Leonard Bernstein Introduces the Moog Synthesizer to the World in 1969, Playing an Electrified Version of Bach’s “Little Fugue in G”

When Wendy Car­los released Switched-On Bach in 1968, her “great­est hits” com­pi­la­tion of the Baroque composer’s music, played entire­ly on the Moog ana­log syn­the­siz­er, the album became an imme­di­ate hit with both clas­si­cal and pop audi­ences. Not only was it “acclaimed as real music by musi­cians and the lis­ten­ing pub­lic alike,” as Bob Moog him­self has writ­ten, but “as a result, the Moog Syn­the­siz­er was sud­den­ly accept­ed with open arms by the music busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty.” There’s some exag­ger­a­tion here. Stars like the Doors, the Mon­kees, and the Byrds had already record­ed with Moogs the year before. And some clas­si­cal purists (and clas­si­cal Lud­dites) did not, in fact, hail Switched-On Bach as “real music.”

But on the whole, Carlos’s inno­v­a­tive demon­stra­tion of the elec­tron­ic instrument’s capa­bil­i­ties (and her own) marks a mile­stone in music his­to­ry as the first clas­si­cal album to go Plat­inum, and as the first intro­duc­tion of both Baroque music and the Moog syn­the­siz­er to mil­lions of peo­ple unfa­mil­iar with either.

Were it not for Carlos’s “use of the Moog’s oscil­la­tions, squeaks, drones, chirps, and oth­er sounds,” as Bruce Eder writes at All­mu­sic, it’s unlike­ly we would have the video clip above, of Leonard Bern­stein giv­ing his own demon­stra­tion of the Moog (dig his hip “HAL” ref­er­ence from the pri­or year’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), dur­ing one of his pop­u­lar tele­vised “Young People’s Con­certs.”

Hav­ing just begun mov­ing out of the stu­dio, the Moog was still a col­lec­tion of mod­u­lar box­es and patch cables—an engineer’s instrument—and it takes four men to wheel it out on stage. (The eas­i­ly portable, self-con­tained Min­i­moog wouldn’t appear until 1970.) Most peo­ple had no idea what a Moog actu­al­ly looked like. But, its for­bid­ding appear­ance aside, the sounds of the Moog were every­where.

Bern­stein men­tions Car­los, and those stuffy purists, and makes a few more sci-fi jokes, then, instead of sit­ting at the key­board, hits play on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. This pre-record­ed ver­sion of Bach’s “Lit­tle Fugue in G” was actu­al­ly arranged by Wal­ter Sear (sam­ple Carlos’s ver­sion here), and the record­ing lacks some of the panache of Carlos’s play­ing while the tin­ny play­back sys­tem makes it sound like 8‑bit video game music. But for this audi­ence, the musi­cal wiz­ard­ly was still decid­ed­ly fresh.

The choice of Bach as Moog mate­r­i­al was not just a mat­ter of taste—his music was unique­ly suit­ed for Moog adap­ta­tion. As Car­los explains, “it was con­tra­pun­tal (not chords but musi­cal lines, like the Moog pro­duced), it used clean, Baroque lines, not demand­ing great ‘expres­si­vo’ (a weak­ness in the Moog at the time), and it was neu­tral as to orches­tra­tion.” The Moog could also, it seems, make Bach’s fugues fly at almost super­hu­man speeds. Hear the “Lit­tle Fugue” played at a much more state­ly tem­po, on a tra­di­tion­al pipe organ, fur­ther up, and hear it break into a run in the majes­tic per­for­mance just above.

Organs and harp­si­chords, strings and horns, these are still of course the instru­ments we think of when we think of Bach. Despite Carlos’s inven­tive foray—and its fol­low-up, The Well-Tem­pered Syn­the­siz­erthe syn­the­siz­er did not rad­i­cal­ize the clas­si­cal music world, though its avant-garde off­spring made much use of it. But it sure changed the sound of pop music, and wowed the kids who saw Bernstein’s pro­gram, some of whom may have gone on to pop­u­lar­ize both elec­tron­ic instru­ments and clas­si­cal themes in prog-rock, dis­co, and yes, even video game music. See the Moog seg­ment in the con­text of the full, one-hour “Young People’s Con­cert” here.

via Syn­th­topia

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Bernstein’s First “Young People’s Con­cert” at Carnegie Hall Asks, “What Does Music Mean?”

Leonard Bernstein’s Mas­ter­ful Lec­tures on Music (11+ Hours of Video Record­ed at Har­vard in 1973)

Watch Leonard Bern­stein Con­duct the Vien­na Phil­har­mon­ic Using Only His Eye­brows

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

What Makes Flea Such an Amazing Bass Player? A Video Essay Breaks Down His Style

When punk rock began to wend its way out of the three-chord gui­tar attack and into a new gen­er­a­tion of man­ner­isms, it tend­ed to be bass play­ers who led the way. Joy Division’s Peter Hook, Pub­lic Image Ltd’s Jah Wob­ble, The Cure’s Simon Gallup, Bauhaus’s David J. With their moody takes on dub reg­gae, chord-dri­ven melod­i­cism, and lead lines on the upper frets, these were inno­v­a­tive play­ers, but they still embraced the rel­a­tive sim­plic­i­ty of punk at their core. Across the pond, then across the con­ti­nent, how­ev­er, in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, punk bass took a much more ani­mat­ed, vir­tu­osic char­ac­ter, thanks to jazz and funk-inspired leg­ends like Min­ute­men’s Mike Watt and the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers’ Flea, who has become, since his ear­ly 80s begin­nings one of the most famous rock musi­cians in the world for his speed and unpar­al­leled tech­nique.

The shirt­less won­der, who comes across both onstage and off as incred­i­bly gre­gar­i­ous, yet hum­ble, was once vot­ed by Rolling Stone read­ers as the sec­ond best bassist of all time, and it’s not hard to see why, for exam­ple, in the mind-blow­ing video just above. But it is hard to see how. How does he do it? And what exact­ly is “it,” that incom­pa­ra­ble Flea style? Where did it come from?

The Poly­phon­ic video at the top breaks it down for us, the com­bi­na­tion of funk slap­ping and pop­ping and punk speed and aggres­sion, com­bined with a melod­i­cism Flea devel­oped as a coun­ter­point to John Frusciante’s rhyth­mic gui­tar lines. Flea’s incred­i­bly detailed attacks stand out for their nov­el­ty and pre­ci­sion, but it’s his ear for melody that makes his play­ing so dis­tinc­tive­ly musi­cal, even when pared down and slowed down in RHCP’s bal­lads.

Some bassists weave lines around gui­tars and vocals, some most­ly syn­chro­nize with the drummer’s kicks and hits—Flea does both, shift­ing from style to style with­in songs, and some­times sound­ing like he’s play­ing two bass­es at once. His syn­co­pat­ed slap bass hits, cour­tesy of Sly Stone’s Lar­ry Gra­ham, cre­ate a sec­ondary back­beat slight­ly ahead or behind Chad Smith’s drum­ming; his use of strummed chords, wild leaps around the neck, and beau­ti­ful­ly melod­ic voic­ing make his bass play­ing an essen­tial ele­ment of every song, rather than a just a low-end har­mon­ic under­pin­ning for more notice­able instru­men­ta­tion. Funk music has always been bass-dri­ven, and the Chili Pep­pers’ funki­est tracks, and most excel­lent cov­ers, fol­low the tra­di­tion. But in rock the bass can feel “like an after­thought.”

In Flea’s more than capa­ble hands, a sim­ple rock bass riff, as in “Snow,” just above, can sud­den­ly become a thing of won­der (check it out at 1:51), even on its own and unac­com­pa­nied. Per­haps no bassist since Paul McCart­ney or John Paul Jones has done as much to turn rock bass into a lead instru­ment or has writ­ten as many mem­o­rable bass lines, only Flea can play them ten times faster while leap­ing sev­er­al feet in the air. His “astound­ing instru­men­tal­ism” has always been amaz­ing to behold, and not easy to imi­tate, to say the least. But why try? Bass play­ers can learn a lot from watch­ing Flea and incor­po­rat­ing his expres­sive tech­niques into their reper­toire. But even Flea him­self, per­haps the most rec­og­niz­able bass play­er in rock, under­stands the instru­ment first and fore­most as a sup­port­ing play­er. His best advice? Play in the “spir­it of giv­ing­ness,” as he says in his video les­son below, and lis­ten to the sub­tleties of the oth­er musi­cians’ play­ing. “You want to make every­one else sound good.” Hey, if it’s good enough for Flea.…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Genius of Paul McCartney’s Bass Play­ing in 7 Iso­lat­ed Tracks

What Makes John Bon­ham Such a Good Drum­mer? A New Video Essay Breaks Down His Inim­itable Style

The Neu­ro­science of Bass: New Study Explains Why Bass Instru­ments Are Fun­da­men­tal to Music

Watch the Evo­lu­tion of Ringo Starr, Dave Grohl, Tré Cool & 19 Oth­er Drum­mers in Short 5‑Minute Videos

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

Watch the Making of the Dymaxion Globe: A 3‑D Rendering of Buckminster Fuller’s Revolutionary Map

Last year, we shined a light on Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Dymax­ion Map. Unveiled back in 1943, the Dymax­ion Map (shown below) rev­o­lu­tion­ized map design, allow­ing us to see our world in an entire­ly new way. As the Buck­min­ster Fuller Insti­tute describes it:

Also known as the “Dymax­ion Map,” the Fuller Pro­jec­tion Map is the only flat map of the entire sur­face of the Earth which reveals our plan­et as one island in one ocean, with­out any visu­al­ly obvi­ous dis­tor­tion of the rel­a­tive shapes and sizes of the land areas, and with­out split­ting any con­ti­nents.

Fuller’s map has since inspired the award-win­ning Autha­Graph World Map, cre­at­ed by Japan­ese archi­tect and artist Hajime Narukawa. And it led robot­ics engi­neer Gavin Smith to fash­ion The Dymax­ion Globe, essen­tial­ly by divid­ing the Dymax­ion Map into tri­an­gles and and fold­ing them into a three-dimen­sion­al fig­ure. Smith explains the process of mak­ing a Dymax­ion Globe over at Make Mag­a­zine. But above, you can watch it all hap­pen in a video pro­duced by Adam Sav­age’s Test­ed YouTube chan­nel. They walk you through the cre­ation of a laser-cut Dymax­ion Globe. Enjoy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Map of the World: The Inno­va­tion that Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Map Design (1943)

Japan­ese Design­ers May Have Cre­at­ed the Most Accu­rate Map of Our World: See the Autha­Graph

Every­thing I Know: 42 Hours of Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Vision­ary Lec­tures Free Online (1975)

Wim Wenders Explains How Polaroid Photos Ignite His Creative Process and Help Him Capture a Deeper Kind of Truth

Wim Wen­ders began his pro­lif­ic fea­ture film­mak­ing career in 1970, and near­ly half a cen­tu­ry lat­er — hav­ing direct­ed such cinephile favorites as Alice in the CitiesThe Amer­i­can FriendParis, Texas, and Wings of Desire along the way — he shows no signs of slow­ing down. Known for his col­lab­o­ra­tion with cin­e­matog­ra­phers, and with Rob­by Müller in par­tic­u­lar, Wen­ders has worked in every­thing from black-and-white 16-mil­lime­ter film, when he first start­ed out, to dig­i­tal 3D, which he’s spent recent years putting to a vari­ety of cin­e­mat­ic ends. But we can trace all of his visions back, in one way or anoth­er, to the hum­ble Polaroid instant cam­era.

“Every movie starts with a cer­tain idea,” says Wen­ders in the short “Pho­tog­ra­phers in Focus” video above, and the Polaroid was just a col­lec­tion of con­stant ideas.” The auteur speaks over images of some of the Polaroids he’s tak­en through­out his life, relat­ing his his­to­ry with the medi­um.

“My very first Polaroid cam­era was a very sim­ple one. Mid-six­ties. I was 20, and I used Polaroid cam­eras exclu­sive­ly until I was about 35 or so. Most of them I gave away, because when you took Polaroids, peo­ple were always greedy and want­ed them because it was an object, it was a sin­gu­lar thing.”

Wen­ders describes his Polaroids as “very insight­ful into the process of my first six, sev­en movies, all the movies I did through the sev­en­ties,” the era in which he mas­tered the form of the road movie first in his native Ger­many, then in the much-mythol­o­gized Unit­ed States. He not only shot Polaroids in prepa­ra­tion, but dur­ing pro­duc­tion, snap­ping them casu­al­ly, much as one would on a gen­uine road trip. “Polaroids were nev­er so exact about the fram­ing. You did­n’t real­ly care about that. It was about the imme­di­a­cy of it. It’s almost a sub­con­scious act, and then it became some­thing real. That makes it such a win­dow into your soul as well.” Polaroid pho­tographs, as Wen­ders sees them, cap­ture a deep­er kind of truth. It’s no sur­prise, then, even in age of the 3D dig­i­tal cam­era, to see them mak­ing a come­back.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wim Wen­ders Reveals His Rules of Cin­e­ma Per­fec­tion

The Mas­ter­ful Polaroid Pic­tures Tak­en by Film­mak­er Andrei Tarkovsky

Watch Lau­rence Olivi­er, Liv Ull­mann and Christo­pher Plummer’s Clas­sic Polaroid Ads

Gun Nut William S. Bur­roughs & Gonzo Illus­tra­tor Ralph Stead­man Make Polaroid Por­traits Togeth­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Hear Hours of Lectures by Michel Foucault: Recorded in English & French Between 1961 and 1983

Tucked in the after­ward of the sec­ond, 1982 edi­tion of Hubert Drey­fus and Paul Rabinow’s Michel Fou­cault: Beyond Struc­tural­ism and Hermeneu­tics, we find an impor­tant, but lit­tle-known essay by Fou­cault him­self titled “The Sub­ject and Pow­er.” Here, the French the­o­rist offers what he con­strues as a sum­ma­ry of his life’s work: span­ning 1961’s Mad­ness and Civ­i­liza­tion up to his three-vol­ume, unfin­ished His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty, still in progress at the time of his death in 1984. He begins by telling us that he has not been, pri­mar­i­ly, con­cerned with pow­er, despite the word’s appear­ance in his essay’s title, its argu­ments, and in near­ly every­thing else he has writ­ten. Instead, he has sought to dis­cov­er the “modes of objec­ti­fi­ca­tion which trans­form human beings into sub­jects.”

This dis­tinc­tion may seem abstruse, a need­less­ly wordy mat­ter of seman­tics. It is not so for Fou­cault. In key crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence lies the orig­i­nal­i­ty of his project, in all its var­i­ous stages of devel­op­ment. “Pow­er,” as an abstrac­tion, an objec­tive rela­tion of dom­i­nance, is sta­t­ic and con­cep­tu­al, the image of a tyrant on a coin, of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan seat­ed on his throne.

Sub­jec­tion, sub­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion, objec­tiviz­ing, indi­vid­u­al­iz­ing, on the oth­er hand—critical terms in Foucault’s vocabulary—are active process­es, dis­ci­plines and prac­tices, rela­tion­ships between indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions that deter­mine the char­ac­ter of both. These rela­tion­ships can be locat­ed in his­to­ry, as Fou­cault does in exam­ple after exam­ple, and they can also be crit­i­cal­ly stud­ied in the present, and thus, per­haps, resist­ed and changed in what he terms “anar­chis­tic strug­gles.”

Fou­cault calls for a “new econ­o­my of pow­er rela­tions,” and a crit­i­cal the­o­ry that takes “forms of resis­tance against dif­fer­ent forms of pow­er as a start­ing point.” For exam­ple, in approach­ing the carcer­al state, we must exam­ine the process­es that divide “the crim­i­nals and the ‘good boys,’” process­es that func­tion inde­pen­dent­ly of rea­son. How is it that a sys­tem can cre­ate class­es of peo­ple who belong in cages and peo­ple who don’t, when the stan­dard ratio­nal justification—the pro­tec­tion of soci­ety from violence—fails spec­tac­u­lar­ly to apply in mil­lions of cas­es? From such excess­es, Fou­cault writes, come two “’dis­eases of power’—fascism and Stal­in­ism.” Despite the “inner mad­ness” of these “patho­log­i­cal forms” of state pow­er, “they used to a large extent the ideas and the devices of our polit­i­cal ratio­nal­i­ty.”

Peo­ple come to accept that mass incar­cer­a­tion, or inva­sive med­ical tech­nolo­gies, or eco­nom­ic depri­va­tion, or mass sur­veil­lance and over-polic­ing, are nec­es­sary and ratio­nal. They do so through the agency of what Fou­cault calls “pas­toral pow­er,” the sec­u­lar­iza­tion of reli­gious author­i­ty as inte­gral to the West­ern state.

This form of pow­er can­not be exer­cised with­out know­ing the inside of people’s minds, with­out explor­ing their souls, with­out mak­ing them reveal their inner­most secrets. It implies a knowl­edge of the con­science and an abil­i­ty to direct it.

In the last years of Foucault’s life, he shift­ed his focus from insti­tu­tion­al dis­cours­es and mechanisms—psychiatric, carcer­al, medical—to dis­ci­pli­nary prac­tices of self-con­trol and the gov­ern­ing of oth­ers by “pas­toral” means. Rather than ignor­ing indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, the mod­ern state, he writes, devel­oped “as a very sophis­ti­cat­ed struc­ture, in which indi­vid­u­als can be inte­grat­ed, under one con­di­tion: that this indi­vid­u­al­i­ty would be shaped in a new form and sub­mit­ted to a set of very spe­cif­ic pat­terns.” While writ­ing his mon­u­men­tal His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty, he gave a series of lec­tures at Berke­ley that explore the mod­ern polic­ing of the self.

In his lec­tures on “Truth and Sub­jec­tiv­i­ty” (1980), Fou­cault looks at forms of inter­ro­ga­tion and var­i­ous “truth ther­a­pies” that func­tion as sub­tle forms of coer­cion. Fou­cault returned to Berke­ley in 1983 and deliv­ered the lec­ture “Dis­course and Truth,” which explores the con­cept of par­rhe­sia, the Greek term mean­ing “free speech,” or as he calls it, “truth-telling as an activ­i­ty.” Through analy­sis of the tragedies of Euripi­des and con­tem­po­rary demo­c­ra­t­ic crises, he reveals the prac­tice of speak­ing truth to pow­er as a kind of tight­ly con­trolled per­for­mance. Final­ly, in his lec­ture series “The Cul­ture of the Self,” Fou­cault dis­cuss­es ancient and mod­ern prac­tices of “self care” or “the care of the self” as tech­nolo­gies designed to pro­duce cer­tain kinds of tight­ly bound­ed sub­jec­tiv­i­ties.

You can hear parts of these lec­tures above or vis­it our posts with full audio above. Also, over at Ubuweb, down­load the lec­tures as mp3s, and hear sev­er­al ear­li­er talks from Fou­cault in French, dat­ing all the way back to 1961.

When he began his final series of talks in 1980, the philoso­pher was asked in an inter­view with the Dai­ly Cal­i­forn­ian about the moti­va­tions for his crit­i­cal exam­i­na­tions of pow­er and sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. His reply speaks to both his prac­ti­cal con­cern for resis­tance and his almost utopi­an belief in the lim­it­less poten­tial for human free­dom. “No aspect of real­i­ty should be allowed to become a defin­i­tive and inhu­man law for us,” Fou­cault says.

We have to rise up against all forms of power—but not just pow­er in the nar­row sense of the word, refer­ring to the pow­er of a gov­ern­ment or of one social group over anoth­er: these are only a few par­tic­u­lar instances of pow­er.

Pow­er is any­thing that tends to ren­der immo­bile and untouch­able those things that are offered to us as real, as true, as good.

Read Foucault’s state­ment of intent, his essay “The Sub­ject and Pow­er,” and learn more about his life and work in the 1993 doc­u­men­tary below.

Fou­cault’s lec­ture series will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Michel Fou­cault and Alain Badiou Dis­cuss “Phi­los­o­phy and Psy­chol­o­gy” on French TV (1965)

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chom­sky & Michel Fou­cault Debate Human Nature & Pow­er on Dutch TV, 1971

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

Artificial Intelligence May Have Cracked the Code of the Voynich Manuscript: Has Modern Technology Finally Solved a Medieval Mystery?

What is it about the Voyn­ich Man­u­script—that cryp­tic, illus­trat­ed 15th cen­tu­ry text of unknown ori­gin and meaning—that has so fas­ci­nat­ed and obsessed schol­ars for cen­turies? Writ­ten in what appears to be an invent­ed lan­guage, with bizarre illus­tra­tions of oth­er­world­ly botany, mys­te­ri­ous cos­mol­o­gy, and strange anato­my, the book resem­bles oth­er pro­to-sci­en­tif­ic texts of the time, except for the fact that it is total­ly inde­ci­pher­able, “a cer­tain rid­dle of the Sphinx,” as one alchemist described it. The 240-page enig­ma inspires attempt after attempt by cryp­tol­o­gists, lin­guists, and his­to­ri­ans eager to under­stand its secrets—that is if it doesn’t turn out to be a too-clever Medieval joke.

One recent try, by Nicholas Gibbs, has per­haps not lived up to the hype. Anoth­er recent attempt by Stephen Bax, who wrote the short TED Ed les­son above, has also come in for its share of crit­i­cism. Giv­en the invest­ment of schol­ars since the 17th cen­tu­ry in crack­ing the Voyn­ich code, both of these efforts might jus­ti­fi­ably be called quite opti­mistic. The Voyn­ich may for­ev­er elude human under­stand­ing, though it was, pre­sum­ably, cre­at­ed by human hands. Per­haps it will take a machine to final­ly solve the puz­zle, an arti­fi­cial brain that can process more data than the com­bined efforts of every schol­ar who has ever applied their tal­ents to the text. Com­put­er sci­en­tists at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta think so and claim to have cracked the Voyn­ich code with arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI).

Com­put­er sci­ence pro­fes­sor Greg Kon­drak and grad­u­ate stu­dent Bradley Hauer began their project by feed­ing a com­put­er pro­gram 400 dif­fer­ent lan­guages, tak­en from the “Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights.” While “they ini­tial­ly hypoth­e­sized that the Voyn­ich man­u­script was writ­ten in [ancient] Ara­bic,” reports Jen­nifer Pas­coe, “it turned out that the most like­ly lan­guage was [ancient] Hebrew.” (Pre­vi­ous guess­es, the CBC notes, “have ranged from a type of Latin to a deriva­tion of Sino-Tibetan.”) The next step involved deci­pher­ing the manuscript’s code. Kon­drak and Hauer dis­cov­ered that “the let­ters in each word… had been reordered. Vow­els had been dropped.” The the­o­ry seemed promis­ing, but the pair were unable to find any Hebrew schol­ars who would look at their find­ings.

With­out human exper­tise to guide them, they turned to anoth­er AI, whose results, we know, can be noto­ri­ous­ly unre­li­able. Nonethe­less, feed­ing the first sen­tence into Google trans­late yield­ed the fol­low­ing: “She made rec­om­men­da­tions to the priest, man of the house and me and peo­ple.” It’s at least gram­mat­i­cal, though Kon­drak admits “it’s a kind of strange sen­tence to start a man­u­script.” Oth­er analy­ses of the first sec­tion have turned up sev­er­al oth­er words, such as “farmer,” “light,” “air,” and “fire”—indeed the sci­en­tists have found 80 per­cent of the man­u­scrip­t’s words in ancient Hebrew dic­tio­nar­ies. Fig­ur­ing out how they fit togeth­er in a com­pre­hen­si­ble syn­tax has proven much more dif­fi­cult. Kon­drak and Hauer admit these results are ten­ta­tive, and may be wrong. With­out cor­rob­o­ra­tion from Hebrew experts, they are also unlike­ly to be tak­en very seri­ous­ly by the schol­ar­ly com­mu­ni­ty.

But the pri­ma­ry goal was not to trans­late the Voyn­ich but to use it as a means of cre­at­ing algo­rithms that could deci­pher ancient lan­guages. “Impor­tant­ly,” notes Giz­mo­do, “the researchers aren’t say­ing they’ve deci­phered the entire Voyn­ich man­u­script,” far from it. But they might have dis­cov­ered the keys that oth­ers may use to do so. Or they may—as have so many others—have been led down anoth­er blind alley, as one com­menter at IFL Sci­ence sug­gests, sar­cas­ti­cal­ly quot­ing the wise Bull­win­kle Moose: “This time for sure!”

You can find the Voyn­ich Man­u­script scanned at Yale’s Bei­necke Rare Book & Man­u­script Library. Copies can be pur­chased in book for­mat as well.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to “the World’s Most Mys­te­ri­ous Book,” the 15th-Cen­tu­ry Voyn­ich Man­u­script

Behold the Mys­te­ri­ous Voyn­ich Man­u­script: The 15th-Cen­tu­ry Text That Lin­guists & Code-Break­ers Can’t Under­stand

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

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

Literary Theorist Stanley Fish Offers a Free Course on Rhetoric, or the Power of Arguments

Stan­ley Fish, the well-known lit­er­ary the­o­rist and legal schol­ar, now has a short online course called “Rhetoric and Real­i­ty” that’s being offered through AIA Acad­e­my. The course (which requires a user­name and pass­word) cov­ers the fol­low­ing ground:

Argu­ments are woven through­out our pub­lic and pri­vate lives. What deter­mines which win the day? Renowned lit­er­ary and legal the­o­rist Stan­ley Fish leads us through lit­er­a­ture, pol­i­tics and the domes­tic to reveal the pow­er — and inevitabil­i­ty — of rhetoric.

From the court­room to the bed­room, argu­ments are woven through­out our pri­vate and pub­lic lives: they are how we decide what’s right, what’s true and what we should do. With exam­ples rang­ing from Milton’s Par­adise Lost to the legal­iza­tion of same sex mar­riage and Don­ald Trump, Fish shows us how the rules of engage­ment shift between con­texts — and how rhetoric is the key to suc­cess in all of them.

Draw­ing from his best­selling book Win­ning Argu­ments, Fish makes the con­tro­ver­sial claim that facts are mere­ly opin­ions that have been made to stick — and what makes them stick is noth­ing more than suc­cess­ful­ly deployed argu­ments.

Take the course to learn:

–What Milton’s Par­adise Lost teach­es us about the pow­er of rhetoric and the first ever domes­tic quar­rel
–The tech­niques Shakespeare’s Mark Antho­ny uses to pro­voke his audi­ence to vio­lence
–What char­ac­ter­izes Don­ald Trump’s rhetor­i­cal style – and how it breaks all the rules
–How the case for same sex mar­riage was real­ly won through a cul­tur­al shift rather than care­ful legal argu­ment
–The tricks cli­mate change deniers use to sow doubt
–The Five Key Truths about domes­tic quar­rels – and why self-help guides to mar­i­tal har­mo­ny almost nev­er work

“Rhetoric and Real­i­ty” will be added to our big list, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

IAI Acad­e­my Now Offers Free Cours­es: From “The Mean­ing of Life” to “A Brief Guide to Every­thing”

Take Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es from The Insti­tute of Art and Ideas: From “The Mean­ing of Life” to “Hei­deg­ger Meets Van Gogh”

George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writ­ing Clear and Tight Prose

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Boston Public Library Launches a Crowdsourced Project to Transcribe 40,000 Documents from Its Anti-Slavery Collection: You Can Now Help

We can hard­ly under­stand Amer­i­ca with­out under­stand­ing Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Can we under­stand Amer­i­can his­to­ry with­out under­stand­ing slav­ery? Many a his­to­ri­an would answer with an unqual­i­fied no, and not sim­ply because they want to see Amer­i­cans med­i­tate on the sins of their ances­tors: plung­ing into the con­tro­ver­sies around slav­ery, see­ing how Amer­i­cans made argu­ments for and against it at the time, can help us approach and inter­pret the oth­er large-scale legal and moral bat­tles that have since raged in the coun­try, and con­tin­ue to rage in it today.

The Boston Pub­lic Library’s Anti-Slav­ery Col­lec­tion, one par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant resource in that intel­lec­tu­al effort, could use our help in mak­ing its con­sid­er­able resources more read­i­ly avail­able. “For the past sev­er­al years, we have been dili­gent­ly cat­a­loging and dig­i­tiz­ing man­u­script cor­re­spon­dences from our Anti-Slav­ery col­lec­tion,” writes the BPL’s Tom Blake, all of which “doc­u­ment the thoughts, trans­ac­tions, and activ­i­ties of the abo­li­tion­ist move­ment in Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts, and through­out New Eng­land.”

Now, “in order to make this col­lec­tion more valu­able to researchers, schol­ars, and his­to­ri­ans we are pleased to announce the launch of a new web­site which will make these hand­writ­ten items avail­able for you to tran­scribe into machine read­able text.”

It’s no small job: the col­lec­tion con­tains rough­ly 40,000 pieces of “cor­re­spon­dence, broad­sides, news­pa­pers, pam­phlets, books, and mem­o­ra­bil­ia from the 1830s through the 1870s,” includ­ing the work of some of the most notable Amer­i­can, British, and Irish abo­li­tion­ists of the day. But the com­bined efforts of every­one will­ing to tran­scribe a few doc­u­ments, will, in Blake’s words, “allow the text cor­pus to be more pre­cise­ly search­able and bet­ter suit­ed for nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing appli­ca­tions – help­ing researchers bet­ter under­stand pat­terns, rela­tion­ships, and trends embed­ded in the lin­guis­tics of this par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ty.” Which, ulti­mate­ly, will help us all to bet­ter under­stand Amer­i­ca. If you’d like to lend a hand, you can cre­ate an account and start tran­scrib­ing at the Anti-Slav­ery Col­lec­tion’s site today.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mas­sive New Data­base Will Final­ly Allow Us to Iden­ti­fy Enslaved Peo­ples and Their Descen­dants in the Amer­i­c­as

1.5 Mil­lion Slav­ery Era Doc­u­ments Will Be Dig­i­tized, Help­ing African Amer­i­cans to Learn About Their Lost Ances­tors

Freed Slave Writes Let­ter to For­mer Mas­ter: You Owe Us $11,680 for 52 Years of Unpaid Labor (1865)

Visu­al­iz­ing Slav­ery: The Map Abra­ham Lin­coln Spent Hours Study­ing Dur­ing the Civ­il War

The Anti-Slav­ery Alpha­bet: 1846 Book Teach­es Kids the ABCs of Slavery’s Evils

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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