How Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” Recreates the Epic Hero’s Journey Described by Joseph Campbell

Wayne’s World kind of ruined “Stair­way to Heav­en” for me. Yes, it’s been 27 years, but I still can’t help but think of Wayne turn­ing to the cam­era with his ston­er grin, say­ing “Denied!” when the gui­tar store clerk points out a “No Stair­way to Heav­en” sign. It was not a song I took par­tic­u­lar­ly seri­ous­ly, but I respect­ed the fact that it took itself so seri­ous­ly… and thread­ed my way out of the room if some­one picked up a gui­tar, earnest­ly cocked an ear, and played those gen­tle open­ing notes.

Now I gig­gle even when I hear the mag­is­te­r­i­al orig­i­nal intro. This is not the fault of Zep­pelin but of the many who approach the Zep­pelin tem­ple of rock grandios­i­ty unpre­pared, attempt­ing riffs that only Jim­my Page could pull off with author­i­ty. At least the joke gave us a way to talk about the phe­nom­e­non: in less­er hands than Led Zeppelin’s “Stair­way” can sound… well, a bit ridicu­lous (with apolo­gies to Dol­ly Par­ton.) Although accused (and acquit­ted) of rip­ping off the open­ing notes to Spirit’s instru­men­tal “Tau­rus,” the song is all Zep­pelin in every pos­si­ble way.

“Stair­way” is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pler pack of the band’s sig­na­ture moves: mix­ing folk rock and heavy met­al with a Delta blues heart; explod­ing in thun­der­heads of John Bon­ham drum fills and a world-famous Page solo; Plant scream­ing cryp­tic lyrics that vague­ly ref­er­ence Tarot, Tolkien, Eng­lish folk tra­di­tions and “a bus­tle in your hedgerow”; John Paul Jones’ wild­ly under­rat­ed mul­ti-instru­men­tal genius; bizarre charges of Satan­ic mes­sages encod­ed back­wards in the record…. (bring­ing to mind anoth­er Wayne’s World actor’s char­ac­ter.)

“Stair­way… crys­tal­lized the essence of the band,” said Page lat­er. “It had every­thing there and showed us at our best. It was a mile­stone.” It set a very high bar for big, emo­tion­al rock songs. “All epic anthems must mea­sure them­selves against ‘Stair­way to Heav­en,’” writes Rolling Stone. It is “epic in every sense of the word,” says the Poly­phon­ic video at the top, includ­ing the lit­er­ary sense. It can “make you feel like you’re part of a dif­fer­ent time, part of a dif­fer­ent world. It can make you feel like you’re part of a sto­ry.”

That sto­ry? “One of the great­est nar­ra­tive struc­tures in human his­to­ry,” the Hero’s Jour­ney, as so famous­ly elab­o­rat­ed by Joseph Camp­bell in The Hero With a Thou­sand Faces—an arche­typ­al mytho­log­i­cal arc that has “per­me­at­ed sto­ries for as long as humans have told them.” Not only do Robert Plant’s mys­ti­cal lyrics reflect this ancient nar­ra­tive, but the song’s com­po­si­tion also enacts it, build­ing stage by stage, from ques­tion­ing to quest­ing to bat­tling to return­ing with the wis­dom of how “to be a rock and not to roll.”

The song’s almost clas­si­cal struc­ture is, of course, no acci­dent, but it is also no indi­vid­ual achieve­ment. Hear the sto­ry of its com­po­si­tion, and why it has been so influ­en­tial, despite the jokes at the expense of those it influ­enced, in the Poly­phon­ic video at the top and straight from Jim­my Page him­self in the inter­view above.

Out of all of Zeppelin’s many epic jour­neys, “Stair­way” best rep­re­sents “the rea­son,” as cul­tur­al crit­ic Steven Hyden writes, “why that band endures… the mythol­o­gy, that Joseph Camp­bell idea of an epic jour­ney into the wild that Zeppelin’s music rep­re­sents, the sense that when you lis­ten to this band, you feel like you’re plug­ging into some­thing big­ger and more pro­found than a band.” Or that the band is open­ing a door­way to some­thing big­ger and more pro­found than them­selves.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

48 Hours of Joseph Camp­bell Lec­tures Free Online: The Pow­er of Myth & Sto­ry­telling

Decon­struct­ing Led Zeppelin’s Clas­sic Song ‘Ram­ble On’ Track by Track: Gui­tars, Bass, Drums & Vocals

Jim­my Page Describes the Cre­ation of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lot­ta Love”

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

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

The Psychological Dimensions of Game of Thrones: The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast Explores the Fantasy Spectacle

The HBO TV show Game of Thrones, like its source books, George R.R. Mar­t­in’s A Song of Ice and Fire, is clas­si­fied as “fan­ta­sy,” but that term as lit­er­ary clas­si­fi­ca­tion has become unmoored from its lit­er­al mean­ing. A per­son­’s fan­ta­sy is most typ­i­cal­ly a mat­ter of wish ful­fill­ment, which should put super-hero media at the cen­ter of the genre: We reg­u­lar mor­tals wish to be pow­er­ful and strong, to save the day and be rec­og­nized as a hero. Cer­tain ele­ments of clas­si­cal fan­ta­sy fall under this descrip­tion: Fro­do in Lord of the Rings gets to save the world while remain­ing more or less ordi­nary (well, yes, he can turn invis­i­ble with the ring, but that becomes prob­lem­at­ic), and Har­ry Pot­ter qual­i­fies as a kid super-hero.

Anoth­er key ele­ment of fan­ta­sy is obvi­ous­ly the imag­i­na­tion, which can be deployed as in dreams and the psy­che­del­ic art that draws on dream expe­ri­ence to come up with ever-more-fan­tas­ti­cal imagery, ever more amaz­ing sit­u­a­tions and pow­ers one could fan­ta­size about pos­sess­ing. How­ev­er, the imag­i­na­tion also seeks to expand the fan­ta­sized cre­ation, to make its world wider and rich­er, to fill in the details, and almost inevitably to try to make the fan­ta­sy more “real­is­tic.” What would it actu­al­ly be like to have super pow­ers? Would you suf­fer emo­tion­al trau­ma from dam­ag­ing all those vil­lains? What about col­lat­er­al dam­age? If you get to ride on a drag­on, how do you take care of it? What (who) does it eat?

George R.R. Mar­tin writes in the tra­di­tion pop­u­lar­ized by J.R.R. Tolkien of “high fan­ta­sy,” which involves not only char­ac­ters of high stature engaged in epic strug­gles, but typ­i­cal­ly involves a very fleshed out alter­na­tive world with its own slight­ly dif­fer­ent laws. The more spelled out these laws are, the more nuts and bolts of the work­ings of the world are spec­i­fied, the more real­ism and hence suf­fer­ing can be depict­ed. A Song of Ice and Fire describes its rotat­ing cast of pro­tag­o­nists with such a degree of detail that read­ers are (as in much lit­er­a­ture) able to iden­ti­fy with them, to see the world through their eyes, but they suf­fer so much that such alter­nate lives as these books offer read­ers would hard­ly be any­one’s fan­ta­sy in the sense of wish ful­fill­ment. A visu­al pre­sen­ta­tion like a TV show by neces­si­ty can’t be as clear about whose eyes the view­er is sup­posed to see events through (we see through the cam­era instead), but nonethe­less Game of Thrones invites us to live through (some of) its char­ac­ters, to iden­ti­fy with them, through their exer­tions of pow­er, through their reac­tions to loss and tri­umph. But such iden­ti­fi­ca­tions will always be imper­fect, giv­en that these char­ac­ters have been drawn as liv­ing in a world that is fun­da­men­tal­ly for­eign to us, not because there are zom­bies and drag­ons, but because HBO view­ers are for the most part liv­ing com­fort­ably in a peace­ful coun­try, not hav­ing been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly and often per­son­al­ly exposed to hor­ri­ble suf­fer­ings.

Hear Mark Lin­sen­may­er and Wes Alwan, reg­u­lar hosts of The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast, along with guest Sab­ri­na Weiss, dis­cuss the psy­cho­log­i­cal and social aspects of the show, but in what is depict­ed on screen and how these play out in our soci­ety’s rela­tion­ship to this grand spec­ta­cle.

Read more about it on The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life web­site.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er is the host of The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life and Naked­ly Exam­ined Music pod­casts. 

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Game of Thrones: A Great Behind-the-Scenes Look at The Show’s Visu­al Effects

Ani­mat­ed Video Explores the Invent­ed Lan­guages of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones & Star Trek

15-Year-Old George R.R. Mar­tin Writes a Fan Let­ter to Stan Lee & Jack Kir­by (1963)

McDonald’s Opens a Tiny Restaurant — and It’s Only for Bees

How are the world’s hon­ey bees doing? Just a few years ago, word spread that they were on the verge of a mys­te­ri­ous extinc­tion. Look for updates on their sit­u­a­tion now and you get con­tra­dic­to­ry results, all of them fair­ly recent, from “Bees Are Still Dying” to “Bees Are Bounc­ing Back From Colony Col­lapse Dis­or­der” to “Yes, the Bees Are Still in Trou­ble” to “The Bee Apoc­a­lypse Was Nev­er Real.” But whether they’re in exis­ten­tial dan­ger or not, bees at least now have their very own McDon­ald’s — bees in cer­tain parts of Swe­den, any­way.

“McDonald’s has cre­at­ed a tiny repli­ca of one of its restau­rants, too small for any human to eat there,” writes Emi­ly Chudy in the Inde­pen­dent. “The repli­ca, dubbed the ‘McHive,’ is a ful­ly-func­tion­ing bee­hive designed to look like a McDonald’s restau­rant and fea­tures seat­ing, a dri­ve-through and an entrance. The brain­child of set design­er Nick­las Nils­son, the hive is part of an ini­tia­tive which has seen bee­hives placed on cer­tain Swedish branch­es of the fran­chise.” This project seems to be the first insect-scale restau­rant for Nils­son, whose past work includes cos­tume design on the video for David Bowie’s “Black­star.”

You can see footage of the McHive’s design and assem­bly process, as well as an assem­bled McHive full of its “thou­sands of impor­tant guests,” in the video at the top of the post. There are more pho­tos at design­boom, which quotes the pro­jec­t’s adver­tis­ing agency NORD DDB as say­ing that “the ini­tia­tive start­ed out local­ly but is now grow­ing.” In addi­tion to installing bee­hives on their rooftops, more Swedish McDon­ald’s fran­chisees “have also start­ed replac­ing the grass around their restau­rants with flow­ers and plants that are impor­tant for the well­be­ing of wild bees.”

Why so much con­cern about hon­ey bees in the first place? Chudy quotes a Green­peace esti­mate that they “per­form about 80% of all pol­li­na­tion and a sin­gle bee colony can pol­li­nate 300 mil­lion flow­ers each day.” Bees do the hard work of keep­ing a sur­pris­ing­ly large part of the nat­ur­al world work­ing as we’ve always known it to, and to the extent that bees die out, much else may die out as well, with poten­tial knock-on effects many would pre­fer not to think about. But then, the taste for pre­dic­tions of eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter on the inter­net seems only to have grown since we first noticed the prob­lem with bees: if you real­ly want to feel moti­vat­ed to peti­tion your local McDon­ald’s to put up a McHive, try Googling the phrase “cat­a­stroph­ic col­lapse of nature.”

via design­boom

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mes­mer­iz­ing Time­lapse Film Cap­tures the Won­der of Bees Being Born

The Bil­lion-Bug High­way You Can’t See

A Shaz­am for Nature: A New Free App Helps You Iden­ti­fy Plants, Ani­mals & Oth­er Denizens of the Nat­ur­al World

The Muse­um of Fail­ure: A New Swedish Muse­um Show­cas­es Harley-David­son Per­fume, Col­gate Beef Lasagne, Google Glass & Oth­er Failed Prod­ucts

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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Download 91,000 Historic Maps from the Massive David Rumsey Map Collection

Three years ago, we high­light­ed one of the most com­pre­hen­sive map col­lec­tions in exis­tence, the David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion, then new­ly moved to Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty. The Rum­sey Col­lec­tion, we wrote then, “con­tains a seem­ing­ly inex­haustible sup­ply of car­to­graph­ic images”—justifiable hyper­bole, con­sid­er­ing the amount of time it would take any one per­son to absorb the over 150,000 phys­i­cal arti­facts Rum­sey has amassed in one place.

By 2016, Rum­sey had made almost half the collection—over 67,000 images—freely avail­able in a dig­i­tal archive that has been grow­ing since 1996. Each entry fea­tures high-res­o­lu­tion scans for spe­cial­ists (you can down­load them for free) and more man­age­able image sizes for enthu­si­asts; a wealth of data about prove­nance and his­tor­i­cal con­text; and dig­i­tal, user-friend­ly tools that use crowd-sourc­ing to mea­sure the accu­ra­cy of anti­quat­ed maps against GPS ren­der­ings.

A completist’s dream, the archive “includes rare 16th through 21st cen­tu­ry maps of Amer­i­caNorth Amer­i­caSouth Amer­i­caEurope, Asia, AfricaPacif­icArc­ticAntarc­tic, and the World.” Among the seem­ing­ly innu­mer­able exam­ples of car­to­graph­ic inge­nu­ity we find ear­ly data visu­al­iza­tions, util­i­tar­i­an primers, pho­to­graph­ic sur­veys, intri­cate topogra­phies, abstract objets d’art, and his­tor­i­cal cor­ner­stones of Euro­pean map-mak­ing like Abra­ham Ortellus’s 1570 map of “Flan­dria” at the top.

The Ortel­lus “The­atrum” holds “a unique posi­tion in the his­to­ry of car­tog­ra­phy,” notes the Rum­sey Col­lec­tion, as “’the world’s first reg­u­lar­ly pro­duced atlas.’” It was also the first exam­ple of a “The­atre of the World,” a style that would become ubiq­ui­tous in the fol­low­ing cen­tu­ry, and it was “the first under­tak­ing of its kind to reduce the best avail­able maps to a uni­form for­mat.”

To make this doc­u­ment even more com­pelling, it con­tains its own bib­li­og­ra­phy. Ortel­lus “men­tioned the names of the authors of the orig­i­nal maps” he drew from “and added a great many names of oth­er car­tog­ra­phers and geo­g­ra­phers.” Not all of the 91,000 and count­ing maps in the Rum­sey dig­i­tal col­lec­tion com­bine this degree of styl­is­tic mas­tery, his­tor­i­cal import, and schol­ar­ly rig­or. But a sur­vey of the Collection’s cat­e­gories will pro­duce few that dis­ap­point in any one of these areas.

The “impor­tant and rare” 1806 map of the U.S. and West Indies by Charles Piquet; the Tolkien-like Ver­gle­ichen­des Tableau der bedeu­tend­sten Hoe­hen der Erde, from 1855, a “dec­o­ra­tive chart… show­ing com­par­a­tive tables of the great­est moun­tains and vol­ca­noes of the world”; the almost-expres­sion­ist map of Chel­tenham from 1899 by the Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey of Great Britain and Ire­land; the fan­ci­ful­ly-illus­trat­ed star-shaped star chart made by Ignace Gas­ton Par­dies in 1693; Mike Cressy’s 1988 “Lit­er­ary Map of Latin Amer­i­ca”…..

This briefest overview of the Collection’s high­lights already feels exhaus­tive. No mat­ter your lev­el of inter­est in maps, from the casu­al to the life­long obses­sive, The David Rum­sey col­lec­tion will deliv­er mul­ti­ple points of entry to maps you nev­er knew exist­ed, and with them, new ways of see­ing cities, regions, nations, ter­ri­to­ries, con­ti­nents, plan­ets, and beyond. Enter the col­lec­tion here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

View and Down­load Near­ly 60,000 Maps from the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS)

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

Bill Gates Recommends Five Books to Read This Summer

It’s becom­ing an annu­al rit­u­al. Every sum­mer Bill Gates offers us a read­ing list–5‑books to take on vaca­tion. As you’ll see, his list assumes that even if you’re phys­i­cal­ly on vaca­tion, your mind isn’t. The curi­ous mind takes no breaks. Bill writes:

Upheaval, by Jared Dia­mond. I’m a big fan of every­thing Jared has writ­ten, and his lat­est is no excep­tion. The book explores how soci­eties react dur­ing moments of cri­sis. He uses a series of fas­ci­nat­ing case stud­ies to show how nations man­aged exis­ten­tial chal­lenges like civ­il war, for­eign threats, and gen­er­al malaise. It sounds a bit depress­ing, but I fin­ished the book even more opti­mistic about our abil­i­ty to solve prob­lems than I start­ed. More here.

Nine Pints, by Rose George. If you get grossed out by blood, this one prob­a­bly isn’t for you. But if you’re like me and find it fas­ci­nat­ing, you’ll enjoy this book by a British jour­nal­ist with an espe­cial­ly per­son­al con­nec­tion to the sub­ject. I’m a big fan of books that go deep on one spe­cif­ic top­ic, so Nine Pints (the title refers to the vol­ume of blood in the aver­age adult) was right up my alley. It’s filled with super-inter­est­ing facts that will leave you with a new appre­ci­a­tion for blood. More here.

A Gen­tle­man in Moscow, by Amor Towles. It seems like every­one I know has read this book. I final­ly joined the club after my broth­er-in-law sent me a copy, and I’m glad I did. Towles’s nov­el about a count sen­tenced to life under house arrest in a Moscow hotel is fun, clever, and sur­pris­ing­ly upbeat. Even if you don’t enjoy read­ing about Rus­sia as much as I do (I’ve read every book by Dos­toyevsky), A Gen­tle­man in Moscow is an amaz­ing sto­ry that any­one can enjoy. More here.

Pres­i­dents of War, by Michael Beschloss. My inter­est in all aspects of the Viet­nam War is the main rea­son I decid­ed to pick up this book. By the time I fin­ished it, I learned a lot not only about Viet­nam but about the eight oth­er major con­flicts the U.S. entered between the turn of the 19th cen­tu­ry and the 1970s. Beschloss’s broad scope lets you draw impor­tant cross-cut­ting lessons about pres­i­den­tial lead­er­ship. More here.

The Future of Cap­i­tal­ism, by Paul Col­lier. Collier’s lat­est book is a thought-pro­vok­ing look at a top­ic that’s top of mind for a lot of peo­ple right now. Although I don’t agree with him about everything—I think his analy­sis of the prob­lem is bet­ter than his pro­posed solutions—his back­ground as a devel­op­ment econ­o­mist gives him a smart per­spec­tive on where cap­i­tal­ism is head­ed.

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:

Bill Gates Names 5 Books You Should Read This Sum­mer (2018)

Bill Gates Rec­om­mends Five Books for Sum­mer 2017

5 Books Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Sum­mer (2016)

Hear the Song That Two Teenage Musicians, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, Recorded Together in 1958

Rock and roll needs its out­siders, its prodi­gious weirdos, trick­sters and pas­tiche artists to rein­vig­o­rate mori­bund gen­res and put things togeth­er no one thought would go. No two peo­ple fit the descrip­tion bet­ter than Frank Zap­pa and Cap­tain Beef­heart (Don Van Vli­et), some­time col­lab­o­ra­tors, fren­e­mies, and par­al­lel evil genius­es with crack teams of musi­cal hench­men at the ready—Zappa the genre-hop­ping vir­tu­oso and music busi­ness supervil­lain; Beef­heart the mad blues­man with a Beat poet’s heart and Mer­ry Prankster’s sense of humor….

Their intense on-again-off-again musi­cal rela­tion­ship threat­ened to come apart for good dur­ing the record­ing of Beefheart’s Zap­pa-pro­duced weirdo mas­ter­piece Trout Mask Repli­ca. These trou­bled stages of their asso­ci­a­tion are what we often talk about when we talk about Zappa/Beefheart, when they dis­cov­ered, writes Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock, “that their cre­ative process­es and work habits—Zappa was dis­ci­plined and exact­ing, while Beef­heart pre­ferred to be spon­ta­neous and freeform—couldn’t have been more at odds.”

A lit­tle over a decade ear­li­er, before either of them had musi­cal careers neces­si­tat­ing work habits, the two began record­ing togeth­er in “either late 1958 or ear­ly 1959,” notes Dan­ger­ous Minds. They had known each oth­er since high school in Lan­cast­er, Cal­i­for­nia, where their shared sen­si­bil­i­ties brought them togeth­er: “The two found they had a sim­i­lar taste in music, and quick­ly bond­ed over a shared love of blues, doo-wop, and R&B records.”

Pre­sag­ing all of the ways they would go on to warp, can­ni­bal­ize, and mash up these gen­res, “Lost in a Whirlpool,” with music by Zap­pa and lyrics by Van Vli­et, was one of sev­er­al songs they had begun writ­ing while still teenagers. Zap­pa tells the sto­ry of the record­ing in a 1989 inter­view:

“Lost in a Whirlpool” was taped on one of those tape recorders that you have in a school in the audio/visual depart­ment. We went into this room, this emp­ty room at the junior col­lege in Lan­cast­er, after school, and got this tape record­ed, and just turned it on. The gui­tars are me and my broth­er (Bob­by Zap­pa) and the vocal is Don Vli­et.

The sto­ry of “Lost in a Whirlpool” goes back even far­ther. When I was in high school in San Diego in ‘55, there was a guy who grew up to be a sports writer named Lar­ry Lit­tle­field. He, and anoth­er guy named Jeff Har­ris, and I used to hang out, and we used to make up sto­ries, lit­tle skits and stuff, you know, dumb lit­tle teenage things. One of the plots that we cooked up was about a per­son who was skindiving—San Diego’s a surfer kind of an area—skindiving in the San Diego sew­er sys­tem [laugh­ter], and talk­ing about encoun­ter­ing brown, blind fish. [laugh­ter] It was kind of like the Cousteau expe­di­tion of its era. [laugh­ter] So, when I moved to Lan­cast­er from San Diego, I had dis­cussed this sce­nario with Vli­et, and that’s where the lyrics come from. It’s like a musi­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of this oth­er skin­div­ing sce­nario.

Scat­o­log­i­cal skin­div­ing seems like such a per­fect con­cep­tu­al sum­ma­ry of the shared Zappa/Beefheart ethos it’s a won­der they didn’t use the title them­selves. Despite their grow­ing cre­ative dif­fer­ences and incom­pat­i­ble tem­pera­ments, they col­lab­o­rat­ed into the mid-70s.

In 1975, twen­ty years after cook­ing up the sto­ry of skin­div­ing in the San Diego sew­ers, they “regaled their fans with the amus­ing­ly titled (most­ly) live album, Bon­go Fury,” Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock writes, “a his­toric cease­fire in their oth­er­wise tur­bu­lent rela­tion­ship that would sad­ly prove all too fleet­ing.” The record is the result of an “inten­sive, 30-date tour” in which “Beef­heart con­tributed har­mon­i­ca, occa­sion­al sax, and numer­ous dis­plays of his eccen­tric poet­ry and one-of-a-kind vocals to the [Zap­pa] ensemble’s reper­toire.” Above, hear Bon­go Fury’s “Advance Romance,” as clas­sic a slice of Zappa/Beefheart odd­ball blues as their very first record­ings from the late 50s.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds/Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Case for Why Cap­tain Beefheart’s Awful Sound­ing Album, Trout Mask Repli­ca, Is a True Mas­ter­piece

The Night Frank Zap­pa Jammed With Pink Floyd … and Cap­tain Beef­heart Too (Bel­gium, 1969)

Hear a Rare Poet­ry Read­ing by Cap­tain Beef­heart (1993)

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

Andy Warhol Demystified: Four Videos Explain His Groundbreaking Art and Its Cultural Impact

We all have a few images to asso­ciate with Andy Warhol — Camp­bel­l’s soup cans, col­orized Mar­i­lyns and dupli­cat­ed Elvis­es, that wig — and also a few words, usu­al­ly some­thing to the effect of every­one in the future being famous for fif­teen min­utes. Now that we seem near­ly to have arrived in that future, we might well won­der what else Warhol under­stood about our world. But we can’t know that until we have a clear­er sense of just what he was up to, and these four short primers offer a sol­id start on grasp­ing the whole Warho­lian project. Just above, Alain de Bot­ton’s School of Life intro­duces Warhol as “the most glam­orous fig­ure of 20th cen­tu­ry art” whose great achieve­ment was to “devel­op a gen­er­ous and help­ful view of two major forces in mod­ern soci­ety: com­merce and celebri­ty.”

“We spend too much of our life want­i­ng some­thing bet­ter and extra­or­di­nary,” says de Bot­ton. “Andy Warhol aims to rem­e­dy this by get­ting us to look again at things in every­day life” — the soup cans stacked up at the gro­cery store, for instance. Warhol’s work also reveals an under­stand­ing of glam­or and pres­tige, ever more pow­er­ful forces in the 20th cen­tu­ry in which he lived as well as ones that, in his view, “need­ed to be redis­trib­uted in such a way that soci­ety could work bet­ter.”

His dual inter­ests in art and chang­ing the world in an unprece­dent­ed­ly indus­tri­al age led him to mass pro­duc­tion: “He want­ed to trans­late the things he cared about, like sen­si­tiv­i­ty, a love of glam­or and spec­ta­cle, and play­ful­ness into objects and expe­ri­ences that could touch many peo­ple” — as many peo­ple and as often, ide­al­ly, as Coca-Cola.

But does what Warhol did quite count as art? Khan Acad­e­my founder Sal Khan and its Co-Dean of Art and His­to­ry Steven Zuck­er get into that ques­tion in their Smarthis­to­ry video on the silkscreened soup cans from the ear­ly 1960s. On one hand, the cans exem­pli­fy what Zuck­er calls “one of the cen­tral ideas of mod­ern art,” that you can “take some­thing that’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly based in tech­ni­cal skill” and relo­cate it so as to make us “think about it in a dif­fer­ent way.” But on the oth­er, Khan says, if Warhol had made them half a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er, “peo­ple would have thought, ‘This guy’s a quack,’ ” and if he did it now, “they would think he was just deriv­a­tive.” Was it real­ly “just that time where peo­ple hap­pened to think this was art?”

Cer­tain­ly there can be no sep­a­rat­ing Warhol from his time. He asked, as Zuck­er puts it, “What is it about our cul­ture that is real­ly authen­tic and impor­tant?” The answer, as he saw it, “was about mass pro­duc­tion, it was about fac­to­ry.” No coin­ci­dence, then, that he named his New York stu­dio “The Fac­to­ry,” nor that he dis­played a great fas­ci­na­tion with indus­try and com­merce in all its forms. He start­ed his career as a com­mer­cial illus­tra­tor, but ulti­mate­ly, “instead of mak­ing art for adver­tise­ments, he start­ed mak­ing adver­tise­ments as art.” Those words come from the Art Assign­ment video above, which makes “the case for Andy Warhol,” whose work, says host Sarah Urist Green, “charts the devel­op­ment of our obses­sion with fame and ques­tions the grow­ing com­mer­cial­iza­tion and uni­for­mi­ty of most areas of Amer­i­can life.”

Warhol was­n’t just an artist, Green says, “but also a film­mak­er, band man­ag­er, mag­a­zine pub­lish­er, and TV pro­duc­er who fear­less­ly explored and embraced new media.” Writ­ing a diet book was per­haps the only way Warhol did­n’t tap into the Amer­i­can zeit­geist, but per­haps, as demon­strat­ed in the longer Art Assign­ment video called “Eat Like Andy Warhol” above, that task is best left to his schol­ars. In it Green and com­pa­ny work through “a tast­ing menu that explores Warhol’s life through the food he depict­ed as well as the food he actu­al­ly ate.” It includes not just Camp­bel­l’s soup and Coca-Cola but frozen hot choco­late, a banana (remem­ber, he gave Vel­vet Under­ground their start), diet pills (now known as amphet­a­mines), and per­haps most Warho­lian of all, some­thing list­ed only as “cake.” It’s a diet fit for what Green describes as “the ulti­mate pro­duc­er and con­sumer and prod­uct all in one” — as well as an artist who both defined and embod­ied 20th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

130,000 Pho­tographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Avail­able Online, Cour­tesy of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty

When Steve Jobs Taught Andy Warhol to Make Art on the Very First Mac­in­tosh (1984)

Andy Warhol Dig­i­tal­ly Paints Deb­bie Har­ry with the Ami­ga 1000 Com­put­er (1985)

Warhol’s Cin­e­ma: A Mir­ror for the Six­ties (1989)

When Andy Warhol Made a Bat­man Super­hero Movie (1964)

Andy Warhol’s 15 Min­utes: Dis­cov­er the Post­mod­ern MTV Vari­ety Show That Made Warhol a Star in the Tele­vi­sion Age (1985–87)

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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Watch Patti Smith’s New Tribute to the Avant-Garde Poet Antonin Artaud

The force of Artaud, you couldn’t kill him! — Pat­ti Smith

Found sound enthu­si­asts Sound­walk Col­lec­tive join forces with the God­moth­er of Punk Pat­ti Smith for “Ivry,” the musi­cal trib­ute to poet and the­ater­mak­er Antonin Artaud, above.

The track, fea­tur­ing Smith’s hyp­not­ic impro­vised nar­ra­tion, alter­nate­ly spo­ken and sung over Tarahu­mara gui­tars, Cha­pareke snare drums, and Chi­huahua bells from Mex­i­co’s Sier­ra Tarahu­mara, the region that pro­vid­ed the set­ting for Artaud’s auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal The Pey­ote Dance, has the sooth­ing qual­i­ty of lul­la­bies from such pop­u­lar children’s music Folk Revival­ists as Eliz­a­beth Mitchell and Dan Zanes.

We’d refrain from show­ing the kid­dies this video, though, espe­cial­ly at bed­time.

It begins inno­cent­ly enough with mir­ror images of the beau­ti­ful Artaud—as the Dean of Rouen in 1928’s silent clas­sic The Pas­sion of Joan of Arc, and lat­er in the pri­vate psy­chi­atric clin­ic in Ivry-sur-Seine where he end­ed his days.

Things get much rougher in the final moments, as befits the founder of the The­ater of Cru­el­ty, an avant-garde per­for­mance move­ment that employed scenes of hor­ri­fy­ing vio­lence to shock the audi­ence out of their pre­sumed com­pla­cen­cy.

Noth­ing quite so hairy as Artaud’s vir­tu­al­ly unpro­duce­able short play, Jet of Blood—or, for that mat­ter, Game of Thrones—but we all remem­ber what hap­pened to Joan of Arc, right? (Not to men­tion the gris­ly fate of the many peas­ants whose names his­to­ry fails to note…)

In-between is footage of indige­nous Rará­muri (or Tarahu­mara) tribes­peo­ple enact­ing tra­di­tion­al rit­u­als—the mir­rors on their head­dress­es and the film­mak­ers’ use of reflec­tive sym­me­try hon­or­ing their belief that the after­life mir­rors the mor­tal world.

“Ivry” is the penul­ti­mate track on a brand new Artaud-themed album, also titled The Pey­ote Dance, which delves into the impulse toward expand­ed vision that pro­pelled the artist to Mex­i­co in the 1930s.

Pri­or to bring­ing Smith into the stu­dio, mem­bers of Sound­walk Col­lec­tive revis­it­ed Artaud’s jour­ney through that coun­try (includ­ing a cave in which he once lived), amass­ing stones, sand, leaves, and hand­made Rará­muri instru­ments to “awak­en the landscape’s sleep­ing mem­o­ries and uncov­er the space’s son­ic gram­mar.”

This mis­sion is def­i­nite­ly in keep­ing with Smith’s prac­tice of mak­ing pil­grim­ages and col­lect­ing relics.

The Pey­ote Dance is the first entry in a trip­tych titled The Per­fect Vision. Tune in lat­er this year to trav­el to Ethiopia’s Abyssin­ian val­ley in con­sid­er­a­tion of anoth­er Smith favorite, poet Arthur Rim­baud, and the Indi­an Himalayas, in hon­or of spir­i­tu­al Sur­re­al­ist René Dau­mal, whose alle­gor­i­cal nov­el Mount Ana­logue: A Nov­el of Sym­bol­i­cal­ly Authen­tic Non-Euclid­ean Adven­tures in Moun­tain Climb­ing end­ed in mid-sen­tence, when he died at 36 from the effects of tuber­cu­lo­sis (and, quite pos­si­bly, youth­ful exper­i­ments with such psy­choac­tive chem­i­cals as car­bon tetra­chlo­ride.)

You can order Sound­walk Collective’s album, The Pey­ote Dance, which also fea­tures the work of actor Gael Gar­cía Bernal, here.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Antonin Artaud’s Cen­sored, Nev­er-Aired Radio Play: To Have Done With The Judg­ment of God (1947)

Iggy Pop Reads Walt Whit­man in Col­lab­o­ra­tions With Elec­tron­ic Artists Alva Noto and Tar­wa­ter

Pat­ti Smith’s 40 Favorite Books

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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