From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
An early profile of ambient musician and producer Brian Eno’s parallel career as a visual artist.
Soft Machine's Dysfunctional Mechanism
An alternative cover for the French release of The Soft Machine’s first album alludes to the history of the machine in 20th-century art.
On Dapper Dan
A look at the spectacular logo-remix aesthetic of rap-culture style pioneer Dapper Dan.
True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
Ambiguous but prescient, David Byrne
’s film True Stories is a classic piece of postmodern pop anthropology.
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Punk has two new graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic
and The Art of Punk.
What conclusions do they draw?
Listening to Retail
Disquiet Junto has been listening to retail, and it's changing my ears.
It's Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy
The image of the crash test dummy has traveled from the subcultural fringes to the pop culture mainstream.
Design a Cover for Eno's Music for Films
LA architect John Bertram has set a
competition to design an alternative sleeve for Music for Films
by Brian Eno.
I Love the 80s
Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.
From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
Heavy metal’s extremity, as a set of aesthetic choices and as a way of life, exerts an enduring fascination.
Accidental Mysteries, 02.19.12
This collection of underground music and culture events flyers come from the personal online collection of Chicago collector Marc Fischer.
On My Shelf: Continuum's 33 1/3 Series
The 33 1/3 books about classic albums are a perfect example of how design can help focus an editorial idea.
12.10.10: Michael Bierut
At the Movies with Javier Mariscal
Chico & Rita
is a new animated film by Spanish designer Javier Mariscal and director Fernando Trueba.
Minotaurs in Suburban England
English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.
I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s merch. Of course, band-branded merchandise has been a major part of the music business, big and small, for years.
The Song Decoders
Pandora, is convinced it can guide you, to music that you like. The premise is that your favorite songs can be stripped to parts and reverse-engineered.
Icon Review: Attila
At the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Attila
, the applause starts before the curtain rises.
Hitting Rewind on the Cassette Tape
The romance associated with vinyl seems to apply to its longtime analog rival, the cassette.
Trip Down Memory Lane
In my ongoing project to give my son as much of a 1970s childhood as possible, we recently ran across all of the 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine
I was thrilled by the metion of the Tigertones in this week's episode of Mad Men.
Significant Objects: Porcelain Scooter
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fourth of five stories is by Teddy Blanks...
In 1962, I spent hours listening to Mad
magazine’s first LP (Big Top Records), Mad “Twists” Rock ‘N’ Roll
. Owning the record made me feel like I was part of a club, which latter evolved into the sardonic, ironic sixties youth culture. It brings me back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.
Adam Harrison Levy
An Interview With Philip Glass
In 2005, Adam Harrison Levy interviewed Philip Glass for a BBC documentary film about Chuck Close. Glass was seated in front of the monumental painting Phil, 1969. This is their exchange.
Theirs Go to Twaalf
Meet Lamster (no relation), Belgium's ascendant metal goliath.
Michael Jackson, Automotive Designer
I know, Michael Jackson has done some terrible things. Tax evasion. Absconding with the Beatles catalog. Child molestation. We Are the World
. But this — is design even the word for it?
A Horrible Machine
Check out my essay on the classic scout song "Dunderbeck" in the latest issue (no. 6) of the always gnaw-worthy Meatpaper
Fanfare for the Common Commuter
I’ve become a regular morning commuter on the city’s splendid Metro — the first in the world to employ only rubber tires on its cars. It didn’t take long for me to notice, as the trains departed, a curious trilogy of tones that echoed, along with the hum of the engine, through the concrete-chambered station. The notes, I realized with a start, were the beginning of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker
Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.
Phil Spector vs. The Wall of Sound
Until 1966, producer Phil Spector was an unstoppable machine, churning out "symphonies for little kids." Then came "River Deep, Mountain High," where the combination of Tina Turner's raw, unbridled passion and Spector's orchestral swoon was a total disaster. Spector's career was over, but the song goes on and on.
Off the Grid
When you abandon most of the rules, how do you define a mistake? How to art direct a newspaper from the middle of the muddy Glastonbury music festival.
Sun Ra, Street Priest and Father of D.I.Y. Jazz
Before the 1950s, artist-owned record companies were unheard of, but Sun Ra pioneered the idea along with a couple of other musicians and composers. Sun Ra and Alton Abraham helped define the do-it-yourself ethic that came to be a central part of the American independent music industry, designing and in some cases manufacturing the covers themselves. In the process, they maintained a previously unimaginable degree of control over the look and content of their jazz releases.
Are JPEGs the New Album Covers?
An audio file with a thumbnail JPEG of the album cover will never have the resonance not to mention the commercial value of a well-made piece of packaging. But if the corporate providers of downloadable music have their way, this is the future of recorded music. Who ever had a love affair with a JPEG?
Cheap Music and Commercial Art
You wouldn't know it from Dreamgirls, but Motown staff songwriters Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland were examples of how art is created under pressure.
All That Jazz: Posters by Niklaus Troxler
Niklaus Troxler's jazz posters can be viewed as a single, self-initiated project that has developed over five decades, a body of work with few precedents. Spanning an astonishing range of styles, the posters are united by a single thing: the passion of a single man who serves at once as designer and client.
The Karaoke Effect
The lure of American Idol
, in these early weeks, lies in precisely this shaky space: that illusory bubble populated by thousands of fame-seekers who fervently believe in their own righteous, if highly fictional talent. It's cultural fallout. Just as the karaoke singer imagines him or herself live and in concert before the screaming fans, so, too, does the illusion persist once the microphone is turned off.
War Is Over! If You Want It
When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon
is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.
This past weekend, I went down in the basement and brought up three heavy boxes of records that hadn't seen the light of day in more than 20 years. A meditation on the joys of vinyl.
The artwork for Beck's new album The Information
immediately brings to mind the work of Sol LeWitt and the question of where the creative act is situated: in making the work or making the rules.
Broadcast vs. Broadband
Viral video is on the rise, spreading from broadband to broadcast and back again. What are the opportunities for designers in this new genre?
Wilson Pickett, Design Theorist, 1942 - 2006
Wilson Pickett's advice on hitmaking, "Harmonize, then customize," would make good advice for any designer.
Designing Twyla Tharp's Upper Room
Jennifer Tipton's lighting design for Twyla Tharp's dance piece, In the Upper Room, creates a magical experience for the audience and brings her often unseen art to the foreground.
Self-Initiated House Music
It is perhaps stretching definitions to say that Julian House has become a musician, but with the help of sampling technology and an array of digital audio tools, he makes striking and compelling audio assemblages, which have strong stylistic parallels with his collage-based graphic design.
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y
At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.
But Darling of Course it's Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.
The Aural As An Architectonic Challenge
What are the people over at Transom.org up to? As it happens, this month is a very good time to pay them a visit: for the next several weeks, Walter Murch the phenomenally smart and inspired film and sound editor will be continuing to hold court there.
Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design
Has heavy metal graphic design run its course? Is the band logo as a species dead? And is there much of a future for the graphic representation of popular music itself?
Theory with a Small "t"
A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.