The editors' blog
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, May 22ndread more »
~ Posted by Melanie Grant, May 21st 2015
The first thing that strikes you about enamel is the colour. Glorious, saturated colour, so rich it is worthy of ancient royalty. The Persians of the Sasanian empire (224-651AD) made an enamel hue called “the azure colour of heaven”, which is sky blue to you and me. But the name gives you an idea of the reverence enamel inspired—and still inspires. Its unmistakable vividness and gloss can be found on Byzantine plaques, “pectorals” worn by pharaohs, Ming Dynasty vases and Fabergé eggs.
Enamelling was one of the crafts under the spotlight at this month’s London Craft Week. By inviting the public to see craftspeople at work and learn about their skills, Guy Salter, the organiser, hopes to foster a new generation of master craftsmen and ensure traditional techniques, such as enamelling, continue to flourish. "It can get pigeon-holed as being a little bit old-fashioned," says Salter.read more »
~ Posted by Georgia Grimond, May 20th 2015
Until mid-July, 13 metres of crisp white cotton will lie stretched out in the British Library’s entrance hall. Stitched into it are sentences of text, marching in regimented lines from left to right. “Magna Carta", it begins, "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia": it is an embroidered facsimile of the Wikipedia entry for the agreement signed 800 years ago by King John, enshrining the rights of the English people and forming the basis of the British constitution and the inspiration for America’s Bill of Rights. The occasional word—"freedom", say, or "democracy"—is picked out in blue, mimicking Wikipedia's hyperlinks. Further down you see the entry's table of contents and bold sub-headings. Punctuating the right-hand side are a series of embroidered illustrations, from the thumbnail of the original document, its tightly packed Latin text on beige parchment, to a beautifully illuminated 14th-century copy. At the bottom is a list of "External links".read more »
~ Posted by David Bennun, May 16th 2015
We tend to greet the death of titans at a grand age with professions of sorrow, but also with a certain resignation. After all, what did we hope for instead? That they would live for ever? But B.B. King is different, chiefly because there was no one like B.B. King. He was a figure of towering stature whose life and career not only spanned the era of rock'n'roll, but contained it. If, as Muddy Waters put it, "the blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll", then King made up a large part of its DNA. The rock-guitar solo runs in a direct line back through the British blues boom of the mid-Sixties to his clear, sustained, soaring, string-bending technique, just as his bullish, impassioned singing style prefigured so many subsequent vocalists. Try to imagine Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" or Pink Floyd's "Money" without his influence. He was a fixture on the American R&B chart before rock'n'roll arrived, and remained there while rock and soul dominated pop throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He opened shows for the Rolling Stones and collaborated with U2 at their respective commercial peaks. With his death at the age of 89 we haven't just lost a musician. It feels like a museum has burnt down.read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, May 15th 2015
Bryce Dessner is a professional shape-shifter. Best known as a guitarist in the maudlin indie band The National, he is also a classical composer and festival organiser. Last weekend, he was all three at once. Hosted by the Barbican Centre in London, “Mountains and Waves” was Dessner’s miniature festival of music by Americans and about America. Contemporary orchestral pieces by Dessner and his friends, among them the composers Philip Glass and Nico Muhly, rubbed shoulders with folk and electronica. On the night I went, two minimalist works were on the bill: Dessner’s “Wave Movements” and Steve Reich’s “Drumming” (1970-71), a classic of the genre. One showed when less is more; the other when less is less.read more »
~ Posted by Jasper Rees, May 15th 2015
In late 2013 I visited the bookdealer Jeff Towns, who is the human face of the Dylan Thomas industry. Many rare books, manuscripts and other collectables associated with the poet have passed through his hands, and some are still hoarded in his home in the Mumbles on the western flank of Swansea Bay. He showed me a first edition of “18 Poems” (1934), the slim volume with which Thomas announced himself at 20. And he recalled being on the phone to a potential buyer when, casually flicking through its pages, he found that the poet had graffitied two critiques of his own work: “one’s worst poem ever” on one page, and a few pages later, “Welsh masturbating Swinburne”. With its rarity value all of a sudden vastly enhanced, Towns withdrew the copy from sale.read more »
~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, May 14th 2015
Whatever realm it is that dead playwrights inhabit, right now there must be at least one up there smiling. Arthur Miller, the most profound of all stage analysts of the American dream, would be delighted enough with Ivo van Hove’s recent stripped-back production of “A View From the Bridge” in London, which threw out all the trappings of realism to lay bare the expressionistic power of Miller’s prose. Rarely was a returns queue more worth standing in. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Death of a Salesman”, which opened at the Noël Coward Theatre last night after a high-speed transfer from Stratford, will be the cherry on his heavenly cake.read more »
~ Posted by George Pendle, May 14th 2015
In 1876, the English shipping magnate Frederick Leyland asked James McNeill Whistler, the enfant terrible of the art world, for advice on decorating his London dining room. The room was intended to showcase Leyland’s collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain—for which there was a collecting craze at the time—but when the original architect fell ill and Leyland was called back to Liverpool on business, Whistler decided to take over the project and infuse it completely with his own particular artistic genius. He painted its walls in shimmering Prussian blue and blue-green, not sparing the expensive leather wall-hangings. He ladled on gold leaf, covered the ribbed ceiling in oxidised brass, and filled every surface with delicate abstract patterns and lustrous images of peacocks.read more »
~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, May 13th 2015
What do Iris Apfel (above), Elsa Schiaparelli, Isabella Blow, Diana Vreeland and Jenna Lyons all have in common? These grande dames of fashion spent their early years bemoaning their appearance. The connection isn’t surprising. It’s natural to throw distraction in the face of a perceived deficit: who will notice that your eyes are too close together, or your nose too long, or your legs too thick if you are dressed like a goddess? There is no doubt that Iris, the subject of a new documentary by the late Albert Maysles, dresses spectacularly. Her careers as a textile designer and interior decorator have given her a fine eye and she and her singular wardrobe became such darlings of the fashion world that they had their own exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2005. You might assume—as I did—that a film about a woman who cares deeply about how she looks, and who dresses to be noticed, would err on the side of vapidity. But, like me, you would be wrong.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 13th 2015
Here's our pick of the best new tunes. You can listen to them on the player below, or find the playlist on Spotify by searching for IntLifeMag. All songs are available on iTunes, unless otherwise stated.
Tobias Jesso: Without You
Not the Nilsson hit, but Nilsson-like in its emotional intelligence.
Stornoway: Get Low (pictured)
Folk meets 60s pop.
Paul Simon: Father & Daughter
An unsung gem, now joining the classics in his “Ultimate Collection”.
Madonna: Inside Out
Her new album, “Rebel Heart”, is patchy, but this is a cracker.
Natalie Prass: Why Don’t You Believe in Me
The kind of ballad you slip into like a hot bath. Produced by this man...
Matthew E. White: Take Care My Babyread more »
The acceptable face of meandering.