Not every neolithic site can claim its own ’70s pop classic, but, hey: That’s Stonehenge. Countless theories and tools have attempted to make sense of the set of raised stones and earthworks in the south of England, categorizing it as an astronomical calendar, a healing site, a burial ground, or all of them at once.
Now, a study from the Royal College of Art in London has suggested a new possibility: The monument might make music.
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Ludwig van Beethoven may have been the most serious guy in all of classical music.
The popular image of him is one of heroism, severity, and backs aching for the lash as musical commandments are delivered from on high. Few works in the history of art are as bracingly intense as a goodly chunk of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, for instance, to say nothing of the late-period string quartets, music that, frankly, the 19th century wasn’t ready for. The opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony might as well be a stand-in for the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, such is their uncompromising primacy. Beethoven’s work, as people tend to think of it, is music that just keeps coming at you, an ever-advancing sea that no coast can withstand.
Most of the time, that is. But there was also the occasion when Beethoven, in the midst of a personal—and odd—life crisis, opted to create a work to please madcaps, jesters, and wiseasses alike.
I’m talking about the Eighth Symphony.
Kaki King has always done unusual things to her guitar. Watch her very first music video for “Playing With Pink Noise” from 2004, and it’s clear from the percussive, frenzied fret-tapping that the Brooklyn-based musician is not your average axe-shredder. In her 13-year career that’s seen six studio albums and a Golden-Globe nomination for best original score, King has earned critical acclaim for the way she combines unusual tunings, fingerstyle picking, and slap bass techniques to create memorable soundscapes that range from instrumental acoustic work to high-voltage rock songs.
Now, she’s using her guitar in an entirely new way: as a projection screen.
The album as we know it is dead. So argued Variety’s controversy-courting Bob Lefsetz last November when Katy Perry’s spiritual journey of pop record, Prism, sold an unimpressive 287,000 copies in its first week. “Everybody’s interested in the single, and no one’s got time to sit and hear your hour-plus statement,” he wrote. The successful artists aren’t the ones crafting a cohesive body of work, they’re the ones outrunning unforgiving hype cycles by cranking out hit after hit.
If there’s any Katy out there who could prove Lefsetz wrong, it’s not going to be Perry—it’ll be London’s Katy B. In the four years since she raced onto the UK charts with “Katy on a Mission,” 24-year-old Kathleen Brien has evolved from “dubstep princess” to the high priestess of house music, and her latest release demonstrates that, sometimes, great pop music succeeds when it’s not steadily chipped off into pieces.
“We named it Bill Murray because we always pictured a sad Bill Murray for the visuals of that song,” Phantogram’s Josh Carter writes via email. “We want him to be in the music video.”
It felt like a statement for Bruno Mars to open his halftime show alone, behind a drum set. After two years of pop divas writhing in front of super-artificial sets—chariots, tightropes, pyrotechnics, LCD body doubles—2014 was heading back to basics, a la Mars’s Motown revival sound. It wasn’t the spectacle that mattered, Mars seemed to say. It was the music.
But after a few seconds of this gutsy display of instrumental prowess—rhythms mutated from pogo-punk to reggae to a raucous solo—someone at my Super Bowl party offered an evaluation: “I’m bored already.”
Except for a few moments of startled confusion when the bros of Red Hot Chili Peppers first showed up, a certain level of boredom at Mars’s set was warranted. USA Today’s review probably got it right by calling the show “forgettable.” It’s not that Mars and RHCP were bad, though. They put on a good concert—but a good concert doesn’t make a great Super Bowl show.
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A decade ago this week, 90 million people glimpsed a teensy bit more of Janet Jackson than they were expecting. In some ways, America might have seen it coming: Jackson’s choreographer did warn there would be some shocking surprises, and Justin Timberlake did sing his hit lyrics “Better have you naked by the end of this song” moments before he did, in fact, get her a little naked.
But nobody, not even Jackson’s inner circle, could have predicted the magnitude of the performance’s aftermath.
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The idea first came to Lane Jordan when he heard an odd little fact: Around 20 percent of tracks on Spotify—some four million songs—had been played exactly zero times.
Four million songs! That got Jordan thinking. What were those songs? And don’t they, too, deserve a little listening?
Jordan brought the idea to his friend, J Hausmann, and together, along with the help of a third friend (Nate Gagnon), they built Forgotify, a discovery engine for Spotify’s unplayed tracks.
Forgotify is built upon a database that the trio created to crawl Spotify’s API for pieces with a play count of zero. Once a song has been played, it disappears from the site, rendering it oddly reminiscent of an old, archival audio cassette which, once played, may never play again. Playing it destroys it. (Except, of course, in the case of Forgotify, the songs still live on in Spotify proper.)
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In death as in life, Pete Seeger brought Americans together, then divided them into warring ideological camps. To oversimplify, one can lump the political reactions to Seeger’s death on Monday at 94 into two groups. There are those, generally on the center-left, who praise Seeger heartily, accenting his stand against the House Un-American Activities Committee, while quietly—if at all—acknowledging his disturbingly durable devotion to Communism. And there are those, mostly on the right, who acknowledge Seeger’s importance and praise his less political songs while arguing, in essence, that his politics sadly tainted the rest of his career.
Both approaches offer serious problems. Seeger’s political record—as a whole, not taken selectively—is exactly the point.
Read more. [Image: Associated Press]