Hear Music Played on the Viola Organista, a Piano That Sounds Like a Violin, Which Leonardo da Vinci Invented, But Never Heard

The most illus­tri­ous of inven­tors, Leonar­do da Vin­ci, was not moved by con­ven­tion­al ideas about suc­cess. He took com­mis­sion after com­mis­sion from his wealthy, aris­to­crat­ic patrons, cre­at­ed metic­u­lous plans, then moved on to the next thing with­out finishing—as if he had learned all he need­ed and had no more use for the project. The works we remem­ber him for were a tiny hand­ful among thou­sands of planned designs and art­work. They have the dis­tinc­tion of being his major mas­ter­pieces because they hap­pen to be com­plet­ed.

Had Leonar­do fin­ished all of his pro­posed projects, they would fill the Lou­vre. He was con­tent to leave many of his paint­ings unpaint­ed, sculp­tures unsculpt­ed, and inven­tions unbuilt—sketched out in the­o­ry in his copi­ous note­books, pro­tect­ed from theft by his inge­nious cryp­tog­ra­phy, and left for future gen­er­a­tions to dis­cov­er.

One such inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, might have changed the course of musi­cal his­to­ry had Leonar­do had the where­with­al or desire to build one in his life­time. Or it might have remained a minor curios­i­ty; there is no way to know.

Sketched out in note­book pages con­tained in the Codex Atlanti­cus, the design showed “an out­line of a con­struc­tion con­cept for a bowed string instru­ment which at the same time is a key­board instru­ment.” A vio­lin that is also a piano, sort of…. Hav­ing built a ver­sion of the instru­ment 500 years after its inven­tion, Pol­ish con­cert pianist Sla­womir Zubrzy­c­ki describes it as hav­ing “the char­ac­ter­is­tics of three [instru­ments] we know: the harp­si­chord, the organ and the vio­la da gam­ba.”

Zubrzy­c­ki spent four years work­ing on his Vio­la Organ­ista. A few years back, we fea­tured a brief per­for­mance, his first pub­lic debut of the instru­ment in 2012. Now, we have much more audio of this incred­i­ble musi­cal inven­tion to share, includ­ing a longer per­for­mance from Zubrzy­c­ki at the top of the post, Marin Marais’ Suite in B Minor, per­formed in 2014 at the Coper­ni­cus Fes­ti­val in Krakow. (You can see the full con­cert just above.) Despite these notable per­for­mances, and his notable cre­ation, Zubrzy­c­ki is not the first to build a Vio­la Organ­ista.

In 2011, Eduar­do Pani­agua, anoth­er musi­cian devot­ed to Leonardo’s instrument—which does indeed sound like a “one per­son string ensem­ble,” as a com­menter at this MetaFil­ter post noted—released a disc of 19 songs by Baroque com­posers, con­tem­po­raries of Leonar­do, played on a Vio­la Organ­ista built by Japan­ese mak­er Akio Obuchi. (Hear the full album on Spo­ti­fy above.) Accom­pa­ny­ing the album, writes Span­ish site Musi­ca Antigua (quot­ed in Eng­lish here via Google trans­late), is “a pro­fuse­ly illus­trat­ed book­let with eleven of the organ­ist vio­la pro­to­types that Leonar­do him­self devised,” with descrip­tions of the instrument’s oper­a­tion by Pani­agua.

Though Leonar­do him­self nev­er built, nor heard, the instru­ment, it did attract inter­est not long after his death. “The old­est sur­viv­ing mod­el,” notes Musi­ca Antigua, “is in El Esco­r­i­al and is dat­ed at the begin­ning of the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry.” Every ver­sion of the Vio­la Organ­ista worked from orig­i­nal design specs like those in Leonardo’s hand above, using wheels to bow the strings when the keys are pressed, rather than ham­mers to strike them.

It’s an inge­nious solu­tion to a prob­lem musi­cians had sought for many years to solve: cre­at­ing a key­board with rich dynam­ics and sus­tain. Whether Leonardo’s design is supe­ri­or to oth­er attempts, like the clavi­chord or, for that mat­ter, the piano, I leave to musi­col­o­gists to debate. We might all agree that the sound of his instru­ment, as played by Pani­agua and Zubrzy­c­ki, is tru­ly orig­i­nal and total­ly cap­ti­vat­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Leonar­do da Vinci’s Musi­cal Inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, Being Played for the Very First Time

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Vision­ary Note­books Now Online: Browse 570 Dig­i­tized Pages

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Bizarre Car­i­ca­tures & Mon­ster Draw­ings

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

Tattoos Can Now Start Monitoring Your Medical Conditions: Harvard and MIT Researchers Innovate at the Intersection of Art & Medicine

Once reserved for rebels and out­liers, tat­toos have gone main­stream in the Unit­ed States. Accord­ing to recent sur­veys, 21% of all Amer­i­cans now have at least one tat­too. And, among the 18–29 demo­graph­ic, the num­ber ris­es to 40%. If that num­ber sounds high, just wait until tat­toos go from being aes­thet­ic state­ments to bio­med­ical devices.

At Har­vard and MIT, researchers have devel­oped “smart tat­too ink” that can mon­i­tor changes in bio­log­i­cal and health con­di­tions, mea­sur­ing, for exam­ple, when the blood sug­ar of a dia­bet­ic ris­es too high, or the hydra­tion of an ath­lete falls too low. Pair­ing biosen­si­tive inks with tra­di­tion­al tat­too designs, these smart tat­toos could con­ceiv­ably pro­vide real-time feed­back on a range of med­ical con­di­tions. And also raise a num­ber of eth­i­cal ques­tions: what hap­pens when your health infor­ma­tion gets essen­tial­ly worn on your sleeve, avail­able for all to see?

To learn more about smart tat­toos, watch the Har­vard video above, and read the cor­re­spond­ing arti­cle in the Har­vard Gazette.

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:

Meet Amer­i­ca & Britain’s First Female Tat­too Artists: Maud Wag­n­er (1877–1961) & Jessie Knight (1904–1994)

Browse a Gallery of Kurt Von­negut Tat­toos, and See Why He’s the Big Goril­la of Lit­er­ary Tat­toos

A Daz­zling Gallery of Clock­work Orange Tat­toos

Free Online Biol­o­gy Cours­es 

Maya Angelou’s Secret to Living Your Best Life

Humans are proud of ratio­nal­i­ty, maybe to a fault. It can come at a sig­nif­i­cant cost: the ten­den­cy to over­com­pli­cate the sim­plest of tasks, not the least being the task of life itself. Trea­tise after trea­tise, dis­course after dis­course, book after book, lec­ture after lec­ture appears over the cen­turies, promis­ing to show us how to live the good life. We strug­gle, amidst the hun­dreds of oth­er oper­a­tions we must per­form at any giv­en time, to remem­ber com­plex eth­i­cal sys­tems in the moment, to incor­po­rate new pos­tures and rou­tines.

Per­haps this is why we have mys­tics and poets, to cut through the tan­gles of log­i­cal thought, to remind us of the unchang­ing essen­tials: Rumi and Rilke, William Blake, Emi­ly Dick­in­son, and Maya Angelou, who daz­zled read­ers and audi­ences with advice both elo­quent and plain­spo­ken, tran­scen­dent and imma­nent­ly down-to-earth. Angelou’s impas­sioned, warm deliv­ery and hard-won wis­dom made her an excel­lent spokesper­son for some uni­ver­sal truths that get glossed over or explained away in the scram­ble to improve and enrich our­selves, such as the advice she gives on Oprah’s OWN net­work, above: “Just do right.”

We might recoil at the seem­ing naiveté: “who is right?,” “what is right?,” “how does any­one know what is right?,” “what if your right is my wrong?” etc. All rea­son­able ques­tions up for rea­son­able debate. But Angelou isn’t inter­est­ed here in phi­los­o­phy but in life. “Just do right” speaks to a deep­er part of us, the part we col­lo­qui­al­ly call a con­science, though maybe no such thing appears in an fMRI scan. “Just do right,” she says, and you pret­ty much know what that is. “You don’t real­ly have to ask any­body,” she says. “The truth is, right may not be expe­di­ent, it may not be prof­itable, but it will sat­is­fy your soul. It brings you the kind of pro­tec­tion that body­guards can’t give you.”

Com­pas­sion, a clean con­science, a good rep­u­ta­tion: this is the stuff of the good life, dis­tilled down to its essence, at the heart of Greek, Roman, African, Chi­nese, Indi­an, Native Amer­i­can, and every oth­er world phi­los­o­phy and reli­gion. We may find no more a suc­cinct uni­ver­sal encour­age­ment, and warn­ing, than in Angelou’s advice:

Try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of use­less virtue and iner­tia and timid­i­ty…. You make your own choic­es… pick up the bat­tle and make it a bet­ter world, just where you are.

This wis­dom requires no high the­o­ry and is avail­able to every­one free of charge—find out how you can make things bet­ter in your com­mu­ni­ty, stop ago­niz­ing over pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and mon­ey, and “just do right” right where you are. If this sounds too easy or too hard, lis­ten to Angelou describe in brief what it takes in the clip above, and why “courage is the most impor­tant of the virtues.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Maya Angelou Reads Her Poem “On the Pulse of Morn­ing” (1993) 

Maya Angelou Tells Studs Terkel How She Learned to Count Cards & Hus­tle in a New Ani­mat­ed Video

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

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

Malcolm Gladwell Teaching His First Online Course: A Master Class on How to Turn Big Ideas into Powerful Stories

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.

The one about the dog whis­per­er, the one about how job inter­views and sports drafts work (or don’t), the one about the ideas Apple took from Xerox PARC to cre­ate the per­son­al com­put­er as we know it: most of us have a favorite Mal­colm Glad­well arti­cle. (I hap­pen to like the one on how an Aus­tri­an archi­tect invent­ed the Amer­i­can shop­ping mall, so much that I’ve pre­vi­ous­ly cit­ed it here on Open Cul­ture.) Those all ran in the New York­er, where Glad­well has con­tributed since 1996. Since then, his enter­pris­es have expand­ed to include best­selling books, much-cir­cu­lat­ed TED Talks, and even a hit pod­cast. How does he do it?

We now have the chance to learn just that in a new online course taught by Glad­well him­self, going live this spring on Mas­ter­class. Though many know him only from his speak­ing or audio­vi­su­al media, the core of his work still gets done when he puts words on a page. Hence the title and sub­ject mat­ter of his Mas­ter­class: “Mal­colm Glad­well Teach­es Writ­ing.”

If you sign up for Mas­ter­Class through an All-Access Pass, we’re promised insight into how Glad­well uses ordi­nary sub­jects to help “mil­lions of read­ers devour com­plex ideas like behav­ioral eco­nom­ics and per­for­mance pre­dic­tion” and an under­stand­ing of how he “research­es top­ics, crafts char­ac­ters, and dis­tills big ideas into sim­ple, pow­er­ful nar­ra­tives.”

“We’re going to talk about sus­pense, struc­ture, research, humil­i­ty, char­ac­ters, puz­zles, and semi­colons,” says Glad­well in the course’s trail­er above. He also men­tions one of the com­mon mis­takes he’ll cor­rect: that “writ­ers spend a lot of time think­ing about how to start their sto­ries and not a lot of time think­ing about how to end them.” If you’ve always want­ed to write Glad­wellian prose — “at an eighth grade lev­el,” as he him­self describes it, “but with ideas that are super sophis­ti­cat­ed” — this Mas­ter­class’ twen­ty lessons will get you putting in a few of the ten thou­sand (or so) hours you need to attain mas­tery. That might sound like a lot of time, but keep Glad­well’s words of guid­ance in mind: “The job of the writer is not to sup­ply the ideas; it is to be patient enough to find the ideas.”

You can take this class by sign­ing up for a Mas­ter­Class’ All Access Pass. The All Access Pass will give you instant access to this course and 85 oth­ers for a 12-month peri­od.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mal­colm Glad­well on Why Genius Takes Time: A Look at the Mak­ing of Elvis Costello’s “Depor­tee” & Leonard Cohen’s “Hal­lelu­jah”

Mal­colm Glad­well Asks Hard Ques­tions about Mon­ey & Mer­i­toc­ra­cy in Amer­i­can High­er Edu­ca­tion: Stream 3 Episodes of His New Pod­cast

Mal­colm Glad­well: Tax­es Were High and Life Was Just Fine

Mal­colm Glad­well: What We Can Learn from Spaghet­ti Sauce

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.

Enter the Cover Art Archive: A Massive Collection of 800,000 Album Covers from the 1950s through 2018

When I get to mut­ter­ing in my beard about kids today, the sub­ject oft turns to dig­i­tal music and how every­thing sounds the same and looks the same and “what ever hap­pened to album cov­ers, man….” I mean I know they still exist, but they’re ter­ri­ble, right? Shiny thumb­nail-sized after­thoughts with no more pur­pose than can­dy in a shop win­dow dis­play? I will admit it, and not with­out some cha­grin, I’ve always thought that who­ev­er designed Tay­lor Swift’s 1989 had a can­ny sense of the deriv­a­tive as a qual­i­ty one should wear proud­ly on one’s sleeve—it’s evoca­tive!, in a fun way, not in the way of her most recent, severe­ly Teu­ton­ic cov­er incar­na­tion.

So, it’s not all bad, because there’s one good Tay­lor Swift album cov­er. But then album art has nev­er been all good. Far from it. I remem­ber album cov­ers like this and this and these being the norm. And then there’s … well you’ve prob­a­bly seen these jaw-drop­ping mon­strosi­ties from the dis­tant past….

Maybe the tru­ly awful album cov­er is as rare a trea­sure as the tru­ly great one. Maybe the album cov­er is as it always was, despite so rarely appear­ing in a phys­i­cal form: some­times an inspired work of art, some­times a half-assed, tossed-off mar­ket­ing job, some­times a half-baked, so-bad-its-good (or not) con­cept, com­plete­ly unre­lat­ed to the music.

It can some­times seem like all we have left is nos­tal­gia, but nos­tal­gia can be done well, as in 1989 (even if that record’s cov­er does evoke, in part, an image from Joni Mitchell’s weird stint in black­face). Or it can be done bad­ly, as in Justin Timberlake’s wide­ly dis­liked 2018 Man of the Woods, which makes a lame art­sy attempt to dress up the fact that it’s kin­da rip­ping off 1989 four years lat­er. I do not know how to eval­u­ate Miley Cyrus’ var­i­ous Mia­mi Vice-themed cov­ers for her album Bangerz, which came out in the same year as 1989, except to say, good for her for going all the way with this, like, why hold back?

Oth­er recent album cov­ers mime the style of decades past with real swag­ger, like Swedish folk sis­ter duo First Aid Kit’s Heart-inspired Ruins cov­er, at the top, fea­tur­ing one of many retro 70s fonts that have returned of late, as easy to read in thumb­nail images as they were on 8‑track tapes. The cov­er of Lon­don artist Arlo’s 2017 sin­gle “Safe” has its obvi­ous 80s Duran Duran pas­tel and mar­ble swirl deco trends down, taste­ful­ly and know­ing­ly applied.

You can do your own cul­tur­al anthro­pol­o­gy of the album cov­er, from 2018’s era of eye can­dy glam­or, and the recent creative—and not-so-creative—repurposing of the past, to the gen­uine arti­cles from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s at the Cov­er Art Archive, a joint project of the Inter­net Archive and MusicBrainz, an “open music ency­clo­pe­dia that col­lects music meta­da­ta and makes it avail­able to the pub­lic.

The col­lec­tion now num­bers in the sev­er­al  hun­dred thousands—upwards of 800,000, accord­ing to its results counter—but some of the uploads are not yet com­plete with images. You are invit­ed to con­tribute and help make this amaz­ing resource even more com­pre­hen­sive. “To get start­ed,” the MusicBrainz blog writes, “log in with your MusicBrainz account (or cre­ate a new onefind your favorite release and then click on the cov­er art tab to view the exist­ing pieces of art and/or upload new ones.”

You may find, as you browse and com­pare gen­res and eras, that per­haps the album cov­er is in decline, or you may find that it is alive and well, still an inno­v­a­tive form despite the mas­sive shift in modes of pro­duc­tion. At least aged British met­al band Sax­on, a true orig­i­nal, still keeps it real, fur­ther up, with the cov­er of their 22nd album, 2018’s Thun­der­bolt. Many of Sax­on’s prog­e­ny have con­tin­ued in the tra­di­tion of high fan­ta­sy met­al cov­er art.

Some things will nev­er return. There’ll nev­er be anoth­er Diary of a Mad­man, that’s for sure, or anoth­er Ozzy. But the in-your-face soft-focus gar­ish­ness of the 80s, and the styles of near­ly every oth­er decade, live on, to take a phrase from Child­ish Gambino’s 2013 out­ing, Because the Inter­net.

Enter the Cov­er Art archive and start search­ing by year, artist, and oth­er para­me­ters here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Film­mak­er Michel Gondry Brings Clas­sic Album Cov­ers to Life in a Visu­al­ly-Packed Com­mer­cial: Pur­ple Rain, Beg­gars Ban­quet, Nev­er­mind & More

Ralph Steadman’s Evolv­ing Album Cov­er Designs: From Miles Davis & The Who, to Frank Zap­pa & Slash (1956–2010)

How The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band Changed Album Cov­er Design For­ev­er

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

A Big Archive of Occult Recordings: Historic Audio Lets You Hear Trances, Paranormal Music, Glossolalia & Other Strange Sounds (1905–2007)

Aleis­ter Crow­ley in cer­e­mo­ni­al garb, 1912, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

We’ve all had our wits scared out of us by films, images, and the writ­ten word, but some­how few forms work their haunt­ing mag­ic quite so effec­tive­ly as sound alone. Think of the snap of the twig in the woods or the creak of the stair­case in the emp­ty house — or, to take it far­ther, the sound of pos­sessed chil­dren speak­ing in tongues. You can hear record­ings of that and oth­er unusu­al phe­nom­e­na at Ubuweb, which hosts the col­lec­tion Occult Voic­es – Para­nor­mal Music, Record­ings of Unseen Intel­li­gences 1905–2007.

The eerie record­ings on offer include “audio doc­u­ments of para­nor­mal phe­nom­e­na includ­ing trance speech, direct voic­es, clair­voy­ance, xenoglossy, glos­so­lia includ­ing eth­no­log­i­cal mate­r­i­al, para­nor­mal music, ‘rap­pings’ and oth­er pol­ter­geist man­i­fes­ta­tions as well as so-called ‘Elec­tron­ic voice phe­nom­e­na.’ ”

A rich mix­ture indeed, and one that begins with those pos­sessed kids, all of them record­ed in the post-Exor­cist late 1970s and ear­ly 80s; you can hear the eight-year-old “Janet” sound­ing not unlike the dev­il-filled Lin­da Blair in the record­ing embed­ded above.

Lat­er we hear from medi­ums like Britain’s famed Leslie Flint, one of the last of his kind to osten­si­bly speak direct­ly in the voic­es of the chan­neled deceased, includ­ing fig­ures as accom­plished and dis­tinc­tive as Oscar Wilde in 1975 (above), Char­lotte Bron­të in 1973, and Win­ston Churchill in 1980.

The col­lec­tion also con­tains the voice of Arthur Ford, who made his name as a medi­um by claim­ing to have made con­tact with the spir­it of Har­ry Hou­di­ni. In the clip above, you can hear five min­utes of Ford’s final Hou­di­ni séance, con­duct­ed in 1936.

No col­lec­tion of occult mate­ri­als would be com­plete, of course, with­out some­thing from Aleis­ter Crow­ley, sure­ly the most famous occultist in mod­ern his­to­ry, and one known in his time as “the wickedest man in the world.” Just above we have Crow­ley recit­ing “The Call of the First Aethyr,” a piece of occult poet­ry he record­ed in a 1920 ses­sion that pro­duced the only known record­ings of his voice.

Though Crow­ley, like many of the oth­er spir­i­tu­al­ists cap­tured here, hailed from Britain, much of the mate­r­i­al in the col­lec­tion comes from Ger­many, espe­cial­ly the kind of para­nor­mal music heard just above. But no mat­ter where in the world these record­ings were made, and whether or not you believe in the exis­tence of oth­er realms beyond that world, describ­ing any of the record­ings gath­ered here will leave you grasp­ing for any adjec­tive besides oth­er­world­ly.

Enter the archive of Occult Voic­es here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

3,500 Occult Man­u­scripts Will Be Dig­i­tized & Made Freely Avail­able Online, Thanks to Da Vin­ci Code Author Dan Brown

1,600 Occult Books Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online, Thanks to the Rit­man Library and Da Vin­ci Code Author Dan Brown

Aleis­ter Crow­ley Reads Occult Poet­ry in the Only Known Record­ings of His Voice (1920)

The Strange, Sci-Fi Sounds of Skat­ing on Thin Black Ice

Eerie 19th Cen­tu­ry Pho­tographs of Ghosts: See Images from the Long, Strange Tra­di­tion of “Spir­it Pho­tog­ra­phy”

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 Rick Wakeman’s Musical Adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, “One of Prog Rock’s Crowning Achievements”

So unfash­ion­able for so long, pro­gres­sive rock has late­ly come in for a re-eval­u­a­tion. The qual­i­ties that cur­rent music crit­ics have come to appre­ci­ate — often the very same ones that both­ered so many of their col­leagues in the 1970s — include its tech­ni­cal vir­tu­os­i­ty, its com­po­si­tion­al inven­tive­ness, its sheer per­for­ma­tive unabashed­ness, and its will­ing­ness to draw from oth­er forms of art, espe­cial­ly lit­er­a­ture. Or lit­er­a­ture of a cer­tain kind, any­way: hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured prog-rock adap­ta­tions of Isaac Asi­mov’s I, Robot by the Alan Par­sons Project, George Orwell’s 1984 by Rick Wake­man, and H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne, today we give you Jules Verne’s Jour­ney to the Cen­tre of the Earth as adapt­ed by Wake­man in 1974.

You can lis­ten to the album, which All Music Guide’s Mike DeGagne calls “one of pro­gres­sive rock­’s crown­ing achieve­ments,” on Spo­ti­fy (and if you don’t have Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, you can down­load it here). “With the help of the Lon­don Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra and the Eng­lish Cham­ber Choir, Rick Wake­man turns this clas­sic Jules Verne tale into an excit­ing and sus­pense­ful instru­men­tal nar­ra­tive,” using not just his own Ham­mond organ and Moog syn­the­siz­er but Blow-Up star David Hem­mings’ recita­tion of Verne’s words as well.

“Record­ed at Lon­don’s Roy­al Fes­ti­val Hall, the tale of a group of explor­ers who wan­der into the fan­tas­tic liv­ing world that exists in the Earth­’s core is told musi­cal­ly through Wake­man’s syn­the­sized the­atrics and enriched by the haunt­ing vocals of a cham­ber choir.”

Wake­man’s Jour­ney to the Cen­tre of the Earth demon­strates what not just Verne’s sub­ter­ranean explor­ers but all the best prog-rock­ers have in spades: ambi­tion. And though the work evi­dences deep famil­iar­i­ty with the nov­el on Wake­man’s part, you need­n’t have read a page of Verne — nor of the recent books attempt­ing to bring prog-rock to respectabil­i­ty — to enjoy it.  You don’t even need to take it seri­ous­ly, as one All Music Guide user-review­er, present as a wide-eyed teenag­er at the Roy­al Fes­ti­val Record­ing, adds: “It was all very avant garde and I felt quite sophis­ti­cat­ed as a 16-year-old attend­ing the show with smart kids who use to sit around crossed legged on the floor lis­ten­ing to Dark Side Of The Moon.” For him, the album now pro­vides “a view back to the oh so earnest days of grandiose prog-rock and for that rea­son alone it can be seen as some­thing it nev­er was at the time… fun!”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Prog-Rock Adap­ta­tion of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: The 1978 Rock Opera That Sold 15 Mil­lion Copies World­wide

Rick Wakeman’s Prog-Rock Opera Adap­ta­tion of George Orwell’s 1984

Hear The Alan Par­son Project’s Prog-Rock Inter­pre­ta­tion of Isaac Asimov’s, I Robot (1977)

The Great Leonard Nimoy Reads H.G. Wells’ Sem­i­nal Sci-Fi Nov­el The War of the Worlds

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.

HBO Drops a Teaser Trailer for Fahrenheit 451, Its New Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Classic Dystopian Novel

From HBO comes the lat­est teas­er trail­er for a new adap­ta­tion of Ray Brad­bury’s 1953 dystopi­an nov­el, Fahren­heit 451. Sched­uled to debut in May 2018, the new film will fea­ture Michael B. Jor­dan and Michael Shan­non.

Osten­si­bly Fahren­heit 451 is a sto­ry about gov­ern­ment cen­sor­ship. And some have con­sid­ered it a response to McCarthy­ism. But, when asked what the sto­ry is real­ly about, Ray Brad­bury said this: It’s about peo­ple “being turned into morons by TV.”  As a medi­um, tele­vi­sion “gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” spread­ing “fac­toids” instead of knowl­edge. “They stuff you with so much use­less infor­ma­tion, you feel full.” Just some­thing to keep in mind before and after the new HBO film hits your TV sets this spring.

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:

Ray Brad­bury Reveals the True Mean­ing of Fahren­heit 451: It’s Not About Cen­sor­ship, But Peo­ple “Being Turned Into Morons by TV”

Hear Ray Bradbury’s Clas­sic Sci-Fi Sto­ry Fahren­heit 451 as a Radio Dra­ma

Father Writes a Great Let­ter About Cen­sor­ship When Son Brings Home Per­mis­sion Slip to Read Ray Bradbury’s Cen­sored Book, Fahren­heit 451

To Read This Exper­i­men­tal Edi­tion of Ray Bradbury’s Fahren­heit 451, You’ll Need to Add Heat to the Pages

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.