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Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Jonathan Safran Foer's new novel

To the list of labels Jonathan Safran Foer has acquired over the years–wunderkind author, outspoken vegetarian, one of those Brooklyn “Jonathans”–  we can now add “literary sculptor.” This month he’s turned the paperback novel into an interactive sculpture which needs no battery power or wifi. Foer’s new book will *never* be able to fit on a Kindle or Nook and that’s kind of the point.

Published last week by Visual Editions, based in Britain, the book takes a pre-existing text — Bruno Shulz’s Street of Crocodiles, a 1934 short story collection translated from Polish — and transforms it into a surprising reading experience.

It’s like a shuffled deck of Swiss cheese slices: every single page has holes in different places. But the holes are blocky and rectangular. Trying to read an individual leaf won’t do you any good, a page needs to be resting on the stack so the words peeking through from beneath complete the narrative. Foer’s title for the new book is Tree of Codes (get it?).

The physical concept for Tree of Codes was so outlandish (and daunting) every printing company the publisher approached said that the book was “unmakeable.” But the Belgian printers Die Keure accepted the challenge, and went about crafting a unique die-cut for every page of the book.

A die-cut page from "Tree of Codes."

They even made a video showing how the elaborate printing process jammed their machinery.

With the design world abuzz about the book (thank you swiss-miss! ) it’s easy to let the ingenuity (um, gimmick?) make us forget it’s literature. We’re hoping to get our hands on a copy soon to see if the story’s any good.

– Michele Siegel

Jonathan Safran Foer has always had a thing for kooky sculpture. Back in 2006 he told Kurt Andersen about his love of the artist Joseph Cornell’s boxes.

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Recordings of choral music can be discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog.  Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound.  I think the best place to hear a choral performance is inside of one — but then you have to work for your pleasure.

That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation “The Forty-Part Motet,” now on view at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.  The Canadian artist presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.

Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium” (“I have hope in none other than Thee, O Lord”) for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines.  Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel.  For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies.  Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.

Atsushi Nakamichi/Nacása & Partners Inc. Courtesy of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès, 2009, Janet Cardiff, Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

"The Forty-Part Motet" in Tokyo (Photo by Atsushi Nakamichi/Nacasa & Partners Inc. | Courtesy of the Fondation d'enterprise Hermes, 2009, Janet Cardiff, Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin)

You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”

You can get a taste of “Spem in Alium” (performed the traditional way) in this episode of BBC Radio 3’s “Discovering Music.”

“The Forty-Part Motet” is on view (for free) in the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center through Saturday, November 13 as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.

– Jenny Lawton

recordings OF CHORAL MUSIC CAN BE discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog.  Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound.  THE BEST PLACE TO HEAR A CHORAL PERFORMANCE IS INSIDE OF ONE, . . .  BUT THEN YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR YOUR PLEASREU But I’m biased – I love choral music because I sing in a choir and I get to experience it, literally, from the inside.

That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation, “The Forty Part Motet.”  Cardiff presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.

Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui” for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines.  Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel.  For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies.  Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.

[IMAGE]

You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them… but, of course, you can’t. And that’s the point: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”

“The Forty Part Motet” is on view (for free) at Jazz at Lincoln Center through Saturday, November 13 as part of the White Light Festival.

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What do Lucille Ball and Malcolm X have in common?

They’re both part of Studio 360 American Icons series.  This fall, we’ve traced the impact of The Autobiography of Malcolm X on race relations and glimpsed the dawn of the American sitcom with I Love Lucy.  Last week we visited Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia – and in wandering the building and the grounds, confronted some lingering questions about the country and its founding.

Monticello (photo by Geoff Kilmer / Monticello)

Now we’re turning to you for a little “listener support.”  No, it’s not a pledge drive (though we encourage you to support your local station…).

Tell us what we’ve missed. We’ve produced nine new Icons — we want you to decide the tenth.  If your pick is selected, we’ll make a radio story about it — and you could be a guest on an episode of Studio 360.

We put out the call a few weeks ago, and our listeners have already come up with some surprising and impressive ideas. They range wide across America’s cultural landscape: from My Antonia and The Sound and the Fury to Bugs Bunny, from the Airstream Trailer to Apollo 11.  Daniel Leathersich, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, suggested Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” because it’s a “quintessential song of the dreams of youth, the wonder of escape, and what people become from their memories.”

We need to hear from you.  Tell us your ideas…and listen for our tenth American Icon!

– Michael Guerriero

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The World Series starts tonight.  And if you’ve watched any Major League Baseball this year, you’ve probably noticed the twisted metal chains many of the players wear.  If not, take a closer look at the necks of Texas Rangers’ shortstop Elvis Andrus or San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Andres Torres. The necklaces, which are often coordinated with team colors, are all over the league – they caught my eye mainly because they look really uncomfortable to wear.

Andres Torres, San Francisco Giants (Ben Margot/AP)

So what is this cumbersome accessory?

The necklaces are made out of titanium by a company called Phiten.  It claims the jewelry is specially designed to enhance an athlete’s performance by providing pain relief, improving circulation, and reducing stress: “Phiten products work with your body’s energy system, helping to regulate and balance the flow of energy throughout your body. Proper energy balance helps to alleviate discomfort, speed recovery, and counteract fatigue. Athletes find that they tire less easily and recover faster from intense physical activity.”  Former Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson is credited with starting the craze after discovering the product on an All-Star trip to Japan in 2001.

There is no scientific proof that Phiten’s products work, but players from 2003 World Series MVP Josh Beckett to 2008 and 2009 NL Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum use and endorse the necklaces.

A Phiten titanium necklace costs around $40.  The company has several other products on the market as well, including lotions, stress relieving patches, bracelets, socks, and compression shirts and shorts.  The accessories are even starting to be used in other sports as a legal performance-enhancer.  Whether the effect is bona fide or placebo (athletes are, of course, also known for their superstitions), for many these necklaces are a must-have on the field.

– Max Bass

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Feeling adventurous this fall season? Well National Geographic has you covered with this zebra-printed Great Migrations reusable accessory. If you’re in need of a new handbag, tote bag, grocery bag, or Mary Poppins bag (you know, the ones you just throw a lot of junk in and call it a purse), this is your lucky day.

This bit of swag promotes the episode “Zebra on the Move” from the new series Great Migrations, premiering November 7th.

There’s also a beautiful book of photos that goes along with the series.

We also got a blue super air blaster from co-sign collective (a group of independent business owners and contractors within the entertainment industry) — but this has us scratching our heads. How do you use it?

Air Blaster anyone?

When you find out let us know!

– Georgette Pierre

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Last night, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced that they would hold sort-of-but-not-really-competing rallies at the Lincoln Memorial on October 30th.

Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” will be the voice of reason countering Colbert’s alarmist “March to Keep Fear Alive.” It’s a real-life satire of Glenn Beck’s Tea Party demonstration called “Restoring Honor” held on the National mall this past August. And it brings Comedy Central’s continued lampooning of absurd punditry and broken politics to a whole new level.

The Lincoln Memorial is America’s soap box. Most famously, in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech catapulted the efforts of the Civil Rights movement, and it helped make the memorial one of the country’s most powerful architectural symbols.  It’s without a doubt a solemn space for Americans, but not one the comedy world hasn’t touched before.  After all, Legally Blonde’s cartoonish “Elle Woods” and the actual cartoon Lisa Simpson have both found inspiration there.  Who knows if history will be made there on October 30th, but we can probably count on Colbert and Stewart being pretty funny.

A few years ago, as part of our series American Icons, Studio 360 devoted a whole hour to the Memorial, in which Kurt Andersen looked at what makes it the place to give a speech.

This fall, our Peabody Award-winning series returns.  Studio 360 will bring you stories on I Love Lucy, Jimi Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” the Harley-Davidson, and that other piece of architectural Americana, Monticello (an episode that, coincidentally, features Stephen Colbert).  American Icons picks up next week with the premiere of our one-hour episode on The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  Don’t miss it!

-Stephen Reader

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A map to a 2008 election volunteer booth

I like to collect old road maps, and when the need arises for me to draw a map for a visiting friend or relative, I’ll admit I fancy myself a pretty good cartographer. But sometimes I find myself the artist of a bizarrely scaled and oddly detailed map which names all the trees, statues, and potholes in the vicinity but omits important details like street names.

After finding a map just like this in a trash can in Scotland, graphic designer Kris Harzinski became fascinated with finding and preserving maps drawn by hand. So he founded the Hand Drawn Map Association in order to collect the discarded drawings that he says “accidentally explore the importance of place, ephemera, and documentation” in our daily lives.

A map of Manhattan, drawn circa 1980

His website celebrates these unintentionally beautiful drawings, and gives them props for representing stories from people’s lives around the world. There is the young woman who maps the years since she left home to move to New York City. Or the map of the Istanbul Mountains seen from a plane enroute to Scotland. And the touching map of a young woman suffering arthritis who maps the medicinal injections she receives. The maps on the site are as remarkable and poignant as the stories of the people who drew them.

Some of the best maps from the collection have been compiled into a book, out next month. From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association features a wide variety from the collection, including some drawn by well-known historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Ernest Shackleton. While you’re waiting for the book to be published, visit HDMA’s website – an extremely pleasant place to get lost for a few hours.

– Britta Conroy-Randall

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