3/25/2011 3:04:54 PM
Do you remember sprawling out on the floor of your living room—carefully synchronizing a pair of cassette spools—and hobbling the gems of your tape collection together to make the perfect 60-minute playlist? Maybe you were sharing bootleg punk recordings with a neighbor, or putting together a sexy collection of your favorite Prince songs for the girl you’re crushing on. No matter the jams, there’s something nostalgic and intimate about making a mix for another person. Which is exactly the idea behind a community-driven mix tape exchange in Minneapolis, Minn.
“There are so many tape enthusiasts in town,” said Lisa Luck, co-owner of Minneapolis’ Yeti Records and founder of the mix tape exchange. “I feel like there’s a tape resurgence going on right now.”
Here’s how it works: step one, make a killer mix tape; step two, bring your tape into the record store; step three, take home an equally killer mix tape made by a perfect stranger. According to Luck, Yeti has already received about 50 or 60 mix tape submissions and she doesn’t see the exchange ending any time soon. (One of her favorite submissions came from the owner of Minneapolis label Moon Glyph, which even came with its own digital-download code.)
Minneapolis is spoiled to have a cool mix tape exchange, but the takeaway is much broader. A mix tape exchange starts with just one person sitting in front of their boom box—so go compile that sci-fi-themed disco-megamix you’ve always wanted to make. Then, pair up with a local record store and spread the word. Before long you’ll be sharing tunes with other music enthusiasts and analog-o-philes.
Check out some of the creative, oddball, eclectic mixes submitted to Yeti at the Mix Tape Exchange blog.
Images courtesy of Yeti Records.
3/25/2011 12:11:34 PM
In this continuing series,
Art Director Stephanie Glaros explains the process behind an
Sometimes my favorite articles to art direct are ones where the main idea is relatively simple, therefore the visual possibilities are endless. In “Latitude for Aptitude,” the idea that children from states with cooler average temperatures have higher IQs could be interpreted visually any number of ways, so for me, tone and style took precedence when choosing an illustrator. I’ve worked with Ryan Cox a few times in the past, and I love his cool, Schoolhouse Rock vibe. But I didn’t choose him only for his style. He has great ideas, too. I contacted Ryan and asked him for “something cute and fun about how cold weather kids are smarter.” I loved all his sketches (below), but in the end couldn’t resist the smarty-pants kid demonstrating his math skills on the icy ground. Fun!
Since its inception in 1984,
has relied on talented artists to create original images for stories that express powerful emotions, brilliant new ideas, and humorous storytelling. Browsing through back issues of
is like a tour of “Who’s Who” in the illustration world. Artists like Gary Baseman, Brad Holland, Anita Kunz, Bill Plympton, and Seymour Chwast have graced our pages over the years, to name just a few.
3/15/2011 11:58:34 AM
Although we typically think of the titans of industry and leaders of the free world as products of the military or an ivy league MBA program, for an unconventional leader we might look to the fine arts. “Theater, music and the fine arts all require, undeniably, an above-average level of creativity,” writes Miller-McCune’s Ritch K. Eich. “But they also require the type of discipline, passion and commitment that can be extremely valuable in many areas of business that are now floundering.”
Eich’s favorite example—not to toot any fine art’s horn exclusively—is found at the front of a marching band:
Under [bandmaster William] Revelli’s direction, the Michigan Marching Band was the first to use original scores for their band shows and employ synchronized music and movements. They were highly praised for their precision, formations and style. Revelli was tough on his young band members and would not accept mediocrity in his organization. His exceptionally high standards called each member to a higher commitment, not only to their music, but also in all areas of their lives. He looked at the band as an antidote to juvenile delinquency.
* * *
Translating the same qualities he exhibited in rehearsals and on the field, and looking at how he made everyone in his band reach for their greatest potential, there is no doubt that he would have made an excellent corporate leader had he chosen that path.
Image by Tulane Public Relations, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/15/2011 11:41:46 AM
Amid all the din and the distractions at the South by Southwest music festival, it’s easy to forget that songwriting still holds currency. A musical act can make a splash for a while on a sound, or a look, or a well-funded hype machine, but at its core its songs must connect with listeners. Utne Reader is proud to be sponsoring two talent-packed SXSW showcases that reveal the art of the song is alive and well, and that the singer-songwriter is not as endangered a species as is sometimes presumed.
Here’s the lineup of the official showcase presented by Utne Reader and the music label/management outfit Thirty Tigers on Friday (March 18) at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin:
• Ben Sollee (1 a.m.) The main instrument played by Ben Sollee is the moody cello, but his music is more upbeat and varied than that would imply, thanks to his percussive playing style and soulful vocals.
• Ron Sexsmith (midnight) Ron Sexsmith is the epitome of the singer-songwriter, having turned out his share of guy-and-a-guitar classics. His new Long Player Late Bloomer is another is in a long, solid string of work; he’s the elder-statesman figure on the bill.
• Amy Speace (11 p.m.) A former actress, Amy Speace creates immersive dramas in her vivid story-songs.
• Josh Ritter (10 p.m.) Lyrics are no afterthought for Josh Ritter, whose carefully crafted folk-rock is deeper and sometimes darker than his million-megawatt performing persona would imply.
• Chapin Sisters (9 p.m.) Darkness, on the other hand, becomes the Chapin Sisters, whose sisterly voices intertwine to spin folkie tapestries of sound with a melancholy undercurrent.
• Bhi Bhiman (8 p.m). Bhiman’s been touring with Josh Ritter as a favored opener.
As if that weren’t enough, Utne Reader is also a co-sponsor of the Americana Music Association’s official showcase Thursday (March 17) at Austin landmark Antone’s. The bill is filled with artists who mine the deep roots of American song—often with a solid rock and roll backbeat:
• Old 97s (midnight) Last month in Minneapolis, the Old 97s put on a fiery show as a blizzard raged outside, convincing me and a roomful of hardy souls that they haven’t lost a bit of the alt-country edge that they’ve shown for more than a decade. And their new Grand Theatre Volume One is one of their strongest albums yet.
• Emmylou Harris (11 p.m.) A living legend whose eyes still twinkle, Emmylou Harris has always had an ear for great songs, and she’s covered scores of them by songwriters from Bill Monroe to Gillian Welch to, on her forthcoming album Hard Bargain, Ron Sexsmith.
• Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison (10 p.m.) Both Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have been purveying Texas-style country rock for years; performing as a duo, their combined talents are sure to be impressive.
• Abigail Washburn (9 p.m.) Washburn’s wide-ranging musical interests have taken her from Appalachia to China and many points between, all with a banjo on her knee.
• Band of Heathens
(8 p.m.) Band of Heathens are burly Austin guys with a rich and unpretentious roots sound; their cover of Gillian Welch’s “Miss Ohio” shows their love for the well-turned lyric.
Image of Josh Ritter by Marcelo Biglia. Image of Emmylou Harris by Jack Spencer.
3/14/2011 10:24:53 PM
When I read news items like the recent announcement, and subsequent disavowal, of a discovery of signs of extraterrestrial life, I tend to wonder: What would a sentient race of beings from another world think of us humans and our myriad faults, foibles, and idiosyncrasies?
It's not a very original question, of course. Pop scientists, sci fi geeks, and any suburban kid who's looked at the nighttime sky through a telescope lens have all asked the question at one time or another. How you answer seems to depend on what you think of humanity itself. The most common answer to this question—given by cynics from Hollywood and the scientific community—is they wouldn't think much of us at all. Alien races would find us—despite our penchant for creating beauty in art, literature, architecture, music and so on—petty, out of touch, violent, and unworthy of living. In this view, aliens would seek to destroy us, enslave us, or exploit us and our planet. So widespread is this idea, even genius physicist Stephen Hawking believes it. "If aliens ever visit us," said Hawking last year, "I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
At the same time, others view the potential eventual meet up between aliens and humans as a less dangerous event. These other, more optimistic humans have long been active seekers of aliens. In fact, it's been more than 30 years that the famous astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan made it fashionable to reach outward to other worlds. In 1974, Sagan helped write an Atari-like radio message—called the Arecibo Message (see image below)—that was beamed into space to inform extraterrestrials about Earth. In 1982, he was influential in the founding of a quasi-government project (or, more accurately, a collective group of projects), called SETI, whose mission was to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. And, thanks to one other major effort, it is to Sagan and his cohorts that we owe the current best hope for an human interplanetary image revival.
In 1977, Sagan led the effort to create a cultural artifact that may have the most lasting and potentially wide-ranging influence on how creatures from other worlds might someday see us. Called the Golden Records, they were two phonograph records made of gold-plated copper encased in aluminum and included on each of the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The records, which were intended for viewing by any sentient extraterrestrial life forms that might come across them, are collections of sounds and images that portray the diversity and beauty of life and culture on our often underrated and underappreciated planet. The Golden Record collection was selected by a committee chaired by Sagan and is comprised of a variety of natural sounds, such as a tame dog barking, a tractor plowing a field, a bus starting up, and a chimpanzee's call. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras—including gamelon music from Java, Bach's Brandenburg concerto, Peruvian wedding music, a blues number by Blind Willie Johnson, a Navajo night chant, and Chuck Berry performing “Johnny B. Goode”—as well as spoken greetings in fifty-five languages. Meanwhile, among the 116 photographs and diagrams included with the Record are photos of jet airplanes taking off, an astronaut in a space walk, people eating and performing everyday activities, diagrams of the five atoms that make up DNA, other chemical formulas, and various maps and diagrams of Earth. The diverse images are encoded in analogue form and composed of 512 vertical lines. The audio portion of the record is designed to be played at 16⅔ revolutions per minute. A stylus for playing the records is included on the spacecraft, and a diagram showing the proper working of the stylus and record is etched on the record cover.
And why are the Golden Records important to take note of now, more than thirty years after their creation and launch, just as we may, or may not, have found meteoric signs of extraterrestrial life? Well, it is only now, in 2011, that the Golden Records, and their Voyager spacecraft, have finally broken free of their human influence and moved one step closer to unknown worlds. That is, this past winter, Voyager 1 traveled through a barrier marking the official edge of the solar system, where there is no longer any outward motion of the sun's solar winds. In December, the craft was 10.8 billion miles from Earth (Voyager 2, due to its different trajectory and speed, lags behind at about 8.8 billion miles from Earth, or so you can learn from its tweets), and so beginning its outward journey through the heliosheath and into the beyond. “The solar wind has turned the corner,” Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, said recently. “Voyager 1 is getting close to interstellar space.”
Voyager 1 is expected to cross through the heliosheath and into the unknown reaches beyond our solar system in 2015. The Voyager crafts are small, each weighing less than a ton, and space is immeasurably vast. Voyager 1 won't move into proximity to any sort of star system for 40,000 years, and even then it will pass only within 1.6 light years of a star in the Ophiuchus constellation. But this doesn't diminish how important an artifact of human culture are the Golden Records. As Carl Sagan himself said about the launch of Voyager, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
Michael Fallon is a writer, editor, and non-profit administrator based out of St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Art in America, American Craft, Public Art Review, Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, the OC Weekly, City Pages, and many other publications. Read his previous posts
Both images are licensed under
What the Golden Records say is, despite our stupidity and violence, despite our inability to overcome our differences for the greater good, we can still create great beauty and we can document that beauty for others—even alien others. Or, as Jimmy Carter put it much more eloquently in his official message included with the launches, the Golden Record is “a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”
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