MUSIC  & ART

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General Cultural Subjects

THEATRE and FILM

ANIMALS

General Facts

CAT FACTS

INVENTIONS

The first permanent color photograph was taken by James Clerk Maxwell in 1861.

Michaelangelo's last name was Buonarroti.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king: 
          Spades - King David
          Hearts - Charlemagne
          Clubs -Alexander the Great
          Diamonds - Julius Caesar
The King of Hearts is the only king without a mustache.

Universal Music has announced its plan to release an album just for cats. The brainchild of cellist David Teie, a music professor at the University of Maryland, it's based on a universal theory of music. Teie discovered that humans have an emotional response to music because it’s tied to the sounds we hear when our brains are developing. For example, it’s because we heard our mother’s pulse in the womb that we like drums in our music; the sound intrigues us because it evokes heartbeats. It’s no coincidence that our mother’s resting heart rate is almost exactly the same pace as music we find relaxing. Unlike humans, felines establish their sense of music outside of the womb, through sounds heard after they’re born, like the chirping of birds, the sucking of milk, or the purring of their mother. Using only musical instruments, Teie incorporated those sounds and their natural vocalizations into music and matched it to the frequency range they use to communicate. The reason harp notes play in rapid succession (23 per second) is because that’s the precise rate of a cat’s purr. Songs include “purring and suckling noises, as well as Teie on his cello accompanied by players from the US National Symphony Orchestra. Teie co-authored a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, in which his feline research subjects appeared to show greater interest in music created just for them. An older study with monkeys yielded similar results.

Finches are know for their fine singing voices.  German criminals called snitches finks because they were prone to singing like a bird to police.

Due to the “naughty” dancing of the can-can girls and the scantily clad models on 1800s French postcards, the British equated anything risqué with France. In fact, that's how the phrase pardon my French entered the vernacular.

The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows.  It was the fashion in Renaissance Florence to shave them off. 

Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. 

The Dutch angle, also known as Dutch tilt, canted angle, or oblique angle, is a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle on its roll axis so that the shot is composed with vertical lines at an angle to the side of the frame, or so that the horizon line of the shot is not parallel with the bottom of the camera frame. This produces a viewpoint akin to tilting one's head to the side. It's one of many cinematic techniques often used to portray psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed. Dutch refers to a bastardisation of the word "Deutsch", the German word for "German". It originated in the First World War, as Navy blockades made the import (and export) of movies impossible. The German movie scene was part of the expressionist movement, which used the Dutch angle extensively.

Purple has been associated since antiquity with royalty and luxury. But the purple pigment was, for many millennia, chiefly distilled from a dehydrated mucous gland of molluscs that lies just behind the rectum: the bottom of the bottom-feeders.

Artist Barnaby Furnas is using a custom-made robot to help him produce paintings that can sell for more than $100,000 at New York galleries, Reuters' Elly Park reports: "Furnas and several artists are using digital printing robots that use techniques in paintings that were previously impossible or too labor intensive." The machine is "guided by inputs from artists and optical sensors to paint in fine detail in lines thinner than a human eyelash. It records a painter's movements, allowing artists to edit brushstrokes before putting an image on a canvas. Those digital images can be combined with brushwork from an artist to bring new dimensions to a painting."

Sculptor Henry Moore said that creating sculpture is chipping away at what isn’t an elephant.  Miles Davis said something similar: Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.

                         Leonardo De Vinci invented the scissors.

Musical memory consists of aural and tactile recall, plus a deep level of knowledge and understanding of the piece, including its structure, other patterns, and specific notes in sequence.

Harpsichord craftsman Bartolomeo Cristofori invented a new keyboard instrument which had the ability to produce both soft and loud, with two sets of strings at unison pitch and a soundboard of cypress.  It became known as the pianoforte after the Italian for “soft” and “strong” (piano-forte), and was revealed to the public in 1709.

Piano keys were originally made of ivory because that natural substance absorbs moisture, and kept the keys from becoming slippery. For that reason, a piano with ivory keys is easier to play.

The Hammond organ was invented by Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert and first manufactured in 1935. It was originally designed as a lower-cost alternative to the wind-driven pipe organ, or instead of a piano in smaller churches. It quickly became popular with professional jazz musicians, who found it a cheaper alternative to the big band.

Warner Communications paid 28 million for the copyright to the  song Happy Birthday. But an old songbook might put Happy Birthday in the Public Domain. A ruling is near in a lawsuit that claims the copyright on the much-sung song is not valid. That would be an unhappy day for Warner Music Group, which could lose millions in licensing fees.

Mick Jagger copied Marilyn Monroe when choreographing his trademark moves. Jagger also sang backup for Carly Simon's hit You're So Vain, the song supposedly written about Warren Beatty.

The popular song, We've Only Just Begun, which was a best-seller by The Carpenters, was written by Paul Williams, contracted by an ad agency to write a song for an ad campaign for a bank in Los Angeles.

John Wagner, a Hallmark artist, is the creator of the popular cartoon,  Maxine. She was modeled on a combination of  his mother, his maiden aunts and his grandmother. Hired for Hallmark's new Shoebox Greetings in 1986 led to the creation of Maxine.  People at Shoebox started referring to the character as John Wagner's old lady,  said the artist in an interview, so he instigated a contest among the Shoebox group to name the character.  Three entries suggested Maxine,  which  John agreed is perfect.

Abraham “Al” Jaffee, was born in 1921. A regular contributor to Mad Magazine for more than 55 years, Jaffee is the satirical magazine’s longest-running contributor, as both an illustrator and writer. Since 1964, only one issue has been published without new material from Jaffee. He created some of the magazine’s most popular features, such as blueprint-style inventions and his famous “fold-ins”—which he continues to draw by hand.

Hearst started the King Syndicate in 1915, to distribute comic strips and other features to his papers. They now reach 2800 newspapers in 70 countries. 

Walt Disney got his idea for Mickey Mouse while he worked in a garage. He was watching the mice play one night and got the inspiration for Mortimer Mouse. He didn’t change the name until shortly before he finished the first Mickey Mouse cartoon – the 1928  Steamboat Willie, Disney’s first attempt to use sound and the first fully synchronized sound cartoon. He named Mickey Mouse after Mickey Rooney, whose mother he dated for some time. Mickey was created in 1928, making his debut in the silent film Plane Crazy.

But well before that, Walt Disney created a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Unfortunately, Universal Studios claimed the rights, as he was their employee. That caused Disney to protect Mickey Mouse and all his subsequent characters so vigorously.

Mickey Mouse only has four fingers on each of his hands because it was less expensive to animate.

The Wizard of Oz was nominated for six Oscars, but lost Best Picture to Gone with the Wind.  MGM's studio head Louis B. Mayer thought "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was too sad, while other executives felt it slowed down the pace of "The Wizard of Oz." However, producer Mervyn LeRoy and assistant producer Arthur Freed fought passionately for the song's inclusion, with LeRoy going as far as saying he'd quit the film if the song was cut.

Music likely preceded language in evolution. Singing was used to communicate friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love, the “six songs” Daniel Levitin describes in his book, The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature.

The earliest surviving opera (written by Jacopo Peri and Ottavio Rinuccini) is Euridice which was performed in Florence in 1600. Opera quickly spread from Florence to Rome, Venice, and all other major cities in Italy.

Giacomo Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906).

Opera has been incorporated into many movies and commercials. For example, Delibes’ The Flower Duet from Lakme can be heard in The American President, Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, Superman Returns, Meet the Parents, and many TV shows and commercials. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is featured in Babe: Pig in the City, Deep Impact, Space Jam, Under the Tuscan Sun, and an award-winning Nike commercial.

The shortest opera is only seven minutes long and is Darius Milhaud’s The Deliverance of Theseus.

The harmonica is the world's best-selling music instrument.

Showing off at a party one evening, Chopin played the entire Minute Waltz in less than 10 seconds.

On December 22, 1808, Beethoven rented a hall in Vienna and promoted the concert to end all concerts: the debut, over four hours, of three of the greatest works in the history of music.

Franz Schubert, one of the most gifted musicians of the 19th century, was an Austrian who wrote his first of nine symphonies in 1813 at the age of 16. He wrote more than 600 songs, many to the lyrics of German poets, and also composed music for the stage, overtures, choral music, masses, and piano music. He died at 31, having produced more masterpieces by that age than almost any other composer in history.

Francis Scott Key was a young lawyer who wrote the poem, The Star Spangled Banner, after being inspired by watching the Americans fight off the British attack of Baltimore during the War of 1812.  The poem became the words to the national anthem.

The New York Philharmonic, founded in 1842, is the oldest symphony orchestra in the U.S. Among its conductors have been composer Gustav Mahler, Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein.

Cole Porter's first two musicals flopped on Broadway.

Kander & Ebb wrote songs for Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, and it was set to premiere in London, but the rights were pulled by Wilder's nephew.  Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, the writers of The Fantasticks, wrote a musical of Wilder's Our Town and it took them thirteen years to write, only to have the rights pulled as well by the nephew.

Radio City Music Hall seats 6000, and its Great Stage, designed by Peter Clark, measures 66.5 by 144 ft.  Its system of elevators was so advanced that the U.S. Navy incorporated identical hydraulics in constructing World War II aircraft carriers. During the war, government agents guarded the basement to assure the Navy's technological advantage. This elevator system was also designed by Peter Clark, and was built by Otis Elevators. The Music Hall's "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ is the largest theater pipe organ built for a movie theater. Identical consoles with four manuals (keyboards) are installed on both sides of the Great Stage. Installed in 1932, the instrument was the largest produced by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company of North Tonawanda, New York; it was built as a serious concert instrument rather than to accompany silent movies, capable of playing many styles of music including classical organ literature. A total rebuild of the historic organ was completed in time for the theater's restoration in 1999.

Andre Segovia, acknowledged to be one of the world's greatest guitarist, was primarily self-taught.

The romantic guitar and the mandolin were both invented in Naples.

Leo Fender invented the electric guitar in 1948, although he never learned how to play it!

Les Paul invented the 8-track, the modified electric guitar, and over-dubbing. As a kid, he punched extra holes in his mother's piano rolls and covered existing holes, just to see how it would sound. Like many geniuses, he dropped out of high school. Always open to new ideas, was playing in a country band on the radio in Chicago while spending evenings at jazz clubs. He was the first to play the guitar beyond the third fret. Other guitar players thought he was crazy until they heard the sound he was able to produce. His use of a tape recorder was the result of an auto accident which damaged his right arm. Invention often comes out of adversity.

Arnold Jacobs, a tuba player with the Chicago Symphony and a professor at Northwestern University, says there are  two cranial nerves that allow a musician to communicate when he or she is playing. Jacobs explains that thinking is as important as technique in creating music, and urges musicians to practising as if you're performing, listening to the sound in your head rather than just going through the motions of rehearsing.

Frank Sinatra couldn't read music.

None of the Beatles could read music. They could play the guitar, piano, and drums and write lyrics, but they never learned to read music.

Originally a jazz pianist, Nat King Cole performed in Los Angeles nightclubs with his trio in the 1930s but did not achieve commercial success until he began singing. His warm, velvety voice brought a personal touch to his ballads, and he became internationally popular for his broodingly romantic hits, such as Unforgettable. He went on to become one of the first African-American artists to star in a radio show and to host a network television show.

God Bless America is considered the semi-official national anthem of the United States, along with America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner.  Irving Berlin wrote it during World War I, but it was not sung in public until November 11, 1938, when Kate Smith introduced it on a radio broadcast.

Tony Bennett, an acclaimed jazz vocalist for close to five decades, also has one of his paintings hanging in the Smithsonian. When interviewed recently about why his music appeals to all ages, Bennett said he's "anti-demographic." Bennett has won fifteen Grammy Awards, two Emmy Awards, been named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold over 50 million records worldwide. On his 85th birthday, he released his second duets album, pairing with everyone from Lady Gaga to K.D. Lang.

Carnegie Hall opened in 1891. The Neo-Italian Renaissance building by architect William Burnet Tuthill was  endowed by industrialist Andrew Carnegie at the insistence of conductor Walter Damrosch. Pyotr Tchaikovsky was the guest of honor at its opening. The New York city landmark was slated for demolition in the 1950s but was saved by a public outcry.

Arthur Rubinstein was was a Polish-American pianist whose enormous popularity spanned many decades. He debuted in 1900 and performed with moderate success until the 1930s, when he stopped performing for five years to improve his technique and reemerged as a giant of 20th-century music, active into his 80s.

The S-shaped hole in the body of the violin, which permits the sound to escape, is the same as the mathematical symbol for integral, one of the basic tools of calculus, with numerous applications in science and engineering.

There are 600 violins and cellos built by Antonio Stradivari still in existence today.

Tin Pan Alley was a section of West 28th Street between Broadway and 6th Ave. It was home to music publishers and songwriters who dominated the industry in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison were all 27 years old when they died.

In 1875, an American songwriter named Henry Clay Work was visiting England. While there, he checked in to the George Hotel in North Yorkshire. In the hotel’s lobby was a large pendulum clock. The clock had stopped long ago and just sat in the lobby, serving no apparent purpose. When he asked about its history, he was told that the clock had belonged to the inn’s previous two owners, the Jenkins brothers, both deceased. It seems the clock had kept perfect time during their lives, but when the first Jenkins brother died, the clock started becoming less accurate. After this, the story went that the clock stopped completely dead- to the minute and second Jenkins brother had died.  Despite the best efforts of a host of repairmen hired by the new owners of the inn, they couldn’t get the clock going again.  Work thought it was a great story.  and wrote a song about the incident. My Grandfather’s Clock was released in 1876.

The Boston Pops began in 1885, but became popular in 1930, thanks to Arthur Fiedler, who created special arrangements that the orchestra continues to perform. Fiedler reigned over the Pops for 50 years.

The national anthem of Greece has 158 verses.

Among the most unusual musical instruments the world’s first and only Great Stalacpipe Organ, created by electronic engineer Leland W. Sprinkle. The organ itself works by tapping these ancient stalactites with rubber mallets, all connected to a keyboard that looks like a traditional organ/piano.

Norwegian drummer and composer, Terje Isungset, turns ice into music. He shapes ice into a variety of instruments using his chainsaw like a paintbrush. Trumpets, xylophones,

England’s East Lancashire is home to an art installation known as the Ringing Singing Tree. It’s a giant instrument made up of a bunch of steel pipes of different lengths stacked in different directions, so that any passing breeze transforms into eerie melodies. This crazy piece of art stands just over three meters tall and was created in 2006 by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu and won a Royal Institute of British Architects award

The Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna are a group of touring musicians who have transformed everyday vegetables into a variety of instruments: pan-pipes, recorders, even a clarinet made from a carrot. Not only can the orchestra carry a vegan melody, they even give out fresh vegetable soup at the end of their concerts.

The Hornucopian Dronepipe was designed by Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg from Monad Studios,  using a 3-D printer as part of a trio of futuristic instruments. The other two include a two-string electric violin, a one-string electric bass guitar, a one-string electric cello/violin hybrid and a small didgeridoo.

Theremins were made famous for producing the iconic eerie soundtracks to the science fiction films of the 1950s and ‘60s. Their trademark howl is made from contactless play. The player moves his hand between two metal antennae without touching them. The distance from one antenna determines frequency (called “pitch”), and the distance from the other controls the volume (called “amplitude”). Theremists can play higher notes by moving their hands closer to the pitch antenna, and control volume by playing with the other antenna. The Theremin gets its name from Leon Theremin, who invented it in 1928.

From Paper by Mark Kurlansky:
          Paper made its first appearance in Europe in the 11th century, but was expensive and suffered from poor quality. By the 15th century, it was inexpensive and of good quality, and that dramatically changed the level of Renaissance art.
          Paper opened up the possibility of the sketch. Renaissance artists sketched out their work before they drew, painted, or sculpted it -- or, in the case of Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts, carved it. This new ability to not only plan but toy with ideas raised their art to a level not known in the Middle Ages.
          Michelangelo may have been among the first to jot down quick ideas for himself. Some 2,000 letters from and to Michelangelo have also been collected. Letter writing is another practice that blossomed with the widespread use of paper.

Fustian, of which we still have two forms in velveteen and corduroy, was originally wove at Fustat on the Nile, with a warp of linen thread and a woof of thick cotton, so twilled and cut that it showed on one side a thick but low pile; and the web thus managed took its name of Fustian from that Egyptian city,” the Very Rev. Daniel Rock D.D. wrote. The fabric at one point was closely associated with the Catholic Church, after a Cistercian abbot forced chasubles—the outer vestments worn by priests—to be made out of basic linen or fustian, rather than more expensive materials. The fabric had a tendency to be both associated with high-minded pompousness (see the fact that Shakespeare turned fustian into an adjective of that nature) and working-class living. And this was before corduroy even got any cords.

Hugo Boss, founder of the popular clothing company, designed some of the Nazi SS uniforms. Boss joined the Nazi Party in 1931 after being bankrupt and coming to an agreement with his creditors. He later stated that he joined the party because of their promise to end unemployment and because he felt “temporarily” withdrawn from the Lutheran Church.

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