Glenn Gould’s Heavily Marked-Up Score for the Goldberg Variations Surfaces, Letting Us Look Inside His Creative Process

Does it make sense to call Glenn Gould, that most prodi­gious and unusu­al inter­preter of clas­si­cal piano, a com­pos­er? While his radio doc­u­men­tary tril­o­gy should earn him the title, his clas­si­cal per­for­mances and record­ings remain bound—albeit some­times mad­den­ing­ly loose­ly for cer­tain tastes—to the work of oth­ers, whether Mozart, Schoen­berg, Strauss, Sibelius, Beethoven, Brahms, or J.S. Bach, who pro­vid­ed Gould with the mate­r­i­al that would launch his career, the “Gold­berg” Vari­a­tions, which he first record­ed at 22 in 1955 to wide­spread acclaim and admi­ra­tion. His debut became one of the best-sell­ing clas­si­cal albums of all time.

Famous­ly Gould made anoth­er record­ing of the “Gold­berg” in 1981, the year before his ear­ly death at 50, “leav­ing the two Bach state­ments as book­ends to his career,” writes Michael Coop­er at The New York Times. Gould revered the com­posers he record­ed and expound­ed on their virtues at length in writ­ten, tele­vised, and broad­cast com­men­taries. This was espe­cial­ly the case with Bach, whom he described as “first and last an archi­tect, a con­struc­tor of sound, and what makes him so ines­timably valu­able to us is that he was beyond a doubt the great­est archi­tect of sound who ever lived.”

The Cana­di­an pianist was more than con­tent to devote his life to oth­ers’ con­struc­tions of sound, rather than try­ing his hand at writ­ing them him­self, but if Bach was an archi­tect of sound, we might com­pare Gould to a director—a metic­u­lous auteur with a sin­gu­lar and soli­tary vision. Take his heav­i­ly marked up score for the 1981 “Gold­berg,” above, recent­ly resur­faced and des­tined for auc­tion on Decem­ber 5th at Bon­hams in New York. “I would call this the equiv­a­lent of a shoot­ing script of a movie,” com­ments crit­ic and Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia pro­fes­sor Tim Page.

Gould chose the stu­dio over live per­for­mance ear­ly in his career, find­ing that the con­trolled expe­ri­ence of recording—the abil­i­ty to do mul­ti­ple takes and edit them togeth­er in a kind of nar­ra­tive dynamic—provided him with max­i­mum cre­ative free­dom. His 1981 “Gold­berg,” “elec­tri­fied the clas­si­cal music world near­ly as much as his clas­sic 1955 record­ing had,” writes pianist Antho­ny Tom­masi­ni. His record­ings res­onate far out­side the clas­si­cal world, such that a Toron­to hip-hop pro­duc­er has even remixed his work.

There is anoth­er case for think­ing of Gould him­self as some­thing of a mod­ern producer/remixer—of oth­er com­posers’ works and of his own per­for­mances. Page, who knew Gould well, spec­u­lates that he would have loved the inter­net. “I bet, with­out any inter­fer­ence,” he says, “Glenn would have record­ed three or four dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the same piece and put them all out there for peo­ple to lis­ten to and even chose from.” He took to mod­ern tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies with­out reser­va­tion.

Gould’s friend­li­ness to moder­ni­ty, and its enthu­si­as­tic embrace of him, makes him seem like so much more than a pianist, and of course, he was. But we should also con­sid­er him—and all great clas­si­cal interpreters—as at least a co-com­pos­er, a role as old as clas­si­cal music itself. As pianist Jere­my Denk writes, each score is “at once a book and a book wait­ing to be writ­ten.” (Tom­masi­ni points out that “Bach’s scores leave much to the choic­es and tastes of per­form­ers,” and in the case of “Gold­berg,” we have only recon­struc­tions of the orig­i­nal.) The Vari­a­tions, after all, are not named for Bach, but for vir­tu­oso harp­si­chordist Johann Got­tlieb Gold­berg, like­ly the orig­i­nal per­former of the piece.

The par­tic­u­lar­ly idio­syn­crat­ic approach of a pianist like Gould, writes Denk, with much ambiva­lence, “found per­ver­si­ty in the music and teased it out, but most­ly he just slathered it on; piece after piece, he made bril­liant but deeply unin­tu­itive, ‘unnat­ur­al’ choic­es, and made them work through sheer force of will.” Now, in his 1981 “Gold­berg” score, fans and schol­ars can see for them­selves how much delib­er­a­tion was involved in his appar­ent will­ful­ness.

In Gould’s inter­pre­ta­tions, we can­not sep­a­rate the play­er from the work. “He immor­tal­ized his pho­bias,” his pas­sions, and his per­son­al eccen­tric­i­ties, Denk writes, “by graft­ing them onto Bach,” with the effect that his record­ings “erase the dis­tance of cen­turies; they dis­solve the var­nish that has piled up, and make Bach one with the anx­i­eties of the present.” See Gould record­ing his 1981 “Gold­berg” Vari­a­tions fur­ther up, and read about the 2015 tran­scrip­tion of the record­ing by Nicholas Hop­kins here.

via NYTimes/@stevesilberman

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Glenn Gould’s Eccen­tric­i­ties Became Essen­tial to His Play­ing & Per­son­al Style: From Hum­ming Aloud While Play­ing to Per­form­ing with His Child­hood Piano Chair

Watch a 27-Year-Old Glenn Gould Play Bach & Put His Musi­cal Genius on Dis­play (1959)

Glenn Gould: Off and On the Record: Two Short Films About the Life & Music of the Eccen­tric Musi­cian

Lis­ten to Glenn Gould’s Shock­ing­ly Exper­i­men­tal Radio Doc­u­men­tary, The Idea of North (1967)

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

An Animated Introduction to the Forgotten Pioneer in Quantum Theory, Grete Hermann

From Aeon Video comes a short, vivid­ly-ani­mat­ed trib­ute to Grete Her­mann (1901–1984), the Ger­man math­e­mati­cian and philoso­pher who made impor­tant, but often for­got­ten, con­tri­bu­tions to quan­tum mechan­ics. Aeon intro­duces the video with these words:

In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, New­ton­ian physics was upend­ed by exper­i­ments that revealed a bizarre sub­atom­ic uni­verse rid­dled with pecu­liar­i­ties and incon­sis­ten­cies. Why do pho­tons and elec­trons behave as both par­ti­cles and waves? Why should the act of obser­va­tion affect the behav­iour of phys­i­cal sys­tems? More than just a puz­zle for sci­en­tists to sort out, this quan­tum strange­ness had unset­tling impli­ca­tions for our under­stand­ing of real­i­ty, includ­ing the very con­cept of truth.

The Ger­man math­e­mati­cian and philoso­pher Grete Her­mann offered some intrigu­ing and orig­i­nal answers to these puz­zles. In a quan­tum uni­verse, she argued, the notion of absolute truth must be aban­doned in favour of a frag­ment­ed view – one in which the way we mea­sure the world affects the slice of it that we can see. She referred to this idea as the ‘split­ting of truth’, and believed it extend­ed far beyond the lab­o­ra­to­ry walls and into every­day life. With a strik­ing visu­al style inspired by the mod­ern art of Hermann’s era, this Aeon Orig­i­nal video explores one of Hermann’s pro­found but under­val­ued con­tri­bu­tions to quan­tum the­o­ry – as well as her own split life as an anti-Nazi activist, social jus­tice reformer and edu­ca­tor.

The short was direct­ed and ani­mat­ed by Julie Gratz and Ivo Stoop, and pro­duced by Kellen Quinn.

via Aeon

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Physics Cours­es

“The Matil­da Effect”: How Pio­neer­ing Women Sci­en­tists Have Been Denied Recog­ni­tion and Writ­ten Out of Sci­ence His­to­ry

Read the “Don’t Let the Bas­tards Get You Down” Let­ter That Albert Ein­stein Sent to Marie Curie Dur­ing a Time of Per­son­al Cri­sis (1911)

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

Pop Art Posters Cel­e­brate Pio­neer­ing Women Sci­en­tists: Down­load Free Posters of Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace & More

The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Women Philoso­phers: A New Web Site Presents the Con­tri­bu­tions of Women Philoso­phers, from Ancient to Mod­ern

The Captivating Story Behind the Making of Ansel Adams’ Most Famous Photograph, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Ansel Adams cap­tured many an Amer­i­can land­scape as no pho­tog­ra­ph­er had before or has since, but in his large cat­a­log you’ll find few pic­tures as imme­di­ate­ly strik­ing as — and none more famous than — Moon­rise, Her­nan­dez, New Mex­i­co. Orig­i­nal­ly tak­en from the shoul­der of a high­way pass­ing through the com­mu­ni­ty of Her­nan­dez in 1941, the shot cap­tures the moon ris­ing above a clus­ter of hous­es, a church with a grave­yard, and a moun­tain range in the back­ground. All of those might seem like pret­ty stan­dard ele­ments of a remote part of Amer­i­ca in that era, but the sheer visu­al impact Adams draws from them shows what sep­a­rates a road-trip snap­shot from the work of a ded­i­cat­ed pho­tog­ra­ph­er.

Few pho­tog­ra­phers in the his­to­ry of the medi­um have been quite as ded­i­cat­ed as Adams, whose tech­niques we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. But as much as his delib­er­ate­ness and patience have become the stuff of pho­to­graph­ic leg­end, Moon­rise was very much a seat-of-the-pants achieve­ment.

Adams was dri­ving around the west with his son Michael and friend Cedric Wright at the behest of Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or Harold Ick­es, who had com­mis­sioned Adams to pro­duce large-for­mat pho­tographs for the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or’s new muse­um. Toward the end of one not par­tic­u­lar­ly pro­duc­tive day on the job came the big moment. As Adams him­self tells it in Exam­ples: The Mak­ing of Forty Pho­tographs:

We were sail­ing south­ward along the high­way not far from Espanola when I glanced to the left and saw an extra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion — an inevitable pho­to­graph! I almost ditched the car and rushed to set up my 8×10 cam­era. I was yelling to my com­pan­ions to bring me things from the car as I strug­gled to change com­po­nents on my Cooke Triple-Con­vert­ible lens. I had a clear visu­al­iza­tion of the image I want­ed, but when the Wrat­ten No. 15 (G) fil­ter and the film hold­er were in place, I could not find my West­on expo­sure meter! The sit­u­a­tion was des­per­ate: the low sun was trail­ing the edge of the clouds in the west, and shad­ow would soon dim the white cross­es.

While an expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­ph­er today prob­a­bly won’t have used the same gear as Adams, they’ll cer­tain­ly rec­og­nize the dread­ful feel­ing of being about to lose a pre­cious image. What came to the res­cue of Moon­rise was­n’t any piece of Adams’ equip­ment — he nev­er did find that light meter — but the fact that he’d already spent so much time immersed so deeply in the prac­tice of pho­tog­ra­phy that he could set up and load his cam­era as if by pure instinct. Then, when he remem­bered that he knew the lumi­nos­i­ty of the moon (250 foot can­dles, for the record), he could cal­cu­late the prop­er expo­sure for the image he’d already visu­al­ized in his head: one with a bright moon and just enough light on the ground to make the cross­es in the church­yard glow.

You can learn more about the mak­ing and nature of Adams’ best-known pho­to­graph, prints of which com­mand high prices at auc­tion to this day, in the three videos here: first Adams’ own descrip­tion of his process mak­ing it, then a short by the Ansel Adams Gallery exam­in­ing a rare “mur­al-sized” print from the ear­ly 1970s, then a look into the pic­ture’s back­sto­ry by Swann Auc­tion Gal­leries. The tale of the pic­ture’s tak­ing, dra­mat­ic though it is, does­n’t quite con­vey the full extent of the pho­to­graph­ic work it took to cre­ate the image known to every­one famil­iar with Adams’ work (and many who aren’t famil­iar with it): he also had to go through quite a bit of tri­al and error in the devel­op­ment process to imbue the sky with just the right dark­ness. If any pho­tog­ra­ph­er could pro­duce Moon­rise, Her­nan­dez, New Mex­i­co, Ansel Adams could. But we might reflect on the fact that even a mas­ter like Ansel Adams only had one Moon­rise, Her­nan­dez, New Mex­i­co in his career — and even he almost missed it.

via Petapix­el

Relat­ed Con­tent:

226 Ansel Adams Pho­tographs of Great Amer­i­can Nation­al Parks Are Now Online

How to Take Pho­tographs Like Ansel Adams: The Mas­ter Explains The Art of “Visu­al­iza­tion”

200 Ansel Adams Pho­tographs Expose the Rig­ors of Life in Japan­ese Intern­ment Camps Dur­ing WW II

Ansel Adams, Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: 1958 Doc­u­men­tary Cap­tures the Cre­ative Process of the Icon­ic Amer­i­can Pho­tog­ra­ph­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, 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.

Watch the First Film Adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1910): It’s Newly Restored by the Library of Congress

In his Cri­tique of Judg­ment Immanuel Kant made every attempt to sep­a­rate the Sublime—the phe­nom­e­non that inspires rev­er­ence, awe, and imagination—from ter­ror, hor­ror, and mon­stros­i­ty. But as Bar­bara Free­man argues, the dis­tinc­tions fall apart. Nowhere do we see this bet­ter dra­ma­tized, Free­man writes, than in Mary Shelley’s Franken­stein, which “can be read almost as a par­o­dy of the Cri­tique of Judg­ment, for in it every­thing Kant iden­ti­fies with or as sub­lime… yield pre­cise­ly what Kant pro­hibits: ter­ror, mon­stros­i­ty, pas­sion, and fanati­cism.”

Rea­son, even that as care­ful as Kan­t’s, begets mon­sters, Shel­ley sug­gests. It’s a theme that has become so com­mon­place in writ­ing about Franken­stein and its numer­ous prog­e­ny that it seems hard­ly worth repeat­ing. And yet, Shelley’s dark vision, like that of her con­tem­po­rary Fran­cis­co Goya, came at a time when elec­tric­i­ty was a new force in the world (one that her hus­band Per­cy used to con­duct exper­i­ments on him­self)… a time when Kant’s phi­los­o­phy had seem­ing­ly val­i­dat­ed empir­i­cal real­ism and the pri­ma­cy of abstract rea­son.

Steeped in the lat­est sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy, and liv­ing on the oth­er side of the French Rev­o­lu­tion, Shel­ley saw the return of what Kant had sought to ban­ish. The mon­ster arrives as an omi­nous por­tent of atroc­i­ty. As Steven J. Kraftchick points out in a recent anthol­o­gy of Franken­stein essays pub­lished for the novel’s 200th anniver­sary, “the Eng­lish term ‘mon­ster’ (by way of French) like­ly derives from the Latin words mon­trare ‘to demon­strate’ and mon­ere ‘to warn.’” The mon­ster comes to show “the lim­its of the ordi­nary… expand­ing or con­tract­ing.”

As a being intend­ed to show us some­thing, it seems apt that Vic­tor Frankenstein’s cre­ation became ubiq­ui­tous in film and tele­vi­sion, first arriv­ing on screen in 1910 at the dawn­ing of film as a pop­u­lar medi­um. The first Franken­stein adap­ta­tion pre­dates the tech­no­log­i­cal hor­rors of the 20th cen­tu­ry (them­selves, of course, well doc­u­ment­ed on film). Rather than tak­ing tech­nol­o­gy to task direct­ly, this orig­i­nal cin­e­mat­ic adap­ta­tion, direct­ed by J. Sear­le Daw­ley for Thomas Edison’s stu­dios, vague­ly illus­trates, as Rich Drees writes, “the dan­gers of tam­per­ing in God’s realm.”

It was a trite mes­sage tai­lored for cen­so­ri­ous moral reform­ers who had tak­en aim at the mov­ing image’s sup­pos­ed­ly cor­rupt­ing effect on impres­sion­able minds. And yet the film does more than inau­gu­rate a cin­e­mat­ic tra­di­tion of bet­ter Franken­stein adap­ta­tions, both faith­ful and lib­er­al­ly mod­ern­ized. The cre­ation of the mon­ster in the 13-minute short is some­what terrifying—and cer­tain­ly would have unset­tled audi­ences at the time. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, it takes place in giant black box, with a small win­dow through which Vic­tor peers as the spe­cial effects unfold.

The scene is not unlike a film direc­tor look­ing through a colos­sal camera’s lens, fur­ther sug­gest­ing the dan­ger­ous influ­ence of film, its abil­i­ty to pro­duce and cap­ture mon­strosi­ties. The Library of Congress’s Mike Mashon describes the Edi­son pro­duc­tion of Franken­stein as not “all that rev­e­la­to­ry.” Maybe with the ben­e­fit of 108 years of hind­sight, it is not. But as a cri­tique of the very tech­nol­o­gy that pro­duced it, we can see it updat­ing Shelley’s anx­i­eties, antic­i­pat­ing the ways in which Franken­stein-like sto­ries have come to tele­graph fears of com­put­er intel­li­gence, in films increas­ing­ly cre­at­ed by intel­li­gent machines.

This 1910 Franken­stein film has been restored by the Library of Con­gress, and Mashon’s sto­ry of how the only nitrate print was acquired by the library’s Packard Cam­pus for Audio Visu­al Con­ser­va­tion may be, he writes, “more inter­est­ing than the film itself.” Or it may not, depend­ing on your lev­el of inter­est in the twists and turns of library acqui­si­tions. But the film, which you can see in its restored glo­ry at the top, rewards view­ing as more than a cin­e­ma-his­tor­i­cal arti­fact. Its effects are crude, its sim­pli­fied sto­ry moral­is­tic, but this trun­cat­ed ver­sion can­ni­ly rec­og­nizes the hor­rif­ic crea­ture not as the exclud­ed oth­er but as the mon­strous mir­ror image of its cre­ator.

via Indiewire

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Very First Film Adap­ta­tion of Mary Shelley’s Franken­stein, a Thomas Edi­son Pro­duc­tion (1910)

Mary Shelley’s Hand­writ­ten Man­u­scripts of Franken­stein Now Online for the First Time

The First Hor­ror Film, George Méliès’ The Manor of the Dev­il (1896)

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

A New Christmas Commercial Takes You on a Sentimental Journey Through Elton John’s Rich Musical Life

The Bitch is Back…or is he?

Yes, Elton John is spend­ing the next cou­ple of years bid­ding adieu to fans on his Good­bye Yel­low Brick Road world tour.

And yes, there’s a soon-to-be released biopic, Rock­et­man.

On the oth­er hand, there’s the ridicu­lous­ly pneu­mat­ic two-minute tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial above, upscale depart­ment store John Lewis’s attempt to best rivals Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer in the unof­fi­cial British hol­i­day advert bowl.

These annu­al pro­duc­tions are as hot­ly antic­i­pat­ed as Super­bowl ads, but this year’s entry, in which view­ers trav­el back­wards in time near­ly 70 years to the three-year-old Elton (née Regi­nald Dwight) receiv­ing a (SPOILER!) piano from his granny, has proved a bit of a mis­fire.

View­ers are flock­ing to social media to lam­bast the ad for inad­ver­tent­ly sug­gest­ing that Elton John is the rea­son for the sea­son. (Pop­u­lar sub­jects from Christ­mases past include Padding­ton Bear, pen­guins, and box­er dogs.)

There’s also a bit of cyn­i­cism sur­round­ing the fact that John Lewis hus­tled to add dig­i­tal key­boards to its inven­to­ry pri­or to the release of “The Boy And The Piano”…

And then there’s the rumor that Sir Elton took home £5 mil­lion for his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the four day shoot.

Sev­er­al of the star’s most out­ré looks have been faith­ful­ly recre­at­ed, but, Christ­mas aside, it’s hard not to feel that this por­trait is rather too san­i­tized. You won’t find any friends rolling ‘round the base­ment floor here. His dad, an RAF offi­cer with whom he had a thorny rela­tion­ship is sim­i­lar­ly strick­en from the record. There’s nary a whis­per of drugs or diva-esque behav­ior.

As colum­nist Stu­art Her­itage notes in The Guardian before offer­ing a hilar­i­ous allit­er­a­tive script in which Sir Elton screams pro­fan­i­ties, flings vas­es, and bad­mouths Madon­na:

Elton John isn’t a great pop star because he sings songs about lit­tle dancers, croc­o­diles that rock, and being able to stand up. No, Elton John is a great pop star because he is knot­ty and com­pli­cat­ed and, well, a bit of a dick some­times.

A num­ber of spoofs have already cropped up, and nat­u­ral­ly there’s a Mak­ing Of, below—also set to “Your Song”—wherein the young actors who embod­ied Sir Elton at var­i­ous stages of his life and career, some­times with the help of pros­thet­ics, hold forth.

Also… while we don’t dis­miss out of hand the pos­si­bil­i­ty that sen­ti­men­tal attach­ment could have caused Sir Elton to hold on to his child­hood piano, we’ll eat our plat­form boots if that’s what con­sti­tutes his Christ­mas tree.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Elton John Sings His Clas­sic Hit ‘Your Song’ Through the Years

Enjoy a Blue­grass Per­for­mance of Elton John’s 1972 Hit, “Rock­et Man”

Elton John Proves He Can Turn any Text into a Song: Watch Him Impro­vise with Lines from Hen­rik Ibsen’s Play, Peer Gynt

Sell & Spin: The His­to­ry of Adver­tis­ing, Nar­rat­ed by Dick Cavett (1999)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Decem­ber for the 10th anniver­sary pro­duc­tion of Greg Kotis’ apoc­a­lyp­tic hol­i­day tale, The Truth About San­ta, and the next month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

An Archive of 800+ Imaginative Propaganda Maps Designed to Shape Opinions & Beliefs: Enter Cornell’s Persuasive Maps Collection

We tend to take a very spe­cial inter­est in archives and maps on this site—and espe­cial­ly in archives of maps. Yet it is rare, if not unheard of, to dis­cov­er a map archive in which every sin­gle entry repays atten­tion. The PJ Mode Per­sua­sive Car­tog­ra­phy Col­lec­tion at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Library is such an archive. Each map in the col­lec­tion, from the most sim­pli­fied to the most elab­o­rate, tells not only one sto­ry, but sev­er­al, over­lap­ping ones about its cre­ators, their intend­ed audi­ence, their antag­o­nists, the con­scious and uncon­scious process­es at work in their polit­i­cal psy­ches, the geo-polit­i­cal view from where they stood.

Maps drawn as pro­pa­gan­da must be broad and bold, cast­ing aside pre­ci­sion for the press­ing mat­ter at hand. Even when fine­ly detailed or laden with sta­tis­tics, such maps press their mean­ing upon us with unsub­tle force.

One espe­cial­ly res­o­nant exam­ple of per­sua­sive car­tog­ra­phy, for exam­ple, at the top shows us an ear­ly ver­sion of a wide­ly-used motif—the “Car­to­graph­ic Land Octo­pus,” or CLO, as Frank Jacobs dubs it at Big Think. The CLO has nev­er gone out of style since its like­ly ori­gin in J.J. van Brederode’s “Humor­ous War Map” of 1870, which depicts Rus­sia as a mon­strous mol­lusk. Lat­er, Car­i­ca­tur­ist Fred W. Rose print­ed a reprise, the “Serio-Com­ic War Map for the Year 1877.”

A full twen­ty-sev­en years lat­er, a Japan­ese stu­dent used the very same design for his satir­i­cal map of Rus­sia-as-Octo­pus, the occa­sion this time the Rus­so-Japan­ese War. Titled “A Humor­ous Diplo­mat­ic Atlas of Europe and Asia,” the Japan­ese map cites Rose, or “a cer­tain promi­nent Eng­lish­man,” as its inspi­ra­tion. Its text reads, in part:

The black octo­pus is so avari­cious, that he stretch­es out his eight arms in all direc­tions, and seizes up every thing that comes with­in his reach. But as it some­times hap­pens he gets wound­ed seri­ous­ly even by a small fish, owing to his too much cov­etous­ness.

No doubt Russ­ian per­sua­sive car­tog­ra­phers had a dif­fer­ent view of who was or wasn’t an octo­pus. Many years after his octo­pus map, Fred Rose dropped sea crea­tures for fish­ing in anoth­er of his serio-com­ic maps, “Angling in Trou­bled Waters,” above, this one from 1899, and show­ing Rus­sia as a mas­sive incar­na­tion of the tsar, his boots posed to walk all over Europe. After the rev­o­lu­tion, the Russ­ian octo­pus returned, bear­ing dif­fer­ent names but no less men­ac­ing a beast.

Many maps in the col­lec­tion show con­tra­dic­to­ry views of Rus­sia, or Great Britain, or what­ev­er world pow­er at the time threat­ened to over­run every­one else. It’s inter­est­ing to see the con­ti­nu­ity of such depic­tions over decades, and cen­turies (Jacobs shows exam­ples of Russ­ian octopi from 1938 and 2008). The map above from 1938 reflects “Nazi expan­sion­ist goals,” notes Cornell’s dig­i­tal col­lec­tions, by show­ing the sup­posed “Ger­man” pop­u­la­tions scat­tered all over Europe and the need, as Hitler argued in the quot­ed speech, to pro­tect and lib­er­ate “nation­al com­rades” by means of annex­a­tion, bomb­ing, and inva­sion.

Where the blood red of the Ger­man map rep­re­sents the “blood” of the volk, in the map above, from 1917, it stands in for the blood of every­one else if the “lead­ers of Ger­man thought” get what they want. Where the Reich map took aim at Europe, the quot­ed “for­mer gen­er­als,” notes Cor­nell, “and well-known Panger­man­ists” in the WWI-era map above want­ed to col­o­nize most of the world, a par­tic­u­lar affront to the British, who were well on their way to doing so, and to a less­er degree, the French, who want­ed to. These two world pow­ers had been at it far longer, how­ev­er, and not with­out fierce oppo­si­tion at home as well as in the colonies.

The famous eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry British car­i­ca­tur­ist James Gillray’s most famous print, from 1805, shows William Pitt and Napoleon seat­ed at table, carv­ing up the world between them to con­sume it.

A steam­ing ‘plum-pud­ding’ globe, both intent on carv­ing them­selves a sub­stan­tial por­tion…. Pitt appears calm, metic­u­lous and con­fi­dent, spear­ing the pud­ding with a tri­dent indica­tive of British naval suprema­cy. He lays claim to the oceans and the West Indies. In con­trast Napoleon Bona­parte reach­es from this chair with cov­etous, twitch­ing eyes fixed on the prize of Europe and cuts away France, Hol­land, Spain, Switzer­land, Italy and the Mediter­ranean.

Gillray’s car­toon hard­ly counts as a “map” but it deserves inclu­sion in this fine col­lec­tion. Oth­er notable maps fea­tured include the 1904 “Dis­tri­b­u­tion of Crime & Drunk­en­ness in Eng­land and Wales,”a study in the per­sua­sive use of cor­re­la­tion; the 1856 “Reynold’s Polit­i­cal Map of the Unit­ed States,” illus­trat­ing the “stakes involved in the poten­tial spread of slav­ery to the West­ern States” in sup­port of the Repub­li­can Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date John Fre­mont; and the French Com­mu­nist Party’s 1951 “Who is the Aggres­sor?” which shows Amer­i­can mil­i­tary bases around the world, their guns—or big black arrows—pointed at Chi­na and the U.S.S.R.

There are hun­dreds more per­sua­sive maps, illus­trat­ing views the­o­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal, social, mechan­i­cal, and oth­er­wise, dat­ing from the 15th cen­tu­ry to the 2000s. You can browse the whole col­lec­tion or by date, cre­ator, sub­ject, repos­i­to­ry, and for­mat. All of the maps are anno­tat­ed with cat­a­log infor­ma­tion and collector’s notes explain­ing their con­text. And all of them, from the friv­o­lous to the world-his­tor­i­cal, tell us far more than they intend­ed with their pecu­liar ways of spa­tial­iz­ing prej­u­dices, fears, desires, beliefs, obses­sions, and overt bias­es.

“Every map has a Who, What, Where and When about it,” as col­lec­tor PJ Mode writes on the Cor­nell site. “But these maps had anoth­er ele­ment: Why? Since they were pri­mar­i­ly ‘about’ some­thing oth­er than geog­ra­phy, under­stand­ing the map required find­ing the rea­son­ing behind it.” The most recent entry in the archive, Christo­pher Neiman’s 2011 “World Map of Use­less Stereo­types” from The New York Times Mag­a­zine turns the per­sua­sive map in on itself, using its satir­i­cal devices to poke fun at propaganda’s reduc­tive effects.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, “the Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever Under­tak­en,” Is Free Online

Down­load 67,000 His­toric Maps (in High Res­o­lu­tion) from the Won­der­ful David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

An Atlas of Lit­er­ary Maps Cre­at­ed by Great Authors: J.R.R Tolkien’s Mid­dle Earth, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Trea­sure Island & More

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

Criterion Announces New Streaming Service To Replace FilmStruck: Become a Charter Subscriber Today

Late last month, Turn­er and Warn­er Bros. Dig­i­tal Net­works announced–much to the cha­grin of cinephiles–that it planned to close Film­struck, a stream­ing ser­vice that spe­cial­ized in art­house and clas­sic films. Fans and celebrities–from Christo­pher Nolan to Guiller­mo del Toro–quickly got behind a peti­tion to save the stream­ing ser­vice. And today their wish came true, more or less.

The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion and Warn­er­Me­dia just issued a press release, declar­ing that “the Cri­te­ri­on Chan­nel will launch as a free-stand­ing stream­ing ser­vice” in the spring of 2019. This will effec­tive­ly allow the Cri­te­ri­on Chan­nel to “pick up where Film­Struck left off, with the­mat­ic pro­gram­ming, reg­u­lar film­mak­er spot­lights, and actor ret­ro­spec­tives, fea­tur­ing major clas­sics and hard-to-find dis­cov­er­ies from Hol­ly­wood and around the world, com­plete with spe­cial fea­tures like com­men­taries, behind-the-scenes footage and orig­i­nal doc­u­men­taries.”


If you want to demon­strate your appre­ci­a­tion and sup­port, you can become a Char­ter Sub­scriber and gain the fol­low­ing ben­e­fits:

  • 30-day free tri­al.
  • reduced sub­scrip­tion fee for as long as you keep your sub­scrip­tion active. The reg­u­lar fee will be $10.99 a month or $100 a year, but as a Char­ter Sub­scriber you’ll pay $9.99 a month or $89.99 a year.
  • Concierge cus­tomer ser­vice from the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion, includ­ing a cus­tomer ID and a spe­cial e‑mail address.
  • hol­i­day gift-cer­tifi­cate present, for use on the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion web­site.
  • Char­ter Sub­scriber mem­ber­ship card.
  • The sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing you’re keep­ing the best of film alive and avail­able.

Hope this helps you have a great week­end.

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:

Aki­ra Kuro­sawa Names His 21 Favorite Art Films in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

The Art of Restor­ing Clas­sic Films: Cri­te­ri­on Shows You How It Refreshed Two Hitch­cock Movies

120 Artists Pick Their Top 10 Films in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

A Japanese Illustrated History of America (1861): Features George Washington Punching Tigers, John Adams Slaying Snakes & Other Fantastic Scenes

“George Wash­ing­ton (with bow and arrow) pic­tured along­side the God­dess of Amer­i­ca”

Though I’m Amer­i­can myself, I always learn the most about Amer­i­ca when I look out­side it. When I want to hear my home­land described or see it reflect­ed, I seek out the per­spec­tive of any­one oth­er than my fel­low Amer­i­cans. Giv­en that I live in Korea, such per­spec­tives aren’t hard to come by, and every day here I learn some­thing new — real or imag­ined — about the Unit­ed States. But Japan, the next coun­try over to the east, has a longer and arguably rich­er tra­di­tion of Amer­i­ca-describ­ing. And judg­ing by Osanae­to­ki Bankokubanashi (童絵解万国噺), an 1861 book by writer Kana­ga­ki Robun and artist Uta­gawa Yoshi­to­ra, it cer­tain­ly has a more fan­tas­ti­cal one. “Here is George Wash­ing­ton (with bow and arrow) pic­tured along­side the God­dess of Amer­i­ca,” writes his­to­ri­an of Japan Nick Kapur in a Twit­ter thread fea­tur­ing selec­tions from the book.

“George Wash­ing­ton defend­ing his wife ‘Car­ol’ from a British offi­cial”

His­to­ry does record Wash­ing­ton hav­ing prac­ticed archery in his youth, among oth­er pop­u­lar sports of the day, and the image of the God­dess of Amer­i­ca does look like a faint­ly Japan­ese ver­sion of Colum­bia, the his­tor­i­cal female per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the Unit­ed States.

The next image Kaur posts shows Christo­pher Colum­bus report­ing his dis­cov­ery of Amer­i­ca to Queen Isabel­la of Spain. “So far, kin­da nor­mal,” but then comes a bit of artis­tic license: a scene from the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion in which we see “George Wash­ing­ton defend­ing his wife ‘Car­ol’ from a British offi­cial named ‘Asura’ (same char­ac­ters as the Bud­dhist deity).” Oth­er illus­trat­ed events from ear­ly Amer­i­can his­to­ry include “Wash­ing­ton’s “sec­ond-in-com­mand” John Adams bat­tling an enor­mous snake,” “the incred­i­bly jacked Ben­jamin Franklin fir­ing a can­non that he holds in his bare hands, while John Adams directs him where to fire,” and “George Wash­ing­ton straight-up punch­ing a tiger.”

“George Wash­ing­ton straight-up punch­ing a tiger”

The found­ing of the Unit­ed States, as Kana­ga­ki and Uta­gawa saw it, seems to have required the defeat of many a fear­some beast, includ­ing a giant snake that eats Adams’ moth­er and against which Adams must then team up with an eagle to slay. What truth we can find here may be metaphor­i­cal in nature: even in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, the world still saw Amer­i­ca as a vast, wild con­ti­nent just wait­ing to enrich those brave and strong enough to sub­due it. Glob­al inter­est in the still-new repub­lic also ran par­tic­u­lar­ly high at that time, as evi­denced by the pop­u­lar­i­ty of pub­li­ca­tions like Alex­is de Toc­queville’s Democ­ra­cy in Amer­i­ca (which still offers an insight­ful out­sider’s per­spec­tive on Amer­i­ca), first pub­lished in 1835 and 1840.

“Togeth­er, John Adams and the eagle kill the enor­mous snake that ate his Mom. The pow­er of team­work!!!”

Japan, long a closed coun­try, had also begun to take a keen inter­est in the out­side world: Amer­i­can Com­modore Matthew Per­ry and his war­ships, filled with tech­nol­o­gy then unimag­in­able to the Japan­ese, had arrived in 1853 with an intent to open Japan’s ports to trade. In 1868 the Mei­ji Restora­tion would con­sol­i­date impe­r­i­al rule in the coun­try and open it to the world, but Osanae­to­ki Bankokubanashi, which you can read in its entire­ty in dig­i­tized form at Wase­da Unver­si­ty’s web site, came out sev­en years before that. At that time, the likes of Kana­ga­ki and Uta­gawa, rely­ing on sec­ond-hand sources, could still thrill their coun­try­men — none of whom had any more direct expe­ri­ence of Amer­i­ca than they did — with tales of the grotesque crea­tures, vile oppres­sors, hero­ic rebels, and guid­ing god­dess­es to be found just on the oth­er side of the Pacif­ic Ocean.

For more images, see Nick Kapur’s twit­ter stream here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

A Won­der­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed 1925 Japan­ese Edi­tion of Aesop’s Fables by Leg­endary Children’s Book Illus­tra­tor Takeo Takei

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

Hand-Col­ored Pho­tographs from 19th Cen­tu­ry Japan: 110 Images Cap­ture the Wan­ing Days of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Soci­ety

Vin­tage 1930s Japan­ese Posters Artis­ti­cal­ly Mar­ket the Won­ders of Trav­el

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, 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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