Dire Straits’ “Sultans Of Swing” Played on the Gayageum, a Korean Instrument Dating Back to the 6th Century

Every now and then, we check in on the fascinating musical world of Luna Lee--a musician who performs Western music on the Gayageum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument which dates back to the 6th century. Over the years, we've shown you her adaptations of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile;’ David Bowie's “The Man Who Sold The World;” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah;” blues classics by John Lee Hooker, B.B. King & Muddy Waters; and Pink Floyd's “Comfortably Numb,” “Another Brick in the Wall” & “Great Gig in the Sky.” To keep the tradition going, today we bring you Luna's virtuoso take on Dire Straits' "Sultans Of Swing."

According to Guitar Player, Mark Knopfler originally wrote the song on a National Steel guitar in an open tuning. “I thought it was dull, but as soon as I bought my first Strat[ocaster] in 1977, the whole thing changed.” "It just came alive as soon as I played it on that ’61 Strat." Above, you can hear Luna play the song on a very vintage Gayageum. Be sure to catch that solo at the 1:28 mark. Enjoy...

Related Content:

Mark Knopfler Gives a Short Masterclass on His Favorite Guitars & Guitar Sounds

Guitar Stories: Mark Knopfler on the Six Guitars That Shaped His Career

Musician Plays the Last Stradivarius Guitar in the World, the “Sabionari” Made in 1679

200+ Films by Indigenous Directors Now Free to View Online: A New Archive Launched by the National Film Board of Canada

The struggles of First Nations peoples in Canada have loomed large in the news, showing a far harsher side of a country Americans tend to caricature as a land of bland niceness, hockey fandom, and socialized medicine. Huge numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women, high rates of suicide, a multitude of health crises, and—as in the U.S.—the ongoing encroachment onto Indigenous lands by toxic pipelines and oilsands development…..

As with issues affecting other beleaguered communities across the globe, suffering from the continued depredations of colonialism and capitalism, these problems can seem so overwhelming that we don’t know how to begin to understand them. As always, the arts offer a way in—through humanizing portraits and intimate revelations, through detailed and compassionate stories, through creativity, humor, and beauty.

In March of this year, the National Film Board of Canada launched an “extensive online library of over 200 films by Indigenous directors,” reports the CBC, “part of a three-year Indigenous Action Plan to ‘redefine’ the NFB’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.” You can read the NFB’s plan here, a response to “the work and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.”

Their free online film collection is searchable by subject, director, or Indigenous people or nation, writes Native News Online, and “many of the films in this collection are currently being screened in communities right across Canada as part of the #Aabiziingwashi (#WideAwake) Indigenous cinema screening series.”

Some of the highlights of the collection include Alanis Obomsawin’s The People of the Kattawapiskak River (top), a 2012 documentary that Judith Schuyler, of the Toronto-based ImagineNATIVE film organization, describes as “highlighting the government, the diamond mines and the skyrocketing freight costs as the contributing factors keeping the [Kattawapiskak] community in impoverished third world conditions.” Below it, see Lumaajuuq, a beautifully-animated short 2010 film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril that tells the Inuit story of “The Blind Man and the Loon.”

Further up, see First Stories—Two Spirited, a 2007 film by Sharon A. Desjarlais that filmmaker Bretten Hannam describes as “a message of hope and healing not only for two-spirit people, but for all indigenous people," and, just above, Dennis Allen’s CBQM, a documentary about a radio station in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, which ImagineNative’s Jason Ryle describes as “a tender, intimate portrait of a northern community.”

Native News Online and the CBC list several other recommendations from the collection, or you can simply dive in and start watching here. Also, check out this crash course on rising Indigenous filmmakers. And if at any point you feel inspired to don the garb of a First Nations people and hit the clubs or music festivals, well, maybe heed the ultra-short public service announcement, “Naked Island—Hipster Headdress,” below, and “Just Don’t Do It.”

via @sheerly

Related Content:

265 Free Documentaries Online 

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc. 

An Archive of 20,000 Movie Posters from Czechoslovakia (1930-1989)

Martin Scorsese Create a List of 38 Essential Films About American Democracy

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

Apply to Become an Archivist Overseeing Prince’s Artifacts & Archival Materials: Applications Are Being Accepted Now

Image by Ann Althouse, via Flickr Commons

If all of Prince’s official releases somehow disappeared from history—no Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Sign o’ the Times, Lovesexy—you could still make a case for him as a singular, if unheard, musical genius based on his massive trove of unreleased material alone. At least that’s my theory, but the evidence is somewhat lacking since we’ve yet to hear much from the notorious Paisley Park vault. We do know, as Rolling Stone reported in 2016, that it’s full of “thousands of hours of unheard live and studio material—jams, random songs and entire albums”…enough material, it seems, to recreate Prince should his career somehow get erased from the timeline.

One former Paisley Park employee, Scott LeGere, witnessed the Purple One’s manic energy during many a long recording session, as he churned out music at a superhuman rate, then relegated much of it, for reasons known only to Prince, to the Vault—an actual basement bank vault “complete with a time lock and large spinning handle.” Only Prince knew the combination. “At one point,” LeGere remembered, “I was holding tapes and he would beckon me to come in. I said, ‘Actually, sir, I’d rather not. That is your space and your work.’” I don’t know about you, but I probably would have gone in. Then again, I’ve never actually been to Paisley Park and experienced what seems to have been a very humbling atmosphere.

As you must have heard by now, the Vault is open, and unreleased material has begun to trickle out, like the original studio recording of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” above with previously unreleased rehearsal footage of Prince and his band. He “recorded every part himself,” writes Jon Pareles, as was his custom, “except some backing vocals (by Paul Peterson and Susannah Melvoin) and a saxophone solo (by Eric Leeds).” It is, without a doubt, “a crescendo of heartache underscored by everyday details, a finished song.”

If you’re a Prince fan (and how could you not be?), you’ll have to wait until September for the first full album of songs from the Vault. But one lucky person with the relevant skills and experience in archival work and conservation will get the chance to work directly with the materials at Paisley Park, now a permanent museum, as the Archives Supervisor reporting to the Director of Archives. “Some knowledge of Prince is helpful,” the job announcement—posted on April 12th—specifies.

You’ll have to be prepared to work weekends, holidays, evenings, and overtime. Benefits are not guaranteed but “may be be offered after successful completion of a sixty (60) day introductory period.” You must have a car and “adhere to a pescatarian environment.” I can’t speak to how these conditions compare to similar kinds of employment, but hey, for the chance to “work in a confidential work area,” including, we might assume, the mysterious Vault itself, some sacrifices may be worth it. You'll likely get to see and hear, before anyone else, the profusion of unreleased film and audio Prince left behind—a lifetime's worth of work that puts most other musicians to shame, stashed away in the basement for future generations to find. You can apply here.

via Rolling Stone

Related Content:

Prince Gets an Official Purple Pantone Color

Hear Prince’s Personal Playlist of Party Music: 22 Tracks That Will Bring Any Party to Life

Watch Prince Play Jazz Piano & Coach His Band Through George Gershwin’s “Summertime” in a Candid, Behind-the-Scenes Moment (1990)

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

Watch Life on the Streets of Tokyo in Footage Recorded in 1913: Caught Between the Traditional and the Modern

What cities have, over the past century, defined in our imaginations the very concept of the city? Obvious choices include New York and London, and here on Open Culture we've featured historic street-level footage of both (New York in 1911, London between 1890 and 1920) that vividly reveals how, even over a hundred years ago, they'd already matured as commercially, technologically, and demographically impressive metropolises. At the turn of the 20th century, the 6.5 million-strong London ranked as the most populous city on Earth, and New York had overtaken it within a few decades. But by the mid-1960s, a new contender had suddenly risen to the top spot: Tokyo.

Historically speaking, of course, the word "new" doesn't quite apply to the Japanese capital, since as a settled area it goes back to the third millennium BC. But Tokyo didn't become the capital, effectively, until 1869 (not that even today's denizens of Kyoto, the country's previous capital, seem ever to have ceded the distinction in their own minds), around the same time that the previously closed-off island nation opened up to the rest of the world. Provided by Amsterdam's EYE Filmmuseum, the footage at the top of the post dates from less than half a century thereafter and conveys something of what it must have felt like to live in not just a country zealously engaged in the project of modernization, but in the very center of that project.

These clips were shot on the streets of Tokyo in 1913 and 1915, just after the death of Emperor Meiji, who since 1868 had presided over the so-called Meiji Restoration. That period saw not just a re-consolidation of power under the Emperor, but an assimilation of all things Western — or at least an assimilation of all things Western that official Japan saw as advantageous in its mission to "catch up" with the existing world powers. For the citizens of Tokyo, these, most benignly, included urban parks: "Japanese enjoy to the fullest the pleasures afforded by the numerous parks of the Empire," says one of the film's title cards. "Uyeno Park, Tokio, is a very popular place, especially on Sunday afternoons." But then, going by what we see in the footage, every place in Tokyo seems popular.

On the brink of thoroughgoing urbanization, the cityscape includes shrines, woodblock prints, signs and banners filled to bursting with text (and presumably color), and hand-painted advertisements for the then-novelty of the motion picture. The Tokyoites inhabiting it wear traditional kimono as well as the occasional Western suit and hat. Young men pull rickshaws and ride bicycles (those latter having grown much more numerous since). Peripatetic merchants sell their wares from enormous wooden frames strapped to their backs. Countless children, both in and out of school uniform, stare curiously at the camera. None, surely, could imagine the destruction soon to come with the 1923 Kanto Earthquake, let alone the firebombing of World War II — nor the astonishingly fast development thereafter that would, by the time of the reborn city's 1964 Olympic Games, make it the largest in the world.

Related Content:

Time Travel Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remarkably High-Quality 1940s Video

Immaculately Restored Film Lets You Revisit Life in New York City in 1911

The Oldest Known Footage of London (1890-1920) Shows the City’s Great Landmarks

Berlin Street Scenes Beautifully Caught on Film (1900-1914)

Download Hundreds of 19th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints by Masters of the Tradition

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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.

Enter an Online Interactive Documentary on M.C. Escher’s Art & Life, Narrated By Peter Greenaway

Despite their enormous popularity, the enigmatic works of Dutch artist M.C. Escher have not, perhaps, received their due in the high art world. But he is beloved by college-dorm-room-decorators, Haight-Ashbury hippies, mathematicians, doctors, and dentists, who put his art on their walls, says Micky Pillar, former curator of the Escher Museum in The Hague, because “they think it’s a great way of getting people engaged and forgetting about reality.” Mathematical giants Roger Penrose and HSM Coxeter “were dazzled by Escher’s work as students in 1954,” notes The Guardian's Maev Kennedy. Mick Jagger was a huge fan, though Escher turned him down when asked to draw an album cover, annoyed at being addressed by his first name (Maurits).

Escher, says Ian Dejardin—director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London—“may have been the only person in the world who had never heard of the Rolling Stones.” It wasn’t that he ignored the world around him, but that he focused his career on inventing another one, taking inspiration first from the Italian countryside and cityscapes, after settling in Rome, and later turning to what he called “mental imagery”: the paradoxical portraits, fantastical shifting shapes, and mind-bending patterns, so absorbing that people in waiting rooms forget their discomfort and anxiety when looking at them.

One of the most famous of such works, 1939’s Metamorphosis II, owes its creation to the historical pressures of Italian fascism and the geometric fascinations of Islamic art. After leaving Rome in 1935 as political tensions rose, Escher found himself inspired by his second visit to The Alhambra in Spain. Its “lavish tile work,” as the National Gallery of Art writes, “suggested new directions in the use of color and the flattened patterning of interlocking forms.” So intricate and technically dazzling is the four-meter-long print that it merits an in-depth look at its context and composition.

That’s exactly what you’ll find at a new “interactive documentary” on Metamorphosis II, by the makers of a similar feature on Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. The online resource lets users scroll across the print, zooming in to an extraordinary level of detail, or zooming out to see how it transitions section by section, from the word “metamorphose,” to a checkerboard pattern, to lizards, honeycombs, bees, hummingbirds, fish, etc.. Along the way, you can click on little colored hexagons (that transform into cubes) and bring up short articles on Escher’s life and aspects of the work at hand. Each of these featurettes is narrated (in the English version) by British filmmaker and artist Peter Greenaway. Once you open one of these explanatory windows, a navigation tool (above) appears at the bottom of the screen.

We see how the various animals in Escher's “systematic tessellations,” as he called them, were chosen by virtue of their shape as well as Escher’s interest in their life cycles and methods of organization. “Nature was a source of wondrous beauty for Escher,” the documentary explains. “In his journals and letters, he often wrote about what surprised, amazed or moved him” in the natural world. Some of the Metamorphosis II sections appeared in later works like 1943’s Reptiles. Escher drew attention both to the natural world’s variety and its genius for repeated patterns. But the movement from one animal to the next has nothing to do with zoology.

Escher delighted in playing “mind association games.” We learn that as a child, “he would lie in bed and think of two subjects for which he had to create a logical connection.” In one example he gave, he would attempt to find his way from “a tram conductor to a kitchen chair.” Metamorphosis II gives us a visual representation of such games, mental leaps that challenge our sense of the order of things. The documentary situates this fascinating work in a historical and aesthetic context that allows us to make sense of it while adding to our appreciation for its strangeness, offering several different ways of approaching the work, as well as an invitation to make your own.

One feature, the “Metamorphosis Machine,” lets you choose from a selection of starting and ending patterns. Then it fills in the transformation in the middle. The results are hardly Escher-quality, but they are a fun and accessible way of understanding the work of an artist whose vision can seem forbidding, with its impossible spaces and disorienting transformations. Enter the Metamorphosis II interactive documentary here.

Related Content:

M.C. Escher Cover Art for Great Books by Italo Calvino, George Orwell & Jorge Luis Borges

Watch M.C. Escher Make His Final Artistic Creation in the 1971 Documentary Adventures in Perception

Take a Virtual Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Bewildering Masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights

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

Watch the Trailer for a Stunning New 70-Millimeter Print of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Released by Christopher Nolan on the Film’s 50th Anniversary

Sure, you've probably seen 2001: A Space Odyssey. But have you experienced 2001: A Space Odyssey? That particular verb no doubt implies different conditions to different people. Maybe it means having seen the film during its initial 1968 release. Maybe it means having seen it at a certain... height of consciousness. Maybe it means having seen it in the large-format Cinerama screenings that happened again when it was re-released during the actual year 2001 — as I did, not having been born yet in 1968. Neither was Christopher Nolan, who, perhaps for that reason, has struck a brand new 70-millimeter print of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's singular vision of a humanity thrust into previously unimaginable encounters with intelligences both extraterrestrial and artificial.

"The film took for granted a broad cultural tolerance, if not an appetite, for enigma, as well as the time and inclination for parsing interpretive mysteries," writes Dan Chiasson in a recent New Yorker piece on 2001's 50th anniversary. "If the first wave of audiences was baffled, it might have been because 2001 had not yet created the taste it required to be appreciated. Like Ulysses, or The Waste Land, or countless other difficult, ambiguous modernist landmarks, 2001 forged its own context. You didn’t solve it by watching it a second time, but you did settle into its mysteries."

Half a century later, 2001 stands as one of the most firmly driven pillars of cinematic culture — a monolith, you might say — and one of the most successful film directors alive has invited us all to share in his worship at its base.

“One of my earliest memories of cinema is seeing Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 70mm, at the Leicester Square Theatre in London with my father," Nolan says in the press materials for the release of the new print. "This is a true photochemical film recreation. There are no digital tricks, remastered effects, or revisionist edits. This is the unrestored film — that recreates the cinematic event that audiences experienced fifty years ago. " You can see its trailer at the top of the post, and if you'll happen to be at the Cannes Film Festival next month, you might consider catching its premiere screening on May 12th. If not, its wider release begins in American theaters on May 18th, so do keep an eye on your local art-house listings, especially for those art houses equipped to screen in 70-millimeter, a format that makes "the ultimate trip," as 2001's late-60s posters hastily re-branded it, that much more so.

Related Content:

Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Gets a Brand New Trailer to Celebrate Its Digital Re-Release

1966 Film Explores the Making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

James Cameron Revisits the Making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Did Stanley Kubrick Invent the iPad in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Andrei Tarkovsky Calls Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a “Phony” Film “With Only Pretensions to Truth”

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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.

Special David Bowie MetroCards Get Released in New York City

Some pretty famous faces ride the New York City subway. Was David Bowie’s ever among them?

If so, he succeeded in dodging the cameras of the curious.

His home stop would have been SoHo’s Broadway/Lafayette—close to the Angelika Film CenterHousing Works Bookstore Cafe, and an upscale men’s clothing store that opened on the sacred ground of CBGB, where Bowie and Bianca Jagger once arrived by limousine to see Richard Hell and the Voidoids.

From there, it’s not exactly a straight shot to the David Bowie Is exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, but the Metropolitan Transit Authority will get you there for the price of a single $2.75 subway fare.

Given that the MTA stopped accepting tokens 15 years ago, you’ll also need to cough up $1 for a MetroCard. You may want to even if you already own one.

In celebration of all things Bowie, the MTA has teamed with Spotify to create 5 limited edition MetroCards, available in vending machines throughout the station for a New York minute—about as long as it takes Bowie fans to descend en masse to snag the instant collectibles of their hero in some of his many guises:

Ziggy Stardust

Aladdin Sane

The Thin White Duke

Scary Monsters’ Pierrot

and, most touchingly, the teenage David Jones, aka Bowie, saxophonist for the Kon-Rads.

Underground Bowie mania extends way beyond MetroCards. Until Mother’s Day, the unusually lofty station is festooned with Bowie—everything from fan art to giant reproductions of photos from the current exhibition.

Many of the images are accompanied by a scannable Spotify code to transport riders to a relevant sound file, a nifty echo of the progressive audio museum-goers experience through their headphones.

The global exhibit has London roots, but the MTA is focused on Bowie’s ties to New York with photos and video stills from such locations as Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, and the late, lamented Magic Shop studio.

Civic pride is also on display in the form of city-specific Bowie quotes posted throughout the station:

I have a great time here: we can go where we want, eat where we want, walk out with our child, go to the park, ride the subway, do the things that any family does.

Ah ha! So he did ride the subway here, as well as in Japan (below).

According to a fan on Bowery Boogie, he also popped up at the New York Public Library’s Mulberry Street branch, just around the corner from the subway’s entrance. To find your way there, consult the bright orange "Bowie’s Neighborhood Map" before leaving the station, where your location is denoted with a lightning bolt.

See riders’ photos of the subway takeover here.

Related Content:

The David Bowie Book Club Gets Launched by His Son: Read One of Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books Every Month

The Periodic Table of David Bowie: A Visualization of the Seminal Artist’s Influence and Influences

Stream David Bowie’s Complete Discography in a 19-Hour Playlist: From His Very First Recordings to His Last

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, April 23 for the third installment of her literary-themed variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Salvador Dalí Action Figure

First came the Frida Kahlo Action Figure, the Edvard Munch Scream Action Figure, and the Vincent Van Gogh Action Figure, Complete with Detachable Ear. And soon they can all pal around with the Salvador Dalí Action Figure.

With six days to go, 693 backers have pledged $15,676 to a Kickstarter campaign that's hoping to raise a total of $26,158. Should they reach that goal, a company called Today Is Art Day will put into production a charming Dali figure. Standing five inches tall, the figure "comes with 3 sets of wacky interchangeable mustaches" and "deluxe mustaches made of stainless steel." The Dalí figure "holds his signature melting clock," and there are five Dalí masterpieces to display on a miniature easel. Apparently endorsed by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, the figure should go into production this August. Help Kickstart things here.

Related Content:

Introducing the Librarian Action Figure: The Caped Crusader Who Fights Against Anti-Intellectualism, Ignorance & Censorship Everywhere

The Edvard Munch Scream Action Figure

The Frida Kahlo Action Figure

The Vincent Van Gogh Action Figure, Complete with Detachable Ear

Immaculately Restored Film Lets You Revisit Life in New York City in 1911

Other than one or two of the world's supercentenarians, nobody remembers New York in 1911. Plenty of living historians and enthusiasts of the city have paid intensive attention to that booming time period when the city's population fast approached five million, but none experienced it first-hand. They, and we, can get no closer to it than watching the footage above, originally shot by a Swedish documentary team which set out to capture the most celebrated places in the world at the time, a list also including Niagara Falls, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Venice. The practically immaculate condition of the film highlights both the similarities and differences between the street life of New York over a century ago and of New York today.

Take a look at the tailored or tailored-looking clothing on nearly everyone, even the one-legged man making his deliberate way past the Chinese grocery. Then as now, most New Yorkers got around on foot, and since the city's first subway line had opened just seven years before, the dominant public transit options remained streetcars and elevated trains.

In the realm of private vehicles, horse-drawn carriages had only just begun to give way to motorcars. (Since 1911 was still the age of silent film, the ambient sound of all this was added later.) "Take note of the surprising and remarkably timeless expression of boredom exhibited by a young girl filmed as she was chauffeured along Broadway in the front seat of a convertible limousine," says the Museum of Modern Art's notes.

MoMA, which exhibited the footage last year, also points out familiar landmarks: "Opening and closing with shots of the Statue of Liberty, the film also includes New York Harbor; Battery Park and the John Ericsson statue; the elevated railways at Bowery and Worth Streets; Broadway sights like Grace Church and Mark Cross; the Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue; and Madison Avenue." Any modern New Yorker halfway interested in the city will know all those places, and even if the city has changed in countless other ways, they'll sense the very same characteristic vitality in these clips that they feel there today. Will New Yorkers of the future have the same reaction, to, say, the Japanese high-definition video demo footage shot on those very same streets in the 1990s? It'll take about eighty years to find out. We probably won't be here by then, but New York certainly will.

via Kottke

Related Content:

1905 Video Shows New York City Subway Traveling From 14th St. to 42nd Street

See New York City in the 1930s and Now: A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Same Streets & Landmarks

The Oldest Known Footage of London (1890-1920) Shows the City’s Great Landmarks

Time Travel Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remarkably High-Quality 1940s Video

Berlin Street Scenes Beautifully Caught on Film (1900-1914)

New York City: A Social History (A Free Online Course from N.Y.U.)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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.

Download an Archive of 16,000 Sound Effects from the BBC: A Fascinating History of the 20th Century in Sound

I was crate digging at my local used vinyl emporium a little while ago and came across some sound effects records from the early ‘60s. Nothing amazing, until I checked the track list and noticed “Sounds of Football Match -- ‘Block that Kick!’”

If you’re a Beatles fan like me, you’ll know what I suspected and then found to be true: I was holding the source of not just one, but several of the sound effects used in “Revolution 9” as well as the bird effects heard on "Across the Universe" and “Blackbird.” Apparently this must have been a popular disc at Abbey Road.

Now I mention this as a preamble to this amazing website by the BBC, in which they’ve opened their archive of 16,000 (technically 16,016) sound effects, many of which have surely been used over and over on various radio plays. (For the Americans out there, yes, BBC Radio still produces radio plays!)

The sounds, each of which you can download, are being released under a non-commercial use license as part of their RemArc program, which is “designed to help trigger memories in people with dementia using BBC Archive material as stimulation.”

The archives run from the nightmarish “South American parrot talking and screeching” which I actually never want to hear again:

to “Zeppelin bomb-drop mechanism. (Comedy Spot Effect),” which doesn’t *sound* funny, but who knows how it was used:

There’s also sounds of the 1966 F.A. Cup Final between Everton and Sheffield Wednesday:

Plenty of these sound effects were relevant at the time. However, a lot of them are now remnants of a time long past, from sounds of offices--noisy then, dead silent now--to high streets (much less music). How many kids would recognize a dial tone or a busy signal, let alone the majestic alien weirdness of a Creed Machine operating:

Back to my opening musing. I would suspect those sound effects also found their way into any number of television shows.

Could we assume, then, that Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam raided these archives for his animations? Or David Attenborough’s crew for any number of nature documentaries? Sound detectives, start digging. Enter the BBC Sound Effects Archive here.

Related Content:

BBC Launches World Music Archive

Watch 50 Hours of Nature Soundscapes from the BBC: Scientifically Proven to Ease Stress and Promote Happiness & Awe

David Bowie Becomes a DJ on BBC Radio in 1979; Introduces Listeners to The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Blondie & More

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

  • Great Lectures



    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.


  • About Us

    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast