Radiohead Ballets: Watch Ballets Choreographed Creatively to the Music of Radiohead

Since Radiohead’s last release, A Moon-Shaped Pool, members of the band have been absorbed in other projects. They’ve turned their band’s website into an archive for their discography and a library for rarities and ephemera — sending not-so-subtle signals their time together has reached a natural end, even if drummer Phil Selway said in 2020 “there are always conversations going on…. We’ll see. We’re talking.”

Two of the band’s most prominent members, guitarist Jonny Greenwood and frontman Thom Yorke, devoted their talents to film scores, a medium Greenwood has explored for many years: in the theatrical violence of There Will Be Blood, for example, the horrific aftermath of We Need to Talk about Kevin, and the almost balletic bloodiness of You Were Never Here. Yorke, meanwhile, scored Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, a film in which ballet dancers’ bodies are broken and bloodied by black magic.

Greenwood, Yorke and company excel at conjuring atmospheres of dread, despair, and disorientation, traits that suit them well for arthouse film. They might not have seemed a natural fit, however, for ballet. And yet, Jason Kottke reports, the two are “together at last” — or at least as of 2016, when choreographer Robert Bondara toured Take Me With You, a piece scored to several Radiohead songs, including In Rainbows’ “Reckoner,” which you can see interpreted above by two dancers from the Polish National Ballet.

The performance is an athletic response to a kinetic track, in choreography not unlike pairs figure skating at times. It is not, however, the first time the band has inspired a ballet. In 2005, Romanian dancer and choreographer Edward Clug created a modern interpretation of Shakespeare set to songs from OK Computer and Kid A. Radio and Juliet debuted in Slovenia, toured the world, celebrated its hundredth performance in 2012, and was scheduled to open in Moscow in 2020.

Clug drew on a prior connection: OK Computer’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” was written for, but not used in, the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. After Radio and Juliet, Clug once again drew inspiration from his favorite band (“They are the soundtrack to my other side; listening to them feels like I’m finding a self that I haven’t met yet.”) Clug’s piece “Proof” (preview above), set to “Feral” from The King of Limbsdebuted in 2017, his first for the Nederlands Dans Theater. If we are to have no more Radiohead, here’s hoping at least we’ll see more Radiohead ballets.

via Kottke

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

Watch The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys, a Free Film Documenting the Making of the 1980s Super Group

“It really had very little to do with combining a bunch of famous people,” says Tom Petty about the Traveling Wilburys. “It was a bunch of friends that just happened to be really good at making music.”

One of the most modest supergroups of the 20th century, one that fate and chance threw together for a very brief period, the Traveling Wilburys made music that sits outside the usual histories of 1980s music, featuring five men in different states of their careers. Tom Petty was about to have a comeback, George Harrison had just had one, Jeff Lynne was no longer having chart hits as ELO, but he was shaping the sound of the late 1980s as a producer, Roy Orbison was *about* to have a posthumous comeback, and Bob Dylan was…doing whatever Dylan does—every album he put out in the ‘80s had an equal number of detractors and comeback claimants. Put it this way: the Traveling Wilburys didn’t feel like a nostalgia act, and neither did it feel like a marketing idea. It was actually lightning in a bottle.

“It was George’s band,” Lynne says in the above mini documentary, but it wasn’t really formed as one. It just sort of *evolved*.

As he explains early in the doc, Harrison was having dinner with Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne and invited them along to a studio in Los Angeles the next day. He had the hankering to make a tune, and they wound up using Bob Dylan’s home studio—the normally reclusive Dylan actually picked up the phone on the first ring and gave the okay. And Harrison’s guitar was over at Tom Petty’s house, so he came along as well. The song they recorded that day was “Handle with Care,” which fell together like magic. (Dylan provided the title after looking over at a cardboard box).

Harrison sat on the song for a while, having no idea what to do with it. The only thing he could do, was to record nine more songs and call it an album. Which, once they had found time in everybody’s schedule, they did. The songs were recorded at the home studio of Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) and finalized back in London with Harrison and Lynne. The group gave themselves the assignment of one song written and recorded per day. That the record isn’t a mish-mash of jamming, leftover ideas, and covers, and instead has a legitimate amount of classic singles and career-highlight moments is a testament to the friendship between the five (and drummer Jim Keltner, who knew them all).

Friends indeed, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t also big fans of each other. What’s cool to watch in the doc is how in awe they all seem: George is amazed by Bob’s cryptic scrawled lyrics and his ability to nail a song on essentially the first take. Tom Petty is in awe of George’s democratic ways with choosing who gets to sing one of the songs, regardless of who wrote it—really, how do you follow Roy Orbison’s version of a song? But Tom Petty still had a go.

The album maintains that friendly vibe in the recording: microphones were mobile to catch music wherever it happened. Jim Keltner played rhythm on the inside of the kitchen’s refrigerator. Songs were written in the kitchen. And after the work was done, the music would continue. “A lot of ukuleles till dawn,” says Harrison.

Roy Orbison only made it into the first music video off of the album, “Handle With Care.” He passed away just after the album went platinum in 1988, and appears as an empty rocking chair on the next video, “The End of the Line.”

The four remaining Wilburys would reunite for one more album (jokingly titled Volume 3 by prankster Harrison), but the first album still sounds timeless, five friends just having a good time together.

The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys will be added to our collection of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

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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.

Download 280 Pictographs That Put Japanese Culture Into a New Visual Language: They’re Free for the Public to Use

“One of the biggest considerations when traveling to Japan is its inscrutable language,” writes Designboom’s Juliana Neira. But then, one might also consider making that language more scrutable — and making one’s experience in Japan much richer — by learning some of it. Kanji, the Chinese characters used in the written Japanese language, may at first look like small, often bewilderingly complex pictures, and many assume they visually evoke the meanings they express. In fact, to use the linguistic terms, they’re not pictograms, representations of thoughts or ideas, but logograms, representations of words or parts of words.

Resemble miniature works of art though they often do, kanji aren’t entirely unsystematic. This helps beginning learners get a handle on the first and most essential characters of the thousands they’ll eventually need to know.

So does the fact that some of them, in origin, really are pictographic — that is, they look like the meaning of the word they represent — or at least pictographic enough to make them teachable through images. The Japanese word for “mountain,” to cite an elementary example, is 山; “river” is 川; “tree” is 木. Alas, most of us who enjoy the 山, 川, and 木 of Japan — to say nothing of the 書店 and 喫茶店 in its cities — haven’t been able to visit them at all in this past pandemic year.

“After experiencing years of tourism growth, tourists to Japan are down over 95% due to the pandemic,” writes Spoon & Tamago’s Johnny Waldman. “Graphic designer Kenya Hara and his firm Nippon Design Center have self-initiated a project to release over 250 pictograms — free for anyone to use — in support of tourism in Japan from a visual design perspective.” Collectively bannered the Experience Japan Pictograms, these clear and evocative icons represent a wide range of the places and activities one can enjoy in the Land of the Rising Sun: skiing and surfing, calligraphy and open-air hot-spring bathing, Ginza and Asakusa, Tokyo’s Skytree and Osaka’s Tsūtenkaku Tower.

The Experience Japan Pictograms hardly fail to include the glories of Japanese cuisine — sushi, tempura, soba, and even the Japanified hanbāgā — which piques so many foreigners’ interest in Japan to begin with. Click on any of them and you’ll see a brief cultural and historical explanation of the item, activity, place, or concept in question, along with the relevant Japanese term (in kanji where applicable) and its pronunciation. You can also download them in the color scheme of your choice and use them for any purposes you like, including commercial ones. The more widely adopted they are, the more convenient Japanese tourism will become for those who don’t read Japanese. Those who do can hardly deny the pleasure of having another Japanese language to learn — and a truly pictographic one at that.

via Spoon & Tamago

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Flim: a New AI-Powered Movie-Screenshot Search Engine

There was a time when cinephile shorthand consisted mostly of quotations from movies — from movies’ dialogue, to be precise. The distinction matters these days, now that the internet has enabled us to communicate just as easily with visual quotations as verbal ones. While some of us go the extra mile by manually combing through our film collections and taking the screenshots that best reflect our personal sentiments, most of us have long relied on the results, however approximate, served up by search engines like Google Images.

Now a promising new solution has emerged, called Flim (not to be confused with “film”). Described on its about page as “a constantly evolving database of HD screenshots,” with a claim of 50,000 provided daily, Flim uses artificial intelligence to perform color analysis and detect “objects, clothes, characters, etc.”

This means that when you enter terms like “tree,” “guitar,” “tuxedo,” or “pizza,” you get a selection of images including trees, guitars, tuxedos, and pizzas, all taken straight from a range of motion pictures wide enough to include The Nightmare Before Christmas and An American Werewolf in LondonEasy Rider and Wayne’s World 2, Mélo and Wedding Crashers.

Artificial intelligence has come a long way in recent years, especially in its capacity to recognize the content of images. The one driving Flim does seem to have committed the occasional amusing misfile, but it’s still early days. And though cinephiles will be quick to notice the omissions in its database, they’ll find a great deal of visual material from the work of their favorite auteurs: more than 100 screenshots from that of David Lynch, more than 300 from that of Éric Rohmer, more than a thousand from that of Stanley Kubrick, and nearly 1,500 from that of Alfred Hitchcock.

“I would love for the screenshot detail pages to include timecodes,” suggests Jason Kottke. It would make this an amazing tool for creating supercuts, film analysis videos, and other sorts of media. Imagine how much easier Christian Marclay’s job would have been with ‘clock’ and ‘watch’ searches on Flim.” Certainly I could have used it while making my own video essay on Los Angeles’ Bonaventure Hotel, a notable film-shoot location over the past few decades — though as yet the Bonaventure’s name returns no results, nor do the names of any other real-world buildings that come to mind.

Still, if Flim expands apace, it will become a valuable resource for cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike, as well as filmmakers themselves: No Film School’s Jason Hellerman describes it as a potentially revolutionary aid for the assembly of “mood boards” and “lookbooks,” industry-standard elements of pitch presentations for “music videos, features, and commercials.” As with any newly developed tool of this kind, though, the most interesting uses will surely be the least obvious ones. In time, Flim could even prove to be a trusted source of reading recommendations.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Journey’s Road Crew Performs a Pretty Flawless Version of “Separate Ways”

You never know what the YouTube recommendation algorithm will serve up next. Above, we have Journey’s road crew performing “Separate Ways” as part of a concert soundcheck. And it turns out the crew has some real chops. At least according to the YouTube comments, the crew/band features Scott Appleton on guitar. (In recent years, he has served as the guitar tech for Rush’s Alex Lifeson.) And on drums, we seemingly have Jim Handley, a Nashville-based drummer who performs in the Journey tribute band, Resurrection. The actual performance starts around the 30 second mark. Enjoy.

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René Magritte’s Early Art Deco Posters (1924-1927)

The Belgian painter René Magritte created some of the most enigmatic and iconic works in Surrealist art. But before he moved to Paris in 1927 and began forging relationships with André Breton and the Surrealists, Magritte struggled in Brussels as a freelance commercial artist, creating advertisements in the Art Deco style.

In 1924 Magritte began designing posters and advertisements for the couturier Honorine “Norine” Deschrijver and her husband Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, owners of the Belgian fashion company Norine. Van Hecke also owned art galleries, and was an early champion of surrealism. Van Hecke would eventually pay Magritte a stipend in exchange for the right to market his surrealist works. In the 1924 advertising poster above, Magritte portrays a woman in high heels pretending to be Lord Lister, the gentleman thief from German pulp fiction, wearing “an afternoon coat created by Norine.”

Magritte designed some 40 sheet music covers, most of them in the Art Deco style, according to Hrag Vartanian at Hyperallergic. The one above, “Arlita,” is from about 1925. The French and Dutch subtitles read “The Song of Light.”

The harlequin-themed image above is another advertisement for Norine, circa 1925. Magritte painted it in watercolor and gouache. The penciled inscription at the bottom reads “une robe du soir par Norine” — “an evening gown by Norine.”

In 1926 Magritte was commissioned to create the poster above for the popular singer Marie-Louise Van Emelen, better known as Primevère. For more of Magritte’s Art Deco sheet music covers, visit Hyperallergic.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2013.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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!

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RIP Radical Poet and Revolutionary Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021)

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti proclaimed on the wall of his City Lights bookstore, a San Francisco fixture since the poet, activist, and publisher founded the landmark with Peter D. Martin in 1953. Ferlinghetti, who died on Monday at age 101, was himself a fixture, a venerated steward of the counterculture. (See him read “Last Prayer,” above, in a clip from The Last Waltz). On his 100th birthday–on which the city instituted an annual “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day”–Chloe Veltman interviewed him, describing the poet as “frail and nearly blind… but his mind is still on fire.” It was the same mind that started a publishing house in the 50s with the intent to stir an “international dissident ferment.”

Ferlinghetti and Martin started their bookstore with a mission: “to break literature out of its stuffy, academic cage,” Veltman writes, out of “its self-centered focus on what he calls ‘the me me me,’ and make it accessible to all.” City Lights was the first all-paperback bookstore, opened at a time, he says, when “paperbacks weren’t considered real books.”

For Ferlinghetti, literature and democracy were not separate pursuits. The idea was radical, and so were his patrons. “A bookstore is a natural place for poets to hang out,” Ferlinghetti told NPR’s Tom Vitale, “and they started showing up there”–“They” being East Coast Beats like Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the great, unsung Bob Kaufman.

Like a Northern California Shakespeare and Company, Ferlinghetti’s City Lights became the physical embodiment of a literary movement, especially after the infamous publication of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl and Other Poems, for which Ferlinghetti stood trial for obscenity, an event that “propelled the Beat generation into the international spotlight,” writes Evan Karp. “For the first and–arguably–only time, literature became a popular movement in the U.S.” Young people around the country realized that poetry was relevant to their politics (and lives), and vice versa.

Ferlinghetti published his own first book of poetry, Pictures of the Gone World, in the same year he published Ginsberg’s, but he has not received his critical due alongside the other Beats, despite the fact that his second book, 1958’s A Coney Island of the Mind, “sold more than 1 million copies over the year, ranking perhaps second to Howl as the most popular book of modern American poetry,” Fred Kaplan notes at Slate. (See him read the book’s first poem, “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See…,” from his City Lights office, above.)

Ferlinghetti himself never wanted to be identified with the movement. In a 2013 documentary, he emphatically says, “don’t call me a Beat. I was never a Beat poet.” He described his poetry as an “insurgent art”:

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of

apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words….

His purpose, he writes, was to pierce a culture he calls “a freeway fifty lanes wide / a concrete continent / spaced with bland billboards / illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness.” From his Navy service in WWII–in which he saw the aftermath of Nagasaki weeks after the dropping of the atomic bombs–to the last days of the Trump administration, he kept his keen eye on America’s abuses. His “poetry is notoriously critical of politicians and the status quo,” Karp writes, and he was “unafraid to name names and take stances publicly” as a writer and a lifelong activist.

“Gerald Nicosia, the critic,” Vitale points out, “says Ferlinghetti’s two greatest accomplishments were fighting censorship, and inaugurating a small press revolution.” What did Ferlinghetti himself think of his place in the culture? “In Plato’s republic, poets were considered subversive, a danger to the republic,” he told The New York Times in 1998. “I kind of relish that role.” As for what might finally shake the country out of the anti-democratic spirit that has held its people hostage to corporations and a hostile government, he was not sanguine: “It would take a whole new generation not devoted to the glorification of the capitalist system,” he said. “A generation not trapped in the me, me, me.”

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

The Complete Works of Hilma af Klint Get Published for the First Time in a Beautiful, Seven-Volume Collection

If you are a regular Open Culture reader, you’ve probably seen our many posts on Hilma af Klint, the Swedish abstract painter who might have been recognized, before Wassily Kandinsky, as the first 20th century abstractionist; that is, if she had shown any of her work before her death in obscurity in 1944 (the same year that Kandinsky died, it happens). Instead, af Klint instructed that her paintings not be exhibited until twenty years after her death. Then, another 22 years went by before anyone would see her enigmatic canvases. They first went on display in a 1986 Los Angeles show called, after Kandinsky, “The Spiritual in Art.”

Comparisons seem inevitable, but where the great Russian abstractionist theorized about art and spirit, af Klint encountered it in person, she claimed in her Theosophical accounts, in which she writes of meeting five “high masters” in a séance and receiving instructions for her new style. She was a channel, a vessel, and a medium for the spirits, as she saw it.

“The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” She showed her paintings to occultist Rudolph Steiner, who told her to hide them away for the next half century. Discouraged she stopped painting for four years.

“Af Klint spent her time tending to her blind, dying mother,” writes Dangerous Minds. “She then returned to painting but kept herself and more importantly her work removed from the world.” She was not in conversation with other modern artists. She was in conversation with an unseen world, her own psyche, and a small group of women with whom she regularly conducted séances. Throughout her life, “the prolific Swedish artist created more than 1,600 works,” Grace Ebert writes at Colossal, “an impressive output now collected in Hilma AF Klint: The Complete Catalogue Raisonné: Volumes I-VII.”

The seven-volume series, published by Bokförlaget Stolpe, “is organized both chronologically and by theme, beginning with the spiritual sketches af Klint made in conjunction with The Five, a group of women who attended séances in hopes of obtaining messages from the dead.” “What makes [af Klint’s] art interesting,” says Daniel Birnbaum, co-editor of the collection, “is that the works are highly interconnected.” Such a comprehensive accounting, a “catalogue raisonné,” is necessary “to see the different cycles, motifs, and symbols that recur in a fascinating way.”

We see such recurring patterns in the work of af Klint’s avant-garde contemporaries, as well, of course, especially in her very famous contemporary Kandinsky. But who knows how her esoteric sources and extremely retiring nature would have been received by the avant-garde movements of her time? Given that even the most extroverted women artists in those movements—from Dada, to Surrealism, to the Bauhaus School, to Abstract Expressionism—have been left out of the story time and again, it’s likely that even had the world known of Hilma af Klint in life, she would not have been appreciated or well-remembered.

But whether we credit the actions of “high masters” or the arbitrary asynchronies of cultural history, it’s clear af Klint’s moment has finally arrived. For “the first time,” Artnet notes, her “dazzling spiritual oeuvre…. will be presented in its totality.”

via Colossal

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

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