The Secrets of Beethoven’s Fifth, the World’s Most Famous Symphony

Revered by music lovers of temperaments as varied as Peanuts’ Schroeder and A Clockwork Orange’s AlexLudwig van Beethoven is one of the most celebrated composers in the Western classical music canon.

Symphony No. 5 in C minor is surely one of his most recognized, and frequently performed works, thanks in large part to its dramatic opening motif —

dun-dun-dun-DAH!

Music educator Hanako Sawada’s entertaining TED-Ed lesson, animated by Yael Reisfeld above, delves into the story behind this symphony, “one of the most explosive pieces of music ever composed.”




Middle and high school music teachers will be glad to know the creators lean into the heightened emotions of the piece, depicting the composer as a tortured genius whose piercing gaze is bluer than Game of Thrones’ Night King.

Beethoven was already enjoying a successful reputation at the time of the symphony’s 1808 premiere, but not because he toiled in the service of religion or wealthy patrons like his peers.

Instead, he was an early-19th century bad ass, prioritizing self-expression and pouring his emotions into compositions he then sold to various music publishers.

With the Fifth, he really shook off the rigid structures of prevailing classical norms, embracing Romanticism in all its glorious turmoil.

The famous opening motif is repeated to the point of obsession:

Throughout the piece, the motif is passed around the orchestra like a whisper, gradually reaching more and more instruments until it becomes a roar.

Besotted teenagers, well acquainted with this feeling, are equipped with the internal trombones, piccolos, and contrabassoons of the sort that make the piece even more urgent in feel.

Just wait until they get hold of Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved letters, written a few years after the symphony, when the hearing loss he was wrestling with had progressed to near total deafness.

Whether or not it was the composer (and not his biographer) who characterized the central motif as the sound of “Fate knocking at the door,” it’s an apt, and riveting notion.

Take a quiz, participate in a guided discussion, and customize Hanako Sawada’s lesson, “The Secrets of the World’s Most Famous Symphony,” here.

Listen to the symphony in its entirety below.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday. 

Behold 84 Great Novels Reinterpreted as Modernist Postage Stamps

Ali Johnson and Jim Quail of Liverpool-based design studio Dorothy had a hit with their music-based graphicswhich recast seminal alternativepsychedelicelectronic, and post-punk albums as oversized postage stamps.

Now, they’ve turned their attention and knack for highly condensed visual responses to the realms of literature.

Their Modern Classics collection, above, synthesizes 42 titles into something emblematic and essential.

How many have you read?

How many would you be able to identify based on image alone?

It’s easy to grasp why the horizon figures prominently in On The RoadThe Grapes of Wrath, and The Road.

And understandably, the eyes have it when it comes to 1984A Clockwork Orange, and Slaughterhouse-Five.

Elsewhere, the visual representations create connections that may take readers by surprise.

(Stay tuned for a master’s thesis that teases out thematic parallels between The Color Purple’s quilts and Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat in The Catcher in the Rye.)




According to Johnson, she and Quail, avid readers both, fell out several times over which titles to include (and, by extension, exclude).

English teachers at middle and high school level will rejoice at the number of syllabus favorites that made the cut.

Potential stamp-themed creative assignments abound.

The conch may be an obvious choice for Lord of the Flies, but what of The Great Gatsby‘s green light?

Why not the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg?

swimming pool?

Or one of those beautiful shirts?

Discuss!

Then make your own stamp!

Students are far less likely to be conversant in the 42 earlier works comprising Dorothy’s literary Classics stamps, though musical and movie adaptations of Little WomenDracula, and Les Miserables should provide a toehold.

Our ignorance is such, we may need to reread Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jane Eyre … or at least Google the significance of a spoon and all those orange and red triangles.

(Back in our pre-digital youth, Cliff’s Notes were the preferred Philistine option…)

Dorothy’s stamp prints of Classics and Modern Classics are available for purchase on their website.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A 110-Year-Old Book Illustrated with Photos of Kittens & Cats Taught Kids How to Read

 

Unlike our 21st-century cat memes and other such online feline-based entertainments, children’s author Eulalie Osgood Grover’s 1911 work, Kittens and Cats: A First Reader was intended to educate.

Its related poems will almost certainly strike those of us whose understanding of feline attitude has been shaped by LOLCatsGrumpy Cat, the existential Henri, Talking Kitty Cat’s acerbic Sylvester, and the mordant 1970s TV spokescat Morris as sweet to the point of sickly. But it boasts six hundred vocabulary words, a rhyme structure that promotes reading aloud, and a note to teachers with suggestions for classroom activities.

Grover explained how her feline cast of characters would win over even the most reluctant reader, inspiring “much the same delight to the little reader of juvenile fiction, as do adventure and romance to the grown-up reader”:

In one respect kittens take precedence over dolls. They are alive. They must be treated kindly. They will not bear the abuse and neglect given to many beautiful dolls. They demand attention and companionship, and they return a real devotion in return for kindness and care. Therefore we love them and especially do our children love them and delight in stories of them.

The loosely structured story concerns a grand party thrown by the Queen of the Cats. Following some breathless preparations, the guests take turns introducing themselves to her majesty, though unlike T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), there’s not much that could be cobbled into a hit musical.

Grover fleshes out the narrative with callbacks to a number of cat-rich nursery rhymes — Hickory Dickory DockThree Little KittensHey Diddle DiddleAs I Was Going to St. IvesDing Dong Bell

One lace-bonneted character is reminiscent of Tom Kitten’s mother, Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit, and her unsuccessful attempts to wrangle her rambunctious offspring into clothing fit for “fine company,” though the wit falls somewhat short of Beatrix Potter’s.

Headgear abounds, as do restrictive buntings that must’ve been a great help when dealing with uncooperative models and long exposures.

Although the photographer is uncredited, the images are likely the work of Harry Whittier Frees, a “pioneer of the anthropomorphic kitten photograph genre” as per the New York Daily News. In his introduction to his far more ambitiously posed 1915 work, The Little Folks of Animal Land, Frees alluded to his process:

The difficulties of posing kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have been overcome only by the exercise of great patience and invariable kindness. My little models receive no especial training, and after their daily performance before the camera they enjoy nothing more than a good frolic about the studio.

That’s a pleasant thought, though historian and postcard collector Mary L. Weigley tells a somewhat different tale in an article for Pennsylvania Heritage, describing how only 3/10 of his negatives could be published, and his work was so “challenging, time-consuming and nerve-wracking” that he took 9 months out of every year to recuperate.

Cats!

Download a free copy of Eulalie Osgood Grover’s Kittens and Cats here.

via Public Domain Review

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

How Mushroom Time-Lapses Are Filmed: A Glimpse Into the Pioneering Time-Lapse Cinematography Behind the Netflix Documentary Fantastic Fungi

Mushrooms are having a moment, thanks in part to pioneering time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s documentary Fantastic Fungi.

Now streaming on Netflix, the film has given rise to a bumper crop of funghi fantatics, who sprang up like, well, mushrooms, to join the existing ranks of citizen scientistsculinary fansweekend foragersamateur growers, and spiritual seekers.




Schwartzberg, who earlier visualized pollination from the flower’s point of view in the Meryl Streep-narrated Wings of Life, is a true believer in the power of mushrooms, citing funghi’s role in soil creation and health, and their potential for remedying a number of pressing global problems, as well as a host of human ailments.

Fantastic Funghi focuses on seven pillars of benefits brought to the table by the fungal kingdom and its Internet-like underground network of mycelium:

  1. Biodiversity

A number of projects are exploring the ways in which the mycelium world can pull us back from the bring of  desertization, water shortage, food shortage, bee colony collapsetoxic contaminants, nuclear disasters, oil spills, plastic pollution, and global warming.

  1. Innovation

Mushroom-related industries are eager to press funghi into service as environmentally sustainable faux leatherbuilding materials, packaging, and meat alternatives.

  1. Food

From fine dining to foraging off-the-grid, mushrooms are prized for their culinary and nutritional benefits.

  1. Physical Health and Wellness

Will the humble mushroom prove mighty enough to do an end run around powerful drug companies as a source of integrative medicine to help combat diabetes, liver disease, inflammation, insomnia and cognitive decline?

  1. Mental Health

Researchers at Johns HopkinsUCLA, and NYU are running clinical trials on the benefits of psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as a tool for treating addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

  1. Spirituality

Of course, there’s also a rich tradition of religions and individual seekers deploying mind altering psychoactive mushrooms as a form of sacrament or a tool for plumbing the mysteries of life.

  1. The Arts

Director Schwartzberg understandably views mushrooms as muse, a fitting subject for photography, music, film, poetry, art and other creative endeavors.

 

With regard to this final pillar, many viewers may be surprised to learn how much of the 15 years Schwartzberg dedicated to capturing the exquisite cycle of fungal regeneration and decomposition took place indoors.

As he explains in the Wired video above, his precision equipment excels at capturing development that’s invisible to the human eye, but is no match for such natural world disruptions as insects and wind.

Instead, he and his team built controlled growing environments, where highly sensitive time lapse cameras, dollies, timed grow lights, and more cinematic lighting instruments could be left in place.

Set dressings of moss and logs, coupled with a very short depth of field helped to bring the Great Outdoors onscreen, with occasional chromakeyed panoramas of the natural world filling in the gaps.

Even in such lab-like conditions, certain elements were necessarily left to chance. Mushrooms grow notoriously quickly, and even with constant monitoring and calculations, there was plenty of potential for one of his stars to miss their mark, shooting out of frame.

Just one of the ways that mushrooms and humans operate on radically different timelines. The director bowed to the shrooms, returning to square one on the frequent occasions when a sequence got away from him.

Providing viewers an immersive experience of the underground mycelium network required high powered microscopes, a solid cement floor, and a bit of movie magic to finesse. What you see in the final cut is the work of CGI animators, who used Schwartzberg’s footage as their blueprint.

Netflix subscribers can stream Fantastic Fungi for free.

From October 15 – 17, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg is hosting a free, virtual Fantastic Fungi Global Summit. Register here.

You can also browse his collection of community mushroom recipes and submit your own, download Fantastic Fungi’s Stoned Ape poster, or have a ramble through a trove of related videos and articles in the Mush Room.

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

Watch 15 Hours of The Pink Panther for Free

Remember Saturday mornings?

If you’re an American of a certain age, you probably spent a good chunk of them sprawled in front of the TV, absorbing a steady stream of network cartoons peppered with ads for toys and sugared cereal.

One of Saturday morning’s animated stars stood out from the crowd, a lanky, bipedal feline of a distinctly rosy hue.

He shared Bugs Bunny’s anarchic streak, without the hopped-up, motormouthed intensity.

In fact, he barely spoke, and soon went entirely mute, relying instead on Henry Mancini’s famous theme, which followed him everywhere he went.




Above all, he was sophisticated, with a minimalist aesthetic and a long cigarette holder.

Director Blake Edwards attributes his lasting appeal to his “promiscuous, fun-loving, devilish” nature.

John Cork’s short documentary Behind the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon, below, details how Edwards charged commercial animators David DePatie and Friz Freleng with creating a cartoon persona for the Pink Panther Diamond in his upcoming jewel heist caper.

DePatie, Freleng and their team drafted over a hundred renderings in response to the character notes Edwards bombarded them with via telegram.

Edward’s favorite, designed by director Hawley Pratt, featured the iconic cigarette holder and appeared in the feature film’s trailer and title sequence, ultimately upstaging a star studded cast including David Niven, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Wagner, and Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

The cartoon panther’s sensational debut prompted United Artists to order up another 156 shorts, to be released over a four to five year period. The first of these, The Pink Phink, not only established the tone, it also nabbed the Academy Award for 1964’s best animated short.

Although he was created with an adult audience in mind — the narrator of the original theatrical trailer asks him about bedroom scenes — his wordless torment of the simplified cartoon Inspector proved to be money in the bank on Saturday mornings.

The Pink Panther Show ran from 1969 to 1980, weathering various title tweaks and a jump from NBC to ABC.

Syndication and cable TV ensured a vibrant afterlife, here and in other countries, where the character’s sophistication and reliance on body language continues to be a plus.

The plots unfolded along predictable lines — the groovy panther spends 6 minutes thwarting and bedeviling a less cool, less pink-oriented character, usually the Inspector.

Every episode’s title includes a reference to the star’s signature color, often to groaning degree – Pink of the LitterPink-A-BooThe Hand Is Pinker Than the EyePinkcome TaxThe Scarlet Pinkernel….

We won’t ask you to guess the color of Pink Panther Flakes, manufactured under the auspices of Post, a Pink Panther Show co-sponsor.

“I thought it was just fine for the film,” Edwards says of the animated Pink Panther in Cork’s 2003 documentary, “But I had no idea that it would take off like that, that it would have that kind of a life of its own… that kind of a merchandising life of its own. Thank god it did!”

Stay cool this summer with an 11-hour Pink Panther marathon, comprised of the following free compilations of Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

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

Meet the Linda Lindas, the Tween Punk Band Who Called Out Racism & Misogyny and Scored a Record Deal

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” we chanted as kids, but “words will never hurt me.” The saying seems to both invite physical violence and deny the real effects of verbal abuse. Maybe this was once effective as a stock playground retort, but it’s never been true, as anyone who’s been picked on as a child can attest. When the taunts are racist, the damage is exponentially multiplied. Not only are kids being singled out and mocked for immutable characteristics, but their family and entire culture of origin are being targeted.

What to do? Lash out? Fight back? Ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening? To quote another cliche, “the best revenge is success.” More appropriately for the case at hand, take an original line from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: “Be constructive with your blues.”




The Linda Lindas, a four-piece punk band ranging in age from 10 to 16 would agree. When one of the girls was harassed by a classmate, they got bummed about it, then rallied, wrote a song, went viral, and scored a record deal. Dealing with bullies will rarely lead to such joyful results, but it’s worth paying attention when it does.

The song, “Racist, Sexist Boy” has “become something of a 2021 anthem,” writes NPR, with its gleeful call-outs (“Poser! Blockhead! Riffraff! Jerk face!”) and crunchy power chords. “In what has become a very familiar cycle to music-industry watchers, the band landed a record deal almost as soon as its video went viral,” signing with L.A.’s Epitaph Records. “By Friday, the band’s performance of ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ had been posted on Epitaph’s YouTube channel.” The video comes from a performance at the Los Angeles Public Library, which you can watch in full above, with an introduction and interview with the band. (See a setlist on YouTube and don’t miss their cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” at 35:56.)

So, who are the Linda Lindas? On their Bandcamp page, they describe themselves as “Half Asian / half Latinx. Two sisters, a cousin, and their close friend. The Linda Lindas channel the spirit of original punk, power pop, and new wave through today’s ears, eyes and minds.” You can meet the multi-talented tweens and teens in the video above, made in 2019 by a fifth grade teacher to inspire his students. The girls are hardly new to the music business. Clips in the video show them performing with Money Mark and opening for Bikini Kill. They got their start in 2018 at Girlschool LA, “a celebration of females challenging the status quo,” and they’ve been mentored by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The Linda Lindas also captured the attention of Amy Pohler, who featured the band in her Netflix documentary Moxie. See a clip above. Not every kid who fights bullying with music — or art, science, sports, or whatever their talent — can expect celebrity, and we shouldn’t set kids up to think they can all win the internet lottery. But the Linda Lindas have become heroes for millions of young girls who look like them, and who dream not of fame and fortune but of a united front of friendship and fun against racism, misogyny, and the pains of growing up.

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

Watch Blondie’s Debbie Harry Perform “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show (1981)

Do you dig songs about rainbows?

The host of one of the very last episodes of The Muppet Show — Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie – does, and in 1981, she seized the opportunity to duet with Kermit the Frog on his signature tune, “The Rainbow Connection” — its only performance in the series’ five season run.

Many of us associate the folksy number with The Muppet Movie‘s pastoral opening scene. This rendition transfers the action backstage to the kimono-clad Harry’s dressing room.




Who knew her sweet soprano would pair so nicely with a banjo?

She also exhibits a game willingness to lean into Muppet-style hamminess, responding to the lyric “Have you heard voices?” with an expression that verges on psychological horror.

Midway through, the two are joined by a chorus of juvenile frogs in scouting uniforms.

A little context — these youngsters spend the episode trying to earn their punk merit badge.

No wonder. By 1981, when the episode aired, Blondie had achieved massive mainstream success, with such hits as “One Way or Another” and “Call Me,” both of which were shoehorned into the episode.

As creator Jim Henson’s son, Brian, recalled in a brief introduction to its video release:

…I was in high school and my father knew that Debbie Harry was, like, the biggest thing in the world to me. And he booked her to be on The Muppet Show during a vacation week from school and he didn’t tell me. We went out to dinner the night before shooting and they made me sit next to Debbie Harry at this fancy restaurant. And I just remember this whole dinner I was just endlessly sweating and all I knew was that I was aware of Debbie Harry sitting on the side of me. I don’t think I ever said a word to her, I don’t think I ever looked at her, but she did a great episode, she’s a great performer and she’s a lovely lady.

With punk permeating the airwaves, the fan site Tough Pigs, Muppet Fans Who Grew Up laments other guest hosts who might have been booked before the show ended its run:

It’s a shame Debbie Harry was the only member of her scene to make it to The Muppet Show. Can you imagine special guest stars, The Ramones, The B-52’s or even Talking Heads? … Harry’s guest stint reveals that the Muppets’ chaotic and textured world has more in common with the punk scene than one would initially expect.

The finale finds the Frog Scouts moshing to “Call Me,” with a reasonably “punk” looking, rainbow-clad backing Muppets band (Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem sat this one out due to their pre-existing associations with Motown, jazz, and a more classic rock sound.)

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

Harvard’s Digital Giza Project Lets You Access the Largest Online Archive on the Egyptian Pyramids (Including a 3D Giza Tour)

Nothing excites the imagination of young history-and-science-minded kids like the Egyptian pyramids, which is maybe why so many people grow up into amateur Egyptologists with very strong opinions about the pyramids. For such people, access to the highest quality information seems critical for their online debates. For professional academics and serious students of ancient Egypt such access is critical to doing their work properly. All lovers and students of ancient Egypt will find what they need, freely available, at Harvard University’s Digital Giza Project.

“Children and specialized scholars alike may study the material culture of this ancient civilization from afar,” Harvard’s Metalab writes, “often with greater access than could be achieved in person.” The project opened at Harvard in 2011 after spending its first eleven years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with the goal of “digitizing and posting for free online all of the archaeological documentation from the Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition to Giza, Egypt (about 1904–1947),” notes the about page.




The Digital Giza Project was born from a need to centralize research and artifacts that have been scattered all over the globe. “Documents and images are held in faraway archives,” the Harvard Gazette points out, “artifacts and other relics of ancient Egypt have been dispersed, stolen, or destroyed, and tombs and monuments have been dismantled, weather-worn, or locked away behind passages filled in when an excavation closes.” Other obstacles to research include the expense of travel and, more recently, the impossibility of visiting far-off sites.

Expanding far beyond the scope of the original expeditions, the project has partnered with “many other institutions around the world with Giza-related collections” to compile its searchable library of downloadable PDF books and journal articles. Kids, adult enthusiasts, and specialists will all appreciate Giza 3D, a reconstruction with guided tours of all the major archeological sites at the pyramids, from tombs to temples to the Great Sphinx, as well as links to images and archeological details about each of the various finds within.

For a preview of the multimedia experience on offer at the Digital Giza Project, see the videos here from project’s YouTube channel. Each short video provides a wealth of information; young learners and those just getting started in their Egyptology studies can find lessons, glossaries, an overview of the people and places of Giza, and more at the Giza @ School page. Whatever your age, occupation, or level of commitment, if you’re interested in learning more about the pyramids at Giza, you need to bookmark Digital Giza. Start here.

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

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