced Stu­dents to the Rad­i­cal French Philoso­pher

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

Enter a Digital Archive of 213,000+ Beautiful Japanese Woodblock Prints

Most of us have now and again seen and appre­ci­at­ed Japan­ese wood­block prints, espe­cial­ly those in the tra­di­tion of ukiyo‑e, those “cap­ti­vat­ing images of seduc­tive cour­te­sans, excit­ing kabu­ki actors, and famous roman­tic vis­tas.” Those words come from the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, whose essay on the art form describes how, “in the late sev­en­teenth and ear­ly eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry, wood­block prints depict­ing cour­te­sans and actors were much sought after by tourists to Edo and came to be known as ‘Edo pic­tures.’ In 1765, new tech­nol­o­gy made pos­si­ble the pro­duc­tion of sin­gle-sheet prints in a range of col­ors,” which brought about “the gold­en age of print­mak­ing.”

At that time, “the pop­u­lar­i­ty of women and actors as sub­jects began to decline. Dur­ing the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, Uta­gawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) and Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai (1760–1849) brought the art of ukiyo‑e full cir­cle, back to land­scape views, often with a sea­son­al theme, that are among the mas­ter­pieces of world print­mak­ing.”

Even if you’ve only seen a few Japan­ese wood­block prints, you’ve seen the work of Hiroshige and Hoku­sai, thou­sands of exam­ples of which you can find in the vast Japan­ese wood­block data­base of Ukiyo‑e.org.

This Eng­lish-Japan­ese bilin­gual site, a project of pro­gram­mer and Khan Acad­e­my engi­neer John Resig, launched in 2012 and now boasts 213,000 prints from 24 muse­ums, uni­ver­si­ties, libraries, auc­tion hous­es, and deal­ers world­wide. You can search it by text or image (if you hap­pen to have one of a print you’d like to iden­ti­fy), or you can browse by peri­od and artist: not just the “gold­en age” of Hiroshige and Hoku­sai (1804 to 1868), but ukiyo-e’s ear­ly years (ear­ly-mid 1700s), the birth of full-col­or print­ing (1740s to 1780s), the pop­u­lar­iza­tion of wood­block print­ing (1804 to 1868), the Mei­ji peri­od (1868 to 1912), the artist-cen­tric Shin Hanga and Sosaku Hanga move­ments (1915 to 1940s), and even the mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary era (1950s to now).

That last group includes wood­block prints of styles and sub­ject mat­ter one cer­tain­ly would­n’t expect from clas­sic ukiyo‑e, though the works nev­er go com­plete­ly with­out con­nec­tion to the tra­di­tion of pre­vi­ous mas­ters. Some of these more recent prac­ti­tion­ers, like Dan­ish-Ger­man-Aus­tralian print­mak­er Tom Kris­tensen, have even gone so far as to not be Japan­ese. Kris­tensen, who “works in typ­i­cal­ly Japan­ese ‘sosaku hanga’ style: self-carved and self-print­ed with nat­ur­al Japan­ese pig­ments on hand-made washi paper,” has pro­duced works like the 36 Views of Green Island series, of which num­ber 21 appears below. The surf­boards may at first seem incon­gru­ous, but one imag­ines that Hiroshige and Hoku­sai, those two great appre­ci­a­tors of waves, might approve. Enter the dig­i­tal archive here, and note that if you click on an image, and then click on it again, you can view it in a larg­er for­mat.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

Down­load Hun­dreds of 19th-Cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Wood­block Prints by Mas­ters of the Tra­di­tion

What Hap­pens When a Japan­ese Wood­block Artist Depicts Life in Lon­don in 1866, Despite Nev­er Hav­ing Set Foot There

Splen­did Hand-Scroll Illus­tra­tions of The Tale of Gen­jii, The First Nov­el Ever Writ­ten (Cir­ca 1120)

Japan­ese Kabu­ki Actors Cap­tured in 18th-Cen­tu­ry Wood­block Prints by the Mys­te­ri­ous & Mas­ter­ful Artist Sharaku

Behold the Mas­ter­piece by Japan’s Last Great Wood­block Artist: View Online Tsukio­ka Yoshitoshi’s One Hun­dred Aspects of the Moon (1885)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, 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.

Harry Dean Stanton (RIP) Reads Poems by Charles Bukowski

Vari­ety is report­ing tonight that Har­ry Dean Stan­ton has died in Los Ange­les, at the age of 91. He’s best remem­bered, of course, for his roles in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, HBO’s Big Love, Alex Cox’s Repo Man, and Wim Wen­der’s Paris, Texas. Over a 60 year career, Stan­ton made appear­ances in 116 films, 77 TV shows, and sev­er­al music videos. He also lent his voice to an Alien video game and record­ed poems by Charles Bukows­ki. Above and below, hear him read “Blue­bird” and “Torched Out.” Both record­ings come from the 2003 doc­u­men­tary, Bukows­ki: Born Into This. Back in 2012, Stan­ton head­lined an L.A. trib­ute to the Los Ange­les poet.

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:

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

Three Charles Bukows­ki Books Illus­trat­ed by Robert Crumb: Under­ground Com­ic Art Meets Out­sider Lit­er­a­ture

Tom Waits Reads Two Charles Bukows­ki Poems, “The Laugh­ing Heart” and “Nir­vana”

Watch “Beer,” a Mind-Warp­ing Ani­ma­tion of Charles Bukowski’s 1971 Poem Hon­or­ing His Favorite Drink

Download Theft! A History of Music, a New Free Graphic Novel Exploring 2,000 Years of Musical Borrowing

From the team behind the 2006 fair use com­ic Bound by Law comes a new fair use com­ic, Theft! A His­to­ry of MusicCre­at­ed by James Boyle and Jen­nifer Jenk­ins, two law school profs from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, Theft! A His­to­ry of Music is “a graph­ic nov­el lay­ing out a 2000-year long his­to­ry of musi­cal bor­row­ing from Pla­to to rap.” The book’s blurb adds:

This com­ic lays out 2000 years of musi­cal his­to­ry. … Again and again there have been attempts to police music; to restrict bor­row­ing and cul­tur­al cross-fer­til­iza­tion. But music builds on itself. To those who think that mash-ups and sam­pling start­ed with YouTube or the DJ’s turnta­bles, it might be shock­ing to find that musi­cians have been bor­row­ing – exten­sive­ly bor­row­ing – from each oth­er since music began. Then why try to stop that process? The rea­sons var­ied. Phi­los­o­phy, reli­gion, pol­i­tics, race – again and again, race – and law. And because music affects us so deeply, those strug­gles were pas­sion­ate ones. They still are.

The his­to­ry in this book runs from Pla­to to Blurred Lines and beyond. You will read about the Holy Roman Empire’s attempts to stan­dard­ize reli­gious music using the first great musi­cal tech­nol­o­gy (nota­tion) and the inevitable back­fire of that attempt. You will read about trou­ba­dours and church com­posers, swap­ping tunes (and remark­ably pro­fane lyrics), chang­ing both reli­gion and music in the process. You will see dia­tribes against jazz for cor­rupt­ing musi­cal cul­ture, against rock and roll for breach­ing the col­or-line. You will learn about the law­suits that, sur­pris­ing­ly, shaped rap. You will read the sto­ry of some of music’s icon­o­clasts – from Han­del and Beethoven to Robert John­son, Chuck Berry, Lit­tle Richard, Ray Charles, the British Inva­sion and Pub­lic Ene­my.

To under­stand this his­to­ry ful­ly, one has to roam wider still – into musi­cal tech­nolo­gies from nota­tion to the sam­ple deck, aes­thet­ics, the incen­tive sys­tems that got musi­cians paid, and law’s 250 year strug­gle to assim­i­late music, with­out destroy­ing it in the process. Would jazz, soul or rock and roll be legal if they were rein­vent­ed today? We are not sure. Which as you will read, is pro­found­ly wor­ry­ing because today, more than ever, we need the arts.

All of this makes up our sto­ry. It is assured­ly not the only his­to­ry of music. But it is def­i­nite­ly a part – and a fas­ci­nat­ing part – of that his­to­ry…

Released under a Cre­ative Com­mons license, the book is free to down­load online. Or you can buy a nice paper­back ver­sion on Ama­zon.

The video above offers anoth­er intro­duc­tion to the graph­ic nov­el. And you can read an inter­view with the authors over on the Cre­ative Com­mons web­site.

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:

Bound by Law?: Free Com­ic Book Explains How Copy­right Com­pli­cates Art

Down­load 15,000+ Free Gold­en Age Comics from the Dig­i­tal Com­ic Muse­um

Down­load Over 22,000 Gold­en & Sil­ver Age Com­ic Books from the Com­ic Book Plus Archive

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.