The Song From the 1500’s That Blows Rick Beato Away: An Introduction to John Dowland’s Entrancing Music

In 2006, Sting released an album called Songs from the Labyrinth, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bosn­ian lutenist Edin Kara­ma­zov con­sist­ing most­ly of com­po­si­tions by Renais­sance com­pos­er John Dow­land. This was regard­ed by some as rather eccen­tric, but to lis­ten­ers famil­iar with the ear­ly music revival that had already been going on for a few decades, it would have been almost too obvi­ous a choice. For Dow­land had long since been redis­cov­ered as one of the late six­teenth and ear­ly sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry’s musi­cal super­stars, thanks in part to the record­ings of clas­si­cal gui­tarist and lutenist Julian Bream.

“When I was a kid, I went to the pub­lic library in Fair­port, New York, where I’m from, and I got this Julian Bream record,” says music pro­duc­er and pop­u­lar Youtu­ber Rick Beato (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture) in the video above. Beato describes Bream as “one of the great­est clas­si­cal gui­tarists who ever lived” and cred­its him with hav­ing “pop­u­lar­ized the clas­si­cal gui­tar and the lute and renais­sance music.” The par­tic­u­lar Bream record­ing that impressed the young Beato was of a John Dow­land com­po­si­tion made exot­ic by dis­tance in time called “The Earl of Essex Gal­liard,” a per­for­mance of which you can watch on Youtube.

Half a cen­tu­ry lat­er, Beat­o’s enjoy­ment for this piece seems undi­min­ished — and indeed, so much in evi­dence that this prac­ti­cal­ly turns into a reac­tion video. Lis­ten­ing gets him rem­i­nisc­ing about his ear­ly Dow­land expe­ri­ences: “I would put on this Julian Bream record of him play­ing lute, just solo lute, and I would sit there and I would putt” — his father hav­ing been golf enthu­si­ast enough to have installed a small indoor putting green — and “imag­ine liv­ing back in the fif­teen-hun­dreds, what it would be like.” These pre­tend time-trav­el ses­sions matured into a gen­uine inter­est in ear­ly music, one he pur­sued at the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­to­ry of Music and beyond.

What a delight it would have been for him, then, to find that Sting had laid down his own ver­sion of “The Earl of Essex Gal­liard,” some­times oth­er­wise known as “Can She Excuse My Wrongs.” In one espe­cial­ly strik­ing sec­tion, Sting takes “the sopra­no-alto-tenor-bass part” and records the whole thing using only lay­ers of his own voice: “there’s four Stings here,” Beato says, refer­ring to the rel­e­vant dig­i­tal­ly manip­u­lat­ed scene in the music video, “but there’s actu­al­ly more than four voic­es.” Songs from the Labyrinth may only have been a mod­est­ly suc­cess­ful album by Sting’s stan­dards, but it has no doubt turned more than a few mid­dle-of-the-road pop fans onto the beau­ty of Eng­lish Renais­sance music. If Beat­o’s enthu­si­asm has also turned a few clas­sic-rock addicts into John Dow­land con­nois­seurs, so much the bet­ter.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The His­to­ry of the Gui­tar: See the Evo­lu­tion of the Gui­tar in 7 Instru­ments

Bach Played Beau­ti­ful­ly on the Baroque Lute, by Pre­em­i­nent Lutenist Evan­geli­na Mas­car­di

Watch All of Vivaldi’s Four Sea­sons Per­formed on Orig­i­nal Baroque Instru­ments

Hear Clas­sic Rock Songs Played on a Baroque Lute: “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps,” “White Room” & More

Renais­sance Knives Had Music Engraved on the Blades; Now Hear the Songs Per­formed by Mod­ern Singers

What Makes This Song Great?: Pro­duc­er Rick Beato Breaks Down the Great­ness of Clas­sic Rock Songs in His New Video Series

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Beautiful Art of Making Japanese Calligraphy Ink Out of Soot & Glue

Found­ed in 1577, Kobaien remains Japan’s old­est man­u­fac­tur­er of sumi ink sticks. Made of soot and ani­mal glue, the ink stick—when ground against an ink­stone, with a lit­tle water added—produces a beau­ti­ful black ink used by Japan­ese cal­lig­ra­phers. And, often, a 200-gram ink stick from Kobaien can cost over $1,000.

How can soot and ani­mal glue com­mand such a high price? As the Busi­ness Insid­er video above shows, there’s a fine art to mak­ing each ingredient—an art honed over the cen­turies. Watch­ing the arti­sans make the soot alone, you imme­di­ate­ly appre­ci­ate the com­plex­i­ty beneath the appar­ent sim­plic­i­ty. When you’re done watch­ing how the ink gets made, you’ll undoubt­ed­ly want to watch the arti­sans mak­ing cal­lig­ra­phy brush­es, an art form that has its own fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry. Enjoy!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Down­load 215,000 Japan­ese Wood­block Prints by Mas­ters Span­ning the Tradition’s 350-Year His­to­ry

Learn Cal­lig­ra­phy from Lloyd Reynolds, the Teacher of Steve Jobs’ Own Famous­ly Inspir­ing Cal­lig­ra­phy Teacher

The Mod­el Book of Cal­lig­ra­phy (1561–1596): A Stun­ning­ly Detailed Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­script Cre­at­ed over Three Decades

Hear the Evolution of Mozart’s Music, Composed from Ages 5 to 35

More than a quar­ter of a mil­len­ni­um after he com­posed his first pieces of music, dif­fer­ent lis­ten­ers will eval­u­ate dif­fer­ent­ly the spe­cif­ic nature of Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart’s genius. But one can hard­ly fail to be impressed by the fact that he wrote those works when he was five years old (or, as some schol­ars have it, four years old). It’s not unknown, even today, for pre­co­cious, musi­cal­ly inclined chil­dren of that age to sit down and put togeth­er sim­ple melodies, or even rea­son­ably com­plete songs. But how many of them can write some­thing like Mozart’s “Min­uet in G Major”?

The video above, which traces the evo­lu­tion of Mozart’s music, begins with that piece — nat­u­ral­ly enough, since it’s his ear­li­est known work, and thus hon­ored with the Köchel cat­a­logue num­ber of KV 1. There­after we hear music com­posed by Mozart at var­i­ous ages of child­hood, youth, ado­les­cence, and adult­hood, accom­pa­nied by a piano roll graph­ic that illus­trates its increas­ing com­plex­i­ty.

And as with com­plex­i­ty, so with famil­iar­i­ty: even lis­ten­ers who know lit­tle of Mozart’s work will sense the emer­gence of a dis­tinc­tive style, and even those who’ve bare­ly heard of Mozart will rec­og­nize “Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major” when it comes on.

Mozart com­posed that piece when he was 32 years old. It’s also known as the “Sonata facile” or “Sonata sem­plice,” despite its dis­tinct lack of eas­i­ness for novice (or even inter­me­di­ate) piano play­ers. It’s now cat­a­loged as KV 545, which puts it toward the end of Mozart’s oeu­vre, and indeed his life. Three years lat­er, the evo­lu­tion­ary lis­ten­ing jour­ney of this video arrives at the “Requiem in D minor,” which we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for its exten­sive cin­e­mat­ic use to evoke evil, lone­li­ness, des­per­a­tion, and reck­on­ing. The piece, KV 626, con­tains Mozart’s last notes; the unan­swer­able but nev­er­the­less irre­sistible ques­tion remains of whether they’re some­how implied in his first ones.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear All of Mozart in a Free 127-Hour Playlist

Hear the Pieces Mozart Com­posed When He Was Only Five Years Old

Read an 18th-Cen­tu­ry Eye­wit­ness Account of 8‑Year-Old Mozart’s Extra­or­di­nary Musi­cal Skills

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

What Movies Teach Us About Mozart: Explor­ing the Cin­e­mat­ic Uses of His Famous Lac­rimosa

See Mozart Played on Mozart’s Own Fortepi­ano, the Instru­ment That Most Authen­ti­cal­ly Cap­tures the Sound of His Music

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Radiohead’s “Creep” Sung by a 1,600-Person Choir in Australia

Every­body can sing. Maybe not well. But why should that stop you? That’s the basic phi­los­o­phy of Pub  Choir, an orga­ni­za­tion based in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia. At each Pub Choir event, a con­duc­tor “arranges a pop­u­lar song and teach­es it to the audi­ence in three-part har­mo­ny.” Then, the evening cul­mi­nates with a per­for­mance that gets filmed and shared on social media. Any­one (18+) is wel­come to attend.

Above, you can watch a Pub­Choir per­for­mance, with 1600 choir mem­bers singing a mov­ing ver­sion of Radio­head­’s “Creep.” On their YouTube chan­nel, you can also find Pub Choir per­for­mances of Cold­play’s “Yel­low,” Toto’s “Africa,” and The Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love.”

Find oth­er choir per­for­mances in the Relat­eds below.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent

A Big Choir Sings Pat­ti Smith’s “Because the Night”

A Choir with 1,000 Singers Pays Trib­ute to Sinéad O’Connor & Per­forms “Noth­ing Com­pares 2 U”

Watch David Byrne Lead a Mas­sive Choir in Singing David Bowie’s “Heroes”

Pat­ti Smith Sings “Peo­ple Have the Pow­er” with a Choir of 250 Fel­low Singers

The Oldest Known Photographs of India (1863–1870)

After about a cen­tu­ry of indi­rect com­pa­ny rule, India became a full-fledged British colony in 1858. The con­se­quences of this polit­i­cal devel­op­ment remain a mat­ter of heat­ed debate today, but one thing is cer­tain: it made India into a nat­ur­al des­ti­na­tion for enter­pris­ing Britons. Take the aspir­ing cler­gy­man turned Not­ting­ham bank employ­ee Samuel Bourne, who made his name as an ama­teur pho­tog­ra­ph­er with his pic­tures of the Lake Dis­trict in the late eigh­teen-fifties. When those works met with a good recep­tion at the Lon­don Inter­na­tion­al Exhi­bi­tion of 1862, Bourne real­ized that he’d found his true méti­er; soon there­after, he quit the bank and set sail for Cal­cut­ta to prac­tice it.

It was in the city of Shim­la that Bourne estab­lished a prop­er pho­to stu­dio, first with his fel­low pho­tog­ra­ph­er William Howard, then with anoth­er named Charles Shep­herd. (Bourne & Shep­herd, as it was even­tu­al­ly named, remained in busi­ness until 2016.) Bourne trav­eled exten­sive­ly in India, tak­ing the pic­tures you can see col­lect­ed in the video above, but it was his “three suc­ces­sive pho­to­graph­ic expe­di­tions to the Himalayas” that secured his place in the his­to­ry of pho­tog­ra­phy.

In the last of these, “Bourne enlist­ed a team of eighty porters who drove a live food sup­ply of sheep and goats and car­ried box­es of chem­i­cals, glass plates, and a portable dark­room tent,” says the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. When he crossed the Manirung Pass “at an ele­va­tion of 18,600 feet, Bourne suc­ceed­ed in tak­ing three views before the sky cloud­ed over, set­ting a record for pho­tog­ra­phy at high alti­tudes.”

Though he spent only six years in India, Bourne man­aged to take 2,200 high-qual­i­ty pic­tures in that time, some of the old­est — and indeed, some of the finest — pho­tographs of India and its near­by region known today.

In addi­tion to views of the Himalayas, he cap­tured no few archi­tec­tur­al won­ders: the Taj Mahal and the Ram­nathi tem­ple, of course, but also Raj-era cre­ations like what was then known as the Gov­ern­ment House in Cal­cut­ta (see below).

Colo­nial rule has been over for near­ly eighty years now, and in that time India has grown rich­er in every sense, not least visu­al­ly. It hard­ly takes an eye as keen as Bourne’s to rec­og­nize in it one of the world’s great civ­i­liza­tions, but a Bourne of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry prob­a­bly needs some­thing more than a cam­era phone to do it jus­tice.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The First Pho­to­graph Ever Tak­en (1826)

Some of the Old­est Pho­tos You Will Ever See: Dis­cov­er Pho­tographs of Greece, Egypt, Turkey & Oth­er Mediter­ranean Lands (1840s)

The Old­est Known Pho­tographs of Rome (1841–1871)

The Ear­li­est Sur­viv­ing Pho­tos of Iran: Pho­tos from 1850s-60s Cap­ture Every­thing from Grand Palaces to the Ruins of Perse­po­lis

Behold the Pho­tographs of John Thom­son, the First West­ern Pho­tog­ra­ph­er to Trav­el Wide­ly Through Chi­na (1870s)

Around the World in 1896: 40 Min­utes of Real Footage Lets You Vis­it Paris, New York, Venice, Rome, Budapest & More

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.

3,000 Illustrations of Shakespeare’s Complete Works from Victorian England, Presented in a Digital Archive

knightcover3

“We can say of Shake­speare,” wrote T.S. Eliot—in what may sound like the most back­hand­ed of com­pli­ments from one writer to another—“that nev­er has a man turned so lit­tle knowl­edge to such great account.” Eliot, it’s true, was not over­awed by the Shake­speare­an canon; he pro­nounced Ham­let “most cer­tain­ly an artis­tic fail­ure,” though he did love Cori­olanus. What­ev­er we make of his ambiva­lent, con­trar­i­an opin­ions of the most famous author in the Eng­lish lan­guage, we can cred­it Eliot for keen obser­va­tion: Shakespeare’s uni­verse, which can seem so sprawl­ing­ly vast, is actu­al­ly sur­pris­ing­ly spare giv­en the kinds of things it most­ly con­tains.

Ophelia ckham18

This is due in large part to the visu­al lim­i­ta­tions of the stage, but per­haps it also points toward an author who made great works of art from hum­ble mate­ri­als. Look, for exam­ple, at a search cloud of the Bard’s plays.

You’ll find one the front page of the Vic­to­ri­an Illus­trat­ed Shake­speare Archive, cre­at­ed by Michael John Good­man, an inde­pen­dent researcher, writer, edu­ca­tor, cura­tor and image-mak­er. The cloud on the left fea­tures a galaxy com­posed main­ly of ele­men­tal and arche­typ­al beings: “Ani­mals,” “Cas­tles and Palaces,” “Crowns,” “Flo­ra and Fau­na,” “Swords,” “Spears,” “Trees,” “Water,” “Woods,” “Death.” One thinks of the Zodi­ac or Tarot.

Roman Forum ckcor4

This par­tic­u­lar search cloud, how­ev­er, does not rep­re­sent the most promi­nent terms in the text, but rather the most promi­nent images in four col­lec­tions of illus­trat­ed Shake­speare plays from the Vic­to­ri­an peri­od. Goodman’s site hosts over 3000 of these illus­tra­tions, tak­en from four major UK edi­tions of Shake­speare’s Com­plete Works pub­lished in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry. The first, pub­lished by edi­tor Charles Knight, appeared in sev­er­al vol­umes between 1838 and 1841, illus­trat­ed with con­ser­v­a­tive engrav­ings by var­i­ous artists. Knight’s edi­tion intro­duced the trend of spelling Shakespeare’s name as “Shakspere,” as you can see in the title page to the “Come­dies, Vol­ume I,” at the top of the post. Fur­ther down, see two rep­re­sen­ta­tive illus­tra­tions from the plays, the first of Ham­let’s Ophe­lia and sec­ond Cori­olanus’ Roman Forum, above.

Tempest kmtemp41

Part of a wave of “ear­ly Vic­to­ri­an pop­ulism” in Shake­speare pub­lish­ing, Knight’s edi­tion is joined by one from Ken­ny Mead­ows, who con­tributed some very dif­fer­ent illus­tra­tions to an 1854 edi­tion. Just above, see a Goya-like illus­tra­tion from The Tem­pest. Lat­er came an edi­tion illus­trat­ed by H.C. Selous in 1864, which returned to the for­mal, faith­ful real­ism of the Knight edi­tion (see a ren­der­ing of Hen­ry V, below), and includes pho­tograu­vure plates of famed actors of the time in cos­tume and an appen­dix of “Spe­cial Wood Engraved Illus­tra­tions by Var­i­ous Artists.”

Henry V hcseloushv4

The final edi­tion whose illus­tra­tions Good­man has dig­i­tized and cat­a­logued on his site fea­tures engrav­ings by artist John Gilbert. Also pub­lished in 1864, the Gilbert may be the most expres­sive of the four, retain­ing real­ist pro­por­tions and mise-en-scène, yet also ren­der­ing the char­ac­ters with a psy­cho­log­i­cal real­ism that is at times unsettling—as in his fierce por­trait of Lear, below. Gilbert’s illus­tra­tion of The Tam­ing of the Shrew’s Kathe­ri­na and Petru­chio, fur­ther down, shows his skill for cre­at­ing believ­able indi­vid­u­als, rather than broad arche­types. The same skill for which the play­wright has so often been giv­en cred­it.

Lear

But Shake­speare worked both with rich, indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter stud­ies and broad­er, arche­typ­al, mate­r­i­al: psy­cho­log­i­cal real­ism and mytho­log­i­cal clas­si­cism. What I think these illus­trat­ed edi­tions show us is that Shake­speare, who­ev­er he (or she) may have been, did indeed have a keen sense of what Eliot called the “objec­tive cor­rel­a­tive,” able to com­mu­ni­cate com­plex emo­tions through “a skill­ful accu­mu­la­tion of imag­ined sen­so­ry impres­sions” that have impressed us as much on the can­vas, stage, and screen as they do on the page. The emo­tion­al expres­sive­ness of Shakespeare’s plays comes to us not only through elo­quent verse speech­es, but through images of both the stark­ly ele­men­tal and the unique­ly per­son­al.

Taming Of jgtos81

Spend some time with the illus­trat­ed edi­tions on Goodman’s site, and you will devel­op an appre­ci­a­tion for how the plays com­mu­ni­cate dif­fer­ent­ly to the dif­fer­ent artists. In addi­tion to the search clouds, the site has a head­er at the top for each of the four edi­tions. Click on the name and you will see front and back mat­ter and title pages. In the pull-down menus, you can access each indi­vid­ual play’s dig­i­tized illus­tra­tions by type—“Histories,” “Come­dies,” and “Tragedies.” All of the con­tent on the site, Good­man writes, “is free through a CC license: users can share on social media, remix, research, cre­ate and just do what­ev­er they want real­ly!”

Update: This post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in 2016. Since then, Good­man has been reg­u­lar­ly updat­ing the Vic­to­ri­an Illus­trat­ed Shake­speare Archive with more edi­tions, giv­ing it more rich­ness and depth. These edi­tions include “one pub­lished by John Tallis, which fea­tures famous actors of the time in char­ac­ter.” This also includes “the first ever com­pre­hen­sive full-colour treat­ment of Shakespeare’s plays with the John Mur­doch edi­tion.” The archive, Good­man tells us, “now con­tains ten edi­tions of Shakespeare’s plays and is fair­ly com­pre­hen­sive in how peo­ple were expe­ri­enc­ing Shake­speare, visu­al­ly, in book form in the 19th Cen­tu­ry.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Shakespeare’s Globe The­atre in Lon­don

Watch Very First Film Adap­ta­tions of Shakespeare’s Plays: King John, The Tem­pest, Richard III & More (1899–1936)

Read All of Shakespeare’s Plays Free Online, Cour­tesy of the Fol­ger Shake­speare Library

Fol­ger Shake­speare Library Puts 80,000 Images of Lit­er­ary Art Online, and They’re All Free to Use

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

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The Evolution of Animation, 1833–2017: From the Phenakistiscope to Pixar

This year has giv­en us occa­sion to revis­it the 1928 Dis­ney car­toon Steam­boat Willie, what with its entry — and thus, that of an ear­ly ver­sion of a cer­tain Mick­ey Mouse — into the pub­lic domain. Though it may look com­par­a­tive­ly prim­i­tive today, that eight-minute black-and-white film actu­al­ly rep­re­sents a great many advance­ments in the art and tech­nol­o­gy of ani­ma­tion since its incep­tion. You can get a sense of that entire process, just about, from the video above, “The Evo­lu­tion of Ani­ma­tion 1833–2017,” which ends up at The LEGO Bat­man Movie but begins with the hum­ble phenakistis­cope.

First intro­duced to the pub­lic in 1833, the phenakistis­cope is an illus­trat­ed disc that, when spun, cre­ates the illu­sion of motion. Essen­tial­ly a nov­el­ty designed to cre­ate an opti­cal illu­sion (the Greek roots of its name being phenakizein, or “deceiv­ing,” and óps, or “eye”), it seems to have attained great pop­u­lar­i­ty as a chil­dren’s toy in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, and it lat­er became capa­ble of pro­jec­tion and gained util­i­ty in sci­en­tif­ic research. Pio­neer­ing motion pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ead­weard Muy­bridge’s Zooprax­is­cope, now immor­tal­ized in cin­e­ma his­to­ry as a pre­de­ces­sor of the movie pro­jec­tor, was based on the phenakistis­cope.

The first moments of “The Evo­lu­tion of Ani­ma­tion” include a cou­ple of phenakistis­copes, but soon the com­pi­la­tion moves on to clips star­ring some­what bet­ter-known fig­ures from the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry like Lit­tle Nemo and Ger­tie the Dinosaur. But it’s only after Steam­boat Willie that ani­ma­tion under­goes its real cre­ative explo­sion, bring­ing to whim­si­cal and hyper­ki­net­ic life not just human char­ac­ters but a host of ani­mals, trees, and non-liv­ing objects besides. After releas­ing the mon­u­men­tal Snow White in 1937, Dis­ney dom­i­nat­ed the form both tech­no­log­i­cal­ly and artis­ti­cal­ly for at least three decades. Though this video does con­tain plen­ty of Dis­ney, it also includes the work of oth­er stu­dios that have explored quite dif­fer­ent areas of the vast field of pos­si­bil­i­ty in ani­ma­tion.

Take, for exam­ple, the psy­che­del­ic Bea­t­les movie Yel­low Sub­ma­rine, the French-Czech sur­re­al­ist sci­ence-fic­tion fable Fan­tas­tic Plan­et, the stop-motion between-hol­i­days spec­ta­cle of The Night­mare Before Christ­mas, and of course, the depth and refine­ment of Hayao Miyaza­ki’s Stu­dio Ghi­b­li, begin­ning with Nau­si­caä of the Val­ley of the Wind (which came before the for­ma­tion of the stu­dio itself). From the mid-nineties — with cer­tain notable excep­tions, like Wal­lace & Gromit: The Movie and Char­lie Kauf­man’s Anom­aL­isa — com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed 3D ani­ma­tion more or less takes over from the tra­di­tion­al vari­eties. This has pro­duced a num­ber of fea­tures wide­ly con­sid­ered mas­ter­pieces, most of them from the now-Dis­ney-owned Pixar. But after expe­ri­enc­ing the his­to­ry of the form in minia­ture, it’s tempt­ing to hope that the next stage of the ani­ma­tion’s evo­lu­tion will involve the redis­cov­ery of its past.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Behold the World’s Old­est Ani­ma­tion Made on a Vase in Iran 5,200 Years Ago

Ger­tie the Dinosaur: The Moth­er of all Car­toon Char­ac­ters (1914)

Ear­ly Japan­ese Ani­ma­tions: The Ori­gins of Ani­me (1917–1931)

The Ani­ma­tions That Changed Cin­e­ma: The Ground­break­ing Lega­cies of Prince Achmed, Aki­ra, The Iron Giant & More

The Beau­ti­ful Anar­chy of the Ear­li­est Ani­mat­ed Car­toons: Explore an Archive with 200+ Ear­ly Ani­ma­tions

Ead­weard Muybridge’s Motion Pho­tog­ra­phy Exper­i­ments from the 1870s Pre­sent­ed in 93 Ani­mat­ed Gifs

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Cult of the Criterion Collection: The Company Dedicated to Gathering & Distributing the Greatest Films from Around the World

There was a time, not so very long ago, when many Amer­i­cans watch­ing movies at home nei­ther knew nor cared who direct­ed those movies. Nor did they feel par­tic­u­lar­ly com­fort­able with dia­logue that some­times came sub­ti­tled, or with the “black bars” that appeared below the frame. The con­sid­er­able evo­lu­tion of these audi­ences’ gen­er­al rela­tion­ship to film since then owes some­thing to the adop­tion of widescreen tele­vi­sions, but also to the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion: the home-video brand that has been tar­get­ing its pres­tige releas­es of acclaimed films square­ly at cinephiles — and even more so, at cinephiles with a col­lect­ing impulse — for four decades now.

“The company’s first release was a LaserDisc edi­tion of Cit­i­zen Kane that includ­ed sup­ple­men­tary mate­ri­als like a video essay and exten­sive lin­er notes on the prove­nance of the neg­a­tive from which the restora­tion was made,” writes the New York Times’ Mag­a­zine’s Joshua Hunt in a recent piece on how Cri­te­ri­on became a (or per­haps the) cin­e­mat­ic tastemak­er.

“Next came King Kong, which fea­tured the first ever audio-com­men­tary track, inspired, as an after­thought, by the sto­ries that the film schol­ar Ronald Haver told while super­vis­ing the tedious process of trans­fer­ring the film from cel­lu­loid.”

With the com­ing of the more suc­cess­ful DVD for­mat in the late nine­teen-nineties, such audio-com­men­tary tracks became a sta­ple fea­ture of video releas­es, Cri­te­ri­on or oth­er­wise. They were a god­send to the cinephiles of my gen­er­a­tion com­ing of age in that era, a kind of infor­mal but inten­sive film school taught by not just expert schol­ars but, often, the auteurs them­selves. “Some of the ear­li­est were record­ed by Mar­tin Scors­ese for the Taxi Dri­ver and Rag­ing Bull LaserDiscs, which helped cement his influ­ence on an entire gen­er­a­tion of young direc­tors” — includ­ing a cer­tain Wes Ander­son, who would go on to record com­men­tary tracks for the Cri­te­ri­on releas­es of his own pic­tures.

At this point, Cri­te­ri­on has “become the arbiter of what makes a great movie, more so than any Hol­ly­wood stu­dio or awards cer­e­mo­ny.” It’s also amassed an unusu­al­ly ded­i­cat­ed cus­tomer base, as explained in the Roy­al Ocean Film Soci­ety video “The Cult of the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion.” “We’re at a point in film cul­ture where brands are increas­ing­ly more pop­u­lar than prod­ucts,” says host Andrew Sal­adi­no, a self-con­fessed Cri­te­ri­on devo­tee. “More and more, it seems as though the films and the peo­ple who made them are sec­ondary to the name and logo of the com­pa­ny behind them,” a phe­nom­e­non that Cri­te­ri­on — itself a kind of media uni­verse — some­how both par­tic­i­pates in and ris­es above.

“While stu­dios and stream­ing ser­vices chase audi­ences by pro­duc­ing end­less sequels and spin­offs,” writes Hunt, “Cri­te­ri­on has built a brand that audi­ences trust to lead them.” I can tes­ti­fy to its hav­ing led me to the work of auteurs from Chris Mark­er to Jacques Tati, Aki­ra Kuro­sawa to Yasu­jiro Ozu, Robert Alt­man to Nico­las Roeg. Today, bud­ding cin­e­ma enthu­si­asts can even ben­e­fit from the advice of famous direc­tors and actors for nav­i­gat­ing its now‑1,650-title-strong cat­a­log through its “Cri­te­ri­on clos­et” video series. Recent­ly, that clos­et has host­ed the likes of Paul Gia­mat­ti, Willem Dafoe, and Wim Wen­ders, who pulls off the shelf a copy of his own Until the End of the World — which Cri­te­ri­on released, of course, in its near­ly five-hour-long direc­tor’s cut. “I always think this is maybe the best thing I’ve done in my life,” he says, “but then again, who am I to judge?”

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Art of Restor­ing Clas­sic Films: Cri­te­ri­on Shows You How It Refreshed Two Hitch­cock Movies

Mar­tin Scors­ese Names His Top 10 Films in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

Steve Buscemi’s Top 10 Film Picks (from The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion)

Slavoj Žižek Names His Favorite Films from The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

120 Artists Pick Their Top 10 Films in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

A Cel­e­bra­tion of Retro Media: Vinyl, Cas­settes, VHS, and Polaroid Too

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.

Learn to Become a Supply Chain Data Analyst with Unilever’s New Certificate Program

Sup­ply chains—we nev­er thought too much about them. That is, until the pan­dem­ic, when sup­ply chains expe­ri­enced severe dis­rup­tions world­wide, leav­ing us wait­ing for prod­ucts for weeks, if not months. That’s when we start­ed appre­ci­at­ing the impor­tance of sup­ply chains and their resilience.

Com­pa­nies like Unilever rely on sup­ply chains to man­u­fac­ture their goods (e.g., Dove, Lip­ton, and Ben & Jer­ry’s) and then move them around the globe. For Unilever, it’s essen­tial that their sup­ply chains remain effi­cient and strong. Work­ing in part­ner­ship with Cours­era, the com­pa­ny has cre­at­ed a new Sup­ply Chain Data Ana­lyst Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate to help entry-lev­el pro­fes­sion­als learn more about using data to man­age effec­tive sup­ply chains. Designed to be com­plet­ed in rough­ly four months, the cer­tifi­cate con­sists of four cours­es: 1) Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment and Ana­lyt­ics, 2) Using Data Ana­lyt­ics in Sup­ply Chain, 3) Imple­ment­ing Sup­ply Chain Ana­lyt­ics, and 4) Sup­ply Chain Soft­ware Tools.

As stu­dents move through the pro­gram, they will learn how to “achieve cost sav­ings, reduce lead times, enhance cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, and adapt to chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions through data-dri­ven insights and ana­lyt­i­cal approach­es.” They will also learn key skills like demand fore­cast­ing and how to mon­i­tor sup­ply chains for secu­ri­ty risks.

Empha­siz­ing real-world expe­ri­ence, stu­dents will “take on the role of an ana­lyst for a fic­ti­tious con­sumer goods com­pa­ny spe­cial­iz­ing in organ­ic farm to table con­sumer prod­ucts. With over 20 unique assign­ments, [stu­dents will] use spread­sheets and visu­al­iza­tion tools to ana­lyze data and make rec­om­men­da­tions.”

You can audit the four cours­es for free, or sign up to earn a share­able cer­tifi­cate for a fee. Stu­dents who select the lat­ter option will be charged $49 per month. Cours­era esti­mates that the cer­tifi­cate will take four months to com­plete, assum­ing you’re ded­i­cat­ing 10 hours per week. That amounts to about $200 in total. You can enroll here.

For those inter­est­ed, Unilever has also recent­ly released a new Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyst Cer­tifi­cate, which you can find here.

In addi­tion, until March 31, 2024, Cours­era is offer­ing $100 off of Cours­era Plus, which will let you take 7,000 cours­es (includ­ing the ones above) and not pay for the cer­tifi­cates. If you plan to take a lot of cours­es, and want to earn cer­tifi­cates, it can be a cost effec­tive approach.

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

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Gen­er­a­tive AI for Every­one: A Free Course from AI Pio­neer Andrew Ng

Google Unveils a Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing & E‑Commerce Cer­tifi­cate: 7 Cours­es Will Help Pre­pare Stu­dents for an Entry-Lev­el Job in 6 Months

Google & Cours­era Cre­ate a Career Cer­tifi­cate That Pre­pares Stu­dents for Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Jobs in 6 Months

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Around The World in 1896: See Colorized & Upscaled Footage of Egypt, Venice, Istanbul, New York City, London & More

The YouTube chan­nel Lost in Time has tak­en footage from the leg­endary Lumière broth­ers, orig­i­nal­ly shot in 1896, then upscaled and col­orized it, giv­ing us a chance to see a dis­tant world through a mod­ern lens. Near­ing the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry, the film pio­neers (and their employ­ees) vis­it­ed dif­fer­ent parts of the world and cap­tured footage of life in Barcelona, Jerusalem, Venice, Moscow, Istan­bul, Kyoto and oth­er loca­tions. For view­ers, unac­cus­tomed to see­ing mov­ing films, let alone far-flung parts of the world, it must have been a sight to behold. Below, you can see the dif­fer­ent places fea­tured in the footage, along with time­stamps. To see what the orig­i­nal black & white footage looked like, vis­it this post in our archive.

00:00 Intro
00:12 France
01:50 New York City, Unit­ed States
02:38 Jerusalem
04:25 Gene­va, Switzer­land
04:53 Viet­nam
05:12 Mar­tinique
05:22 Paris, France
07:56 Madrid, Spain
08:07 Barcelona, Spain
08:43 Venice, Italy
09:00 Lon­don, Unit­ed King­dom
09:49 Ger­many
10:17 Dublin, Ire­land
11:00 Moscow, Rus­sia
11:24 Lyon, France
14:56 Giza, Egypt
15:36 Istan­bul, Turkey
15:58 Kyoto, Tokyo
16:20 Mar­seille, France
16:35 La Cio­tat, France

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Around the World in 1896: 40 Min­utes of Real Footage Lets You Vis­it Paris, New York, Venice, Rome, Budapest & More

The Ear­li­est Known Motion Pic­ture, 1888’s Round­hay Gar­den Scene, Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Restored Footage of 1896 Snow­ball Fight Makes It Seem Like the Fun Hap­pened Yes­ter­day

 

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Laurence Fishburne Reads a Former Slave’s Incredible Letter to His Old Master (1865)

Lawrence Fish­burne brings a degree of grav­i­ty to his roles offered by few oth­er liv­ing actors. That has secured his place in pop cul­ture as Mor­pheus from The Matrix, for exam­ple. But he could even mar­shal it ear­ly in his career, as evi­denced by his role as Apoc­a­lypse Now’s “Mr. Clean,” which he took on at just four­teen years old. But it was a much more recent per­for­mance he gave for Let­ters Live, which you can see in the video above, that clear­ly brings out the qual­i­ties that have made him a beloved and endur­ing fig­ure onscreen: not just his moral seri­ous­ness, but this sense of humor as well.

“To my old mas­ter,” Fish­burne begins, get­ting a laugh right away. The let­ter in ques­tion, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, was orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten in 1865 by a man named Jour­don Ander­son, who had escaped a life of slav­ery in Ten­nessee with his wife the pre­vi­ous year. Hav­ing since fall­en on hard times, that for­mer mas­ter had writ­ten to Ander­son and asked him to come back to work on the plan­ta­tion. “I have often felt uneasy about you,” Ander­son writes. “I thought the Yan­kees would’ve hung you before this for har­bor­ing Rebs that they found at your house,” among oth­er crimes he recalls.

Hav­ing set him­self and his fam­i­ly up in Ohio, Ander­son could hard­ly have felt tempt­ed to go down South again. “I want to know par­tic­u­lar­ly what the good chance is you pro­pose to give me,” he writes. “I am doing tol­er­a­bly well here. I get $25 a month, with vict­uals and cloth­ing, have a com­fort­able home for Mandy — the folks call her Mrs. Ander­son — and the chil­dren, Mil­lie, Jane, and Grundy, go to school and are learn­ing well.” But “if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will bet­ter be able to decide whether it will be to my advan­tage to move back again.”

Fish­burne deliv­ers these lines with a thick lay­er of irony, as Ander­son no doubt intend­ed. “Mandy says she would be afraid to go back with­out some proof that you were dis­posed to treat us kind­ly and just­ly, and we have con­clud­ed to test your sin­cer­i­ty by ask­ing you to send us our wages for the time that we served you.” When Fish­burne says that, he prac­ti­cal­ly gets a stand­ing ova­tion, and indeed, the let­ter met with a favor­able recep­tion in its day as well — not from Colonel P. H. Ander­son him­self, but from the read­ers of the news­pa­pers in which it was reprint­ed. In the end, Jour­don Ander­son kept his free­dom, and got fame last­ing more than a cen­tu­ry after his death to go with it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear the Voic­es of Amer­i­cans Born in Slav­ery: The Library of Con­gress Fea­tures 23 Audio Inter­views with For­mer­ly Enslaved Peo­ple (1932–75)

What the Text­books Don’t Tell Us About The Atlantic Slave Trade: An Ani­mat­ed Video Fills In His­tor­i­cal Gaps

The Names of 1.8 Mil­lion Eman­ci­pat­ed Slaves Are Now Search­able in the World’s Largest Genealog­i­cal Data­base, Help­ing African Amer­i­cans Find Lost Ances­tors

A New Data­base Will Doc­u­ment Every Slave House in the U.S.: Dis­cov­er the “Sav­ing Slave Hous­es Project”

The Atlantic Slave Trade Visu­al­ized in Two Min­utes: 10 Mil­lion Lives, 20,000 Voy­ages, Over 315 Years

“Ask a Slave” by Azie Dungey Sets the His­tor­i­cal Record Straight in a New Web Series

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.

 


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