A First Look at How Tony Soprano Became Tony Soprano: Watch the New Trailer for The Many Saints of Newark

When The Sopra­nos drew to a close four­teen years ago, its ambigu­ous yet some­how defin­i­tive final scene hard­ly promised a con­tin­u­a­tion of the New Jer­sey mafia saga. Since then, fans have had to make do with reflec­tions, his­to­ries, and exege­ses, up to and includ­ing re-watch pod­casts host­ed by the actors them­selves. As time has passed the show has only drawn high­er and high­er acclaim, which can’t be said about every prod­uct of the ongo­ing “gold­en age of tele­vi­sion dra­ma” The Sopra­nos got start­ed. A return to the well was per­haps inevitable, and indeed has just been announced: The Many Saints of Newark, a pre­quel film co-writ­ten by David Chase, the cre­ator cred­it­ed with con­tribut­ing to the orig­i­nal series a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its genius.

Onscreen, The Sopra­nos drew its pow­er from one Sopra­no above all: local mob boss Tony Sopra­no, as por­trayed by James Gan­dolfi­ni in what has been ranked among the great­est screen act­ing achieve­ments of all time. Whether or not Tony sur­vived that final scene, Gan­dolfi­ni died in 2013, and ever since it has been impos­si­ble to imag­ine any oth­er actor por­tray­ing the char­ac­ter — or at least por­tray­ing the char­ac­ter in a mod­ern-day set­ting.

Telling the sto­ry of a Tony Sopra­no in his youth, with a young actor nec­es­sar­i­ly play­ing him, has remained a viable propo­si­tion. Into that role, for the 1960s and 70s-set The Many Saints of Newark, has stepped Gan­dolfini’s real-life son Michael.

For the then-20-year-old Michael Gan­dolfi­ni, tak­ing over his father’s role had to be a daunt­ing prospect, espe­cial­ly since he’d nev­er seen The Sopra­nos before. At least one binge-watch of the series (among oth­er rig­or­ous forms of prepa­ra­tion) lat­er, he deliv­ered the per­for­mance of which you can take a first look in The Many Saints of Newark’s new trail­er above. “As rival gangs try to wrest con­trol from the DiMeo crime fam­i­ly in the race-torn city of Newark,” Con­se­quence Film’s Ben Kaye writes of its sto­ry, the young Antho­ny Sopra­no, a promis­ing but indif­fer­ent stu­dent with an eye on col­lege, “gets swept up in the vio­lence and crime by his uncle Dick­ie Molti­san­ti.” As Sopra­nos fans know full well, “Antho­ny becomes the feared mob head Tony Sopra­no and treats Dickie’s son, Christo­pher, as his pro­tégé.” Evi­dent­ly, an anti­hero of Tony’s stature is made, not born.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How David Chase Breathed Life into the The Sopra­nos

Rewatch Every Episode of The Sopra­nos with the Talk­ing Sopra­nos Pod­cast, Host­ed by Michael Impe­ri­oli & Steve Schirri­pa

David Chase Reveals the Philo­soph­i­cal Mean­ing of The Sopra­nos’ Final Scene

Why James Gandolfini’s Tony Sopra­no Is “the Great­est Act­ing Achieve­ment Ever Com­mit­ted to the Screen”: A Video Essay

The Nine Minute Sopra­nos

James Gan­dolfi­ni Shows Kinder, Soft­er, Gen­tler Side on Sesame Street (2002)

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.

How Jaco Pastorius Invented the Electric Bass Solo & Changed Musical History (1976)

How does one define a mas­ter­piece? Is it per­son­al­ly sub­jec­tive, or it is just anoth­er word we use for sta­tus sym­bols? In an essay on bass play­er Jaco Pas­to­rius’ 1976 self-titled debut album, schol­ar Uri González offers an old­er def­i­n­i­tion: “in the old Euro­pean guild sys­tem, the aspir­ing jour­ney­man was expect­ed to cre­ate a piece of hand­i­craft of the high­est qual­i­ty in order to reach the sta­tus of ‘mas­ter.’ One was then offi­cial­ly allowed to join the guild and to take pupils under tute­lage.”

Pas­to­rius’ debut album cer­ti­fied him as a mas­ter musi­cian; he leapt from “anonymi­ty to jazz star­dom, earn­ing admi­ra­tion both from the aver­age musi­cal­ly une­d­u­cat­ed con­cert-goer to the hippest jazz cat,” and he gained a fol­low­ing among an “ever grow­ing num­ber of adept stu­dents that, still today, study his solos, licks, com­po­si­tions and arrange­ments.” Pas­to­rius’ solo on his ver­sion of the Char­lie Park­er tune  “Don­na Lee,” espe­cial­ly, helped rede­fine the instru­ment by, first, invent­ing the elec­tric bass solo.

The “Don­na Lee” solo, Pat Methe­ny writes,  is “one of the fresh­est looks at how to play on a well trav­eled set of chord changes in recent jazz his­to­ry — not to men­tion that it’s just about the hippest start to a debut album in the his­to­ry of record­ed music.”

Whether you like Jaco Pas­to­rius’ music or not, it’s beyond ques­tion that his play­ing changed musi­cal his­to­ry through a trans­for­ma­tive approach to the instru­ment. In the video at the top, pro­duc­er Rick Beato explains the impor­tance of the “Don­na Lee” solo, an inter­pre­ta­tion of a jazz stan­dard played on a fret­less bass Pas­to­rius made him­self, and cre­at­ing a sound no one had heard before.

Beato’s is a tech­ni­cal expla­na­tion for those with a back­ground in music the­o­ry, and it high­lights just how intim­i­dat­ing Pas­to­rius’ play­ing can be for musi­cians and non-musi­cians alike. But tech­nique, as Her­bie Han­cock not­ed in a blurb on Jaco Pas­to­rius, means lit­tle with­out the musi­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties that move peo­ple to care, and Pas­to­rius had it in abun­dance. “He had this wide, fat swath of a sound,” wrote one of his most famous col­lab­o­ra­tors, Joni Mitchell, in trib­ute. “He was an inno­va­tor…. He was chang­ing the bot­tom end of the time, and he knew it.”

One of those changes, from “Don­na Lee” to the end of Pas­to­rius’ tumul­tuous life and career in 1987 involved mov­ing the elec­tric bass into a melod­ic role it had not played before. This not only meant leav­ing the low­er root notes, but also craft­ing a bright, round, live­ly tone that for those upper reg­is­ters. “In the Six­ties and Sev­en­ties,” writes Mitchell, “you had this dead, dis­tant bass sound. I didn’t care for it. And the oth­er thing was, I had start­ed to think, ‘Why couldn’t the bass leave the bot­tom some­times and go up and play in the midrange and then return?’” She found the answer to her ques­tions in Jaco.

Hear Pas­to­rius’ orig­i­nal record­ing of “Don­na Lee” fur­ther up, and see a live ver­sion from 1982 above to take in what Mitchell called his “joie de vivre.” The song, which already had a ven­er­a­ble jazz his­to­ry, is now con­sid­ered, González writes, “the quin­tes­sen­tial bass play­ers’ man­i­festo.” Or, as con­ga play­er Don Alias, the only accom­pa­nist dur­ing Pas­to­rius’ famous solo, put it, “every bass play­er I know can now cut ‘Don­na Lee’ thanks to Jaco.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Jazz Leg­end Jaco Pas­to­rius Gives a 90 Minute Bass Les­son and Plays Live in Mon­tre­al (1982)

Leg­endary Stu­dio Musi­cian Car­ol Kaye Presents 150 Free Tips for Prac­tic­ing & Play­ing the Bass

What Makes Flea Such an Amaz­ing Bass Play­er? A Video Essay Breaks Down His Style

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

Watch 194 Films by Georges Méliès, the Filmmaker Who “Invented Everything” (All in Chronological Order)

Georges Méliès direct­ed, pro­duced, edit­ed, and starred in over 500 films between 1896 and 1913, most of them brim­ming with spe­cial effects the film­mak­er him­self invent­ed. Before Méliès, such things as split screens, dis­solves, and dou­ble expo­sures did not exist. After him, they were crit­i­cal to cinema’s vocab­u­lary, and the image of a rock­et in the Moon’s eye became icon­ic. Méliès shocked, scared, and delight­ed pop­u­lar audi­ences while also earn­ing recog­ni­tion from the avant garde. “The Sur­re­al­ists would hail him as a great poet,” writes Dar­rah O’Donohue at Sens­es of Cin­e­ma, “in par­tic­u­lar his era­sure or sub­ver­sion of bound­aries.” Crit­ics would lat­er call him the first auteur.

Méliès orig­i­nal­ly set out to become a stage illu­sion­ist. He per­formed in — and pur­chased, in 1888 — famous magi­cian Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin’s the­ater, where he became obsessed with film in 1895 at a pri­vate demon­stra­tion of the Lumière broth­ers’ cin­e­mato­graph. When they refused to sell him one, he hunt­ed down anoth­er pro­jec­tor — Robert W. Paul’s ani­mato­graph — and mod­i­fied it to work as a cam­era he called the “cof­fee grinder” and “machine gun.”

Noisy cam­eras were not a seri­ous issue in the age of silent film, but Méliès was per­pet­u­al­ly dis­sat­is­fied with his equip­ment and strove to improve at every turn while learn­ing to make bet­ter cin­e­mat­ic illu­sions, 194 of which you can watch for free in chrono­log­i­cal order in this YouTube playlist. The playlist appears in full at the bot­tom of this post.

In an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal sketch (ghost­writ­ten in the third per­son for a jour­nal­ist tasked with com­pil­ing a “dic­tio­nary of illus­tri­ous men”), Méliès describes him­self “an engi­neer of great pre­ci­sion” and “inge­nious by nature.” Mod­est, he was not, but the great show­man was not wrong about his crit­i­cal impor­tance to ear­ly film. He describes the dif­fi­cul­ties in detail, pref­ac­ing them with a state­ment about the mechan­i­cal hero­ism of the first film­mak­ers.

Those who today seek to make motion pic­tures will find all the required equip­ment avail­able, com­plete and per­fect­ed: all they need is the nec­es­sary funds. They can­not begin to imag­ine the dif­fi­cul­ties against which the cre­ators of this indus­try had to strug­gle, at a time when no such mate­r­i­al yet exist­ed and when each inno­va­tor kept their work and research a close­ly guard­ed secret. There­fore Méliès, just like Pathé, Gau­mont and oth­ers, was only able to progress by mak­ing numer­ous machines, sub­se­quent­ly aban­doned and replaced by oth­ers which were them­selves in due course replaced. 

Cel­e­brat­ed as the ulti­mate fan­ta­sist in Mar­tin Scorsese’s Hugo, Méliès now pre­sides over one of cinema’s great ironies. As he helped invent cin­e­ma, he also invent­ed the spe­cial effects-laden genre film — the sort of thing Scors­ese has denied the sta­tus of cin­e­mat­ic art. Méliès direct­ed the first hor­ror film, The Haunt­ed Cas­tle (above) and first adap­ta­tion of Cin­derel­la (top). He built the first film stu­dio in Europe while mak­ing and star­ring in hun­dreds of fan­tasies, rang­ing from one minute to 40 min­utes. While com­put­ers do most of the labor in the kinds of genre films we’re used to see­ing now, it’s safe to say, for bet­ter or worse, that with­out Méliès, there would be no Mar­vel Uni­verse.

But with­out Méliès, there would also be no Scors­ese, as he says him­self: “Méliès,” argues the direc­tor of such grit­ty neo-real­ist films as Taxi Dri­ver and Rag­ing Bull, “invent­ed every­thing.” His tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions are only a small part of his influ­ence. “The locked room, con­tain­ing for­bid­den sights, dark­ened but illu­mined,” O’Donohue observes, “becomes the metaphor for Méliès’ cin­e­ma, a man­i­fes­ta­tion of pri­vate desires in a pub­lic or com­mu­nal medi­um. The flat the­atri­cal­i­ty of the social world gives way to ‘effects,’ vision, dreams, night­mares, desires, fears, per­ver­sions — the releas­ing of the uncon­scious and the inner life.” Find films by Méliès in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

A Trip to the Moon (and Five Oth­er Free Films) by Georges Méliès, the Father of Spe­cial Effects

Watch Georges Méliès’ The Drey­fus Affair, the Con­tro­ver­sial Film Cen­sored by the French Gov­ern­ment for 50 Years (1899)

The First Hor­ror Film, George Méliès’ The Haunt­ed Cas­tle (1896)

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

The Pulp Tarot: A New Tarot Deck Inspired by Midcentury Pulp Illustrations

Graph­ic artist Todd Alcott has endeared him­self to Open Cul­ture read­ers by retro­fitting mid­cen­tu­ry pulp paper­back cov­ers and illus­tra­tions with clas­sic lyrics from the likes of David BowiePrinceBob Dylan, and Talk­ing Heads.

Although he’s dab­bled in the abstrac­tions that once graced the cov­ers of psy­chol­o­gy, phi­los­o­phy, and sci­ence texts, his over­ar­ch­ing attrac­tion to the visu­al lan­guage of sci­ence fic­tion and illic­it romance speak to the pre­mi­um he places on nar­ra­tive.

And with hun­dreds of “mid-cen­tu­ry mashups” to his name, he’s become quite a mas­ter of bend­ing exist­ing nar­ra­tives to his own pur­pos­es.

Recent­ly, Alcott turned his atten­tion to the cre­ation of the Pulp Tarot deck he is fund­ing on Kick­starter.

A self-described “clear-eyed skep­tic as far as para­nor­mal things” go, Alcott was drawn to the “sim­plic­i­ty and strange­ness” of Pamela Col­man Smith’s “bewitch­ing” Tarot imagery:

Maybe because they were sim­ply the first ones I saw, I don’t know, but there is some­thing about the nar­ra­tive thread that runs through them, the way they delin­eate the devel­op­ment of the soul, with all the choic­es and crises a soul encoun­ters on its way to ful­fill­ment, that real­ly struck a chord with me. You lay out enough Tarot spreads and they even­tu­al­ly coa­lesce around a hand­ful of cards that real­ly seem to define you. I don’t know how it hap­pens, but it does, every time: there are cards that come up for you so often that you think, “Yep, that’s me,” and then there are oth­ers that turn up so rarely that, when they do come up, you have to look them up in the lit­tle book­let because you’ve nev­er seen them before.

One such card for Alcott is the Page of Swords. In the ear­ly 90s, curi­ous to know what the Tarot would have to say about the young woman he’d start­ed dat­ing, he shuf­fled and cut his Rid­er-Waite-Smith deck “until some­thing inside said “now” and he flipped over the Page of Swords:

I looked it up in the book­let, which said that the Page of Swords was a secret-keep­er, like a spy. I thought about that for a moment; the woman I was see­ing was noth­ing like a spy, and had no spy-like attrib­ut­es. I shrugged and began the process again, shuf­fling and cut­ting and shuf­fling and cut­ting, until, again, some­thing inside said “now,” and turned up the card again. It was the Page of Swords, again. My heart leaped, I put the deck back in its box and qui­et­ly freaked out for a while. The next day, I asked the young lady if the Page of Swords meant any­thing to her, and she said “Oh sure, when I was a kid, that was my card.” Any­way, I’m now mar­ried to her.

The Three of Pen­ta­cles is anoth­er favorite, one that pre­sent­ed a par­tic­u­lar design chal­lenge.

The Smith deck shows a stone­ma­son, an archi­tect and a church offi­cial, col­lab­o­rat­ing on build­ing a cathe­dral. Now, there are no cathe­drals in the pulp world, so I had to think, well, in the pulp world, pen­ta­cles rep­re­sent mon­ey, so the obvi­ous choice would be to show three crim­i­nals plan­ning a heist. I could­n’t find an image any­thing close to the one in my head, so I had to build it: the room, the table, the map of the bank, the plan, the peo­ple involved, and then stitch it all togeth­er in Pho­to­shop so it end­ed up look­ing like a cohe­sive illus­tra­tion. That was a real­ly joy­ful moment for me: there were the three con­spir­a­tors, the Big Cheese, the Dame and The Goon, their roles clear­ly defined despite not see­ing any­one’s face. It was a real break­through, see­ing that I could put togeth­er a lit­tle nar­ra­tive like that.

Smith imag­ined a medieval fan­ta­sy world when design­ing her Tarot deck. Alcott is draw­ing on 70 years of pop-cul­ture ephemera to cre­ate a trib­ute to Smith’s vision that also works as a deck in their own right “with its own moral nar­ra­tive uni­verse, based on the atti­tudes and con­ven­tions of that world.”

Before draft­ing each of his 70 cards, Alcott stud­ied Smith’s ver­sion, research­ing its mean­ing and design as he con­tem­plates how he might trans­late it into the pulp ver­nac­u­lar. He has found that some of Smith’s work was delib­er­ate­ly exact­ing with regard to col­or, atti­tude, and cos­tume, and oth­er instances where spe­cif­ic details took a back seat to mood and emo­tion­al impact:

Once I under­stand what a card is about, I look through my library to find images that help get that across. It can get real­ly com­pli­cat­ed! A lot of times, the char­ac­ter’s body is in the right posi­tion but their face has the wrong expres­sion, so I have to find a face that fits what the card is try­ing to say. Or their phys­i­cal atti­tude is right, but I need them to be grip­ping or throw­ing some­thing, so I have to find hands and arms that I can graft on, Franken­stein style. In some cas­es, there will be fig­ures in the cards cob­bled togeth­er from five or six dif­fer­ent sources. 

These cards are eas­i­ly the most com­plex work I’ve ever done in that sense. The song pieces I do are a con­ver­sa­tion between the piece and the song, but these cards are a con­ver­sa­tion between me, Smith, the entire Tarot tra­di­tion, and the uni­verse. 

Vis­it Todd Alcott’s Etsy shop to view more of his mid-cen­tu­ry mash ups, and see more cards from The Pulp Tarot and sup­port Kick­starter here.

All images from the Pulp Tarot used with the per­mis­sion of artist Todd Alcott.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Clas­sic Songs Re-Imag­ined as Vin­tage Book Cov­ers Dur­ing Our Trou­bled Times: “Under Pres­sure,” “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” “Shel­ter from the Storm” & More

David Bowie Songs Reimag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers: Space Odd­i­ty, Heroes, Life on Mars & More

Songs by Joni Mitchell Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers & Vin­tage Movie Posters

Four Clas­sic Prince Songs Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Cov­ers: When Doves Cry, Lit­tle Red Corvette & More

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

The Making of a Marble Sculpture: See Every Stage of the Process, from the Quarry to the Studio

Some mar­ble stat­ues, even when stripped of their col­or by the sands of time since the hey­day of Greece and Rome, look prac­ti­cal­ly alive. But they began their “lives,” their appear­ance often makes us for­get, as rough-hewn blocks of stone. Not that just any mar­ble will do: fol­low­ing the exam­ple of Michelan­ge­lo, the dis­cern­ing sculp­tor must make the jour­ney to the Tus­can town of Car­rara, “home of the world’s finest mar­ble.” So claims the video above, a brief look at the process of Hun­gar­i­an sculp­tor Már­ton Váró. That entire process, it appears, takes place in the open air: most­ly in his out­door stu­dio space, but first at the Car­rara quar­ry (see bot­tom video) where he picks just the right block from which to make his vision emerge.

Like Michelan­ge­lo, Váró has a man­i­fest­ly high lev­el of skill at his dis­pos­al — and unlike Michelan­ge­lo, a full set of mod­ern pow­er tools as well. But even today, some sculp­tors work with­out the aid of angle cut­ters and dia­mond-edged blades, as you can see in the video from the Get­ty above.

In it a mod­ern-day sculp­tor intro­duces tra­di­tion­al tools like the point chis­el, the tooth chis­els, and the rasp, describ­ing the dif­fer­ent effects achiev­able with them by using dif­fer­ent tech­niques. If you “lose your ego and just flow into the stone through your tools,” he says, “there’s no end of pos­si­bil­i­ties of what you can do inside that space” — the space of lim­it­less pos­si­bil­i­ties, that is, afford­ed by a sim­ple block of mar­ble.

In the video above, sculp­tor Sti­je­po Gavrić fur­ther demon­strates the prop­er use of such hand tools, painstak­ing­ly refin­ing a rough­ly human form into a life­like ver­sion of an already real­is­tic clay mod­el — and one that holds up quite well along­side the orig­i­nal mod­el, when she shows up for a com­par­i­son. The Great Big Sto­ry doc­u­men­tary short below takes us back to Tus­cany, and specif­i­cal­ly to the town of Pietrasan­ta, where mar­ble has been quar­ried for five cen­turies from a moun­tain first dis­cov­ered by Michelan­ge­lo.

It’s also home to hard­work­ing sculp­tors well known for their abil­i­ty to repli­cate clas­sic and sacred works of art. “Mar­ble is my life, because in this area you feed off mar­ble,” says one who’s been at such work for about 60 years. If stone gives the artist life, it does so only to the extent that he breathes life into it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch a Mas­ter­piece Emerge from a Sol­id Block of Stone

Michelangelo’s David: The Fas­ci­nat­ing Sto­ry Behind the Renais­sance Mar­ble Cre­ation

How Ancient Greek Stat­ues Real­ly Looked: Research Reveals Their Bold, Bright Col­ors and Pat­terns

Roman Stat­ues Weren’t White; They Were Once Paint­ed in Vivid, Bright Col­ors

3D Print 18,000 Famous Sculp­tures, Stat­ues & Art­works: Rodin’s Thinker, Michelangelo’s David & More

Rare Film of Sculp­tor Auguste Rodin Work­ing at His Stu­dio in Paris (1915)

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.

Take 193 Free Tech and Business Courses Online at Udacity: Product Design, Programming, A.I., Marketing & More

Each of us now com­mands more tech­no­log­i­cal pow­er than did any human being alive in pre­vi­ous eras. Or rather, we poten­tial­ly com­mand it: what we can do with the tech­nol­o­gy at our fin­ger­tips — and how much mon­ey we can make with it — depends on how well we under­stand it. Luck­i­ly, the devel­op­ment of learn­ing meth­ods has more or less kept pace with the devel­op­ment of every­thing else we now do with com­put­ers. Take the online-edu­ca­tion plat­form Udac­i­ty, which offers “nan­ode­gree” pro­grams in areas like pro­gram­ming, data sci­ence, and cyber­se­cu­ri­ty. While the nan­ode­grees them­selves come with fees, Udac­i­ty does­n’t charge for the con­stituent cours­es: in oth­er words, you can earn what you need to know for free.

Above you’ll find the intro­duc­tion to Udac­i­ty’s Prod­uct Design course by Google (also cre­ator of the Cours­era pro­fes­sion­al-cer­tifi­cate pro­grams pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture). “Designed to help you mate­ri­al­ize your game-chang­ing idea and trans­form it into a prod­uct that you can build a busi­ness around,” the course “blends the­o­ry and prac­tice to teach you prod­uct val­i­da­tion, UI/UX prac­tices, Google’s Design Sprint and the process for set­ting and track­ing action­able met­rics.”

This is a high­ly prac­ti­cal learn­ing expe­ri­ence at the inter­sec­tion of tech­nol­o­gy and busi­ness, as are many oth­er of Udac­i­ty’s 193 free cours­es, like App Mar­ket­ingApp Mon­e­ti­za­tion, How to Build a Start­up, and Get Your Start­up Start­ed.

If you have no par­tic­u­lar inter­est in found­ing and run­ning the next Google, Udac­i­ty also hosts plen­ty of cours­es that focus entire­ly on the work­ings of dif­fer­ent branch­es of tech­nol­o­gy, from pro­gram­ming and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to 2D game devel­op­ment and 3D graph­ics. (In addi­tion to the broad intro­duc­tions, there are also rel­a­tive­ly advanced cours­es of a much more spe­cif­ic focus: Devel­op­ing Android Apps with Kotlin, say, or Deploy­ing a Hadoop Clus­ter.) And if you’d sim­ply like to get your foot in the door with a job in tech, con­sid­er such offer­ings as Refresh Your Résumé, Strength­en Your LinkedIn Net­work & Brand, and a vari­ety of inter­view-prepa­ra­tion cours­es for jobs in data sci­encemachine learn­ing, prod­uct man­age­ment, vir­tu­al-real­i­ty devel­op­ment, and oth­er sub­fields. And how­ev­er cut­ting-edge their work, who could­n’t anoth­er spin through good old Intro to Psy­chol­o­gy?

Find a list of 193 Free Udac­i­ty cours­es here. For the next week Nan­ode­grees are 75% off (use code JULY75). Find more free cours­es in our list, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Udac­i­ty. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Udac­i­ty cours­es and pro­grams that charge a fee, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

200 Online Cer­tifi­cate & Micro­cre­den­tial Pro­grams from Lead­ing Uni­ver­si­ties & Com­pa­nies

Google’s UX Design Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate: 7 Cours­es Will Help Pre­pare Stu­dents for an Entry-Lev­el Job in 6 Months

Learn How to Code for Free: A DIY Guide for Learn­ing HTML, Python, Javascript & More

1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

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.

Michelangelo’s David: The Fascinating Story Behind the Renaissance Marble Creation

Like many school­child­ren, and, for that mat­ter, Goliath, the Bib­li­cal giant who was felled by a sling­shot, I am a bit of a Philis­tine.

I admit that the first and, for a long time, pri­ma­ry thing that com­pelled me about Michelangelo’s David ( 1501–1504) was the frank­ness with which a cer­tain part of his anato­my was dis­played.

Mugs depict­ing him with a strate­gi­cal­ly placed fig leaf that dis­solves in response to hot liq­uid, Dress Me Up David fridge mag­nets, and an end­less parade of risqué mer­chan­dise sug­gest that his­tor­i­cal­ly, I am not alone.

Kudos to gal­lerist James Payne, cre­ator and host of the video series Great Art Explained, for his nod to the rab­ble in open­ing the above episode not with a view of David’s hand­some head or mirac­u­lous­ly detailed hands, but rather that most famous of male mem­bers.

Hav­ing got­ten it out of the way right at the top, Payne refrains from men­tion­ing it for near­ly 10 min­utes, edu­cat­ing view­ers instead on oth­er aspects of the statue’s anato­my, includ­ing the sculptor’s unusu­al meth­ods and the nar­row, flawed, pre­vi­ous­ly used block of mar­ble from which this mas­ter­piece emerged.

He also delves into the social con­text into which Michelangelo’s sin­gu­lar vision was deliv­ered.

Flo­ren­tines were proud of their high­ly cul­tured milieu, but were not near­ly as com­fort­able with depic­tions of nudi­ty as the ancient Greeks and Romans.

This explains the com­par­a­tive small­ness of David’s tack­le box. Per­haps Goliath might have got­ten away with a gar­gan­tu­an penis, but David, who van­quished him using intel­li­gence and willpow­er rather than brute strength, was assigned a size that would con­vey mod­esty, respectabil­i­ty, and self-con­trol.

The Bible iden­ti­fies David as an an Israelite, but Michelan­ge­lo decid­ed that this par­tic­u­lar Jew should remain uncir­cum­cised, in keep­ing with Gre­co-Roman aes­thet­ics. It was a look Chris­t­ian Flo­rence could get behind, though they also forged 28 cop­per leaves to con­ceal David’s con­tro­ver­sial man­hood.

(This theme returns through­out his­to­ry — the 1860s saw him out­fit­ted with a tem­po­rary fig leaf.)

One won­ders how much small­er things would have appeared from the ground, were David installed atop the Duo­mo, as orig­i­nal­ly planned. Michelan­ge­lo designed his cre­ation with this per­spec­tive in mind, delib­er­ate­ly equip­ping him with larg­er than usu­al hands and head.

One of Payne’s view­ers points out that David’s face, which con­veys both resolve and fear as he con­sid­ers his upcom­ing con­fronta­tion with Goliath, seems utter­ly con­fi­dent when viewed from below.

Giv­en that David is 17’ tall, that’s the van­tage point from which most of his in-per­son admir­ers expe­ri­ence him. 16th-cen­tu­ry Civic lead­ers, cap­ti­vat­ed by David’s per­fec­tion, placed him not atop the Flo­ren­tine Cathe­dral, but rather in Piaz­za del­la Sig­no­ria, the polit­i­cal heart of Flo­rence, where a repli­ca still faces south toward Rome. (The orig­i­nal was relo­cat­ed to the Gal­le­ria dell’Accademia in 1873, to pro­tect it from the ele­ments.)

Payne points out that David has sur­vived many soci­etal shifts through­out his 600+ years of exis­tence. Fig-leafed or not, he is a per­pet­u­al emblem of the under­dog, the deter­mined guy armed with only a sling­shot, and is thus unlike­ly to be top­pled by his­to­ry or human pas­sions.

Watch more episodes of James Payne’s Great Art Explained on his YouTube chan­nel. As a bonus below, we’ve includ­ed anoth­er infor­mati­ive video from Smarthis­to­ry fea­tur­ing the always illu­mi­nat­ing Dr. Steven Zuck­er and Dr. Beth Har­ris.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

What Makes Leonardo’s Mona Lisa a Great Paint­ing?: An Expla­na­tion in 15 Min­utes

New Video Shows What May Be Michelangelo’s Lost & Now Found Bronze Sculp­tures

3D Print 18,000 Famous Sculp­tures, Stat­ues & Art­works: Rodin’s Thinker, Michelangelo’s David & More

Michelangelo’s Hand­writ­ten 16th-Cen­tu­ry Gro­cery List

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

The Acoustics of Stonehenge: Researchers Build a Model to Understand How Sound Reverberated within the Ancient Structure

It’s impos­si­ble to resist a Spinal Tap joke, but the cre­ators of the com­plete scale mod­el of Eng­land’s ancient Druidic struc­ture pic­tured above had seri­ous inten­tions — to under­stand what those inside the cir­cle heard when the stones all stood in their upright “henge” posi­tion. A research team led by acousti­cal engi­neer Trevor Cox con­struct­ed the mod­el at one-twelfth the actu­al size of Stone­henge, the “largest pos­si­ble scale repli­ca that could fit inside an acoustic cham­ber at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sal­ford in Eng­land, where Cox works,” reports Bruce Bow­er at Sci­ence News. The tallest of the stones is only two feet high.

This is not the first time acoustic research has been car­ried out on Stone­henge, but pre­vi­ous projects were “all based on what’s there now,” says Cox. “I want­ed to know how it sound­ed in 2200 B.C., when all the stones were in place.” The exper­i­ment required a lot of extrap­o­la­tion from what remains. The con­struc­tion of “Stone­henge Lego” or “Mini­henge,” as the researchers call it, assumes that “Stonehenge’s out­er cir­cle of stand­ing sarsen stones — a type of sil­crete rock found in south­ern Eng­land — had orig­i­nal­ly con­sist­ed of 30 stones.” Today, there are 17 sarsen stones in the out­er cir­cle among the 63 com­plete stones remain­ing.

“Based on an esti­mat­ed total 157 stones placed at the site around 4,200 years ago, the researchers 3‑D print­ed 27 stones of all sizes and shapes,” Bow­er explains. “Then, the team used sil­i­cone molds of those items and plas­ter mixed with oth­er mate­ri­als to re-cre­ate the remain­ing 130 stones. Sim­u­lat­ed stones were con­struct­ed to min­i­mize sound absorp­tion, much like actu­al stones at Stone­henge.” Once Cox and his team had the mod­el com­plet­ed and placed in the acoustic cham­ber, they began exper­i­ment­ing with sound waves and micro­phones, mea­sur­ing impulse respons­es and fre­quen­cy curves.

What were the results of this son­ic Stone­henge recre­ation? “We expect­ed to lose a lot of sound ver­ti­cal­ly, because there’s no roof,” says Cox. Instead, researchers found “thou­sands upon thou­sands of reflec­tions as the sound waves bounced around hor­i­zon­tal­ly.” Par­tic­i­pants in rit­u­al chants or musi­cal cel­e­bra­tions inside the cir­cle would have heard the sound ampli­fied and clar­i­fied, like singing in a tiled bath­room. For those stand­ing out­side the mon­u­ment, or even with­in the out­er cir­cle of stones, the sound would have been muf­fled or damp­ened. Like­wise, the arrange­ment would have damp­ened sound enter­ing the inner cir­cle from out­side.

Indeed, the effect was so pro­nounced that “the place­ment of the stones was capa­ble of ampli­fy­ing the human voice by more than four deci­bels, but pro­duced no echoes,” notes Art­net. This sug­gests that the site’s acoustic prop­er­ties were not acci­den­tal, but designed as part of its essen­tial func­tion for an elite group of par­tic­i­pants, “even though the site’s con­struc­tion would have required a huge amount of man­pow­er.” This is hard­ly dif­fer­ent from oth­er mon­u­men­tal ancient reli­gious struc­tures like pyra­mids and zig­gu­rats, built for roy­al­ty and an elite priest­hood. But it’s only one inter­pre­ta­tion of the structure’s pur­pose.

While Cox and his team do not believe acoustics were the pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for Stonehenge’s design — astro­log­i­cal align­ment seems to have been far more impor­tant — it clear­ly played some role. Oth­er schol­ars have their own hypothe­ses. Research still needs to account for envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors — or why “Stone­henge hums when the wind blows hard,” as musi­col­o­gist Rupert Till points out. Some have spec­u­lat­ed the stones may have been instru­ments, played like a giant xylo­phone, a the­o­ry test­ed in a 2013 study con­duct­ed by researchers from the Roy­al Col­lege of Art, but this, too, remains spec­u­la­tive.

As the great Stone­henge enthu­si­ast Nigel Tufnel once sang, “No one knows who they were, or what they were doing.” But what­ev­er it sound­ed like, Cox and his col­leagues have shown that the best seats were inside the inner cir­cle. Read the research team’s full arti­cle here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Ancient Astron­o­my of Stone­henge Decod­ed

An Artist Vis­its Stone­henge in 1573 and Paints a Charm­ing Water­col­or Paint­ing of the Ancient Ruins

The Spinal Tap Stone­henge Deba­cle

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

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.