Dave Grohl Rocks Out, Playing Drums Along to the Original Recording of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

At an event cel­e­brat­ing the release of his new mem­oir, The Sto­ry­teller, Dave Grohl paid a vis­it to the Ford The­atre in Los Ange­les and revis­it­ed his Nir­vana days, play­ing drums to the orig­i­nal track of “Smells Like Teen Spir­it.” It’s a lit­tle a remem­brance of days long past. Enjoy.…

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Relat­ed Con­tent 

How Nirvana’s Icon­ic “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Came to Be: An Ani­mat­ed Video Nar­rat­ed by T‑Bone Bur­nett Tells the True Sto­ry

The Ukulele Orches­tra of Great Britain’s Head­bang­ing Cov­er of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it”

1,000 Musi­cians Play Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Live, at the Same Time

Dave Grohl Falls Off­stage & Breaks His Leg, Then Con­tin­ues the Show as The Foo Fight­ers Play Queen’s “Under Pres­sure” (2015)

Hear Dave Grohl’s First Foo Fight­ers Demo Record­ings, As Kurt Cobain Did in 1992


How Radiohead Wrote the Perfect James Bond Theme Song

Over the past 59 years, the duty of per­form­ing a James Bond movie theme has fall­en to the likes of Tom Jones, Paul McCart­ney, Car­ly Simon, Bono, Madon­na — and most recent­ly, for the lat­est install­ment, No Time to Die, Bil­lie Eil­ish. But one of the great­est Bond themes ever writ­ten has nev­er been heard in any of the movies. This, in any case, is the con­tention of the video essay above, “How Radio­head Wrote the Per­fect Bond Theme.” Com­mis­sioned for 2015’s Spec­tre, the sec­ond-most recent film in the series, Thom Yorke and com­pa­ny came up with a song that moves Lis­ten­ing In cre­ator Barn­a­by Mar­tin to declare, “This is Bond, but it’s also unmis­tak­ably Radio­head.”

Like many Bond title themes, Radio­head­’s “Spec­tre” is in a minor key with “added blues notes,” work­ing off the dis­tinc­tive chord pro­gres­sion com­pos­er John Bar­ry employed in the series’ orig­i­nal instru­men­tal theme. And while, like most Bond title-theme per­form­ers, Radio­head are pop­u­lar musi­cians, their actu­al work has always refused to align per­fect­ly with straight­for­ward pop-music expec­ta­tions.

“Spec­tre” embod­ies both the band’s “love of rhyth­mi­cal ambi­gu­i­ty” and their “trade­mark har­mon­ic ambi­gu­i­ty.” The “beau­ty and sim­plic­i­ty of the music con­trast painful­ly with the words,” reflect­ing “per­fect­ly that dichoto­my in con­tem­po­rary Bond: a man strug­gling to rec­on­cile love and duty.”

As if that weren’t enough, Radio­head­’s song also includes unex­pect­ed but con­sum­mate­ly Bond-esque com­po­si­tion­al and instru­men­tal moves. “It’s jazzy but dis­cor­dant,” says Mar­tin. “It’s a mod­ern re-imag­in­ing of John Bar­ry’s big-band orches­tra­tions.” In every sec­tion the piece exquis­ite­ly main­tains the ten­sion between Radio­head and Bond, cre­at­ing “an instant­ly com­pelling and dark musi­cal world. Alas, it was ulti­mate­ly replaced, osten­si­bly because the mood of the music and lyrics did­n’t fit prop­er­ly with that of the film: “We had this beau­ti­ful song,” lament­ed direc­tor Sam Mendes, “and we weren’t able to use it.” But that has­n’t stopped Bond afi­ciona­dos from imag­in­ing what could have been, and you can get a sense of it in a fan video, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, that reunites “Spec­tre” with Spec­tre.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Radiohead’s “Spec­tre” Played Against the Title Sequence of the 2015 James Bond Film, Spec­tre

Intro­duc­ing The Radio­head Pub­lic Library: Radio­head Makes Their Full Cat­a­logue Avail­able via a Free Online Web Site

James Bond: 50 Years in Film (and a Big Blu-Ray Release)

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Per­forms Songs from His New Sound­track for the Hor­ror Film, Sus­piria

The Secret Rhythm Behind Radiohead’s “Video­tape” Now Final­ly Revealed

Inti­mate Live Per­for­mances of Radio­head, Son­ic Youth, the White Stripes, PJ Har­vey & More: No Host, No Audi­ence, Just Pure Live Music

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.

“The Hippie Temptation”: An Angst-Ridden CBS TV Show Warns of the Risks of LSD (1976)

To lyser­gic acid diethy­lamide, bet­ter known as LSD, we owe much of what has endured from West­ern pop­u­lar cul­ture of the mid-20th cen­tu­ry: con­sid­er, for instance, the lat­ter half of the Bea­t­les’ oeu­vre. In Rev­o­lu­tion in the Head: The Bea­t­les’ Records and the Six­ties, Ian Mac­Don­ald describes LSD as “a pow­er­ful hal­lu­cino­gen whose func­tion is tem­porar­i­ly to dis­miss the brain’s neur­al concierge, leav­ing the mind to cope as it can with sen­so­ry infor­ma­tion which mean­while enters with­out pri­or arrange­ment — an uncen­sored expe­ri­ence of real­i­ty which pro­found­ly alters one’s out­look on it.”

So pro­found is that alter­ation that some came to believe in a utopia achiev­able through uni­ver­sal inges­tion of the drug: “If there be nec­es­sary rev­o­lu­tion in Amer­i­ca,” declared Allen Gins­berg, “it will come this way.” But most Amer­i­cans did­n’t see it quite the same way. It was for them that CBS made its broad­cast “The Hip­pie Temp­ta­tion.” Aired in August 1967, three months after the release of Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Heart’s Club Band, it con­sti­tutes an exposé of LSD-fueled youth cul­ture as it effer­vesced at the time in and around San Fran­cis­co’s coun­ter­cul­tur­al mec­ca of Haight-Ash­bury.

“The hip­pies present a strange prob­lem,” says cor­re­spon­dent Har­ry Rea­son­er, lat­er known as the host of 60 Min­utes. “Our soci­ety has pro­duced them. There they are, in rapid­ly increas­ing num­bers. And yet there seem to be very few def­i­nite ideas behind the super­fi­cial glit­ter of their dress and behav­ior.” In search of the core of the hip­pie ide­ol­o­gy, which seems out­ward­ly to involve “stand­ing apart from soci­ety by means of mutu­al help and love,” Rea­son­er and his col­lab­o­ra­tors delve into the nature of LSD, whose users “may see a wild com­plex­i­ty of images, hear a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of sounds. This is called ‘tak­ing an acid trip.’ ”

Alas, “for many, the price of tak­ing the short­cut to dis­cov­ery the hip­pies put for­ward turns out to be very high.” A young doc­tor from UCLA’s neu­ropsy­chi­atric insti­tute named Duke Fish­er argues that most LSD users “talk about lov­ing human­i­ty in gen­er­al, an all-encom­pass­ing love of the world, but they have a great deal of dif­fi­cul­ty lov­ing one oth­er per­son, or lov­ing that spe­cif­ic thing.” Also includ­ed in “The Hip­pie Temp­ta­tion” are inter­views with young peo­ple (albeit ones clean­er-cut than the aver­age denizen of late-60s Haight-Ash­bury) placed into med­ical facil­i­ties due to hal­lu­cino­gen-relat­ed mishaps, includ­ing sui­cide attempts.

“There is the real dan­ger that more and more young peo­ple may fol­low the call to turn on, tune in, drop out,” Rea­son­er declares, in keep­ing with the broad­cast’s por­ten­tous tone. Even then there were signs of what Mac­Don­ald calls “the hip­pie coun­ter­cul­ture’s incip­i­ent com­mer­cial­iza­tion and impend­ing decline into hard drugs.” But to this day, “that there was indeed some­thing unusu­al in the air can still be heard from many of the records of the peri­od: a light, joy­ous opti­mism with a tan­gi­ble spir­i­tu­al aura and a thrilling­ly fresh infor­mal­i­ty” — a qual­i­ty Mac­Don­ald finds con­cen­trat­ed in the work of not just The Bea­t­les but the Grate­ful Dead, who sit for an inter­view in “The Hip­pie Temp­ta­tion.” LSD may no longer be as tempt­ing as it was half a cen­tu­ry ago, but many of the cre­ations it inspired then still have us hooked today.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The Bicy­cle Trip: An Ani­ma­tion of The World’s First LSD Trip in 1943

Artist Draws 9 Por­traits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Exper­i­ments to Turn LSD into a “Cre­ativ­i­ty Pill”

Aldous Hux­ley Trips on Acid; Talks About Cats & the Secret of Life (1962)

Rare Footage Shows US and British Sol­diers Get­ting Dosed with LSD in Gov­ern­ment-Spon­sored Tests (1958 + 1964)

R. Crumb Describes How He Dropped LSD in the 60s & Instant­ly Dis­cov­ered His Artis­tic Style

New LSD Research Pro­vides the First Images of the Brain on Acid, and Hints at Its Poten­tial to Pro­mote Cre­ativ­i­ty

When the Grate­ful Dead Per­formed on Hugh Hefner’s Play­boy After Dark & Secret­ly Dosed Every­one With LSD (1969)

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 Neal Stephenson’s Sci-Fi Novel Snow Crash Invented the “Metaverse,” Which Facebook Now Plans to Build (1992)

What­ev­er the ben­e­fits and plea­sures of our cur­rent inter­net-enriched world, one must admit that it’s not quite as excit­ing as the set­ting of Snow Crash. Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1992, that nov­el not only made the name of its author Neal Stephen­son, it ele­vat­ed him to the sta­tus of a tech­no­log­i­cal Nos­tradamus. It did so, at least, among read­ers inter­est­ed in the inter­net and its poten­tial, which was much more of a niche sub­ject 29 years ago. Of the many inven­tions with which Stephen­son fur­nished Snow Crash’s then-futur­is­tic 21st-cen­tu­ry cyber­punk real­i­ty, few have cap­tured as many techie imag­i­na­tions as the “meta­verse,” an enor­mous vir­tu­al world inhab­it­ed by the avatars of its users.

“Lots of oth­er sci­ence fic­tion media includes meta­verse-like sys­tems,” writes The Verge’s Adi Robert­son, but “Stephenson’s book remains one of the most com­mon ref­er­ence points for meta­verse enthu­si­asts.” This holds espe­cial­ly true in Sil­i­con Val­ley, where, as Van­i­ty Fair’s Joan­na Robin­son puts it, “a host of engi­neers, entre­pre­neurs, futur­ists, and assort­ed com­put­er geeks (includ­ing Ama­zon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos) still revere Snow Crash as a remark­ably pre­scient vision of today’s tech land­scape.” It’s rumored that Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg will soon announce his com­pa­ny’s intent to change its name to one that bet­ter suits its own long-term plan: to tran­si­tion, as Zucker­berg him­self put it, “from peo­ple see­ing us as pri­mar­i­ly being a social media com­pa­ny to being a meta­verse com­pa­ny.”

Bold though this may sound, astute read­ers haven’t for­got­ten that Snow Crash is a dystopi­an nov­el. The meta­verse it presents “is an out­growth of Stephenson’s satir­i­cal cor­po­ra­tion-dom­i­nat­ed future Amer­i­ca,” writes Robin­son, “but it’s unde­ni­ably depict­ed as hav­ing a cool side.” After all, the nov­el­’s pro­tag­o­nist is “a mas­ter hack­er who gets in katana fights at a vir­tu­al night­club,” though his vir­tu­al exis­tence com­pen­sates for a grim­mer real-world lifestyle. “In the book, Hiro lives in a shab­by ship­ping con­tain­er,” Stephen­son says, “but when he goes to the Meta­verse, he’s a big deal and has access to super high-end real estate.” This may sound faint­ly rem­i­nis­cent of cer­tain online worlds already in exis­tence: Sec­ond Life, for exam­ple, whose hey­day came in the ear­ly 2010s.

Though pre­sum­ably more ambi­tious, Zucker­berg’s vision of the meta­verse remains, for the moment, broad­ly defined: it will con­sist, he’s said, of “a set of vir­tu­al spaces where you can cre­ate and explore with oth­er peo­ple who aren’t in the same phys­i­cal space as you.” But as The Verge’s Alex Heath notes in an arti­cle on Face­book’s impend­ing name change, the com­pa­ny “already has more than 10,000 employ­ees build­ing con­sumer hard­ware like AR glass­es” — glass­es, that is, for aug­ment­ed real­i­ty, the over­lay­ing dig­i­tal ele­ments onto the real world — “that Zucker­berg believes will even­tu­al­ly be as ubiq­ui­tous as smart­phones.” It’s not impos­si­ble that he could be lead­ing the way toward the thrilling, dan­ger­ous, and often hilar­i­ous vir­tu­al world Snow Crash held out to us — and in whose absence we’ve had to make do with Face­book.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sto­ry of Habi­tat, the Very First Large-Scale Online Role-Play­ing Game (1986)

Tim­o­thy Leary Plans a Neu­ro­mancer Video Game, with Art by Kei­th Har­ing, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

William Gib­son, Father of Cyber­punk, Reads New Nov­el in Sec­ond Life

Sci-Fi Author J.G. Bal­lard Pre­dicts the Rise of Social Media (1977)

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.

Demystifying Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand,” and How It Was Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost

Youtu­ber Poly­phon­ic has done a good job of look­ing at some hoary old clas­sics of ‘60s rock, but he doesn’t always dip his toe in tak­ing on con­tem­po­rary music, or even con­sid­er­ing a mod­ern canon. Pro­nounc­ing what is essen­tial lis­ten­ing of the last few decades is a mine­field, espe­cial­ly among the ranks of Com­men­tus YouTubus.

So their choice to explore Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” is a deft one. It’s not Cave’s most well-known song—-that would be “The Mer­cy Seat”—-but it’s one that many non-Cave fans know regard­less. Though released in 1994, it’s now best known as the theme song from Peaky Blind­ers, though it also showed up in all three of the first Scream films. It’s been used to sell tequi­la and tourism as well.

Poly­phon­ic first delves into the source of the title—the “Red Right Hand”—as com­ing from Milton’s Par­adise Lost, spo­ken by fall­en angel Belial:

“What if the breath that kin­dled those grim fires,
Awaked, should blow them into sev­en­fold rage,
And plunge us in the flames; or from above
Should inter­mit­ted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us?”

This is the hand of God, and a venge­ful, Old Tes­ta­ment one at that. But that will only get you so far into the lyrics of this creepy song. As Poly­phon­ic peels back the lay­ers of Cave’s vers­es, the man with the red right hand could be God, could be the Dev­il, could be a man, could be a ghost. He could offer you a Faus­t­ian pact, or they could take every­thing away imme­di­ate­ly. It could be gov­ern­ment, or cap­i­tal­ism, or the media, or mate­ri­al­ism.

Cave, to the song’s cred­it, leaves every­thing in a lim­i­nal space (as Poly­phon­ic illus­trates with the kind of cross­roads blues play­ers love to sing about). What’s left is a warn­ing, a sense of unease, a feel­ing that maybe it’s already too late. Maybe we real­ly are just all fall­en angels with no idea how to get back home to par­adise.

That’s why Cave includes it in most of his live sets. He can impro­vise on the lines, adding, as he has been doing, ref­er­ences to Twit­ter and social media. Cave might have left his reli­gious upbring­ing in his youth, but he knows that the best way to express the unease of the mod­ern con­di­tion is to get bib­li­cal. And part of that is mys­tery. Even fel­low Bad Seed Mick Har­vey knows not to go look­ing for answers from his friend about this par­tic­u­lar song.

“I still find it mys­te­ri­ous,” he told the New York Post. “I don’t want to know the details, and I’d nev­er ask Nick. Some­times it’s bet­ter to think ‘What the hell’s that all about?’ It’s bet­ter that it’s unknow­able and spooky.”

As a bonus, here’s Snoop Dogg’s quizzi­cal cov­er ver­sion where he push­es and is pulled between his own style and Cave’s.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Nick Cave’s Online Store: Pen­cils Adorned with Lyrics, Mugs, Polaroids & More

Nick Cave Answers the Hot­ly Debat­ed Ques­tion: Will Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Ever Be Able to Write a Great Song?

Ani­mat­ed Sto­ries Writ­ten by Tom Waits, Nick Cave & Oth­er Artists, Read by Dan­ny Devi­to, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis & 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.

The Does and Don’ts of Putting on a Prison Concert: Johnny Cash, BB King, the Grateful Dead, Bonnie Tyler & The Cramps

The prison gig has been a sta­ple of live per­for­mance since John­ny Cash played Fol­som in 1968, with vari­a­tions on the theme like the Cramps’ leg­endary per­for­mance at a Cal­i­for­nia Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal (revis­it­ed in the doc­u­men­tary We Were There to Be There). Some bands who play insti­tu­tions may not be far away from inhab­it­ing them. When the Sex Pis­tols played Chelms­ford Prison, it was not the first time gui­tarist Steve Jones had been inside, what with his 14 crim­i­nal con­vic­tions. In fact, Jones has cred­it­ed the band for sav­ing him from a life of crime.

BB King gave one of the best per­for­mances of his career from behind the walls of Sing Sing, three years after Cash’s con­cert at San Quentin. King him­self hadn’t done time, but hav­ing grown up in pover­ty on a cot­ton plan­ta­tion in Mis­sis­sip­pi, he well under­stood the con­di­tions that led peo­ple to incar­cer­a­tion.

As his key­boardist Ron Levy said after an ear­li­er prison con­cert in Cook Coun­ty Jail, “If any­body had the blues, it was those peo­ple incar­cer­at­ed. And BB real­ly felt com­pas­sion for those guys.” Like­wise, John­ny Cash nev­er did hard time, but his child­hood pover­ty, strug­gles with addic­tion, and love for under­dogs and out­casts lent him an authen­tic­i­ty inmates rec­og­nized imme­di­ate­ly.

Oth­er matchups between stars and prison audi­ences have not only been less authen­tic, but some­times down­right baf­fling, as when Bon­nie Tyler gave a con­cert at Long Lartin prison in Eng­land …. or so the inmates thought. It turned out Tyler had only used her audi­ence as props for a botched music video that nev­er aired. This, clear­ly, is how not to run a prison con­cert, also the title of the Band­splain­ing video at the top, which begins with Tyler’s ker­fuf­fle and goes on to exam­ine the genre of prison con­certs through prison con­cert films, TV, and albums.

John­ny Cash, the Grate­ful Dead, BB King, Fred­die King, John Lee Hook­er, The Cramps, Fugazi, and Fugazi’s pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion, Minor Threat, are all cov­ered here. Miss­ing are artists like Fred­dy Fend­er (who did it before Cash), Son­ny James, and Big Mama Thorn­ton, who released an album called Jail in 1975, com­piled from two dif­fer­ent prison per­for­mances, and who sure­ly deserves top hon­ors for know­ing how to do it right. In prison, writes Music Times, “she final­ly gets to per­form her hit, ‘Ball ‘n’ Chain’ — which was made famous by Janis Joplin and The Hold­ing Com­pa­ny — where it was made to be played: Jail.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Cramps Leg­endary Con­cert at a Cal­i­for­nia Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal Gets Revis­it­ed in the New Doc­u­men­tary, We Were There to Be There: Watch It Online

When the Sex Pis­tols Played at the Chelms­ford Top Secu­ri­ty Prison: Hear Vin­tage Tracks from the 1976 Gig

B.B. King Plays Live at Sing Sing Prison in One of His Great­est Per­for­mances (1972)

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

Mozart Sonatas Can Help Treat Epilepsy: A New Study from Dartmouth

Many and bold are the claims made for the pow­er of clas­si­cal music: not just that it can enrich your aes­thet­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty, but that it can do every­thing from deter juve­nile delin­quen­cy to boost infant intel­li­gence. Mak­ing claims for the lat­ter are CDs with titles like Baby Mozart: Music to Stim­u­late Your Baby’s Brain, a case of trad­ing on the name of one of the most beloved com­posers in music his­to­ry. Alas, the propo­si­tion that clas­si­cal music in gen­er­al can make any­one smarter has yet to pass the most rig­or­ous sci­en­tif­ic tri­als. But recent research does sug­gest that Mozart’s music in par­tic­u­lar has desir­able effects on the brain: his Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major on epilep­sy-afflict­ed brains in par­tic­u­lar.

For about 30 years the piece has been thought to reduce symp­toms of epilep­sy in the brain, a phe­nom­e­non known as the “K448 effect” (the num­ber being a ref­er­ence to its place in the Köchel cat­a­logue). Recent work by researchers at the Geisel School of Med­i­cine, Dart­mouth-Hitch­cock Med­ical Cen­ter (DHMC) and Dart­mouth College’s Breg­man Music and Affec­tive Sound Lab has gone deep into the work­ings of that effect, and you can read the results free online: the paper “Musi­cal Com­po­nents Impor­tant for the Mozart K448 Effect in Epilep­sy,” pub­lished just last month in Nature. What they’ve found sug­gests that the K448 effect is real: that the piece is effec­tive, to be more spe­cif­ic, in “reduc­ing ictal and inter­ic­tal epilep­ti­form activ­i­ty.”

Writ­ing for non-neu­ro­sci­en­tists, Madeleine Mudza­kis at My Mod­ern Met explains that when the researchers “played the tune while mon­i­tor­ing brain implant sen­sors in the sub­jects,” they detect­ed “events known as inter­ic­tal epilep­ti­form dis­charges (IEDs). These brain events are a symp­tom of epilep­sy and are harm­ful to the brain.” But “after 30 sec­onds of lis­ten­ing to the sonata, the sub­jects expe­ri­enced notice­ably few­er IEDs,” and “tran­si­tions between musi­cal phas­es lead to larg­er effects, pos­si­bly because of antic­i­pa­tion being cre­at­ed which cul­mi­nates in the pleas­ant nature of a shift­ed tune.” These neu­ro­log­i­cal­ly sooth­ing qual­i­ties may also have some­thing to do with the plea­sure all Mozart afi­ciona­dos, epilep­tics or oth­er­wise, feel when they hear the Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major — or what they don’t feel when they hear Wag­n­er, whose music was here employed as the con­trol that every prop­er sci­en­tif­ic exper­i­ment needs.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear All of Mozart in a Free 127-Hour Playlist

The Wicked Scene in Amadeus When Mozart Mocked the Tal­ents of His Rival Anto­nio Salieri: How Much Does the Film Square with Real­i­ty?

Mozart’s Diary Where He Com­posed His Final Mas­ter­pieces Is Now Dig­i­tized and Avail­able Online

How Music Can Awak­en Patients with Alzheimer’s and Demen­tia

The Ther­a­peu­tic Ben­e­fits of Ambi­ent Music: Sci­ence Shows How It Eas­es Chron­ic Anx­i­ety, Phys­i­cal Pain, and ICU-Relat­ed Trau­ma

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.

When Salvador Dali Viewed Joseph Cornell’s Surrealist Film, Became Enraged & Shouted: “He Stole It from My Subconscious!” (1936)

Did Sal­vador Dalí meet the diag­nos­tic cri­te­ria for a per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der and maybe, also, a form of psy­chosis, as some have alleged? Maybe, but there’s no real way to know. “You can’t diag­nose psy­chi­atric ill­ness­es with­out doing a face to face psy­chi­atric exam­i­na­tion,” Dutch psy­chi­a­trist Wal­ter van den Broek writes, and it’s pos­si­ble Dali “con­scious­ly cre­at­ed an ‘artis­tic’ per­son­al­i­ty… for the mon­ey or in order to suc­ceed.” No doubt Dalí was a tire­less self-pro­mot­er who mar­ket­ed his work by way of a sen­sa­tion­al­ist per­sona.

But maybe Dalí faked symp­toms of men­tal ill­ness (via his under­stand­ing of Freud) in order to delib­er­ate­ly induce states of psy­chosis as part of his para­noid-crit­i­cal method, a “spon­ta­neous method of irra­tional knowl­edge based on the crit­i­cal and sys­tem­at­ic objec­tiv­i­ty of the asso­ci­a­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions of deliri­ous phe­nom­e­na,” he wrote. One of Dalí’s extreme “unortho­dox meth­ods for idea gen­er­a­tion,” the prac­tice of pre­tend­ing to be insane may have dri­ven Dalí to believe too strong­ly in his own delu­sions at times.

Through­out the ear­ly 1930s, Dalí cham­pi­oned para­noia, “a form of men­tal ill­ness in which real­i­ty is orga­nized in such a man­ner so as to be served through the con­trol of an imag­i­na­tive con­struc­tion,” he said in a 1930 lec­ture. “The para­noiac who thinks he is being poi­soned dis­cov­ers in all the things that sur­round him, down to their most imper­cep­ti­ble and sub­tle details, prepa­ra­tions for his death.” And the para­noiac Sur­re­al­ist who believes he’s being robbed of his ideas may see artis­tic theft every­where — espe­cial­ly in an exhib­it of Sur­re­al­ist artists that does not include him. (After all, as Dalí once declared, “I am Sur­re­al­ism.”)

In 1936, Dalí attend­ed a screen­ing of Joseph Cor­nel­l’s short Sur­re­al­ist film Rose Hobart (top), named for the obscure silent actress whose scenes Cor­nell excised from a “1931 jun­gle adven­ture film” called East of Bor­neo. Cor­nell took the footage, slowed it down, “chopped it up, reordered it, and dis­card­ed the entire plot,” writes Cather­ine Cor­man. “He cut out reac­tion shots… removed overt­ly upset­ting scenes,” edit­ed in scenes from oth­er films, and “made the film seem delib­er­ate­ly mod­est and worn,” pro­ject­ing it through a blue fil­ter and scor­ing it with two songs from Nestor Ama­r­al’s album Hol­i­day in Brazil (which he’d found at a junk shop).

The screen­ing hap­pened to be held in New York at the same time as the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s first exhib­it of Sur­re­al­ist art, an exhi­bi­tion “rife with con­tro­ver­sy,” MoMA writes, that “pro­voked fierce reac­tions from bat­tle fac­tions among the Dadaists and the Sur­re­al­ists.” French Sur­re­al­ist poet and crit­ic André Bre­ton, who two years ear­li­er expelled Dalí from the Sur­re­al­ist group for “the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Hit­ler­ian fas­cism,” wrote the cat­a­logue intro­duc­tion. The Span­ish Civ­il War had just bro­ken out that year, fur­ther aggra­vat­ing Dalí, no doubt, when he encoun­tered Cor­nel­l’s film at a mati­nee screen­ing.

Part­way through the screen­ing of Rose Hobart, Dalí became enraged, stood up, shout­ing in Span­ish, and over­turned the pro­jec­tor. Lat­er, he report­ed­ly told Julian Levy, whose gallery held the screen­ing: “My idea for a film is exact­ly that, and I was going to pro­pose it to some­one who would pay to have it made.… I nev­er wrote it or told any­one, but it is as if [Cor­nell] had stolen it.” Oth­er ver­sions of the sto­ry had Dalí say­ing, “He stole it from my sub­con­scious!” or “He stole my dreams!” Cor­nell had not, of course, reached into Dalí’s sub­con­scious but had man­i­fest­ed the film from his own obses­sions with silent film and Hol­ly­wood divas, themes that run through­out his work. After Dalí’s out­burst, the shy, reclu­sive artist refused to screen Rose Hobart again until the 1960s.

Dalí had van­quished an imag­i­nary rival, but per­haps his true tar­gets — Bre­ton and his for­mer Sur­re­al­ist col­leagues — remained untouched. It would not mat­ter: Dalí eclipsed them all in fame, espe­cial­ly in the age of tele­vi­sion, which embraced the artist’s antics like no oth­er medi­um. But through his per­for­mances of insan­i­ty, maybe Dalí actu­al­ly did touch into a cre­ative pre­con­scious state shared among artists — a place in which Joseph Cor­nell just might have found and stolen his ideas.

In 1932, Dalí had an epiphany about Jean-Fran­cois Mil­let’s The Angelus, a paint­ing with which he’d been obsessed since child­hood and that influ­enced him heav­i­ly as an adult, becom­ing a key source for his para­noid-crit­i­cal method. Dalí claimed that the two farm­ers pray­ing over a mea­ger har­vest were actu­al­ly mourn­ing a lost child. He per­sist­ed in this belief until the Lou­vre agreed to X‑ray the paint­ing. Under­neath, they found a small, child-sized cof­fin, and at least one of Dalí’s para­noid fan­tasies was proved true.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Jour­ney Through 933 Paint­ings by Sal­vador Dalí & Watch His Sig­na­ture Sur­re­al­ism Emerge

Sal­vador Dalí Gets Sur­re­al with 1950s Amer­i­ca: Watch His Appear­ances on What’s My Line? (1952) and The Mike Wal­lace Inter­view (1958)

When Sal­vador Dalí Cre­at­ed a Sur­re­al­ist Fun­house at New York World’s Fair (1939)

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

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