Watch Sir Ian McKellen’s 1979 Master Class on Macbeth’s Final Monologue

If only we could have had a teacher as insight­ful as Sir Ian McK­ellen explain some Shake­speare to us at an impres­sion­able age.

Above, a 38-year-old McK­ellen breaks down Macbeth’s famous final solil­o­quy as part of a 1978 mas­ter class in Act­ing Shake­speare.

He makes it clear ear­ly on that rely­ing on Iambic pen­tame­ter to con­vey the mean­ing of the verse will not cut it.

Instead, he calls upon actors to apply the pow­er of their intel­lect to every line, ana­lyz­ing metaphors and imagery, while also not­ing punc­tu­a­tion, word choice, and of course, the events lead­ing up to the speech.

In this way, he says, “the actor is the play­wright and the char­ac­ter simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.”

McK­ellen was, at the time, deeply immersed in Mac­beth, play­ing the title role oppo­site Judi Dench in a bare bones Roy­al Shake­speare Com­pa­ny pro­duc­tion that opened in the company’s Strat­ford stu­dio before trans­fer­ring to the West End. As McK­ellen recalled in a longer med­i­ta­tion on the trick­i­ness of stag­ing this par­tic­u­lar tragedy:

It was beau­ti­ful­ly done on the cheap in The Oth­er Place, the old tin hut along from the main the­atre. John Napi­er’s entire set cost £200 and the cos­tumes were a rag­bag of sec­ond-hand clothes. My uni­form jack­et had but­tons embossed with ‘Birm­ing­ham Fire Ser­vice’; my long, leather coat did­n’t fit, nor did Ban­quo’s so we had to wear them slung over the shoul­der; Judi Dench, as Lady Mac­beth, wore a dyed tea-tow­el on her head. Some­how it was mag­ic: and black mag­ic, too. A priest used to sit on the front row, when­ev­er he could scrounge a tick­et, hold­ing out his cru­ci­fix to pro­tect the cast from the evil we were rais­ing.

The New York Times raved about the pro­duc­tion, declar­ing McK­ellen “the best equipped British actor of his gen­er­a­tions:”

Mr. McK­el­len’s Mac­beth is wit­ty; not mere­ly the hor­ror but the absur­di­ty of his actions strikes him from the out­set, and he can regard his down­fall as an inex­orable joke. His wife pulls him along a road that he would trav­el any­way and he can allow him­self scru­ples, know­ing that she will be there to mop them up. Once her pro­sa­ic, lim­it­ed ambi­tion is achieved, she is of no more use to him and he shrugs her off; “she would have died here­after” is a moment of exas­per­a­tion that dares our laugh­ter.

What fuels him most is envy, reach­ing incred­u­lous­ly for­ward (“The seed of Ban­quo kings?”) and back­ward to col­or the despair of “Dun­can is in his grave.” The words, and the mind behind them, are ran­cid, and it is this mood that takes pos­ses­sion of his last scenes. Every­thing dis­gusts him, and his only rea­son for fight­ing to the death is that the thought of sub­jec­tion is the most dis­gust­ing of all.

McK­ellen begins his exam­i­na­tion of the text by not­ing how “she would have died here­after” sets up the final solil­o­quy’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with time, and its pas­sage.

Tomor­row, and tomor­row, and tomor­row,

Creeps in this pet­ty pace from day to day,

To the last syl­la­ble of record­ed time;

And all our yes­ter­days have light­ed fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief can­dle!

Life’s but a walk­ing shad­ow, a poor play­er,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing.

McK­ellen makes a true meal of  “out, out, brief can­dle”,  relat­ing it to Lady Macbeth’s final appear­ance, the fools pro­ceed­ing to their dusty death ear­li­er in the mono­logue, and Eliz­a­bethan stage light­ing.

He spec­u­lates that Shakespeare’s descrip­tion of life as a “poor play­er” was a delib­er­ate attempt by the play­wright to give the actor an inter­pre­tive hook they could relate to. In per­for­mance, the the­atri­cal metaphor should remind the audi­ence that they’re watch­ing a pre­tense even as they’re invest­ed in the character’s fate.

The pro­duc­tion’s suc­cess inspired direc­tor Trevor Nunn to film it. McK­ellen recalled that every­one was already so well acquaint­ed with the mate­r­i­al, it took just two weeks to get it in the can:

The claus­tro­pho­bia of the stage pro­duc­tion was exact­ly cap­tured. Trevor had used a sim­i­lar tech­nique with Antony and Cleopa­tra on the box. No one else should ever be allowed to tele­vise Shakespeare…There is so much I was proud of: dis­cov­er­ing how to play a solil­o­quy direct into the eyes of every­one in the audi­ence; mak­ing them laugh at Mac­beth’s gal­lows humor; work­ing along­side Judi Dench’s finest per­for­mance.

For more expert advice from McK­ellen, Patrick Stew­art, Ben Kings­ley and oth­er nota­bles, watch the RSC’s 9‑part Play­ing Shake­speare series here.

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

How to Give Yourself a 3000-Year-Old Hairstyle Using Iron Age Tools

There was a peri­od in the late 20th-cen­tu­ry when hav­ing hair long enough to sit on was con­sid­ered some­thing of an accom­plish­ment.

Judg­ing by the long hair pins unearthed from Austria’s Hall­statt bur­ial site, extreme length was an ear­ly Iron Age hair goal, too, pos­si­bly because a coro­net of thick braids made it eas­i­er to bal­ance a bas­ket on your head or keep your veil secure­ly fas­tened.

Mor­gan Don­ner, whose YouTube chan­nel doc­u­ments her attempts to recre­ate his­tor­i­cal gar­ments and hair­styles, com­mit­ted to try­ing var­i­ous Hall­statt looks after read­ing arche­ol­o­gogist Kari­na Grömer’s 2005 arti­cle Exper­i­mente zur Haar- und Schleier­tra­cht in der Hall­stattzeit (Exper­i­ments on hair­styles and veils in the Hall­statt peri­od.)

Gromer, the vice-head of the Vien­na Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um’s Depart­ment of Pre­his­to­ry, pub­lished pre­cise dia­grams show­ing the posi­tion of the hair orna­ments in rela­tion to the occu­pants of var­i­ous graves.

For exam­ple, the skele­ton in grave 45, below, was dis­cov­ered with “10 bronze nee­dles to the left of and below the skull, (and) parts of a bronze spi­ral roll in the neck area.”

Although no hair fibers sur­vive, researchers cross-ref­er­enc­ing the pins’ posi­tion against fig­ur­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions from peri­od arti­facts, have made a pret­ty edu­cat­ed guess as to the sort of hair do this indi­vid­ual may have sport­ed in life, or more accu­rate­ly, giv­en the con­text, death.

As to the “bronze spi­ral roll” — which Don­ner per­sists in refer­ring to as a spi­ral “doobly doo” — it func­tioned much like a mod­ern day elas­tic band, pre­vent­ing the braid from unrav­el­ling.

Don­ner twists hers from wire, after arrang­ing to have repli­ca hair­pins cus­tom made to his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate dimen­sions. (The man­u­fac­tur­er, per­haps mis­un­der­stand­ing her inter­est in his­to­ry, coat­ed them with an antiquing agent that had to be removed with “brass clean­er and a bit of rub­bing.”

Most of the styles are vari­ants on a bun. All with­stand the “shake test” and would look right at home in a bridal mag­a­zine.

Star Wars fans will be grat­i­fied to find not one, but two icon­ic Princess Leia looks.

Our favorites were the braid­ed loops and dou­ble buns meant to be sport­ed beneath a veil.

“The braids do kind of act nice­ly as an anchor point for the veil to sit on,” Don­ner reports, “Not a lot of mod­ern appli­ca­tion per se for this par­tic­u­lar style but it’s cute. It’s fun.”

Either would give you some seri­ous Medieval Fes­ti­val street cred, even if you have to resort to exten­sions.

Donner’s video gets a lot of love in the com­ments from a num­ber of archae­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sion­als, includ­ing a funer­ary archae­ol­o­gist who prais­es the way she deals with the “inher­ent issues of preser­va­tion bias.”

The final nine min­utes con­tain a DIY tuto­r­i­al for those who’d like to make their own hair­pins, as well as the spi­ral “doobly doo”.

If you’re of a less crafty bent, a jew­el­ry design­er in Fin­land is sell­ing repli­cas based on the grave finds of Hall­statt cul­ture on Etsy.

Watch a playlist of Donner’s his­tor­i­cal hair exper­i­ments and tuto­ri­als, though a peek at her Insta­gram reveals that she got a buz­z­cut last fall, cur­rent­ly grown out to pix­ie-ish length.

Down­load Grömer’s illus­trat­ed arti­cle on Hall­statt peri­od hair­styles and veils for free (in Ger­man) here.

- 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.

Heart’s Nancy Wilson Teaches You How to Play the Notoriously Difficult Opening to “Crazy On You”

You can slide up, pull off and ham­mer like a beast, but be fore­warned. It’s unlike­ly you’ll be able to keep pace with Heart’s Nan­cy Wil­son, as she demon­strates how to play the intro­duc­tion to 1975’s “Crazy On You,” one of the great­est — and trick­i­est — open­ing gui­tar solos in rock his­to­ry.

“I real­ly want­ed peo­ple to know right up front what I could do,” Wil­son revealed in a 1999 inter­view with Acoustic Gui­tar:

It was the same thing as sit­ting in the Band­wag­on music store and play­ing (Paul Simon’s) Anji. It was like, “Check me out, I know some stuff.”

As hard rock­ing female musi­cians in the 70s and 80s, Wil­son and her bandmate/sister, lead vocal­ist- and song­writer, Ann found them­selves hav­ing to prove them­selves con­stant­ly.

As Ann recent­ly explained to The Guardian

Back then, espe­cial­ly in the 70s, there was no fil­ter on how women were sex­u­al­ized – hyper-sex­u­al­ized – in order to sell their images. Now at least it looks like women have con­trol over their own fil­ters. Back then, they didn’t. It was just like: “Hey, here’s a sexy chick. We know how we can sell her.”

Let’s all observe Wom­en’s His­to­ry Month by insist­ing that every bone­head who ever dis­missed these pio­neer­ing women as a ‘chick band’ pay close atten­tion to Nancy’s intri­cate “hybrid pick­ing”.

“Crazy On You” finds her pick­ing a rhythm on the A‑string while using her bare fin­gers to pull off notes on the B and G strings.

And by her own admis­sion, she tends nev­er to play it the same way twice (“which makes it real easy, right?”)

While we’re at it, how about we cel­e­brate Heart’s 50th anniver­sary by intro­duc­ing the next gen­er­a­tion to “Crazy On You”?

The times have changed in sig­nif­i­cant ways, but the emo­tions that inspired the song will strike close to home for many young peo­ple, as per Ann’s descrip­tion on the Pro­fes­sor of Rock’s YouTube chan­nel:

I wrote the words about the state of the world, and the stress effect it was hav­ing on me. Back then, we thought the world was real­ly messed up, right? Because the Viet­nam War was going on and we were choos­ing to, but stay­ing out of our own country…we were home­sick. Crime was ris­ing, gas was expen­sive, gas short­age, all this hor­ri­ble stuff. We had no idea what was going to hap­pen in lat­er years so it seemed to be, at that time, y’know, this is the end of the world. This close to the apoc­a­lypse. It’s very very stress­ful when you’re in your 20’s and you don’t see a good future.

If you’re com­mit­ted to learn­ing Nan­cy Wilson’s gui­tar intro to “Crazy On You,” we rec­om­mend Shut­up & Play’s video tuto­r­i­al and tabs.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent 

John May­er Teach­es Gui­tarists How to Play the Blues in a 45-Minute Mas­ter­class

James Tay­lor Gives Gui­tar Lessons, Teach­ing You How to Play Clas­sic Songs Like “Fire and Rain,” “Coun­try Road” & “Car­oli­na in My Mind”

The MC5’s Wayne Kramer Demon­strates the Cor­rect & Offi­cial Way to Play “Kick Out the Jams” on the Gui­tar

Pete Seeger Teach­es You How to Play Gui­tar for Free in The Folksinger’s Gui­tar Guide (1955)

- 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.

Watch a Very Nervous, 23-Year-Old David Byrne and Talking Heads Performing Live in NYC (1976)

“This is a per­son who is pro­found­ly uncom­fort­able address­ing an audi­ence and yet puts him­self in that posi­tion,” David Byrne told Stu­dio 360’s Kurt Ander­son in 2019, as they watched some of the above footage of his 23-year-old self fronting a live Talk­ing Heads’ per­for­mance back in 1976.

Every­thing was pret­ty new back in that Bicen­ten­ni­al year.

Talk­ing Heads had formed the year before, when Byrne and drum­mer Chris Frantz, who’d been band­mates at the Rhode Island Col­lege of Design, moved to New York City with Frantz’s girl­friend, bassist Tina Wey­mouth.

The venue host­ing this live per­for­mance, New York City’s leg­endary exper­i­men­tal art space, The Kitchen, was slight­ly less wet behind the ears, hav­ing opened its doors in 1971. (Some 30 years lat­er, elder states­man Byrne was the guest of hon­or at its annu­al spring gala.)

How­ev­er you define it — New Wave, no wave, post-punk art pop — the band’s sound was also fresh, though Byrne sug­gests, in the inter­view with Ander­son, there was noth­ing new about his youth­ful cock­i­ness:

…like a lot of bands, artists, every­thing else, any peri­od real­ly, you tend to think that, um, the per­va­sive stuff around you is crap and you and your friends are…we’re doing the real stuff. 

And opti­misti­cal­ly, one might think, since we’re doing the real stuff and it has real soul and pas­sion, and it’s of its moment, it rep­re­sents its moment, and so immod­est­ly, you think, “Of course! Things are just going to fall into your lap because you’re doing some­thing that has some truth to it. Uh…that cer­tain­ly doesn’t always hap­pen.

It hap­pened com­par­a­tive­ly quick­ly for Talk­ing Heads.

Sev­er­al of the songs they per­formed as a trio that March night at the Kitchen made it onto Talk­ing Heads: 77, the debut stu­dio album record­ed bare­ly a year lat­er, by which time a fourth mem­ber, Jer­ry Har­ri­son, had joined on key­boards and gui­tar.

Of par­tic­u­lar note above is Psy­cho Killer, which earned the band both noto­ri­ety, owing to the coin­ci­den­tal tim­ing of 1976 and 1977’s Son of Sam mur­ders, and their first Bill­board Hot 100 spot.

“This song was writ­ten a long time ago,” the young Byrne stut­ters into the micro­phone at the Kitchen, then apol­o­gizes for fid­dling with his clothes and equip­ment.

(“It’s all good!” Frantz calls out encour­ag­ing­ly from behind his drum kit.)

Accord­ing to the lin­er notes of Once in a Life­time: The Best of Talk­ing Heads, Byrne began work on the song in col­lege:

When I start­ed writ­ing this (I got help lat­er), I imag­ined Alice Coop­er doing a Randy New­man-type bal­lad. Both the Jok­er and Han­ni­bal Lecter were much more fas­ci­nat­ing than the good guys. Every­body sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.

Fans may note a dis­par­i­ty in the lyrics between this per­for­mance and record­ed ver­sions of the song. Here, the sec­ond verse goes:

Lis­ten to me, now I’ve passed the test

I think I’m cute, I think I’m the best

Skirt tight, don’t like that style

Don’t crit­i­cize what I know is worth­while

Psy­cho Killer stayed on the shelf for David Byrne’s Amer­i­can Utopia, the Broad­way show recent­ly filmed by Spike Lee. But it gave a far more pol­ished Byrne an excel­lent open­er for Talk­ing Heads’ 1984 con­cert film, Stop Mak­ing Sense.

The uncom­fort­able young front­man dressed like a “pro­le­tari­at every­man,” who the Kitchen’s press release described as “a cross between Ralph Nad­er, Lou Reed, and Tony Perkins.” And he has since man­aged to acquire some impres­sive per­for­mance chops over the course of a still flour­ish­ing career.

This is your chance to catch him at that awk­ward age when, as Byrne told Kirk Ander­son, he per­formed “because he had to”:

There was this means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that was being a per­former and writ­ing songs and singing them (that) was a way of, kind of being present to oth­er peo­ple — not just girls, but oth­er peo­ple in gen­er­al.

Setlist for The Kitchen, March 13, 1976:

00:00 — Introduction/soundcheck

02:13 — The Girls Want To Be With the Girls (Fea­tured on More Songs About Build­ings and Food in 1978)

06:05 — Psy­cho Killer (Fea­tured on Talk­ing Heads: 77 in 1977, with dif­fer­ent lyrics)

The lyrics of the 2nd verse of Psy­cho Killer is dif­fer­ent from the record­ed ver­sion!

10:55 — I Feel It In My Heart (Fea­tured on the deluxe ver­sion of Talk­ing Heads: 77, with dif­fer­ent lyrics)

15:28 — I Wish You Would­n’t Say That (Fea­tured on the deluxe ver­sion of Talk­ing Heads: 77)

18:15 — Infor­ma­tion about the record­ing

19:00 — Stay Hun­gry (Fea­tured on More Songs About Build­ings and Food)

24:35 — I Want To Live (Fea­tured on com­pi­la­tions such as Sand in the Vase­line, 1992 and Bonus Rar­i­ties & Out­takes, 2006)

29:48 — Ten­ta­tive Deci­sions (Fea­tured on Talk­ing Heads: 77)

32:55 — No Com­pas­sion (assumed, video ends before song starts)

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Talk­ing Heads Per­form The Ramones’ “I Wan­na Be Your Boyfriend” Live in 1977 (and How the Bands Got Their Start Togeth­er)

Watch the Talk­ing Heads Play a Vin­tage Con­cert in Syra­cuse (1978)

The Talk­ing Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)

- 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.

Organized Chaos!: Watch 33 Videos Showing How Saturday Night Live Gets Made Each Week

Who do you think of when you think of Sat­ur­day Night Live?

The orig­i­nal cast? 

Cre­ator Lorne Michaels?

Who­ev­er host­ed last week’s episode?

What about the guy who makes and holds the cue cards?

Wal­ly Fer­esten is just one of the back­stage heroes to be cel­e­brat­ed in Cre­at­ing Sat­ur­day Night Live, a fas­ci­nat­ing look at how the long-run­ning tele­vi­sion sketch show comes togeth­er every week.

Like many of those inter­viewed Fer­esten is more or less of a lif­er, hav­ing come aboard in 1990 at the age of 25.

He esti­mates that he and his team of 8 run through some 1000 14” x 22” cards cards per show. Teleprompters would save trees, but the pos­si­bil­i­ty of tech­ni­cal issues dur­ing the live broad­cast presents too big of a risk.

This means that any last minute changes, includ­ing those made mid-broad­cast, must be han­dled in a very hands on way, with cor­rec­tions writ­ten in all caps over care­ful­ly applied white painter’s tape or, worst case sce­nario, on brand new cards.

(After a show wraps, its cards enjoy a sec­ond act as drop­cloths for the next week’s paint­ed sets.)

Near­ly every sketch requires three sets of cue cards, so that the cast, who are rarely off book due to the fre­quent changes, can steal glances to the left, right and cen­ter.

As the depart­ment head, Fer­esten is part­nered with each week’s guest host, whose lines are the only ones to be writ­ten in black. Bet­ty White, who host­ed in 2010 at the age of 88, thanked him in her 2011 auto­bi­og­ra­phy.

Sure­ly that’s worth his work-relat­ed arthrit­ic shoul­der, and the recur­rent night­mares in which he arrives at Stu­dio 8H just five min­utes before show­time to find that all 1000 cue cards are blank.

Cos­tumes have always been one of Sat­ur­day Night Live’s flashiest plea­sures, run­ning the gamut from Cone­heads and a rap­ping Cup o’Soup to an immac­u­late recre­ation of the white pantsuit in which Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris deliv­ered her vic­to­ry speech a scant 3 hours before the show aired.

“A cos­tume has a job,” wardrobe super­vi­sor Dale Richards explains:

It has to tell a sto­ry before (the actors) open their mouth…as soon as it comes on cam­era, it should give you so much back­sto­ry.

And it has to cleave to some sort of real­i­ty and truth­ful­ness, even in a sketch as out­landish as 2017’s Hen­ri­et­ta & the Fugi­tive, star­ring host Ryan Gosling as a detec­tive in a film noir style romance. The gag is that the dame is a chick­en (cast mem­ber Aidy Bryant.)

Richards cites actress Bette Davis as the inspi­ra­tion for the chick­en’s look:

Because you’re not going to believe it if the detec­tive couldn’t actu­al­ly fall in love with her. She has to be very fem­i­nine, so we gave her Bette Davis bangs and long eye­lash­es and a beau­ti­ful bon­net, so the under­pin­nings were very much like an actress in a movie, although she did have a chick­en cos­tume on.

The num­ber of quick cos­tume changes each per­former must make dur­ing the live broad­cast helps deter­mine the sketch­es’ run­ning order.

Some of the break­neck trans­for­ma­tions are han­dled by Richards’ sis­ter, Don­na, who once beat the clock by pig­gy­back­ing host Jen­nifer Lopez across the stu­dio floor to the chang­ing area where a well-coor­di­nat­ed crew swished her out of her open­ing monologue’s skintight dress and sky­scraper heels and into her first cos­tume.

That’s one exam­ple of the sort of traf­fic the 4‑person crane cam­era crew must bat­tle as they hur­tle across the stu­dio to each new set. Cam­era oper­a­tor John Pin­to com­mands from atop the crane’s coun­ter­bal­anced arm.

Those swoop­ing crane shots of the musi­cal guests, open­ing mono­logue and good­nights (see below) are a Sat­ur­day Night Live tra­di­tion, a part of its icon­ic look since the begin­ning.

Get to know oth­er back­stage work­ers and how they con­tribute to this week­ly high wire act in a 33 episode Cre­at­ing Sat­ur­day Night playlist, all on dis­play below:

- 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.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

When John Belushi Booked the Punk Band Fear on SNL, And They Got Banned from the Show: A Short Doc­u­men­tary

The Stunt That Got Elvis Costel­lo Banned From Sat­ur­day Night Live

Sat­ur­day Night Live’s Very First Sketch: Watch John Belushi Launch SNL in Octo­ber, 1975

Tate Kids Presents Introductions to Art Movements: Cubism, Impressionism, Surrealism & More

Tate Kids has a sol­id grasp on the sort of hands on art-relat­ed con­tent that appeals to chil­dren — Make a mud paint­ing! Make a spaghet­ti sculp­ture! Pho­to fil­ter chal­lenge!

Chil­dren of all ages, grown ups who skipped out on art his­to­ry includ­ed, will ben­e­fit from their break­neck overviews of entire art move­ments.

Take cubism.

The Tate Kids’ ani­ma­tion, above, pro­vides a sol­id if speedy overview, zip­ping through eight can­vas­es, six artists, and expla­na­tions of the move­men­t’s two phas­es — ana­lyt­i­cal and syn­thet­ic. (Three phas­es if you count Orphism, the abstract, cubist influ­enced paint­ing style mar­ried artists Robert and Sonia Delau­nay hatched around 1912.)

Giv­en the intend­ed audi­ence, the fond friend­ship between the fathers of cubism, Georges Braque and Pablo Picas­so looms large, with nary a peep about Picasso’s nar­cis­sism and misog­y­ny. And it must be said that the narrator’s tone grates a bit — a bit too loud, a bit too wowed.

The Impres­sion­ists come off as the real cool kids, with a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tor, and nifty col­lage ani­ma­tions that find Camille Pis­sar­ro throw­ing horns and a Mohawked Alfred Sis­ley as they reject the Salon’s insis­tence on “myths, bat­tles and paint­ings of impor­tant peo­ple.”

Their defi­ant spir­it is sup­port­ed by crit­i­cism that most def­i­nite­ly has not stood the test of time:

Pure evil! 


Like a mon­key has got hold of a box of paints!

Kid pre­sen­ters seize the con­trols for an intro­duc­tion to the mid-cen­tu­ry Japan­ese avant-garde move­ment, Gutai.

Their con­clu­sion?

Smash­ing things up is fun!

As are man­i­festos:

Let’s bid farewell to the hoax­es piled up on the altars and in the palaces, the draw­ing rooms and the antique shops…Lock up these corpses in the grave­yard!


Those who are poor­ly equipped to stom­ach the nar­ra­tors’ whizbang enthu­si­asm should take a restora­tive min­utes to vis­it the muse­um oranges in hand, with 12-year-old Jae­da and 9‑year-old Fati­matu. Their calm will­ing­ness to engage with con­cep­tu­al art is a ton­ic:

When I start­ed art, I though art was just about mak­ing it per­fect, but you don’t have to care what oth­er peo­ple say. That could still mean an art to you.

Watch a Tate Kids Art Move­ments playlist on YouTube. Sup­ple­ment what you’ve learned with a host of Tate Kids activ­i­ties, col­or­ing pages, games, quizzes, artist bios and a gallery of crowd­sourced kid art.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Tate Dig­i­tizes 70,000 Works of Art: Pho­tos, Sketch­books, Let­ters & More

Watch the Tate Mod­ern Restore Mark Rothko’s Van­dal­ized Paint­ing, Black on Maroon: 18 Months of Work Con­densed Into 17 Min­utes

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

- 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.

Watch 11-Year-Old Billy Preston Duet with Nat King Cole: A Star is Born (1957)

The Bea­t­les aren’t the only fab tal­ents caus­ing a stir in the recent­ly released Bea­t­les doc­u­men­tary, Get Back.

As has been wide­ly not­ed, soul singer Bil­ly Pre­ston lights up every scene he’s in.

One of the 60’s finest ses­sion key­boardists, Pre­ston con­tributed to the Bea­t­les’ Let It Be and Abbey Road albums, and joined them for their famous final gig on the roof of Apple Records.

He also served as a lev­el­ing influ­ence when ten­sions with­in the band fre­quent­ly explod­ed into fits of tem­per.

“It’s inter­est­ing to see how nice­ly peo­ple behave when you bring a guest in,” George Har­ri­son observed.

In addi­tion to his suc­cess­ful solo career, with a num­ber of funk and R&B hits, Pre­ston gigged for a host of all time greats: Ray Charles, Lit­tle Richard, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones…the list goes on.

A child­hood prodi­gy who nev­er took a music les­son, by 10, he was back­ing gospel lumi­nar­ies like Mahalia Jack­sonJames Cleve­land, and Andraé Crouch.

A year lat­er, he entered America’s liv­ing rooms, when he appeared on The Nat King Cole Show, above, to duet with TV’s first nation­al Black vari­ety show host on “Blue­ber­ry Hill,” a 40s tune Fats Domi­no had pop­u­lar­ized ear­li­er in the decade.

“You have a very excel­lent career ahead of you,” Cole pre­dicts, fol­low­ing their per­for­mance.

Daugh­ter Natal­ie Cole lat­er enthused that the cel­e­brat­ed croon­er “lets this kid have all the glo­ry,” though the self-pos­sessed pre-teen holds his own ably, alter­nat­ing between organ and his own impres­sive pipes.

With­in the year, Cole and Pre­ston shared the big screen, and a mem­o­rable part, when they were cast as “The Father Of The Blues” W.C. Handy, as a child and adult, in the 1958 movie St Louis Blues.

As an adult, Pre­ston’s star was tar­nished by addic­tion, arrests and self-sab­o­tag­ing behav­ior that his man­ag­er, Joyce Moore, and half-sis­ter Let­tie, said was most deeply root­ed in his mother’s refusal to believe that he was being sex­u­al­ly abused by the pianist of a sum­mer tour­ing com­pa­ny, and lat­er a local pas­tor.

It’s part of a lurid, longer tale, call­ing to mind oth­er promis­ing, oft-prodi­gious young tal­ents who nev­er man­aged to get out from under dam­age inflict­ed by adults when they were chil­dren.

He was 9.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Paul McCart­ney Com­pose The Bea­t­les Clas­sic “Get Back” Out of Thin Air (1969)

The Bea­t­les’ 8 Pio­neer­ing Inno­va­tions: A Video Essay Explor­ing How the Fab Four Changed Pop Music

Is “Rain” the Per­fect Bea­t­les Song?: A New Video Explores the Rad­i­cal Inno­va­tions of the 1966 B‑Side

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.

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.

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