Watch an Enthusiast Drive the First Car Ever Made, the 1885 Mercedes Benz

In 1885, Karl Benz built what’s now con­sid­ered the first mod­ern auto­mo­bile. Accord­ing to the Mer­cedes Benz web­site, the car fea­tured a “com­pact high-speed sin­gle-cylin­der four-stroke engine installed hor­i­zon­tal­ly at the rear, a tubu­lar steel frame … and three wire-spoked wheels. The engine out­put was 0.75 hp (0.55 kW).” Two years after its inven­tion, Karl Ben­z’s wife Bertha proved that the car was ready for prime time, dri­ving her ear­ly Benz from Mannheim to Pforzheim. After that ground­break­ing dri­ve, the Benz went into pro­duc­tion, becom­ing the first com­mer­cial­ly avail­able auto­mo­bile in his­to­ry.

Above, you can watch a car enthu­si­ast known as “Mr. Benz” take the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry car for a spin. Below, watch a re-enact­ment of Bertha’s his­toric dri­ve.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent

The First 100 Years of the Bicy­cle: A 1915 Doc­u­men­tary Shows How the Bike Went from Its Clunky Birth in 1818, to Its Endur­ing Design in 1890

178,000 Images Doc­u­ment­ing the His­to­ry of the Car Now Avail­able on a New Stan­ford Web Site

A Fly­ing Car Took to the Skies Back in 1949: See the Tay­lor Aero­car in Action



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Read the Uncompromising Letter That Steve Albini (RIP) Wrote to Nirvana Before Producing In Utero (1993)

Today, Steve Albi­ni, the musi­cian and pro­duc­er of impor­tant albums by Nir­vana, PJ Har­vey, the Pix­ies and many oth­ers, passed away in Chica­go, at the all-too-ear­ly age of 61. In trib­ute, we’re bring­ing you this clas­sic 2013 post from our archive. 

Jour­ney­man record pro­duc­er Steve Albi­ni (he prefers to be called a “record­ing engi­neer”) is per­haps the cranki­est man in rock. This is not an effect of age. He’s always been that way, since the emer­gence of his scary, no-frills post-punk band Big Black and lat­er projects Rape­man and Shel­lac. In his cur­rent role as elder states­man of indie rock and more, Chicago’s Albi­ni has devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as kind of a hardass. He’s also a con­sum­mate pro­fes­sion­al who musi­cians want to know and work with. From the sound of the Pix­ies’ Surfer Rosa to Joan­na Newsom’s Ys, Albi­ni has had a hand in some of the defin­ing albums of the last thir­ty plus years, and there is good rea­son for that: noth­ing sounds like an Albi­ni record. His method is all his own, and his results—minimalist, dynam­ic, and raw—are impos­si­ble to argue with.

So when Nir­vana embarked on record­ing their final, painful (in hind­sight) album In Utero, they asked Albi­ni to steer them away from the more major-label sound of the break­out Nev­er­mind, pro­duced by Butch Vig. True to form, the typ­i­cal­ly ver­bose Albi­ni sent a four-page typed let­ter in response. The let­ter (first page above—see the rest here) is a tes­ta­ment to per­haps the most thought­ful pro­duc­er since Quin­cy Jones and lays out Albini’s phi­los­o­phy in very fine detail. Two sam­ple para­graphs serve as a the­sis:

I’m only inter­est­ed in work­ing on records that legit­i­mate­ly reflect the band’s own per­cep­tion of their music and exis­tence. If you will com­mit your­selves to that as a tenet of the record­ing method­ol­o­gy, then I will bust my ass for you. I’ll work cir­cles around you. I’ll rap your head with a ratch­et…

I have worked on hun­dreds of records (some great, some good, some hor­ri­ble, a lot in the court­yard), and I have seen a direct cor­re­la­tion between the qual­i­ty of the end result and the mood of the band through­out the process. If the record takes a long time, and every­one gets bummed and scru­ti­nizes every step, then the record­ings bear lit­tle resem­blance to the live band, and the end result is sel­dom flat­ter­ing. Mak­ing punk records is def­i­nite­ly a case where more “work” does not imply a bet­ter end result. Clear­ly you have learned this your­selves and appre­ci­ate the log­ic.

Albi­ni decries any inter­fer­ence from the “front office bul­let­heads,” or record com­pa­ny execs (his feuds with such peo­ple are leg­endary), and makes it quite clear that he’s there to serve the inter­ests of the band and their sound, not the prod­uct of a mar­ket­ing cam­paign. While Albi­ni has issued many a surly man­i­festo over the years, this state­ment of his craft is maybe the most com­pre­hen­sive. He is dri­ven by what he calls a “kin­ship” with the bands he works with. And his pas­sion­ate com­mit­ment to musi­cians and to qual­i­ty sound makes him one of the most artis­ti­cal­ly vir­tu­ous peo­ple work­ing in pop­u­lar music today. For more on In Utero, read Dave Grohl’s Rolling Stone inter­view here. Below, see Dave Grohl, Krist Novosel­ic and Steve Albi­ni dis­cuss the now-famous let­ter to Nir­vana.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Music Pro­duc­er Steve Albi­ni, Direc­tor God­frey Reg­gio & Actor Fred Armisen Explain Why Cre­at­ing Is Cru­cial to Human Exis­tence

An Awkward/NSFW Inter­view with Nir­vana Pro­duc­er Steve Albi­ni (Plus B‑52 Front­man Fred Schnei­der)

Vis­it “Mar­i­o­batal­ivoice,” the Cook­ing Blog by Steve Albi­ni, Musi­cian & Record Pro­duc­er

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

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Watch Animations Showing How Humans Migrated Across the World Over the Past 60,000 Years

Ex Africa sem­per aliq­uid novi. Attrib­uted to var­i­ous lumi­nar­ies of antiq­ui­ty, that say­ing (the prob­a­ble inspi­ra­tion for Isak Dine­sen’s poem “Ex Africa,” itself the prob­a­ble inspi­ra­tion for her mem­oir Out of Africa, which in turn was loose­ly adapt­ed into Syd­ney Pol­lack­’s Oscar-lav­ished film) trans­lates to “Out of Africa, always some­thing new.” But it’s per­haps more notable that out of Africa came some­thing quite old indeed: humankind itself, which over the past 60,000 years has been spread­ing ever far­ther across the world. You can see how it hap­pened in the Insid­er Sci­ence video above, which ani­mates those 60 mil­len­nia of glob­al migra­tion in less than two and a half min­utes.

For more detail, con­sid­er sup­ple­ment­ing that video with this one from GeoNo­mad, which tracks the out­ward expan­sion of human­i­ty through DNA research. “Sci­en­tif­ic research has shown that the 7.5 bil­lion peo­ple who occu­py the earth today are the descen­dants of a woman who lived 200,000 years ago,” explains its nar­ra­tion.

“Sci­en­tists call her Mito­chon­dr­i­al Eve,” in ref­er­ence to the DNA locat­ed in mito­chon­dria, a type of ener­gy-pro­duc­ing organelle known as “the pow­er­house of the cell.” Both male and female humans pos­sess mito­chon­dr­i­al DNA, of course, but only female mito­chon­dr­i­al DNA pass­es down to off­spring; hence our not talk­ing about a Mito­chon­dr­i­al Adam.

DNA map­ping has allowed us to trace the genet­ic and geo­graph­i­cal his­to­ry of the Mito­chon­dr­i­al Eve’s descen­dants. Some left for oth­er parts of Africa, and oth­ers for what we now know as the Mid­dle East and India. Whether by wan­der­lust or neces­si­ty — and giv­en the har­row­ing con­di­tions implied by their low sur­vival rate, the lat­ter prob­a­bly had more to do with it — cer­tain groups con­tin­ued on to mod­ern-day south­east Asia and Aus­tralia. It was through west­ern Asia that the first humans entered nean­derthal-pop­u­lat­ed Europe as ear­ly as 56,800 years ago. There, some 546 cen­turies lat­er, Ter­ence would write, “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”: a dec­la­ra­tion per­haps made in the sus­pi­cion that, when you go back far enough, we’re all one big fam­i­ly.

Relat­ed con­tent:

New Study Finds That Humans Are 33,000 Years Old­er Than We Thought

How Humans Migrat­ed Across The Globe Over 200,000 Years: An Ani­mat­ed Look

Where Did Human Beings Come From? 7 Mil­lion Years of Human Evo­lu­tion Visu­al­ized in Six Min­utes

The His­to­ry of the World in One Video: Every Year from 200,000 BCE to Today

Hear What the Lan­guage Spo­ken by Our Ances­tors 6,000 Years Ago Might Have Sound­ed Like: A Recon­struc­tion of the Pro­to-Indo-Euro­pean Lan­guage

Cats Migrat­ed to Europe 7,000 Years Ear­li­er Than Once Thought

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.

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

On August 16, 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hof­mann was syn­the­siz­ing a new com­pound called lyser­gic acid diethy­lamide-25 when he got a cou­ple of drops on his fin­ger. The chem­i­cal, lat­er known world­wide as LSD, absorbed into his sys­tem, and, soon after, he expe­ri­enced an intense state of altered con­scious­ness. In oth­er words, he tripped.

Intrigued by the expe­ri­ence, Hof­mann dosed him­self with 250 micro­grams of LSD and then biked his way home through the streets of Basel, mak­ing him the first per­son ever to inten­tion­al­ly drop acid. The event was lat­er com­mem­o­rat­ed by psy­cho­nauts and LSD enthu­si­asts as “Bicy­cle Day.”

Ital­ian ani­ma­tors Loren­zo Veraci­ni, Nan­di­ni Nam­biar and Mar­co Avo­let­ta imag­ine what Hof­mann might have seen dur­ing his his­toric jour­ney in their 2008 short A Bicy­cle Trip.

The film shows Hof­mann rid­ing through the Swiss medieval town as he sees visions like a trail of flow­ers com­ing off a woman in red, cob­ble­stones com­ing alive and scur­ry­ing away, and a whole for­est becom­ing trans­par­ent before the mar­veling scientist’s eyes. The film also shows Hof­mann slam­ming into a fence, illus­trat­ing why it’s nev­er a good idea to dri­ve under the influ­ence of hal­lu­cino­gens.

After his ear­ly exper­i­ments, Albert Hof­mann became con­vinced that LSD is not only a pow­er­ful poten­tial treat­ment for the men­tal­ly ill but also a valu­able bridge between the spir­i­tu­al and the sci­en­tif­ic. He called the sub­stance “med­i­cine for the soul.”

If you’re inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about the tur­bu­lent his­to­ry of the drug, check out below the 2002 doc­u­men­tary Hofmann’s Potion, by Cana­di­an film­mak­er Con­nie Lit­tle­field, which traces Hofmann’s inven­tion from being a promis­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment, to coun­ter­cul­ture sym­bol, to banned sub­stance. The 56-minute doc fea­tures footage and inter­views with such psy­che­del­ic lumi­nar­ies as Aldous Hux­ley, Stanislav Grof, Richard Alpert (AKA Ram Dass) along with Hof­mann him­self.

Hof­mann was always uncom­fort­able with the casu­al way the ‘60s coun­ter­cul­ture used his inven­tion. “[LSD] is not just fun,” he says in Littlefield’s movie.  “It is a very seri­ous exper­i­ment.”

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her at @jonccrow.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Artist Draws Nine Por­traits on LSD Dur­ing 1950s Research Exper­i­ment

Aldous Huxley’s LSD Death Trip

Take a Trip to the LSD Muse­um, the Largest Col­lec­tion of “Blot­ter Art” in the World

Download 131,000 Historic Maps from the Huge David Rumsey Map Collection

The world has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the past 500 years, albeit not quite as dra­mat­i­cal­ly as how we see the world. That’s just what’s on dis­play at the David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion, whose more than 131,000 his­tor­i­cal maps and relat­ed images are avail­able to browse (or down­load) free online. Since we last fea­tured it here on Open Cul­ture, the col­lec­tion has added at least 40,000 items to its dig­i­tal hold­ings, mak­ing it an even more valu­able resource for not just under­stand­ing how human­i­ty has viewed the world through­out the ages, but how we’ve imag­ined it — and, for that mat­ter, how we’ve imag­ined oth­er worlds from Mars to Nar­nia to Kryp­ton.

“Imag­i­nary maps” is just one of the cat­e­gories through which you can explore the David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion. There are also tags for news­pa­per maps, time­lines, city maps, celes­tial maps, data visu­al­iza­tions, chil­dren’s maps, and more vari­eties besides.

If you’d pre­fer a more tra­di­tion­al form of orga­ni­za­tion, you can search for maps of spe­cif­ic geo­graph­i­cal regions: North Amer­i­caSouth Amer­i­caEurope, Asia, Africa, Aus­tralia, Antarc­ti­ca, the Pacif­ic, the Arc­tic, and of course, the world. If it’s the last item you’re inter­est­ed in, apart from the con­sid­er­able two-dimen­sion­al hold­ings, the inter­ac­tive globes con­sti­tute a gallery of their own, and there you can view ones made between the mid-six­teenth cen­tu­ry and just last year from every pos­si­ble angle.

Among the site’s new fea­tures is a “search by text-on-maps” fea­ture, which you can acti­vate by click­ing the “by Text on Maps” but­ton next to the search win­dow at the top of the page. This lets you com­pare and con­trast the ways par­tic­u­lar places have been labeled on the vari­ety of maps in the col­lec­tion: not just prop­er names like Cairo, Madrid, and Yosemite, but also more gen­er­al terms like “gold mine,” “light­house” or “drag­ons.” Arguably, we look at maps more often here in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry than we ever did before, though sel­dom if ever do we depart from whichev­er map­ping app we hap­pen to keep on our phones. It’s worth step­ping back in car­to­graph­i­cal time to remem­ber that there were once as many ways of under­stand­ing the world as there were depic­tions of it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Oculi Mun­di: A Beau­ti­ful Online Archive of 130 Ancient Maps, Atlases & Globes

40,000 Ear­ly Mod­ern Maps Are Now Freely Avail­able Online (Cour­tesy of the British Library)

Ancient Maps that Changed the World: See World Maps from Ancient Greece, Baby­lon, Rome, and the Islam­ic World

An Archive of 800+ Imag­i­na­tive Pro­pa­gan­da Maps Designed to Shape Opin­ions & Beliefs: Enter Cornell’s Per­sua­sive Maps Col­lec­tion

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.

4 Franz Kafka Animations: Watch Creative Animated Shorts from Poland, Japan, Russia & Canada

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guat­tari thought of Kaf­ka as an inter­na­tion­al writer, in sol­i­dar­i­ty with minor­i­ty groups world­wide. Oth­er schol­ars have char­ac­ter­ized his work—and Kaf­ka him­self wrote as much—as lit­er­a­ture con­cerned with nation­al iden­ti­ty. Aca­d­e­m­ic debates, how­ev­er, have no bear­ing on how ordi­nary read­ers, and writ­ers, around the world take in Kafka’s nov­els and short sto­ries. Writ­ers with both nation­al and inter­na­tion­al pedi­grees such as Borges, Muraka­mi, Mar­quez, and Nabokov have drawn much inspi­ra­tion from the Czech-Jew­ish writer, as have film­mak­ers and ani­ma­tors. Today we revis­it sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al ani­ma­tions inspired by Kaf­ka, the first, above by Pol­ish ani­ma­tor Piotr Dumala.

Trained a sculp­tor, Dumala’s tex­tur­al brand of “destruc­tive ani­ma­tion” cre­ates chill­ing, high con­trast images that appro­pri­ate­ly cap­ture the eerie and unre­solved play of light and dark in Kafka’s work. The Pol­ish artist’s Franz Kaf­ka (1992) draws on scenes from the author’s life, as told in his diaries.

Next, watch a very dis­ori­ent­ing 2007 Japan­ese adap­ta­tion of Kafka’s “A Coun­try Doc­tor” by ani­ma­tor Koji Yama­mu­ra. The sound­track and monot­o­ne Japan­ese dia­logue (with sub­ti­tles) effec­tive­ly con­veys the tone of the sto­ry, which John Updike described as “a sen­sa­tion of anx­i­ety and shame whose cen­ter can­not be locat­ed and there­fore can­not be pla­cat­ed; a sense of an infi­nite dif­fi­cul­ty with things, imped­ing every step.” Read the orig­i­nal sto­ry here.

Russ­ian-Amer­i­can team Alexan­der Alex­eieff and Claire Park­er cre­at­ed the 1963 ani­ma­tion above using a “pin­screen” tech­nique, which pho­tographs the three-dimen­sion­al move­ment of hun­dreds of pins, mak­ing images from real light and shad­ow. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten on just “how demand­ing and painstak­ing an effort” the ani­ma­tors made to cre­ate their work. Their pre­vi­ous efforts got the atten­tion of Orson Welles, who com­mis­sioned the above short as a pro­logue for his Antho­ny Perkins-star­ring film ver­sion of The Tri­al. And yes, that voice you hear nar­rat­ing the para­ble “Before the Law,” an excerpt from Kafka’s nov­el, is Welles him­self.

Kafka’s most famous sto­ry, The Meta­mor­pho­sis, inspired Cana­di­an ani­ma­tor Car­o­line Leaf’s 1977 film above. Leaf’s Kaf­ka ani­ma­tion also takes a sculp­tur­al approach to the author’s work, this time sculpt­ing in sand, a medi­um Leaf her­self says cre­at­ed “black and white sand images” with “the poten­tial to have a Kaf­ka-esque feel—dark and mys­te­ri­ous.” How­ev­er we inter­pret the con­tent of Kafka’s work, the feel of his sto­ries is unmis­tak­able to read­ers and inter­preters across con­ti­nents. It’s one that con­sis­tent­ly inspires artists to use a spare, high con­trast style in adapt­ing him.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vladimir Nabokov (Chan­nelled by Christo­pher Plum­mer) Teach­es Kaf­ka at Cor­nell

Hunter S. Thomp­son and Franz Kaf­ka Inspire Ani­ma­tion for a Book­store Ben­e­fit­ing Oxfam

Kafka’s Famous Char­ac­ter Gre­gor Sam­sa Meets Dr. Seuss in a Great Radio Play

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

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What Is Religion Actually For?: Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury Weigh In

In the nine­teen-six­ties, the music media encour­aged the notion that a young rock-and-roll fan had to side with either the Bea­t­les or their rivals, the Rolling Stones. On some lev­el, it must have made sense, giv­en the grow­ing aes­thet­ic divide between the music the two world-famous groups were putting out. But, at bot­tom, not only was there no rival­ry between the bands (it was an inven­tion of the music papers), there was no real need, of course, to choose one or the oth­er. In the fifties, some­thing of the same dynam­ic must have obtained between Ray Brad­bury and Isaac Asi­mov, two pop­u­lar genre writ­ers, each with his own world­view.

Brad­bury and Asi­mov had much in com­mon: both were (prob­a­bly) born in 1920, both attend­ed the very first World Sci­ence Fic­tion Con­ven­tion in 1939, both began pub­lish­ing in pulp mag­a­zines in the for­ties, and both had an aver­sion to air­planes. That Brad­bury spent most of his life in Cal­i­for­nia and Asi­mov in New York made for a poten­tial­ly inter­est­ing cul­tur­al con­trast, though it nev­er seems to have been played up. Still, it may explain some­thing of the basic dif­fer­ence between the two writ­ers as it comes through in the video above, a com­pi­la­tion of talk-show clips in which Brad­bury and Asi­mov respond to ques­tions about their reli­gious beliefs, or lack there­of.

Asi­mov may have writ­ten a guide to the Bible, but he was hard­ly a lit­er­al­ist, call­ing the first chap­ters of Gen­e­sis “the sixth-cen­tu­ry BC ver­sion of how the world might have start­ed. We’ve improved on that since. I don’t believe that those are God’s words. Those are the words of men, try­ing to make the most sense that they could out of the infor­ma­tion they had at the time.” In a lat­er clip, Brad­bury, for his part, con­fess­es to a belief in not just Gen­e­sis, but also Dar­win and even Jean-Bap­tiste Lamar­ck, who the­o­rized that char­ac­ter­is­tics acquired in an organ­is­m’s life­time could be passed down to the next gen­er­a­tion. “Noth­ing is proven,” he declares, “so there’s room for a reli­gious del­i­catessen.”

One sens­es that Asi­mov would­n’t have agreed, and indeed, would have been per­fect­ly sat­is­fied with a reg­u­lar del­i­catessen. Though both he and Brad­bury became famous as sci­ence-fic­tion writ­ers around the same time — to say noth­ing of their copi­ous writ­ing in oth­er gen­res — they pos­sessed high­ly dis­tinct imag­i­na­tions. That works like Fahren­heit 451 and the Foun­da­tion tril­o­gy attract­ed such dif­fer­ent read­er­ships is explic­a­ble in part through Brad­bury’s insis­tence that “there’s room to believe it all” and Asi­mov’s dis­missal of what he saw as every “get-rich quick scheme of the mind” ped­dled by “con men of the spir­it”: each point of view as thor­ough­ly Amer­i­can, in its way, as the Bea­t­les and the Stones were thor­ough­ly Eng­lish.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: A Wit­ty, Eru­dite Atheist’s Guide to the World’s Most Famous Book

Ray Brad­bury Explains Why Lit­er­a­ture is the Safe­ty Valve of Civ­i­liza­tion (in Which Case We Need More Lit­er­a­ture!)

Isaac Asi­mov Explains His Three Laws of Robots

Carl Sagan Answers the Ulti­mate Ques­tion: Is There a God? (1994)

50 Famous Aca­d­e­mics & Sci­en­tists Talk About God

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.

Leonard Bernstein Introduces the Moog Synthesizer to the World in 1969, Playing an Electrified Version of Bach’s “Little Fugue in G”

When Wendy Car­los released Switched-On Bach in 1968, her “great­est hits” com­pi­la­tion of the Baroque composer’s music, played entire­ly on the Moog ana­log syn­the­siz­er, the album became an imme­di­ate hit with both clas­si­cal and pop audi­ences. Not only was it “acclaimed as real music by musi­cians and the lis­ten­ing pub­lic alike,” as Bob Moog him­self has writ­ten, but “as a result, the Moog Syn­the­siz­er was sud­den­ly accept­ed with open arms by the music busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty.” There’s some exag­ger­a­tion here. Stars like the Doors, the Mon­kees, and the Byrds had already record­ed with Moogs the year before. And some clas­si­cal purists (and clas­si­cal Lud­dites) did not, in fact, hail Switched-On Bach as “real music.”

But on the whole, Carlos’s inno­v­a­tive demon­stra­tion of the elec­tron­ic instrument’s capa­bil­i­ties (and her own) marks a mile­stone in music his­to­ry as the first clas­si­cal album to go Plat­inum, and as the first intro­duc­tion of both Baroque music and the Moog syn­the­siz­er to mil­lions of peo­ple unfa­mil­iar with either.

Were it not for Carlos’s “use of the Moog’s oscil­la­tions, squeaks, drones, chirps, and oth­er sounds,” as Bruce Eder writes at All­mu­sic, it’s unlike­ly we would have the video clip above, of Leonard Bern­stein giv­ing his own demon­stra­tion of the Moog (dig his hip “HAL” ref­er­ence from the pri­or year’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), dur­ing one of his pop­u­lar tele­vised “Young People’s Con­certs.”

Hav­ing just begun mov­ing out of the stu­dio, the Moog was still a col­lec­tion of mod­u­lar box­es and patch cables—an engineer’s instrument—and it takes four men to wheel it out on stage. (The eas­i­ly portable, self-con­tained Min­i­moog wouldn’t appear until 1970.) Most peo­ple had no idea what a Moog actu­al­ly looked like. But, its for­bid­ding appear­ance aside, the sounds of the Moog were every­where.

Bern­stein men­tions Car­los, and those stuffy purists, and makes a few more sci-fi jokes, then, instead of sit­ting at the key­board, hits play on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. This pre-record­ed ver­sion of Bach’s “Lit­tle Fugue in G” was actu­al­ly arranged by Wal­ter Sear, and the record­ing lacks some of the panache of Carlos’s play­ing while the tin­ny play­back sys­tem makes it sound like 8‑bit video game music. But for this audi­ence, the musi­cal wiz­ard­ly was still decid­ed­ly fresh.

The choice of Bach as Moog mate­r­i­al was not just a mat­ter of taste—his music was unique­ly suit­ed for Moog adap­ta­tion. As Car­los explains, “it was con­tra­pun­tal (not chords but musi­cal lines, like the Moog pro­duced), it used clean, Baroque lines, not demand­ing great ‘expres­si­vo’ (a weak­ness in the Moog at the time), and it was neu­tral as to orches­tra­tion.” The Moog could also, it seems, make Bach’s fugues fly at almost super­hu­man speeds. Hear the “Lit­tle Fugue” played at a much more state­ly tem­po, on a tra­di­tion­al pipe organ, fur­ther up, and hear it break into a run in the majes­tic per­for­mance just above.

Organs and harp­si­chords, strings and horns, these are still of course the instru­ments we think of when we think of Bach. Despite Carlos’s inven­tive foray—and its fol­low-up, The Well-Tem­pered Syn­the­siz­erthe syn­the­siz­er did not rad­i­cal­ize the clas­si­cal music world, though its avant-garde off­spring made much use of it. But it sure changed the sound of pop music, and wowed the kids who saw Bernstein’s pro­gram, some of whom may have gone on to pop­u­lar­ize both elec­tron­ic instru­ments and clas­si­cal themes in prog-rock, dis­co, and yes, even video game music.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Moog Syn­the­siz­er Changed the Sound of Music

A BBC Sci­ence Show Intro­duces the Moog Syn­the­siz­er in 1969

Bob Moog Demon­strates His Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moog Mod­el D Syn­the­siz­er

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

High-Tech Analysis of Ancient Scroll Reveals Plato’s Burial Site and Final Hours

Even if you can name only one ancient Greek, you can name Pla­to. You can also prob­a­bly say at least a lit­tle about him, if only some of the things human­i­ty has known since antiq­ui­ty. Until recent­ly, of course, that qual­i­fi­ca­tion would have been redun­dant. But now, thanks to an ongo­ing high-tech push to read hereto­fore inac­ces­si­ble ancient doc­u­ments, we’re wit­ness­ing the emer­gence of new knowl­edge about that most famous of all Greek philoso­phers — or at least one of the most famous Greek philoso­phers, matched in renown only by his teacher Socrates and his stu­dent Aris­to­tle.

Up until now, we’ve only had a gen­er­al idea of where Pla­to was interred after his death in 348 BC. But “thanks to an ancient text and spe­cial­ized scan­ning tech­nol­o­gy,” writes’s Son­ja Ander­son, “researchers say they have solved the mys­tery of Plato’s bur­ial place: The Greek philoso­pher was interred in the gar­den of his Athens acad­e­my, where he once tutored a young Aris­to­tle.” This loca­tion was record­ed about two mil­len­nia ago “on a papyrus scroll housed in the Roman city of Her­cu­la­neum,” which was entombed along with Pom­peii by the explo­sion of Mount Vesu­vius in 79 AD.

Like much else in those cities, this scroll was pre­served for cen­turies under lay­ers of ash. It was just one of many scrolls dis­cov­ered in a vil­la, which may have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, back in 1750. But for long there­after, those scrolls were more or less unread­able, hav­ing been so thor­ough­ly charred by the explo­sion of Mount Vesu­vius that they crum­bled to dust at any attempt to unroll them. But “recent break­throughs have allowed researchers to read the frag­ile texts with­out touch­ing them”: wit­ness the projects involv­ing par­ti­cle accel­er­a­tors and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture.

The research project that has deci­phered part of this scroll, a text by the philoso­pher Philode­mus called the His­to­ry of the Acad­e­my — that is, Pla­to’s acad­e­my in Athens — is led by Uni­ver­si­ty of Pisa pro­fes­sor of papy­rol­o­gy Graziano Ranoc­chia. Using a “bion­ic eye” tech­nique involv­ing infrared and X‑ray scan­ners, he and his team have also dis­cov­ered evi­dence that Pla­to did­n’t much like the music played at his deathbed by a Thra­cian slave girl. “Despite bat­tling a fever and being on the brink of death,” writes the Guardian’s Loren­zo Ton­do, he “retained enough lucid­i­ty to cri­tique the musi­cian for her lack of rhythm.” Even if you know lit­tle about Pla­to, you’re prob­a­bly not sur­prised to hear that he was point­ing out the dif­fer­ence between the real and the ide­al up until the very end.

via Smith­son­ian Mag

Relat­ed con­tent:

Researchers Use AI to Decode the First Word on an Ancient Scroll Burned by Vesu­vius

How Ancient Scrolls, Charred by the Erup­tion of Mount Vesu­vius in 79 AD, Are Now Being Read by Par­ti­cle Accel­er­a­tors, 3D Mod­el­ing & Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

2,000-Year-Old Man­u­script of the Ten Com­mand­ments Gets Dig­i­tized: See/Download “Nash Papyrus” in High Res­o­lu­tion

Orson Welles Nar­rates an Ani­ma­tion of Plato’s Cave Alle­go­ry

Plato’s Dia­logue Gor­gias Gets Adapt­ed into a Short Avant-Garde Film

How 99% of Ancient Lit­er­a­ture Was Lost

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.

RIP Paul Auster: Hear the Master of the Postmodern Page-Turner Discuss How He Became a Writer

In the Louisiana Chan­nel inter­view clip from 2017 above, the late Paul Auster tells the sto­ry of how he became a writer. Its first episode had appeared more than twen­ty years ear­li­er, in a New York­er piece titled “Why Write?”: “I was eight years old. At that moment in my life, noth­ing was more impor­tant to me than base­ball.” After the first big-league game he ever went to see, the New York Giants ver­sus the Mil­wau­kee Braves at the Polo Grounds, he came face-to-face with a leg­end-to-be named Willie Mays. “I man­aged to keep my legs mov­ing in his direc­tion and then, mus­ter­ing every ounce of my courage, I forced some words out of my mouth. ‘Mr. Mays,’ I said, ‘could I please have your auto­graph?’ ”

Mays says yes, but there was a prob­lem: “I didn’t have a pen­cil, so I asked my father if I could bor­row his. He didn’t have one, either. Nor did my moth­er. Nor, as it turned out, did any of the oth­er grownups.” Even­tu­al­ly, the young Auster’s idol “turned to me and shrugged. ‘Sor­ry, kid,’ he said. ‘Ain’t got no pen­cil, can’t give no auto­graph.’ And then he walked out of the ball­park into the night.” From that point on, as the mid­dle-aged Auster tells it, “it became a habit of mine nev­er to leave the house with­out mak­ing sure I had a pen­cil in my pock­et.” Even in this child­hood anec­dote, read­ers will rec­og­nize some of Auster’s sig­na­ture ele­ments: the icons of mid-cen­tu­ry New York, the life-chang­ing chance encounter, the state of bit­ter regret.

But it takes more than a pen­cil to become a writer. “The thing about doing this, which is unlike any oth­er job, is that you have to give max­i­mum effort, all the time,” Auster says. “You have to give every ounce of your being to what you’re doing, and I don’t think there are many jobs that require that. You see lazy lawyers, lazy doc­tors, lazy judges. They can get through things. You even see lazy ath­letes.” But “you can’t be a writer or a painter or a musi­cian unless you make max­i­mum effort.” Even after pro­duc­ing noth­ing usable in one of his usu­al eight-hour writ­ing shifts, “I can at least stand up and say, at the end of the day, I gave it every­thing I had. I tried 100 per­cent. And there’s some­thing sat­is­fy­ing about that, just try­ing as hard as you can to do some­thing.”

There’s some­thing thor­ough­ly Amer­i­can about these words, as indeed there’s some­thing thor­ough­ly Amer­i­can about Auster’s twen­ty post­mod­ern page-turn­ers (to say noth­ing of his many vol­umes of non­fic­tion and poet­ry). Yet he also had one foot in France, where he lived in the ear­ly nine­teen-sev­en­ties, and sev­er­al of whose respect­ed writ­ers — Sartre, Mal­lar­mé, Blan­chot — he trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish. He gained his first and most fer­vent fan­base there, becom­ing a beloved écrivain amer­i­can of long stand­ing. The announce­ment of his death on April 30th must have set off some­thing like a nation­al day of mourn­ing, and an occa­sion to remem­ber what he once said to France Inter: just as a writer should always car­ry a pen­cil, “cha­cun doit être prêt à mourir n’im­porte quand.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear Paul Auster Read the Entire­ty of The Red Note­book, an Ear­ly Col­lec­tion of Sto­ries

Paul Auster Reads from New Nov­el Sun­set Park

Read and Hear Famous Writ­ers (and Arm­chair Sports­men) J. M. Coet­zee and Paul Auster’s Cor­re­spon­dence

Philip Roth Pre­dicts the Death of the Nov­el; Paul Auster Coun­ters

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.

Artist Draws 9 Portraits on LSD During 1950s Research Experiment

Dur­ing the 1950s, a researcher gave an artist two 50-micro­gram dos­es of LSD (each dose sep­a­rat­ed by about an hour), and then the artist was encour­aged to draw pic­tures of the doc­tor who admin­is­tered the drugs. Nine por­traits were drawn over the space of eight hours. We still don’t know the iden­ti­ty of the artist. But it’s sur­mised that the researcher was Oscar Janiger, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Irvine psy­chi­a­trist known for his work on LSD.

The web site Live Sci­ence has Andrew Sewell, a Yale Psy­chi­a­try pro­fes­sor (until his recent death), on record say­ing: “I believe the pic­tures are from an exper­i­ment con­duct­ed by the psy­chi­a­trist Oscar Janiger start­ing in 1954 and con­tin­u­ing for sev­en years, dur­ing which time he gave LSD to over 100 pro­fes­sion­al artists and mea­sured its effects on their artis­tic out­put and cre­ative abil­i­ty. Over 250 draw­ings and paint­ings were pro­duced.” The goal, of course, was to inves­ti­gate what hap­pens to sub­jects under the influ­ence of psy­che­del­ic drugs. Dur­ing the exper­i­ment, the artist explained how he felt as he worked on each sketch. You can watch how things unfold­ed below (or above):

20 Min­utes After First Dose. Artist Claims to Feel Nor­mal

5IOEa - Imgur

85 Min­utes After First Dose: Artist Says “I can see you clear­ly. I’m hav­ing a lit­tle trou­ble con­trol­ling this pen­cil.”

dyR0C - Imgur

2 hours 30 min­utes after first dose. “I feel as if my con­scious­ness is sit­u­at­ed in the part of my body that’s now active — my hand, my elbow… my tongue.”

jyr3B - Imgur

2 hours 32 min­utes: ‘I’m try­ing anoth­er draw­ing… The out­line of my hand is going weird too. It’s not a very good draw­ing is it?”

MUu3y - Imgur

2 hours 35 min­utes: Patient fol­lows quick­ly with anoth­er draw­ing. ‘I’ll do a draw­ing in one flour­ish… with­out stop­ping… one line, no break!”

H0Uxo - Imgur

2 hours 45 min­utes: Agi­tat­ed patient says “I am… every­thing is… changed… they’re call­ing… your face… inter­wo­ven… who is…” He changes medi­um to Tem­pera.


4 hours 25 min­utes: After tak­ing a break, the patient changes to pen and water col­or. “This will be the best draw­ing, like the first one, only bet­ter.”

eUdua - Imgur

5 hours 45 min­utes. “I think it’s start­ing to wear off. This pen­cil is mighty hard to hold.” (He is hold­ing a cray­on).

eUdua - Imgur

8 hours lat­er: The intox­i­ca­tion has worn off. Patient offers up a final draw­ing.

NGCEf - Imgur

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

The Pol­ish Artist Stanisław Witkiewicz Made Por­traits While On Dif­fer­ent Psy­choac­tive Drugs, and Not­ed the Drugs on Each Paint­ing

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

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