Why “The Girl from Ipanema“ ‘ Is a Richer & Weirder Song Than You Ever Realized

Say what you want about YouTube’s neg­a­tive effects (end­less soy faces, influ­encers, its devi­ous and fas­cist-lean­ing algo­rithms) but it has offered to cre­ators a space in which to indulge. And that’s one of the rea­sons I’ve been a fan of Adam Neely’s work. A jazz musi­cian and a for­mer stu­dent at both the Berklee Col­lege of Music and the Man­hat­tan School of Music, his YouTube chan­nel is a must for those with an inter­est in the how and why of music the­o­ry. If not for Neely’s tal­ent and YouTube’s plat­form we wouldn’t have the above: a 30 minute (!) explo­ration of the bossa nova stan­dard, “The Girl from Ipane­ma.” And it is worth every sin­gle minute. (Even the com­pos­er Anto­nio Car­los Jobim him­self could not have con­vinced tra­di­tion­al tele­vi­sion execs to give him that long an indul­gence.)

See­ings we haven’t fea­tured Neely on Open Cul­ture before, let this be a great intro­duc­tion, because this is one of his bet­ter videos. (Being stuck inside with no jazz venues has giv­en him more time to cre­ate con­tent, no doubt). It also helps that the sub­ject mat­ter just hap­pens to be one of the most cov­ered stan­dards in pop his­to­ry.

Its lega­cy is one of lounge lizards and kitsch. Neely shows it being used as a punch­line in The Blues Broth­ers and as mood music in V for Vendet­ta. I remem­ber it being hummed by two pep­per­pots (Gra­ham Chap­man and John Cleese) in a Mon­ty Python skit (about 3:20 in). And Neely gives us the “tl;dw” (“too long, did­n’t watch”) sum­ma­ry up front: the song’s his­to­ry con­cerns blues music, Amer­i­can cul­tur­al hege­mo­ny, and the influ­ence of the Berklee College’s “The Real Book.” There’s also loads of music the­o­ry thrown in too, so it helps to know just a lit­tle going in.

Neely first peels back decades of ele­va­tor music cov­ers to get to the birth of the song, and its mul­ti­ple par­ents: the Afro-Brazil­ian music called Sam­ba, the hip night­clubs of Rio de Janeiro dur­ing the 1950s, the hit film Black Orpheus which brought both sam­ba and bossa nova (the “new wave”) to an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence, Jobim and oth­er musi­cians inter­est in Amer­i­can blues and jazz chords, and Amer­i­can inter­est from musi­cians like Stan Getz. All this is a back and forth cir­cuit of influ­ences that result in this song, which bor­rows its struc­ture from Tin Pan Alley com­posers like Cole Porter and Irv­ing Berlin, and inserts a sad, self-pity­ing B sec­tion after two A sec­tion lyrics about a young woman pass­ing by on a beach (lyrics by Vini­cius de Moraes, who also wrote the screen­play to Black Orpheus).

The key in which you play the song also reveals the cul­tur­al divide. Play it in F and you are tak­ing sides with the Amer­i­cans; play it in Db and you are keep­ing it real, Brazil­ian style. Neely breaks apart the melody and the chord sequences, point­ing out its rep­e­ti­tion (which makes it so catchy) but also its ambi­gu­i­ty, which explains end­less YouTube videos of musi­cians get­ting the chord sequence wrong. And, what exact­ly *is* the true chord sequence? And how is it a riff on, of all things, Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train”? Neely also shows the pro­gres­sion of var­i­ous cov­ers of the song, and what’s been added and what’s been delet­ed. Leav­ing things out, as he illus­trates with a clip from Leonard Bernstein’s 1973 Har­vard lec­tures, is what gives art its mag­ic.

There’s so much more to this 30 minute clip, but you real­ly should watch the whole thing (and then hit sub­scribe to his chan­nel). This essay is exact­ly what YouTube does best, and Neely is the best of teach­ers, a smart, self-dep­re­cat­ing guy who mix­es intel­lect with humor. Plus, you’ll be hum­ming the song for the rest of the day, just a bit more aware of the rea­son behind the ear worm.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“The Girl from Ipane­ma” Turns 50; Hear Its Bossa Nova Sound Cov­ered by Sina­tra, Krall, Methe­ny & Oth­ers

David Sedaris Cre­ates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online

Remem­ber­ing the “Father of Bossa Nova” João Gilber­to (RIP) with Four Clas­sic Live Per­for­mances: “The Girl From Ipane­ma,” “Cor­co­v­a­do” & More

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.

Take an 360° Interactive Tour Inside the Great Pyramid of Giza

You can’t take it with you if you’ve got noth­ing to take with you.

Once upon a time, the now-emp­ty Great Pyra­mid of Giza was sump­tu­ous­ly appoint­ed inside and out, to ensure that Pharaoh Khu­fu, or Cheops as he was known to the Ancient Greeks, would be well received in the after­life.

Bling was a seri­ous thing.

Thou­sand of years fur­ther on, cin­e­mat­ic por­tray­als have us con­vinced that tomb raiders were greedy 19th- and 20th-cen­tu­ry cura­tors, eager­ly fill­ing their vit­rines with stolen arti­facts.

There’s some truth to that, but mod­ern Egyp­tol­o­gists are fair­ly con­vinced that Khufu’s pyra­mid was loot­ed short­ly after his reign, by oppor­tunists look­ing to grab some good­ies for their jour­ney to the after­life.

At any rate, it’s been picked clean.

Per­haps one day, we 21st-cen­tu­ry cit­i­zens can opt in to a pyra­mid expe­ri­ence akin to Rome Reborn, a dig­i­tal crutch for our fee­ble imag­i­na­tion to help us past the emp­ty sar­coph­a­gus and bare walls that have defined the world’s old­est tourist attraction’s inte­ri­ors for … well, not quite ever, but cer­tain­ly for FlaubertMark Twain, and 12th-cen­tu­ry schol­ar Abd al-Latif.

Fast for­ward­ing to 2017, the BBC’s Rajan Datar host­ed “Secrets of the Great Pyra­mid,” a pod­cast episode fea­tur­ing Egyp­tol­o­gist Sal­i­ma Ikram, space archae­ol­o­gist Dr Sarah Par­cak, and archae­ol­o­gist, Dr Joyce Tyldes­ley.

The experts were keen to clear up a major mis­con­cep­tion that the 4600-year-old pyra­mid was built by aliens or enslaved labor­ers, rather than a per­ma­nent staff of archi­tects and engi­neers, aid­ed by Egypt­ian civil­ians eager to barter their labor for meat, fish, beer, and tax abate­ment.

Datar’s ques­tion about a scan­ning project that would bring fur­ther insight into the Pyra­mid of Giza­’s con­struc­tion and lay­out was met with excite­ment.

This attrac­tion, old as it is, has plen­ty of new secrets to be dis­cov­ered.

We’re hap­py to share with you, read­ers, that 3 years after that episode was taped, the future is here.

The scan­ning is com­plete.

Wit­ness the BBC’s 360° tour inside the Great Pyra­mid of Giza.

Use your mouse to crane your neck, if you like.

As of this writ­ing, you could tour the pyra­mid in per­son, should you wish—the usu­al touris­tic hoards are def­i­nite­ly dialed down.

But, giv­en the con­ta­gion, per­haps bet­ter to tour the King’s Cham­ber, the Queen’s Cham­ber, and the Grand Gallery vir­tu­al­ly, above.

(An inter­est­ing tid­bit: the pyra­mid was more dis­tant to the ancient Romans than the Colos­se­um is to us.)

Lis­ten to the BBC’s “Secrets of the Great Pyra­mid” episode here.

Tour the Great Pyra­mid of Giza here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What the Great Pyra­mid of Giza Would’ve Looked Like When First Built: It Was Gleam­ing, Reflec­tive White

How the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids Were Built: A New The­o­ry in 3D Ani­ma­tion

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Metropolis’ Cinematically Innovative Dance Scene, Restored as Fritz Lang Intended It to Be Seen (1927)

When it came out in 1927, Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis showed audi­ences the kind of whol­ly invent­ed real­i­ty, hith­er­to beyond imag­i­na­tion, that could be real­ized in motion pic­tures. Its vision of a soci­ety bisect­ed into colos­sal sky­scrap­ers and under­ground war­rens, an indus­tri­al Art Deco dystopia, con­tin­ues to influ­ence film­mak­ers today. This despite — or per­haps because of — the sim­ple sto­ry it tells, in which Fred­er, the scion of the city of Metrop­o­lis, rebels against his father after fol­low­ing Maria, a good-heart­ed maid­en from the under­class, into the infer­nal low­er depths.

In the role of Maria was a then-unknown 18-year-old actress named Brigitte Helm. “For all the steam and spe­cial effects,” writes Robert McG. Thomas Jr. in Helm’s New York Times obit­u­ary, “for many who have seen the movie in its var­i­ous incar­na­tions, includ­ing a tint­ed ver­sion and one accom­pa­nied by music, the most com­pelling lin­ger­ing image is nei­ther the tow­ers above nor the hell­ish fac­to­ries below. It is the star­tling trans­for­ma­tion of Ms. Helm from an ide­al­is­tic young woman into a bare­ly clad crea­ture per­form­ing a las­civ­i­ous dance in a broth­el.”

Halfway through the film, Maria gets kid­napped by the vil­lain­ous inven­tor Rot­wang and cloned as a robot. It is this robot, not the real Maria, who takes the stage in the scene in ques­tion, prac­ti­cal­ly nude by the stan­dards of silent-era cin­e­ma. Lang used the sequence to push not just the bounds of pro­pri­ety, but the aes­thet­ic capa­bil­i­ties of his art form: view­ers would nev­er have seen any­thing like the frame-fill­ing field of eye­balls into which the slaver­ing crowd of tuxe­doed men dis­solve. Here we have a medi­um demon­strat­ing deci­sive­ly and pow­er­ful­ly what sets it apart from all oth­ers, in just one of the scenes restored only recent­ly to its orig­i­nal form.

When Thomas allud­ed to the many extant cuts of Metrop­o­lis in his 1996 obit­u­ary for Helm, the now-defin­i­tive ver­sion of the pic­ture that made her a star still lay in the future. 2010’s The Com­plete Metrop­o­lis includes mate­r­i­al redis­cov­ered just two years before, on a 16-mil­lime­ter reduc­tion neg­a­tive stored at Buenos Aires’ Museo del Cine and long for­got­ten there­after. Now, just as Lang intend­ed us to, we can behold his cin­e­mat­ic vision of rulers employ­ing the high­est tech­nol­o­gy to keep even the elite mes­mer­ized by tit­il­lat­ing spec­ta­cles — a fan­tas­ti­cal sce­nario that has noth­ing at all to do, of course, with the future as it actu­al­ly turned out.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Metrop­o­lis: Watch a Restored Ver­sion of Fritz Lang’s Mas­ter­piece (1927)

Read the Orig­i­nal 32-Page Pro­gram for Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis (1927)

Fritz Lang Invents the Video Phone in Metrop­o­lis (1927)

H.G. Wells Pans Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis in a 1927 Movie Review: It’s “the Sil­li­est Film”

10 Great Ger­man Expres­sion­ist Films: From Nos­fer­atu to The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari

Watch After the Ball, the 1897 “Adult” Film by Pio­neer­ing Direc­tor Georges Méliès (Almost NSFW)

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.

The Story Behind the Iconic Black Power Salute Photo at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City

You may know his name, and you def­i­nite­ly know the icon­ic pho­to of him stand­ing next to Tom­mie Smith and Peter Nor­man on the medals podi­um at the 1968 Olympics in Mex­i­co City, his black-gloved fist raised next to Smith’s in defi­ance of racial injus­tice. But you may know lit­tle more about John Car­los. Many of us learned about him the same way stu­dents at a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia high school, where he worked as a coun­selor after retir­ing from run­ning, did: “Man, we see this pic­ture in the his­to­ry book and they don’t have any sto­ry about it,” he remem­bers some kids telling him. “It’s just a two-lin­er with the people’s names.”

The Vox Dark­room video above packs more than a cap­tion ver­sion of his his­to­ry in just under 10 min­utes. The silent protest, we learn, fol­lowed a threat­ened boy­cott from the ath­letes ear­li­er in the year, sup­port­ed by Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., who appears in a clip. Instead, they went on to win medal after medal. We also learn much more about how all three run­ners on the podi­um, includ­ing Sil­ver-win­ning Aussie Peter Nor­man, par­tic­i­pat­ed by wear­ing but­tons sup­port­ing the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Found­ed by for­mer ath­lete and activist Har­ry Edwards, the orga­ni­za­tion aimed to strate­gi­cal­ly dis­rupt U.S. Olympic suc­cess by “opt­ing out of the games,” refus­ing to give Black ath­letes’ labor to sports that refused to com­bat racism.

Twen­ty years before these actions, Black ath­letes became potent sym­bols of the boot­strap­ping Amer­i­can suc­cess sto­ry for the media, long before the end of legal seg­re­ga­tion. As his­to­ry pro­fes­sor Dex­ter Black­man says in the video, the mes­sage became, “if Jack­ie Robin­son can make it, then why can’t oth­er Blacks make it?” This “myth of racial progress” could not sur­vive the 1960s. By the time of Smith and Car­los’ arrival in Mex­i­co City in Octo­ber of 1968, Mar­tin Luther King had been assas­si­nat­ed. Cities around the coun­try were erupt­ing as frus­tra­tion over failed Civ­il Rights efforts boiled over. Nei­ther Car­los nor Smith wear shoes in their podi­um pho­to, in protest of the pover­ty that per­sist­ed in Black com­mu­ni­ties.

The three paid a price for their state­ment. The protest was called “a delib­er­ate and vio­lent breach of the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of the Olympic spir­it” by the IOC pres­i­dent, who had not object­ed to Nazi salutes when he had been an Olympic offi­cial in 1936. Nor­man, who seems com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous at first glance in the pho­to­graph, “returned home to Aus­tralia a pari­ah,” CNN writes, “suf­fer­ing unof­fi­cial sanc­tion and ridicule as the Black Pow­er salute’s for­got­ten man. He nev­er ran in the Olympics again.” Smith fared bet­ter, though he was sus­pend­ed with Car­los from the Olympic team. He left run­ning, played NFL foot­ball, won sev­er­al awards and com­men­da­tions, and became a track coach and soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at Ober­lin.

In an essay at Vox, Car­los describes how “the mood in the sta­di­um went straight to ven­om” after the two raised their fists. “The first 10 years after those Olympics were hell for me. A lot of peo­ple walked away from me…. they were afraid. What they saw hap­pen­ing to me, they didn’t want it to hap­pen to them and theirs.” His kids, he said “were tor­ment­ed,” his mar­riage “crum­bled.” Still, he would do it again. Car­los embod­ies the same uncom­pro­mis­ing atti­tude, one that refus­es to silent­ly accept racism, even while stand­ing (or kneel­ing) in silence. “If you’re famous and you’re black,” he writes, “you have to be an activist. That’s what I’ve tried to do my whole life.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Muham­mad Ali Gives a Dra­mat­ic Read­ing of His Poem on the Atti­ca Prison Upris­ing

Great Cul­tur­al Icons Talk Civ­il Rights: James Bald­win, Mar­lon Bran­do, Har­ry Bela­fonte & Sid­ney Poiti­er (1963)

How Jazz Helped Fuel the 1960s Civ­il Rights Move­ment

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

Historic Mexican Recipes Are Now Available as Free Digital Cookbooks: Get Started With Dessert

There are too many com­pet­ing sto­ries to tell about the pan­dem­ic for any one to take the spot­light for long, which makes com­ing to terms with the moment espe­cial­ly chal­leng­ing. Every­thing seems in upheaval—especially in parts of the world where ram­pant cor­rup­tion, inep­ti­tude, and author­i­tar­i­an abuse have wors­ened and pro­longed an already bad sit­u­a­tion. But if there’s a lens that might be wide enough to take it all in, I’d wager it’s the sto­ry of food, from man­u­fac­ture, to sup­ply chains, to the table.

The abil­i­ty to dine out serves as a barom­e­ter of social health. Restau­rants are essen­tial to nor­mal­cy and neigh­bor­hood coher­ence, as well as hubs of local com­merce. They now strug­gle to adapt or close their doors. Food ser­vice staff rep­re­sent some of the most pre­car­i­ous of work­ers. Mean­while, every­one has to eat. “Some of the world’s best restau­rants have gone from fine din­ing to curb­side pick­ups,” writes Rico Tor­res, Chef and Co-own­er of Mixtli. “At home, a renewed sense of self-reliance has led to a resur­gence of the home cook.”

Some, ama­teurs and pro­fes­sion­als both, have returned their skills to the com­mu­ni­ty, cook­ing for pro­tes­tors on the streets, for exam­ple. Oth­ers have turned a new­found pas­sion for cook­ing on their fam­i­lies. What­ev­er the case, they are all doing impor­tant work, not only by feed­ing hun­gry bel­lies but by engag­ing with and trans­form­ing culi­nary tra­di­tions. Despite its essen­tial ephemer­al­i­ty, food pre­serves mem­o­ry, through the most mem­o­ry-inten­sive of our sens­es, and through recipes passed down for gen­er­a­tions.

Recipe col­lec­tions are also sites of cul­tur­al exchange and con­flict. Such has been the case in the long strug­gle to define the essence of authen­tic Mex­i­can food. You can learn more about that argu­ment in our pre­vi­ous post on a col­lec­tion of tra­di­tion­al (and some not-so-tra­di­tion­al) Mex­i­can cook­books which are being dig­i­tized and put online by researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas San Anto­nio (UTSA). Their col­lec­tion of over 2,000 titles dates from 1789 to the present and rep­re­sents a vast repos­i­to­ry of knowl­edge for schol­ars of Mex­i­can cui­sine.

But let’s be hon­est, what most of us want, and need, is a good meal. It just so hap­pens, as chefs now serv­ing curb­side will tell you, that the best cook­ing (and bak­ing) learns from the cook­ing of the past. In obser­vance of the times we live in, the UTSA Libraries Spe­cial Col­lec­tions has curat­ed many of the his­toric Mex­i­can recipes in their col­lec­tion as what they call “a series of mini-cook­books” titled “Rec­etas: Cocin­dan­do en los Tiem­pos del Coro­n­avirus.”

Because many in our com­mu­ni­ties have found them­selves in the kitchen dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic dur­ing stay-at-home orders, we hope to share the col­lec­tion and make it even more acces­si­ble to those look­ing to explore Mex­i­can cui­sine.

These recipes, now being made avail­able as e‑cookbooks, have been tran­scribed and trans­lat­ed from hand­writ­ten man­u­scripts by archivists who are pas­sion­ate about this food. Per­haps in hon­or of Lau­ra Esquivel’s Like Water for Choco­late—whose nov­el “paints a nar­ra­tive of fam­i­ly and tra­di­tion using Mexico’s deep con­nec­tion to cuisine”—the col­lec­tion has “saved the best for first” and begun with the dessert cook­book. They’ll con­tin­ue the reverse order with Vol­ume 2, main cours­es, and Vol­ume 3, appe­tiz­ers & drinks.

Endorsed by Chef Tor­res, the first mini-cook­book mod­ern­izes and trans­lates the orig­i­nal Span­ish into Eng­lish, and is avail­able in pdf or epub. It does not mod­ern­ize more tra­di­tion­al ways of cook­ing. As the Pref­ace points out, “many of the man­u­script cook­books of the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry assume read­ers to be expe­ri­enced cooks.” (It was not an occu­pa­tion under­tak­en light­ly.) As such, the recipes are “often light on details” like ingre­di­ent lists and step-by-step instruc­tions. As Atlas Obscu­ra notes, the recipe above for “ ‘Petra’s cook­ies’ calls for “‘one cup not quite full of milk.’ ”

“We encour­age you to view these instruc­tions as oppor­tu­ni­ties to acquire an intu­itive feel for your food,” the archive writes. It’s good to learn new habits. What­ev­er else it is now—community ser­vice, chore, an exer­cise in self-reliance, self-improve­ment, or stress relief—cooking is also cre­at­ing new ways of remem­ber­ing and con­nect­ing across new dis­tances of time and space, work­ing with the raw mate­ri­als we have at hand. Down­load the first Vol­ume of the UTSA cook­book series, Postres: Guardan­do Lo Mejor Para el Prin­ci­pio, here and look for more “Cook­ing in the Time of Coro­n­avirus” recipes com­ing soon.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Archive of Hand­writ­ten Tra­di­tion­al Mex­i­can Cook­books Is Now Online

An Archive of 3,000 Vin­tage Cook­books Lets You Trav­el Back Through Culi­nary Time

82 Vin­tage Cook­books, Free to Down­load, Offer a Fas­ci­nat­ing Illus­trat­ed Look at Culi­nary and Cul­tur­al His­to­ry

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

Rick and Morty as Absurdist Humor, Yet Legitimate Sci-Fi with Family Drama (Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #54)

Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt address the 4‑season 2013 Adult Swim show, which cur­rent­ly has a 94% crit­ics’ rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes. What kind of humor is it, and how are we sup­posed to take its sci-fi and fam­i­ly dra­ma ele­ments? While its con­cepts start as par­o­dy, with an any­thing-goes style of ani­ma­tion, they’re cre­ative and ground­ed enough to actu­al­ly con­tribute to mul­ti­ple gen­res. How smart is the show, exact­ly? And its fans? Is Rick a super hero, or maybe essen­tial­ly Dr. Who? What might this very seri­al­ized sit-com look like in longevi­ty?

We also touch on oth­er adult car­toons like South Park, Solar Oppo­sites, The Simp­sons, Fam­i­ly Guy, plus Com­mu­ni­ty, Scrubs, and more.

Hear the inter­view we refer to with the show’s cre­ators. Watch the video we men­tion about its direc­tors. Vis­it the Rick and Morty wiki for episode descrip­tions and oth­er things.

Some arti­cles that we bring up or oth­er­wise fueled our dis­cus­sion include:

Also, do you want a Plumbus?

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

The Rise & Fall of Silver Apples: The 1960s Electronic Band That Built Their Own Synthesizer, Produced Two Pioneering Albums, and Then Faded into Obscurity

In the late 70s and ear­ly 80s, a hand­ful of musi­cal duos emerged who would have tremen­dous impact on post-punk, alter­na­tive, new wave, and exper­i­men­tal elec­tron­ic music. Bands like Sui­cide, NEU!, and the Pet Shop Boys made far big­ger sounds than their size would sug­gest. Before them all came Sil­ver Apples, a duo who should right­ly get cred­it as pio­neers of elec­tron­ic exper­i­men­ta­tion in pop song form. Like many a pio­neer, Sil­ver Apples had no idea what they were doing. They also suf­fered from a string of some of the worst luck a band could have, dis­ap­pear­ing after their sec­ond album in 1969 until a mid-90s redis­cov­ery and brief return.

Band­mem­bers Sime­on Coxe and Dan­ny Tay­lor formed the band in 1967 from the ruins of a rock group called The Over­land Stage Elec­tric Band, which fell apart when Coxe began exper­i­ment­ing with old oscil­la­tors onstage. All of the mem­bers quit except Tay­lor, and Coxe set about build­ing his own syn­the­siz­er, “a machine nick­named ‘the Sime­on,’” Daniel Dylan Wray writes at The Guardian, “which grew to con­sist of nine audio oscil­la­tors with 86 man­u­al controls—including tele­graph keys—to con­trol lead, rhythm and bass puls­es with the user’s hands, feet and elbows.”

Coxe was the only per­son who could play the Sime­on, and he sang as he did so, his weird, war­bly voice com­ple­ment­ing his machine, as Tay­lor played pro­to-Krautrock beats behind him. “I had heard the word syn­the­siz­er,” he says, “but I had no idea what it was. We were dirt poor and used what we had, which was often dis­card­ed world war two gear.” They were essen­tial­ly mak­ing up elec­tron­ic pop music as they went along, iso­lat­ed from par­al­lel devel­op­ments hap­pen­ing at the same time. They named the project after a line by William But­ler Yeats (many of their lyrics were writ­ten by poet Stan­ley War­ren). Around the same time, com­pos­er Mor­ton Sub­ot­nick released his ground­break­ing all-elec­tron­ic album, titled—after Yeats—Sil­ver Apples of the Moon.

It was Sil­ver Apples’ fate to be over­shad­owed by oth­er releas­es that came out imme­di­ate­ly after their 1968 self-titled debut, such as Wendy Car­los’ Switched on Bach and Ger­shon Kingsley’s hit “Pop­corn,” both of which pop­u­lar­ized Robert Moog’s mod­u­lar syn­the­siz­ers. Moog him­self became so fas­ci­nat­ed with Coxe’s sin­gu­lar cre­ation that he vis­it­ed the Sil­ver Apples stu­dio to see it for him­self. The band’s man­ag­er scored them their very first gig play­ing for 30,000 peo­ple in Cen­tral Park, “pro­vid­ing a live sound­track to the Apol­lo moon landing—broadcast on enor­mous screens beside them,” writes Cian Traynor at Huck mag­a­zine, “as peo­ple took their clothes off in the rain.”

This mag­i­cal experience—and oth­er brush­es with fame, such as a one-off record­ing ses­sion with Jimi Hendrix—was no indi­ca­tion of a bright future for the band. For their sec­ond album, they were allowed to pho­to­graph them­selves inside the cock­pit of a Pan Am jet. The inclu­sion of drug para­pher­na­lia in the pho­to, and of a crashed air­plane on the back, prompt­ed a law­suit from the air­line. The album was pulled from the shelves, the band shut out of the indus­try, and a third album, The Gar­den, remained unre­leased until 1998.

For a look at how musi­cal­ly for­ward-think­ing Sil­ver Apples were, see the short doc­u­men­tary about their rise and fall above. They end­ed up influ­enc­ing neo-psy­che­del­ic elec­tron­ic bands like Stere­o­lab and 90s duo Por­tishead, whose Geoff Bar­row says, “for peo­ple like us, they are the per­fect band…. They should def­i­nite­ly be up there with the pio­neers of elec­tron­ic music.” Tay­lor sad­ly died in 2005, just after Coxe had par­tial­ly recov­ered from a bro­ken neck suf­fered the year of their 90s resur­gence. But Sil­ver Apples music is immor­tal, and immor­tal­ly oth­er­world­ly and strange, even if its cre­ators nev­er quite under­stood why. “To me and Dan­ny,” says Coxe, “it sound­ed per­fect­ly nor­mal and was a nor­mal pro­gres­sion into the areas we were try­ing to go.”

As so much exper­i­men­tal elec­tron­ic pop music that emerged around the same time proves, Coxe was more right than he knew. What Sil­ver Apples did turned out to be a “nor­mal” musi­cal devel­op­ment, though they had no idea that it was hap­pen­ing when they made their aston­ish­ing­ly groovy, spaced-out records.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Daphne Oram Cre­at­ed the BBC’s First-Ever Piece of Elec­tron­ic Music (1957)

The His­to­ry of Elec­tron­ic Music in 476 Tracks (1937–2001)

Pio­neer­ing Elec­tron­ic Com­pos­er Karl­heinz Stock­hausen Presents “Four Cri­te­ria of Elec­tron­ic Music” & Oth­er Lec­tures in Eng­lish (1972)

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

Tony Hawk & Architectural Historian Iain Borden Tell the Story of How Skateboarding Found a New Use for Cities & Architecture

Would­n’t we enjoy see­ing our cities like an archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an, in com­mand of deep knowl­edge about the tech­nol­o­gy, ide­ol­o­gy, and aes­thet­ics of the build­ings we pass by every day? For most of us, this would huge­ly enrich our expe­ri­ence of the urban envi­ron­ment. But then so, less obvi­ous­ly, would see­ing our cities like a skate­board­er, in com­mand of deep knowl­edge about how to glide, jump, and bounce along the streets, the build­ings, and all the myr­i­ad pieces of infra­struc­ture as a surfer rides the waves. The archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an learns the city with his mind; the skater learns the city, no less painstak­ing­ly, with his body.

The Vox video above brings mind and body come togeth­er in the per­sons of Iain Bor­den, author of Skate­board­ing and the City: A Com­plete His­to­ry, and Tony Hawk, to whom even those whol­ly igno­rant of skate­board­ing need no intro­duc­tion. Their com­ple­men­tary inter­views reveal the his­to­ry of mod­ern skate­board­ing through the sport’s “leg­endary spots”: pub­lic-school cam­pus­es, aban­doned swim­ming pools, dry drainage ditch­es, for­got­ten sec­tions of con­crete pipe. In the main this selec­tion reflects the high­ly sub­ur­ban­ized 1970s in which skate­boards first came to pop­u­lar­i­ty in the Unit­ed States. But at its out­er lim­its, such as the Mt. Baldy pipeline in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, it also shows how far skaters will go in search of the ide­al place to ride.

Though pur­pose-build skate parks do exist (their num­bers kept low by for­mi­da­ble insur­ance chal­lenges), seri­ous skaters pre­fer spaces not express­ly designed for skat­ing. This is thanks in large part to the inno­va­tions of a skater with less wider-world name recog­ni­tion than Hawk, but no less influ­ence with­in the sport: Natas Kau­pas. Hawk remem­bers the thoughts trig­gered by footage of the young Kau­pas skat­ing mas­ter­ful­ly through his neigh­bor­hood in the 1987 film Wheels of Fire: “Wow, you can skate curbs like that? You can skate bench­es? You can skate fire hydrants? The whole world is a skate park now.” Sud­den­ly, Bor­den adds, “you did­n’t need to be in Cal­i­for­nia, or in the Ari­zona desert, or in Flori­da any­more. You could be any­where.”

Review­ing Bor­den’s Skate­board­ing and the City, Jack Lay­ton in Urban Stud­ies high­lights its his­to­ry of “how the assem­blage of mate­ri­als that makes up cities has been – in count­less ways – re-imag­ined by the skate­board­er to cre­ate accel­er­a­tion, rota­tion, fric­tion and flow.” It’s easy to for­get, Lay­ton writes, that “along with facil­i­tat­ing com­merce, trans­port and habi­ta­tion, cities can be spaces that facil­i­tate play, exhil­a­ra­tion and plea­sure.” Despite often hav­ing been regard­ed as pub­lic nui­sances, skate­board­ers are “a con­stant reminder that our cities are cre­ative and rich places,” says Bor­den. With the excep­tion of the skate parks secret­ly con­struct­ed in hid­den urban spaces across the world, skaters, of course, don’t build the city — but they do show us some of its untapped poten­tial.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ful­ly Flared

3 Icon­ic Paint­ings by Fri­da Kahlo Get Reborn as Vans Skate Shoes

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

Every­thing You Ever Want­ed to Know About the Beau­ty of Bru­tal­ist Archi­tec­ture: An Intro­duc­tion in Six Videos

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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