Saxophonist Plays into Large Gas Pipes & Then Uses the Echo to Accompany Himself

The best sax­o­phon­ists play just as well unac­com­pa­nied as they do accom­pa­nied — but they also know that, in the act of musi­cal cre­ation, it cer­tain­ly helps to have even a lit­tle bit of sound to play off com­ing your way. Ger­man musi­cian Armin Küp­per dis­cov­ered more than a lit­tle bit of sound com­ing his way when he tried play­ing his sax­o­phone into a gas pipe he hap­pened across near his home. Kept at a con­struc­tion site and not cur­rent­ly in a state to pipe any gas, it served him as a kind of echo device, one dis­tinc­tive in both sound and appear­ance. On his Youtube chan­nel he’s post­ed a dozen videos so far of the “con­certs” he’s giv­en at the pipe: play­ing into it, stand­ing beside it, sit­ting in it.

“This sound on the tube, in this lone­li­ness always gives me the feel­ing: Hey, you’re not alone there!” writes Küp­per. “Some­times I just can’t stop play­ing. The nice thing is, when it gets cool in the evening, I sit down in the tube heat­ed up dur­ing the day and enjoy the sun­set play­ing the sax­o­phone.”

These sen­ti­ments appear in the descrip­tion of the video at the top of the post, in which Küp­per demon­strates the style of music he calls “Pipeline­funk,” or in his native Ger­man Röhren­sound. He’s also tried his hand at “Pipelineblues,” pipeline gui­tar, and a com­po­si­tion called “Walk­ing on the Pipeline” — dur­ing his per­for­mance of which he does just that, the sound of his sax­o­phone changes with every step he takes toward the open­ing.

When played direct­ly into the pipe, Küp­per’s sax­o­phone comes back sound­ing uncan­ni­ly like a clas­sic call-and-response. But what’s tru­ly impres­sive is the range of effects he dis­cov­ers while approach­ing the pipe dif­fer­ent­ly each time, pro­duc­ing whole new sound­scapes by chang­ing lit­tle more than the angle of his play­ing. Alas, his time with the pipe seems to have last­ed only so long.  The build­ing project that brought the pipe in the first place would soon­er or lat­er have to make use of it, and in one video descrip­tion Küp­per men­tions that “ ‘my pipe’ was laid in the ground.” There could be no bet­ter send­off for this unusu­al musi­cal part­ner — and a col­lab­o­ra­tor in the cre­ation of this sur­pris­ing vari­ety of, lit­er­al­ly, Ger­man indus­tri­al music — than Küp­per’s dusk per­for­mance of “Some­where Over the Rain­bow”?

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Sax­o­phones Are Made: Two Short Films (Includ­ing One by Sesame Street) Take You Inside Sax­o­phone Fac­to­ries

The Sax Solo on Ger­ry Rafferty’s “Bak­er Street” on a 10 Hour, End­less Loop

Park­ing Garage Door Does Impres­sion of Miles Davis’ Jazz Album, Bitch­es Brew

Behold Mys­ti­cal Pho­tographs Tak­en Inside a Cel­lo, Dou­ble Bass & Oth­er Instru­ments

Acclaimed Japan­ese Jazz Pianist Yōsuke Yamashita Plays a Burn­ing Piano on the Beach

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.

Nile Rodgers Tells the Story of How He Turned David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” from Folk to New Wave Funk

When David Bowie invit­ed Chic gui­tarist and all-around funk/disco gui­tar genius Nile Rodgers to make an album of “hits” in Switzer­land, Rogers remem­bers think­ing, “okay, ‘hits’ with David Bowie, that’s an awe­some project.” The way he dead­pans might make us think he wasn’t super stoked about it, but the fact is, it’s hard to impress Nile Rodgers. He has pro­duced, writ­ten, and played guitar—the very Stra­to­cast­er he’s hold­ing in the video above—on “hun­dreds, maybe thou­sands” of records, he says. What’s one more, with one more super­star?

The album, it turned out, would become Let’s Dance, run­ner-up to Thriller for album of the year in 1984, con­tain­ing such dance­able hits as the title track, “Mod­ern Love,” and “Chi­na Girl.” It was to be Bowie’s best-sell­ing album—as he described it, “a redis­cov­ery of white-Eng­lish-ex-art-school-stu­dent-meets-black-Amer­i­can-funk.” He cer­tain­ly brought the first part of that equa­tion, a tune he strummed for Rogers on his 12-string acoustic that “sound­ed like folk music to me,” the gui­tarist says.

“Since I knew David loved jazz and he under­stood the ver­nac­u­lar, I said to him, ‘David, can I do an arrange­ment of this song?’” (What he has remem­bered say­ing else­where is much fun­nier: “I come from dance music. You can’t call that thing you just played ‘Let’s Dance.’”) Rodgers shows how he sub­sti­tut­ed and moved Bowie’s chords, giv­ing the song its dis­tinc­tive voic­ing. “Run­ning away from funk because of the whole dis­co sucks thing,” Rodgers says, he sim­pli­fied his strum­ming, let­ting a delay effect “make the groove.”

While he may not have gone into the expe­ri­ence expect­ing much more than the usu­al hit-mak­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion, the expe­ri­ence, “changed my life,” he says, “it changed David’s life, and we wound up work­ing togeth­er on anoth­er five projects over the next five years.” In an NPR inter­view last year, Rogers debuted the first demo of “Let’s Dance” with Bowie singing over his new arrange­ment. You can hear just above.

The video at the top is part of Fend­er Gui­tars’ edu­ca­tion­al series, so Rodgers wraps up with an essen­tial take­away for gui­tarists about the impor­tance of “good the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge,” the basis of his “Let’s Dance” trans­for­ma­tion from folk to jazz to New Wave post-funk. Sad­ly, we can­not hear from Bowie him­self or from his oth­er famous gui­tarist-col­lab­o­ra­tor on “Let’s Dance,” Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an. But Bowie also cred­it­ed the Texas leg­end for help­ing him access his inner Amer­i­can to cre­ate music, as he once observed, with a “Euro­pean sen­si­bil­i­ty, but owed its impact to the blues.”

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream David Bowie’s Com­plete Discog­ra­phy in a 19-Hour Playlist: From His Very First Record­ings to His Last

David Bowie Became Zig­gy Star­dust 48 Years Ago This Week: Watch Orig­i­nal Footage

David Bowie Picks His 12 Favorite David Bowie Songs: Lis­ten to Them Online

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

Get a First Glimpse of Foundation, the New TV Series Being Adapted from Isaac Asimov’s Iconic Series of Novels

Five years ago we told you about the plans to cre­ate a mini-series out of Isaac Asimov’s clas­sic sci-fi series Foun­da­tion, while also point­ing you in the direc­tion of the 1973 BBC radio drama­ti­za­tion. Back in 2015, Jonathan Nolan, broth­er of Christo­pher, was attached and HBO was set to pro­duce. And then we all for­got about it. (Well I did, any­way.)

Fast for­ward into the COVID tsuna­mi of this week and AppleTV just dropped the first trail­er for the series. Nolan is out and David Goy­er is in as showrun­ner. Goy­er loves his pulp, and wrote or co-wrote the Blade tril­o­gy, the Dark Knight tril­o­gy, Dark City, and a lot of the recent DC Uni­verse films. Also on board as exec­u­tive pro­duc­er is Robyn Asi­mov, Isaac’s daugh­ter.

Pro­duc­tion had start­ed in Ire­land on the series, but it closed up shop in March due to COVID-19. We have no idea how much of the 10-episode first sea­son was shot, which might explain a pre­pon­der­ance of footage in the above trail­er of peo­ple walk­ing down cor­ri­dors, walk­ing into rooms, and star­ing out of win­dows, along with pure­ly CGI estab­lish­ing shots of space­ships and a black hole straight out of Inter­stel­lar.

On the oth­er hand, we get a glimpse of Jared Har­ris (Mad Men, Cher­nobyl) as Hari Sel­don, a math­e­mati­cian who has devel­oped a the­o­ry called “psy­chohis­to­ry” that allows him to see the future. And he does not like what he sees–empires col­laps­ing, and a long dark age of 30,000 years. There’s also his pro­tege called Gaal, played here by new­com­er Lou Llo­bell; Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) plays Broth­er Day, the emper­or; and Leah Har­vey plays Salvor, the war­den of Ter­mi­nus, where Sel­don and Gaal are exiled. (Spoil­er alert…we think.)

Two large ques­tions to ask right now: will this ever get fin­ished? And do we real­ly need Foun­da­tion, or has its time passed?

For the first, AppleTV has put a date of 2021 for the hope­ful pre­miere, but all the arts are on hold now. We might be look­ing at films that are even more CGI than they are now, shot total­ly on green­screen in large social­ly dis­tant stu­dios, and assem­bled by a gigan­tic crew of remote ani­ma­tors. (Ire­land is down to less than 10 cas­es of COVID-19 per day, so who knows.)

The sec­ond is more a mat­ter of taste and a case of who’s adapt­ing the books. Goyer’s fil­mog­ra­phy shows he’s much more of an action guy, and Asi­mov was more of an intel­lec­tu­al. We might see some­thing between the inter­na­tion­al trade tar­iff skull­dug­gery of The Phan­tom Men­ace and some Game of Thrones court intrigue.

The dis­cus­sion on Metafil­ter cer­tain­ly deserves a look, as it brings up issues like Asimov’s his­to­ry of sex­u­al harass­ment, the idea of Grand Old White Men of Sci-Fi, and a need to keep pres­tige tele­vi­sion churn­ing out prod­uct. And, of course, there’s a dis­cus­sion of how much we might need some of Asimov’s opti­mism.

Asimov’s Foun­da­tion series was influ­enced by Edward Gib­bon’s His­to­ry of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and we are cer­tain­ly think­ing about empires falling right now, espe­cial­ly as we can hear Nero’s fid­dle off in the dis­tance, get­ting loud­er every day.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts the Future of Civilization–and Rec­om­mends Ways to Ensure That It Sur­vives (1978)

Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: A Wit­ty, Eru­dite Atheist’s Guide to the World’s Most Famous Book

Isaac Asi­mov Laments the “Cult of Igno­rance” in the Unit­ed States: A Short, Scathing Essay from 1980

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Hear Brian Eno’s Rarely-Heard Cover of the Johnny Cash Classic, “Ring of Fire”

“Ring of Fire” has been cov­ered many times and in many ways since John­ny Cash released it in 1963. But for all its recog­ni­tion as one of his sig­na­ture songs, Cash’s “Ring of Fire” is itself a cov­er — or anoth­er inter­pre­ta­tion, in any case, of a tune orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten by Cash’s wife June Carter and song­writer Mer­le Kil­go­re for June’s sis­ter, Ani­ta Carter. Though it made noth­ing like the mark Cash’s record­ing did, the orig­i­nal “Ring of Fire” has its appre­ci­a­tors, a group that may well include Bri­an Eno. Or at least one feels an affin­i­ty between Ani­ta Carter’s take on the song and Eno’s own, the lat­ter of which you can lis­ten to above.

Unlike­ly enough to begin with, in an artis­tic sense, the record­ing’s avail­abil­i­ty on the inter­net has saved it from near-com­plete obscu­ri­ty. “In 1990, Bri­an Eno and John Cale made a won­der­ful exper­i­men­tal pop/art rock record called Wrong Way Up, released by Warn­er Bros. Records,” writes Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz.

“At the time, the label would send out 7” records to alt.rock/college radio sta­tions to pro­mote their new releas­es. The pro­mo series, called Soil Sam­ples, fea­tured dif­fer­ent artists on each side of the record per­form­ing songs that weren’t includ­ed on their new albums.” Cale’s con­tri­bu­tion to the sam­ple was an instru­men­tal called “Shuf­fle Down to Wood­bridge,” and the flip side of this translu­cent-vinyl rar­i­ty fea­tured “Mer­ry Christ­mas” by the two-man Amer­i­cana group House of Freaks.

As the leg­end goes — for every sto­ry con­nect­ed with John­ny Cash becomes a leg­end — the idea for how to do “Ring of Fire” came to the Man in Black in a dream. The “Mex­i­can horns” that had risen up from his sub­con­scious “sound like they’ve stum­bled in from some­where else on the radio dial and are try­ing des­per­ate­ly not to fall over Cash’s stan­dard shave-and-a-hair­cut clomp­ing beat,” writes The Atlantic’s Noah Berlatsky. “Cash, for his part, turns in one of the most awk­ward vocals of his career.” And yet “all those ele­ments knock­ing against each oth­er,” he con­tin­ues “fit the song’s lyrics per­fect­ly.” Eno’s flow­ing, lan­guid, Mex­i­can-horn-free record­ing may sound more like the orig­i­nal “Ring of Fire” than any oth­er cov­er, but it also befits its artist, the man who pop­u­lar­ized ambi­ent music. Nei­ther Cash nor Eno sing like men espe­cial­ly sub­ject to “wild desire,” but what song isn’t enriched by a bit of coun­ter­point?

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John­ny Cash Sings “Man in Black” for the First Time, 1971

John­ny Cash & Joe Strum­mer Sing Bob Marley’s “Redemp­tion Song” (2002)

Inside the 1969 Bob Dylan-John­ny Cash Ses­sions

Watch John­ny Cash’s Poignant Final Inter­view & His Last Per­for­mance: “Death, Where Is Thy Sting?” (2003)

Bri­an Eno Lists the Ben­e­fits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intel­li­gence, and a Sound Civ­i­liza­tion

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.

Hear the Voices of Americans Born in Slavery: The Library of Congress Features 23 Audio Interviews with Formerly Enslaved People (1932–75)

“Dur­ing the last three decades of legal slav­ery in Amer­i­ca,” writes Lucin­da MacK­ethan at the Nation­al Human­i­ties Cen­ter, “African Amer­i­can writ­ers per­fect­ed one of the nation’s first tru­ly indige­nous gen­res of writ­ten lit­er­a­ture: the North Amer­i­can slave nar­ra­tive.” These heav­i­ly medi­at­ed mem­oirs were the only real first­hand accounts of slav­ery most Amer­i­cans out­side the South encoun­tered. Their authors were urged by abo­li­tion­ist pub­lish­ers to adopt con­ven­tions of the sen­ti­men­tal nov­el, and to fea­ture showy intro­duc­tions by white edi­tors to val­i­date their authen­tic­i­ty.

Fugi­tive slave nar­ra­tives did not nec­es­sar­i­ly give white Amer­i­cans new infor­ma­tion about slavery’s wrongs, but they served as “proof” that enslaved peo­ple were, in fact, peo­ple, with feel­ings and intel­lects and aspi­ra­tions just like theirs. Ex-enslaved writ­ers like Fred­er­ick Dou­glass and Har­ri­et Jacobs sen­sa­tion­al­ized read­ers with sto­ries of the phys­i­cal and sex­u­al vio­lence of slav­ery, and their sto­ries became abo­li­tion­ists’ most potent weapon. The form suc­ceed­ed as much on dra­mat­ic effect as on its doc­u­men­tary val­ue.

Dou­glas and Jacobs were excep­tion­al in that they had learned to read and write and escaped their ter­ri­ble con­di­tions through strength of will, inge­nu­ity, the kind­ness­es of oth­ers, and sheer luck. Most were not so for­tu­nate. But we now have access to many more first­hand accounts—thanks to the work of the Fed­er­al Writ­ers Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Admin­is­tra­tion and oth­ers, who record­ed thou­sands of inter­views with for­mer­ly enslaved peo­ple liv­ing well into the 20th cen­tu­ry, all from the first gen­er­a­tion to out­live slav­ery.

Ted Kop­pel debuted some clips of those record­ings to his Night­line audi­ence in the 1999 episode above. “They are haunt­ing voic­es,” he says, then pref­aces the tape with “brace your­selves for a minor mir­a­cle.” What is mirac­u­lous about the fact that peo­ple who were born in slav­ery lived into the age of audio record­ing? Per­haps one rea­son it seems so is that we are con­di­tioned to think of legal enslave­ment and its effects as reced­ing fur­ther back in time than they actu­al­ly do. In the 1930s, the FWP filed tran­scripts of over 2,300 inter­views and 500 black-and-white pho­tographs of peo­ple born into slav­ery.

Also, in the 30s, eth­nol­o­gists like Zora Neale Hurston and the Lomax­es began record­ing audio inter­views with for­mer­ly enslaved peo­ple like Foun­tain Hugh­es, fur­ther up, born in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. Record­ed in 1949, he is fear­ful­ly reluc­tant to talk about his expe­ri­ence but vocal about it nonethe­less: ““You was­n’t no more than a dog to some of them in them days. You was­n’t treat­ed as good as they treat dogs now. But still I did­n’t like to talk about it. Because it makes, makes peo­ple feel bad you know. Uh, I, I could say a whole lot I don’t like to say. And I won’t say a whole lot more.”

The Library of Con­gress puts the 23 sur­viv­ing record­ings in con­text:

The record­ings of for­mer slaves in Voic­es Remem­ber­ing Slav­ery: Freed Peo­ple Tell Their Sto­ries took place between 1932 and 1975 in nine states. Twen­ty-three inter­vie­wees dis­cuss how they felt about slav­ery, slave­hold­ers, coer­cion of slaves, their fam­i­lies, and free­dom. Sev­er­al indi­vid­u­als sing songs, many of which were learned dur­ing the time of their enslave­ment. It is impor­tant to note that all of the inter­vie­wees spoke six­ty or more years after the end of their enslave­ment, and it is their full lives that are reflect­ed in these record­ings. The indi­vid­u­als doc­u­ment­ed in this pre­sen­ta­tion have much to say about liv­ing as African Amer­i­cans from the 1870s to the 1930s, and beyond.

Only sev­en of these voic­es have been matched with pho­tographs. Many of these mean and women were inter­viewed else­where, but on the whole, lit­tle bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion about them exists. The final inter­vie­wee, Char­lie Smith, record­ed in 1975, was the sub­ject of a book and numer­ous mag­a­zine arti­cles. He died four years lat­er at 137 years old. Hear all of the audio inter­views with for­mer­ly enslaved peo­ple at the Library of Congress’s Voic­es Remem­ber­ing Slav­ery project and find resources for teach­ers here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Names of 1.8 Mil­lion Eman­ci­pat­ed Slaves Are Now Search­able in the World’s Largest Genealog­i­cal Data­base, Help­ing African Amer­i­cans Find Lost Ances­tors

What the Text­books Don’t Tell Us About The Atlantic Slave Trade: An Ani­mat­ed Video Fills In His­tor­i­cal Gaps

The Atlantic Slave Trade Visu­al­ized in Two Min­utes: 10 Mil­lion Lives, 20,000 Voy­ages, Over 315 Years

The “Slave Bible” Removed Key Bib­li­cal Pas­sages In Order to Legit­imize Slav­ery & Dis­cour­age a Slave Rebel­lion (1807)

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

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

The End of an Era: A Short Film About The Last Day of Hot Metal Typesetting at The New York Times (1978)

This is usu­al­ly what hap­pens when I write a piece for Open Cul­ture: As I drink an over­priced cof­fee at my local cof­fee shop, I research a top­ic on the inter­net, write and edit an arti­cle on Microsoft Word and then copy and paste the whole thing into Word­Press. My edi­tor in Open Cul­ture’s gleam­ing inter­na­tion­al head­quar­ters up in San Fran­cis­co gives it a look-over and then, with the push of a but­ton, pub­lish­es the arti­cle on the site.

It’s sober­ing to think what I casu­al­ly do over the course of a morn­ing would require the effort of dozens of peo­ple 40+ years ago.

Until the 1970s, with the rise in pop­u­lar­i­ty of com­put­er type­set­ting, news­pa­pers were print­ed the same way for near­ly a cen­tu­ry. Lino­type machines would cast one line at a time from molten lead. Though an improve­ment from hand­set type, where print­ers would assem­ble lines of type one char­ac­ter at a time, lino­type still required numer­ous skilled print­ers to assem­ble each and every news­pa­per edi­tion.

The New York Times tran­si­tioned from that ven­er­at­ed pro­duc­tion method to com­put­er type­set­ting on Sun­day, July 2, 1978. David Loeb Weiss, a proof­read­er at the Times, doc­u­ment­ed this final day in the doc­u­men­tary Farewell — Etaoin Shrd­lu.

The title of the movie, by the way, comes from the first two lines of a printer’s key­board, which are arranged accord­ing to a letter’s fre­quen­cy of use. When a print­er typed “etaoin shrd­lu,” it meant that the line had a mis­take in it and should be dis­card­ed.

Watch­ing the movie, you get a sense of just how much work went into each page and how print­ers were skilled crafts­men. (You try spot­ting a typo on a page of upside down and back­wards type.) The film also cap­tures the furi­ous ener­gy and the cacoph­o­ny of clinks and clanks of the com­pos­ing room. You can see just how much phys­i­cal work was involved. After all, each page was print­ed off of a 40-pound plate made of lead.

The tone of the movie is under­stand­ably melan­choly. The work­ers are bid­ding farewell to a job that had exist­ed for decades. “All the knowl­edge I’ve acquired over my 26 years is all locked up in a lit­tle box now called a com­put­er,” notes one print­er. “And I think most jobs are going to end up the same way.” Some­one else wrote the fol­low­ing on the com­pos­ing room’s chalk­board. “The end of an era. Good while it last­ed. Cry­ing won’t help.”

You can watch the full doc­u­men­tary above. It will also be added to our list of 200 Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our meta col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Note: This post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in August 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er the Inge­nious Type­writer That Prints Musi­cal Nota­tion: The Keaton Music Type­writer Patent­ed in 1936

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Curi­ous Type­writer, the “Malling-Hansen Writ­ing Ball”

The Art of Col­lo­type: See a Near Extinct Print­ing Tech­nique, as Lov­ing­ly Prac­ticed by a Japan­ese Mas­ter Crafts­man

The Endur­ing Ana­log Under­world of Gramer­cy Type­writer

Mark Twain Wrote the First Book Ever Writ­ten With a Type­writer

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

How Georgia O’Keeffe Became Georgia O’Keeffe: An Animated Video Tells the Story

When Geor­gia O’Keeffe first saw the home in Abiquiú, in North­ern New Mex­i­co that she would pur­chase from the Catholic Church in 1945 “the 5,000-square-foot com­pound was in ruins,” writes the Geor­gia O’Keeffe Muse­um. The artist imme­di­ate­ly seized on its poten­tial: “As I climbed and walked about in the ruin,” she remem­bers, “I found a patio with a very pret­ty well house and buck­et to draw up water. It was a good-sized patio with a long wall with a door on one side. That wall with a door in it was some­thing I had to have.”

Des­ig­nat­ed a Nation­al His­toric Land­mark in 1998, the “pueblo-style adobe (mud brick) hacien­da” became one of the most renowned of artists’ hous­es, asso­ci­at­ed as close­ly with O’Keeffe as Fri­da Kahlo’s Blue House is with her work. O’Keeffe moved to the South­west for good in 1949, three years after her hus­band Alfred Stieglitz’s death. Her spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion to the region began with a vis­it to Taos in 1929, and she con­tin­ued to vis­it and paint the area through­out the 30s and 40s.

The sto­ry about her dis­cov­ery of the famous house—photographed hun­dreds of times by her and dozens of others—seems emblem­at­ic of the decades of deci­sive, mature paint­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy. Her vision seems supreme­ly con­fi­dent and entire­ly sui gener­is—a pas­sion­ate way of see­ing as dis­tinc­tive as van Gogh’s. But like van Gogh, and every oth­er famous artist, O’Keeffe served an appren­tice peri­od, which at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry meant learn­ing clas­si­cal tech­niques. Once in New York, she became known for exper­i­men­tal paint­ings of sky­scrap­ers and her stun­ning abstract flow­ers.

In the TED-Ed les­son above by Iseult Gille­spie, we learn how O’Keeffe turned her ear­ly for­mal train­ing into her first series of abstract draw­ings, in char­coal. These works “defy easy clas­si­fi­ca­tion, sug­gest­ing, but nev­er quite match­ing, any spe­cif­ic nat­ur­al ref­er­ence.” O’Keeffe mailed the draw­ings to a friend in New York, who showed them to Stieglitz, who “became entranced.” Soon after, he arranged her first exhib­it. Her stu­dent days at an end, she moved to New York in 1918 and quick­ly became asso­ci­at­ed with a cir­cle of Amer­i­can Mod­ernists.

She mar­ried Stieglitz, but O’Keeffe’s path would take her away from her hus­band, and from the met­ro­pol­i­tan cen­ters most asso­ci­at­ed with ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry Mod­ernism, and into the her­met­ic desert soli­tude for which she became known—a path the painter Agnes Mar­tin would fol­low decades lat­er. O’Keeffe’s process was that of a desert ascetic—“based on rit­u­al and close obser­va­tion. She paid metic­u­lous atten­tion to small details, and spent hours mix­ing paints to find exact­ly the right col­ors.” She kept track of her blaz­ing palette with hand­made col­or cards.

O’Keeffe’s work has often been reduced to pruri­ent spec­u­la­tion about the resem­blance of her flow­ers to female gen­i­talia, a Freudi­an lens she cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly dis­missed: “She resent­ed the male gaze that dom­i­nat­ed the art world and demand­ed her work be respect­ed for its emo­tion­al evo­ca­tion of the nat­ur­al world.” See high-res­o­lu­tion scans of O’Keeffe’s body of work, from the 1900s to the 1980s, at the Geor­gia O’Keeffe Col­lec­tions Online and learn more about her at the Geor­gia O’Keeffe Muse­um Library and Archive.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Real Geor­gia O’Keeffe: The Artist Reveals Her­self in Vin­tage Doc­u­men­tary Clips

Geor­gia O’Keeffe: A Life in Art, a Short Doc­u­men­tary on the Painter Nar­rat­ed by Gene Hack­man

Fri­da Kahlo Writes a Per­son­al Let­ter to Geor­gia O’Keeffe After O’Keeffe’s Ner­vous Break­down (1933)

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

Martin Amis Explains His Method for Writing Great Sentences

Why does Mar­tin Amis writes sen­tences well? As a nov­el­ist, he nat­u­ral­ly has a high degree of pro­fes­sion­al inter­est in the mat­ter. But why does he write sen­tences so well? One might put forth the influ­ence of his father Kings­ley Amis, author of Lucky Jim, an endur­ing con­tender for the title of the fun­ni­est nov­el in the Eng­lish lan­guage. But giv­en how sel­dom one acclaimed nov­el­ist sires anoth­er — an event, in fact, near­ly unheard of — the her­i­tabil­i­ty of lit­er­ary tal­ent remains unknow­able. As for the direct influ­ence of Amis père on Amis fils, we can almost entire­ly rule it out: not only did Kings­ley nev­er encour­age Mar­tin to fol­low in his foot­steps, only once did he offer any kind of writer­ly advice.

“We sat in high-bour­geois splen­dor, my father and I,” writes the younger Amis in his mem­oir Expe­ri­ence, “hav­ing a pre-lunch drink and talk­ing about his first pub­lished sto­ry, ‘The Sacred Rhi­no of Ugan­da’ (1932: he was ten).” The father-son dia­logue runs as fol­lows:

— It was awful in all the usu­al ways. And full of false quan­ti­ties. Things like: ‘Rag­ing and curs­ing in the blaz­ing heat …’

— What’s wrong with that? I mean I can see it’s old fash­ioned …

— You can’t have three ings like that.

— Can’t you?

— No. It would have to be: ‘Rag­ing and curs­ing in the … intol­er­a­ble heat.’

You couldn’t have three ings like that. And some­times you couldn’t even have two. The same went for -ics, -ives, -lys and -tions. And the same went for all pre­fix­es too.

43 years lat­er, Mar­tin Amis would find him­self in the role of lit­er­ary advice-giv­er, deliv­er­ing his father’s prin­ci­ple of writ­ing onstage at the Chica­go Human­i­ties Fes­ti­val. The process of imbu­ing every sen­tence with “min­i­mum ele­gance and eupho­ny,” he says in the clip above (drawn from a longer inter­view view­able here) involves “say­ing the sen­tence, sub­vo­cal­iz­ing it in your head until there’s noth­ing wrong with it. This means not repeat­ing in the same sen­tence suf­fix­es and pre­fix. If you’ve got a con­found, you can’t have a con­form. If you’ve got invi­ta­tion, you can’t have exe­cu­tion. You can’t repeat those, or an -ing, or a -ness: all that has to be one per sen­tence. I think the prose will give a sort of plea­sure with­out you being able to tell why.”

Clear­ly writ­ing a sen­tence that has “noth­ing wrong with it” goes well beyond adher­ing to the rules of spelling and gram­mar. And even after you’ve elim­i­nat­ed all ungain­ly rep­e­ti­tion, you may still have con­sid­er­able work to do before the sen­tence ris­es to a stan­dard worth uphold­ing. There are oth­er ques­tions to ask: do you, for exam­ple, tru­ly pos­sess each and every one of the words you’ve used, not just in mean­ing but sound and rhythm? In order to do so, Amis rec­om­mends acquaint­ing your­self more inti­mate­ly with the dic­tio­nary and the­saurus. If all this makes the task of the aspir­ing writer sound need­less­ly daunt­ing, fol­low instead the much sim­pler advice Amis pro­vides in the clip just above: “Get to the end of the nov­el, then wor­ry, because you’ve got some­thing in front of you that you can work on. Save the anx­i­ety for the end.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Amis Explains How to Use a The­saurus to Actu­al­ly Improve Your Writ­ing

Nor­man Mail­er & Mar­tin Amis, No Strangers to Con­tro­ver­sy, Talk in 1991

Writ­ing Tips by Hen­ry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

V.S. Naipaul Cre­ates a List of 7 Rules for Begin­ning Writ­ers

Nietzsche’s 10 Rules for Writ­ing with Style (1882)

5 Won­der­ful­ly Long Lit­er­ary Sen­tences by Samuel Beck­ett, Vir­ginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzger­ald & Oth­er Mas­ters of the Run-On

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.

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