Long Reads

Beginning with the Beguine: Dances Named in Popular Song

From the time it began to flourish on record and on the big screen in the 1930s, to the present day and inescapably beyond, popular music has tapped and swayed to the tune of songs about dance. Less often, songs have not only been about dancing – cheek to cheek or buttock to groin – but have given their name to…

A Brief History of the Modern Man’s Hat

In the final decade of the eighteenth century, impelled by the ideals of the French Revolution, the top hat replaced the tricorne as the vogue item of headwear for fashionable Europeans. Already popular in France where it would become part of the costume of the Incroyables, the first top hat in England has been credited to the Frenchman George Dunnage, a master hatter…

George RR Martin and the Art of the List

On 10 May 2016 George RR Martin published an excerpt in the form of a chapter from The Winds of Winter, the sixth novel in his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and one which fans have been eagerly anticipating now for almost five years. A Dance with Dragons – itself the product of a five-and-a-half-year wait,…

Pyongyang Architecture: Eddo Hartmann and Matjaž Tančič

Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910, and remained under Japanese rule until the close of World War II in August 1945. While the Allies had continued to vacillate on the fate of Korea come the end of the war, by August – as per an agreement between the two states – the United States occupied the southern half of…

Great Long Opening Sentences in World Literature

Some of the greatest first lines in world literature are but a few words long, consisting of a lone and simple clause: ‘Call me Ishmael.’ from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), and for a more recent example, ‘See the child.’ from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985). Others too suggestively introduce a central figure, whether the narrator or the object of the narrator’s gaze:…

Themes and References in Joanna Newsom’s Sapokanikan

Yesterday Joanna Newsom announced Divers, her fourth studio album and her first since 2010’s beautiful and generous Have One on Me. Divers is due out on 23 October on Drag City. Accompanying this revelation, she also unveiled the video for the album’s first single. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Sapokanikan’ shows Newsom strolling, striding, and sashaying through the streets of New York City. ‘Sapokanikan’ is…

Poetry

Emily Dickinson – ‘I Can Wade Grief’ (1862)

Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the town where she would live the duration of her life. She attended Amherst Academy, newly opened to female students, for seven years, punctuated briefly by spells of illness and a stay in Boston in the aftermath of the death of her cousin, Sophia Holland. In her teens she…

The Early Poetry of Mina Loy

For last weekend’s Cultureteca, among other things, I looked at some of the poetry being written and published in Russia and the United States a hundred years ago, in July 1915. This included a brief recap of the formation of the literary magazine Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, founded in New Jersey by Alfred Kreymborg. When the first…

Fyodor Sologub: His Life, and ‘At Times There Comes a Strange Smell Wafting’

Fyodor Sologub: His Life, and ‘At Times There Comes a Strange Smell Wafting’

Fyodor Sologub was born Fyodor Kuzmich Teternikov on 1 March, 1863, in Saint Petersburg. Accounts of his father’s life evoke Gogol’s The Overcoat and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, for Kuzma Afanasyevich Teternikov was a shoemaker and tailor, and apparently the illegitimate son of a local landowner. When Kuzma Afanasyevich died in 1867, Fyodor’s mother became a domestic servant, and Fyodor…

Cinema

Behind the Song: ‘M’appari’ from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha

‘M’appari’ is the best-known name for the central aria from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha, a romantic comic opera in four acts. Flotow – who was born into a musical family, his mother playing the piano and his father the flute – composed some thirty operas during his lifetime, beginning his career after studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, before achieving his first…

Capsule Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows Vampire Mockumentary | 85 Minutes | 2014 | New Zealand * Vampires on film are best taken seriously. As archetypes, strange and sad figures who permeate given spaces while proving difficult to grasp, they model for us fear, loneliness, and alienation, and are uniquely suited to expressive visual contrasts of light and dark. The great vampire films, Nosferatu (1922),…

Buster Keaton and His Pork Pie Hat

Following the rise of the top hat, bowler or derby, Panama, fedora, and flat cap across the nineteenth century, by the first decades of the twentieth century a man could scarcely open his front door, much less appear before a discerning public, without some suitable form of headwear. In the realm of silent comedy, Charlie Chaplin tramped about in a tight…

Behind the Song

Behind the Song: Charles Mingus – ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’

Charles Mingus wrote ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ as an elegy for the pioneering jazz saxophonist Lester Young, who died in March 1959, two months prior to the recording sessions for what would become Mingus Ah Um. A darkly elegant ballad with a lone dissonant note full of pathos and pain, it contrasts sharply with the exuberant gospel of ‘Better Git It…

Behind the Song: David Bowie – ‘Subterraneans’

‘Subterraneans’ is the closing song on what has become perhaps David Bowie’s most critically acclaimed album: Pitchfork placed Low at number 1 on their ‘Top 100 Albums of the 1970s’, on Q’s list of the ‘100 Greatest British Albums Ever’ Low was Bowie’s highest entry at number 14, and while elsewhere it vies with Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, and occasionally Station to Station and “Heroes”, Low is the constant,…

Behind the Song: Animal Collective – ‘Summertime Clothes’

Animal Collective’s eighth studio album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, was released in January 2009. The album had been recorded over the course of one month the previous February, at Sweet Tea Recording Studio, the 24-track studio with a large control room in Oxford, Mississippi. For the record the band sought out producer Ben Allen, desiring his low-end expertise, and valuing both his…

Earthy Anecdotes

Earthy Anecdotes: The Premiere of The Rite of Spring

On 29 May 1913, The Rite of Spring, the ballet and orchestral work composed by Igor Stravinsky, premiered at the newly-opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. With choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky and stage and costume design by Nicholas Roerich, the ballet was part of the 1913 season for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Jeux, the last work for orchestra written by Claude Debussy, also…

Earthy Anecdotes: Zola’s House at Médan, by Cézanne

In a recent piece on Cézanne’s Banks of the Marne, I mentioned by way of comparison the painting Zola’s House at Médan, another composition where house peek out amid dense foliage, atop river banks, with the buildings and greenery reflected in the river. Zola’s House at Médan is otherwise known as Le Château de Médan. Painted between 1879 and 1881, it is now part…

Interviews

Upon the Wine Dark Sea: An Interview with Jolie Holland

From the beginning of Catalpa – emerging in 2003, with an admixture of folk and blues at once ethereal and stomping, and opening out on repeated listens to expose moments of the most intimate human connection – Jolie Holland has released six albums of outstanding worth. Her distinctive voice has been admired by artists including Tom Waits, Lou Reed, and St. Vincent, and she…