The original cover art to Duke Ellington’s 1944 studio recording Black, Brown and Beige.
The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s inspired several black artists to explore their African heritage and the black experience in America, from enslavement to life after emancipation and migration to cities in the north. In the musical world, pianist James P. Johnson composedYamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody, a 12-minute portrait of a black community in Savannah, Ga.Yamekraw was orchestrated for a 1928 performance at Carnegie Hall by black composer William Grant Still, who would write his own Afro American Symphony in 1930.
Since then, many more African-American artists have employed the expansive concepts of suites, symphonies and extended works to render the saga of black life from Africa to America. Here are excerpts from five extended jazz representations of black history.
A 16-inch lacquer disc, a format used in the 1930s, from the collection of the Library of Congress. Most of the lacquer, the part of the disc where the sound was etched, has been lost to decay.
We’ve been able to record sound for over 125 years, but many of the recordings that have been made in that time are in terrible shape. Many more, even recordings made in the past 10 years, are in danger because rapid technological changes have rendered their software obsolete. So Wednesday, the Library of Congress unveiled a plan to help preserve this country’s audio archives.
At the Library of Congress’ Packard campus in Culpeper, Va., Gene Deanna — the head of the Recorded Sound Section — stood in a large room with several racks of equipment and gestured toward a set of blue boxes that are used to preserve video.
“Those are tape robots, and they’re loaded with video cassette decks,” he said. “They’re able to operate independently of staff once they’re set and loaded. They have transformed the preservation of video, mostly our television heritage. And it’s something that recorded sound doesn’t have.”
The problem with audio is that recorded sound doesn’t have a standardized format. Formats range from wax cylinders, which were invented in the late 1800s and look like the cardboard center of a toilet paper roll, to 16-inch aluminum discs covered in lacquer — essentially giant LP records. Those formats degrade in different ways and can’t be copied using the same machines.
Billionaire Bill Koch is building a replica of an old western town on land he owns near Paonia, but some residents aren’t happy.
…………..LISTEN TO THE STORY…………
In the latest installment of Off the Cuff, Peter Travers catches up with Christopher Walken, and Christopher Walken catches up with the two most seminal characters of his career: the self-destructive Duane from Annie Hall and the introspective Nick from The Deer Hunter. “Do you ever wake up worrying what has happened to the characters you’ve played?” Travers asks. Walken replies dryly, ”No, Duane’s ok. He’s working on a fishing boat, deep-sea trawling.”
Woody Guthrie wrote thousands of songs in his lifetime — but as far as anyone knows, he only wrote one novel. Recently discovered, House of Earth is the story of a young couple living in the Texas Panhandle in the 1930s. They dream of building a house that will withstand the bitter winds and ever-present dust that constantly threaten the flimsy wooden shack they call home.
The novel is being released by Johnny Depp’s new publishing imprint at HarperCollins, Infinitum Nihil. It was Depp’s publishing partner, historian and author Douglas Brinkley, who tracked down the lost novel after he stumbled across a reference to it while doing research. When he sat down to read it, Brinkley could hear the same Woody Guthrie he had grown to love through his music.
“Woody Guthrie has something that every artist would dies for: a voice,” says Brinkley. “You can read House of Earth and you know it’s Woody Guthrie. You know it’s coming from the heart.”
When Woody Guthrie’s daughter, Nora Guthrie, first read the book, she had a different reaction. “The opening chapter was so sexy,” she says, laughing. “I just went, whoa, Dad, where are you going with this?”
Both Brinkley and Guthrie suspect that in part, it is the sexually explicit material in the book that kept it from being published after it was written in 1947.
On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. The calving event lasted for 75 minutes and the glacier retreated a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. The height of the ice is about 3,000 feet, 300-400 feet above water and the rest below water.
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite’s new collaborative album is titled Get Up!
Ben Harper grew up roaming the aisles and restoring guitars at his family’s music store, the Claremont Folk Music Center. Going on its 60th year of business, the storefront in Southern California was where Harper first discovered the harmonica playing of blues legend Charlie Musselwhite.
“We had Charlie’s records stacked high at my family’s store and at my house,” Harper tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep.
Now, he can add another album to the stack. At 43, Harper has a dedicated following and two Grammy Awards, but he achieved a life goal on his latest release: collaborating with Musselwhite. The new album Get Up! is a collection of original blues and roots songs, heavily accented by Musselwhite’s harmonica.
“To me, the harmonica is like a voice,” says Musselwhite, who turns 69 Thursday. “And when I’m taking a solo, it’s like I’m singing without words.”
The songs on Get Up! draw on the great Chicago blues tradition that Musselwhite entered as a teen looking for factory work in the 1960s — a world of all-night jam sessions in smoky bars, where Muddy Waters was king.
Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite
Ben Harper has been hiding in plain sight for nearly 20 years, delivering handsome hybrid folk blues – sometimes politicized, sometimes heartbroken – in his signature high-tenor whisper, while playing slide guitar with flashes of Hendrixian fire. His version of Americana has often resonated more loudly abroad. But as the Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr. and others move blues back into the mainstream, there’s new context for Harper’s artisanal roots music.
So Get Up!, Harper’s shit-hot new collaboration with 68-year-old bluesman Charlie Musselwhite, comes at a perfect time. It’s a project that’s been brewing since 1997, when the two recorded “Burnin’ Hell” with Musselwhite’s longtime friend John Lee Hooker, who was impressed with the pair’s chemistry and encouraged them to pursue it. Here, it’s clear from the get-go: the way Musselwhite’s harmonica dances with Harper’s vocals on the coiled opener, “Don’t Look Twice,” and the unplugged “You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend),” and how the singer works his lower register to match Musselwhite’s gravelly harp on “I’m In I’m Out and I’m Gone,” an on-fire juke-joint stomper.
Miles Davis’ Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 is a compilation of previously unreleased material performed by a short-lived incarnation of his touring band.
After a slew of multidisc sets devoted to key points in the career of Miles Davis, you’d think Columbia Records would have unearthed every speck of consequential music by now. But not quite.
This week, Columbia brings out Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 — a three-CD, one-DVD set devoted to the jazz maverick’s “lost” quintet, his touring band from 1969.
Playing hard, pivoting between moods and meters with whiplash-inducing quickness, these guys are breathing a brand of fire that’s clearly time-stamped to 1969. Davis and his touring group — longtime saxophonist Wayne Shorter, keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette — are clearly energized by what’s happening beyond the realm of jazz.
But right now, we just want to pass along this video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which shows how the cold air spread from last Saturday (Jan. 19) through Thursday.
This is odd. Take a look at this map of America at night. As you’d expect, the cities are ablaze, the Great Lakes and the oceans dark, but if you look at the center, where the eastern lights give way to the empty western plains, there’s a mysterious clump of light there that makes me wonder.
Suomi NPP Satellite/NASA Earth Observatory
It’s a little to the left, high up near the Canadian border. Just run your eye up that line of lights at the center of the country, look over to the upper left — there’s a patch that looks like a big city —but there is no big city in that part of North Dakota. There’s mostly grass. So what are those lights doing there? What is that?
If you need help, here’s the same map again, this time the patch is marked with a circle. It turns out, yes, that’s not a city. And those lights weren’t there six years ago.
During his inaugural address on Jan. 14, 1963, newly elected Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace vowed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
It was just a single line in a speech given 50 years ago today. But that one phrase, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever,” is remembered as one of the most vehement rallying cries against racial equality in American history.
The year was 1963. Civil rights activists were fighting for equal access to schools and the voting booth, and the federal government was preparing to intervene in many Southern states.
And on Jan. 14, in Montgomery, Ala., newly elected Gov. George Wallace stepped up to a podium to deliver his inaugural address.
Historian Dan Carter, who wrote The Politics of Rage, a biography of George Wallace, recalls how the streets of Montgomery were packed the day of Wallace’s inauguration. His followers from across the state crowded around the platform, Carter says, “many of them wearing these white flowers, which were meant to symbolize their commitment to white supremacy.”
An Austere Life as Uruguay’s President—Every Elected Official Should Be Required To Read This Piece…J.R.
THE SATURDAY PROFILE
By SIMON ROMERO
José Mujica, a former guerrilla who took office in 2010, donates most of his salary, shuns opulence and lives modestly, as he says the leader of a democracy should.
Everett Ruess spent the last five years of his life criscrossing California and the Southwest, accompanied by a series of faithful burros.
Everett Ruess could have been one of this country’s greatest wilderness writers, a poet and author on a par with John Muir or Edward Abbey.
But we’ll never know for sure, because Ruess disappeared without a trace in November 1934. With two burros trailing behind him, he left the remote southern Utah town of Escalante, heading down the desolate Hole-in-the-Rock Trail towards the Colorado River in search of his favorite things: beauty and solitude.
About a week down the trail, Ruess ran into two sheepherders and camped with them for a couple of nights.
And then, author David Roberts tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, Ruess rode off into a nearby canyon and vanished from the face of the Earth.
Roberts is the author of the new book Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer.
He says Ruess was only 20 when he disappeared, but he had spent the last five years of his life making grueling journeys across California and the Southwest.
Professor Longhair performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, circa 1970.
On the tough side of Terpsichore Street in New Orleans stands a duplex — a two-story, wood-framed building with wood floors, high ceilings and a nice fireplace. But this old house is empty: no furniture, no walls, no electricity, no toilet. Iron bars hide the windows; there’s a lockbox on the door. The facade is three different shades of blecch, blurgh and blah. There’s nothing compelling about Henry Roeland Byrd’s house — that is, unless you’ve heard the music he made under his other name, Professor Longhair.
Through a career that began in the 1940s, Longhair’s style of R&B piano helped create a new musical tradition in New Orleans: a modern postwar sound that reverberated up and down the national charts. If you’ve ever heard New Orleans piano greats like Fats Domino, Eddie Bo, James Booker or Dr. John, you’ve already met Professor Longhair in the ether. Allen Toussaint, a piano player who’s written and produced music for more than 50 years, says the late musician’s work defies comparison.
“I’m a disciple of Professor Longhair,” Toussaint says. “There’s Professor Longhair, and then there’s the rest of us.”
In an interview Longhair gave to the CBC shortly before his death in 1980, he came to a similar conclusion himself: “I imagine you can just about say every youngster in New Orleans had came by me in some form or fashion to either look, listen or show ‘em something,” he said.
Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained is a spaghetti western-inspired revenge film set in the antebellum South; it’s about a former slave who teams up with a bounty hunter to target the plantation owner who owns his wife.
The cinematic violence that has come to characterize Tarantino’s work as a screenwriter and director — from Reservoir Dogs at the start of his career in 1992 to 2009′s Inglourious Basterds — is front and center again in Django. And he’s making no apologies.
Writer-director Quentin Tarantino, seen here at a 2009 screening of Inglourious Basterds, tells Terry Gross that the only film violence that truly disturbs him involves actual harm to animals.
“What happened during slavery times is a thousand times worse than [what] I show,” he says. “So if I were to show it a thousand times worse, to me, that wouldn’t be exploitative, that would just be how it is. If you can’t take it, you can’t take it.
“Now, I wasn’t trying to do a Schindler’s List you-are-there-under-the-barbed-wire-of-Auschwitz. I wanted the film to be more entertaining than that. … But there’s two types of violence in this film: There’s the brutal reality that slaves lived under for … 245 years, and then there’s the violence of Django’s retribution. And that’s movie violence, and that’s fun and that’s cool, and that’s really enjoyable and kind of what you’re waiting for.”
That said, Tarantino is clear about what — for him — is acceptable violence in a movie and what crosses a line.
“The only thing that I’ve ever watched in a movie that I wished I’d never seen is real-life animal death or real-life insect death in a movie. That’s absolutely, positively where I draw the line. And a lot of European and Asian movies do that, and we even did that in America for a little bit of time. … I don’t like seeing animals murdered on screen. Movies are about make-believe. … I don’t think there’s any place in a movie for real death.”
In the case of Django, Tarantino tellsFresh Air host Terry Gross that he was much more uncomfortable with the prospect of writing the language of white supremacists and directing African-Americans in scenes depicting slavery on American soil than he was about any physical violence being portrayed. His anxiety about directing the slavery scenes was so great, in fact, that he considered shooting abroad.
“I actually went out after I finished the script … with Sidney Poitier for dinner,” he says. “And was telling him about my story, and then telling him about my trepidation and my little plan of how I was going to get past it, and he said, … ‘Quentin, I don’t think you should do that. … What you’re just telling me is you’re a little afraid of your own movie, and you just need to get over that. If you’re going to tell this story, you need to not be afraid of it. You need to do it. Everyone gets it. Everyone knows what’s going on. We’re making a movie. They get it.”
A long youtube video, but well worth watching “Making an art form of doing absolutely everything wrong”. J.R.
Ernie K-Doe: A One-Hit Weirdo’s Rise, Fall And Redemption–” I used to listen to music at the Mother-In-Law” J.R.
Even in a city known for its eccentrics, Ernie K-Doe was in another dimension. The New Orleans musician always knew — and said, loudly — that he was special. And for one week in a life of wild ups and downs, he managed to pierce the national consciousness with a chart-topping hit: 1961′s “Mother in Law.”
The man born Ernest Kador sometimes claimed he wrote “Mother-in-Law” — but he claimed a lot of things. In fact, Allen Toussaint composed and produced the song, and, after a few unsatisfactory takes, literally threw it away. It was rescued from oblivion by one of the backup singers at the session.
“He thought it was just a delightful song, and he took it out of the trash can when I took a short break, and went over to K-Doe and said, ‘Look, try this again, man,’” Toussaint says. “K-Doe did just that, and I’m so glad he did.”
K-Doe made a comeback in the 1980s on the New Orleans station WWOZ. David Freedman is now the station’s general manager.
“You never knew what the next thing was going to be out of this guy’s mouth. It was like he was in a trance state,” Freedman says. “You had to kind of enter into it, and then as you began to enter into that crazy universe, you’d just kind of surrender to it [and] it all made sense.”
K-Doe’s run on the radio ended in the late ’80s, though cassette tapes of his shows continued to be collected and played around the world. In the early 1990s, his life took another turn when an old friend, Antoinette Dorsey Fox, took him in. They got married, and she created a new look for her husband, replete with capes, shiny suits and feathered hats. And she created the Mother-in-Law Lounge, where K-Doe would perform once again.
“I forget how many people it holds, but it used to be wall-to-wall — it was packed,” says Eva Perry, who sang backup for K-Doe during that era. “He had people coming from everywhere to hear him, since he was back his second time around.”
Last February, the very thing an elite group of 16 skiers and snowboarders had sought — fresh, soft snow — became the enemy.
A STRONG RECOUNTING of a tragedy up close. Surely a story that highlights ”we all get the experience, only some get the lessons”. A long read but one that BACKCOUNTRY users should take the time to settle into… It’s very good! J.R. PLEASE READ MORE
WAIT!! Don’t Kill Yourself or Run Up Your Credit Cards or Your Friends Credit Cards…. Little Sign Of Tomorrow’s Apocalypse In Commodity Markets……
The Temple of the “Gran Jaguar” Mayan temple at the Tikal archaeological site in Guatemala, where ceremonies will be held to celebrate the end of the Mayan cycle known as Baktun 13 and the start of the new Maya Era on December 21.
It is Dec. 20, 2012 — and citizens of Earth are panicking, consumed by the idea that the world will end Friday, something they say was predicted by Mayan astronomers. Of course, most people are not panicking, and Maya expert David Stuart says no one should. The calendar, he says, has plenty of room to go.
In an interview airing on Thursday’s Morning Edition, David Greene asks archaeologist Stuart, who helped translate influential ancient Mayan hieroglyphs in 1996, if he thinks the world will end on Dec. 21.
“Absolutely not,” is Stuart’s answer, dashing the hopes of students hoping for a three-day weekend, and any consumers who maxed out their credit cards in the belief that all history — not just their credit history — would come to an end.
“The Maya never, ever, said anything about the world ending at any time — much less this year,” Stuart, a professor at the of the University of Texas. “So, it’s sort of bizarre to be living through this time right now, when so many people seem to be worked up.”
And worked up they are. Apocalyptic rumors and doomsday preparations have preoccupied people on seemingly every continent. In Russia, citizens are stocking up on vodka; in China, nearly 100 people were arrested for spreading the rumors, which officials said were partly to blame for an attack on elementary students Friday.
The animal known as 832F had a beautiful gray coat and was the alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack.
The most popular wolf in Yellowstone National Park was shot by a hunter last week, a big blow to scientists and many wildlife enthusiasts who loved following her story.
“She was very recognizable, and she was unique and everybody knew her,” says biologist Douglas Smith.
The animal known as 832F had a beautiful gray coat and was the alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack. Smith has followed this wolf for years but only got to put a tracking collar on her in February.
“I tried to catch her for several years prior to doing it and she was so smart we couldn’t. We do it with a helicopter, we’d dart them, we’d fly in on them. And she’d use the landscape to her advantage,” Smith says. “I watched her. And every other wolf is running, she watching, figuring out the next move to get away from us.”
Smith says that’s an extraordinary wolf.
“People in this world today crave something real, and our society is lacking that and they could come to Yellowstone and see real nature unfolding in front of their eyes with this very unique personality of a wolf and they loved her. They thought it was great,” says Smith.
Gray wolves were hunted and trapped to the point that there weren’t any in the western U.S. by the 1930s. Smith helped to bring wolves back to the park in the mid-1990s and has studied them ever since. Smith says that closely watching wolves like 832 has taught biologists that they were wrong about the basic way wolf packs function.
Alpha females like 832 lead the packs — not the alpha males as biologists long thought.
“She was clearly in charge, and actually, typically males are better hunters than females. That was not true in this case. She was a great hunter, in fact brought down elk by herself single-handedly,” says Smith.
December 10, 2012 Lovett gives a loose, engaging performance that feels like both an introduction and a victory lap. With a fresh-faced accompanist in fiddler and backup singer Luke Bulla, Lovett digs way back into his early archives here: All three of these songs are from his beginnings in the late ’80s.
Celebrating the Iconic ‘Blue Marble’ Shot The image that changed the way we see Earth turns 40 today
Forty years ago today, on Dec. 7, 1972, three young men were on their way to the moon, racing away from the Earth at 25,000 miles per hour. Some ways out (about 28,000 miles), their ship passed a narrow tunnel of light, directly between the Earth and the sun. In that moment, they looked out the window and saw the Earth as almost no one had ever seen it: a giant, full, beautiful circle. The sands of the Sahara were in full sunlight. The snows of Antarctica shone bright white. The ocean resonated a deep blue hue.
At that point, one member of the Apollo 17 crew picked up a specially made Hasselblad camera and took several photos. No one knows who did this, because all three astronauts recalled taking the photo. Whomever did, it was a stunning, rare shot. You could see nearly all of Africa – the cradle of humanity – as well as the island of Madagascar, the Arabian peninsula and the clouds swirling over the ocean.
The photo would eventually become known as the “Blue Marble,” and it would become one of the most enduring pictures of all time. In fact, that photo probably changed the way we viewed our place in the cosmos more than any other.
To be fair, the change was already underway. Four years earlier, astronauts brought back the famous “Earthrise” photo. Before that, in the face of acid rain and oil spills and DDT, we had begun to lose the sense that the planet was immense and inexhaustible. It had already started to seem smaller and more fragile than we had previously thought.
The Blue Marble was the perfect illustration of this feeling. Here you could see that our planet was an island of warmth, water and life in the black, cold ocean of space. The Blue Marble drove home just how beautiful the planet was, in the color and movement the photo captured. But there was something else: the edge. The void. The thin line between the blue and the black carried the most powerful message of all: Beyond that line, the Earth was finite.