The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, June 20th 2014

    Jimi Hendrix couldn't read music. Neither could John Lennon. And neither can Nick Zinner. He's the guitarist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a rock band from New York city, whose abrasive squall of sound belies the trio's size. But three years ago Zinner took on an improbable project when he decided to compose a symphony. "41 Strings" has its British premiere tonight.

    When I spoke to Zinner, in London this week, he told me he thought that not being able to read music was, at least for him, an asset. “There’s something about writing proper sheet music—I worry it might trigger the hyper-analytic part of my brain that I’m constantly trying to turn off. I feel like I have a little more freedom because I don’t know the rules.”

    read more » Charlie McCannclassicalfestivalMusicRock

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, June 18th 2014 

    When the comedy group The Lonely Island released a music video last month lampooning EDM, electronic dance music, it notched up 8m views. The name of their spoof DJ was Davvincii—a nod to David Guetta and Avicii, two champions of the genre. As played by Andy Samberg, Davvincii pretends to look busy fiddling with the dials on his mixing console while he secretly plays a computer game, draws a self-portrait, even fries an egg. The Lonely Island writers may have been inspired by a similar video making the rounds in April. “What DJs do these days” is a short clip of DJs Steve Aoki, Sander van Doorn and Laidback Luke playing a show in Miami. Speech bubbles have been added: “I’ll just touch this knob for no particular reason”; “Hands in the air”; “Hey bros, don’t mind me, I am just doing stuff”. 

    But if only those who think DJing is nothing more than pushing the “play” button had seen the headline act at Meltdown—the festival curated by James Lavelle and hosted by the Southbank Centre. It was a masterclass in turntablism. On Saturday night DJ Shadow presided over the decks at Area, a nightclub in Vauxhall. A fusillade of bass tones pummelled the packed room as DJ Shadow took charge of three turntables, two mixers, and an electronic drum kit—enough to keep him busy for 90 minutes. "There’s no laptop up here,” he said. The crowd roared.

    read more » Charlie McCannFestivalsMusic

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, June 17th 2014

    Bob Mazzer’s photographs of life on the London Underground—on show at the Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch—have something of the night about them. He began taking the pictures in the 1970s, when he was working as a porn-theatre projectionist in King’s Cross. Travelling back and forth from work with his camera, he’d revel in nocturnal exhibitionism and wild serendipity. There’s a clown in a pink wig carrying a trumpet and a bottle of beer, a woman in leopard print juggling in a tunnel, a guy mooning at the camera, his arse resting against a fellow traveller’s shiny black loafer. He shot brawlers and buskers, lovers and drunks, drifters and city gents, the low life and the high. But the best of his photographs—the funniest, the saddest, those that feel most intimate and familiar—are about what happens when those ingredients become a cocktail.

    read more » LondonPhotographySimon Willis

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 12th 2014

    In Anthony Lane’s introduction to his anthology of New Yorker film reviews, “Nobody’s Perfect”, he sets out five rules for prospective movie critics. Rule One: “Never read the publicity material.” He’s talking about the sheaves of photocopied notes which are handed to reviewers at press screenings. Notoriously bland, these notes tend to declare that everyone on the production adored everyone else, and that the making of the film was a joy from start to finish. Even if the director was sacked and the stars threw their skinny lattes at each other, the discord is never, ever mentioned.

    All of which explains my delight at reading the press bumf for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s new film, “The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet”. There is an interview with Jeunet in it, and while his most famous film, “Amelie”, might suggest that he’s all sweetness and light, he turns out to have a wonderfully bracing French frankness when he’s venting his frustrations.

    read more » FilmsmoviesNicholas BarberPublicity

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, 

June 11th 2014

    Bridging art forms, for many artists, is a bridge too far. The odd pop star, like Damon Albarn, may be brave enough to weave his songs into an opera; a tenor, given a fair wind or a World Cup, may manage a hit single; but it’s a rare bird who flits easily between pop, opera and theatre. Our cover star, Es Devlin, has mastered set design in all three art forms, and raised standards in each one. I first came across her work in the less than promising setting of Coventry City football club, where the reunited Take That were playing on a dank evening in 2008. It was business, not pleasure, until I saw Devlin’s designs. A life-size chainmail elephant was soon advancing towards the centre circle, with four middle-aged boy-band members perched on top, like maharajahs. A drab grey stadium was transformed into a living, breathing children’s book, full of colour and wonder. Devlin had spotted that Take That’s fans, now in their 20s, had fallen for them not as hormonal teenyboppers, but as eight- or nine-year-olds. The designs spoke to the child inside the fan.

    read more » DesignFrom the editorIntelligent LifeTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, June 9th 2014

    Ever since Pope Gregory the Great defined them in the sixth century, the seven deadly sins have shaped our moral landscape. To err is human, and most foibles are forgivable. But some sins, especially when taken to their limits, are worse than others, damaging not just individuals but the fabric of society, too. For our last Big Question, we asked seven writers to pick the deadliest sin today. We then invited readers to vote in our online poll.

    read more » IDEASintelligenceLucy FarmerThe Big Question

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, June 9th 2014

    In our recent cover story, Rosie Blau examined the effect light has on our health. The eye perceives three main colours in light—red, green and blue. Morning light has the highest concentration of blue, which tells the brain to be alert and regulates our body clock, helping us to sleep soundly and function well. With this in mind, I dragged my bleary-eyed self to an early-morning yoga class on the 68th floor of The Shard.

    I’m used to practising yoga in a fluoro-lit, often musty, studio at my local gym in south-west London. There are no windows. Achieving a state of Zen can be a challenge there, but even so, I rave to my friends about the benefits of yoga—increased flexibility and strength, improved circulation, healthier joints and organs, a calmer nervous system, boosted immunity… The prospect of doing downward-facing dogs 800-feet up, surrounded by sky, was an enticing one.

    read more » healthLondonLucy FarmerSCIENCESPORT

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 4th 2014

    If you’re making a documentary about a major indie band’s triumphant reunion concert, especially a band from the north of England, you have to devote as much time to the fans as to the band-members themselves. That, at least, was what Shane Meadows did when he directed last year’s “The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone”. And Florian Habicht adopts the same policy for one of this week’s new releases, “Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets”—a film, incidentally, which has nothing whatsoever to do with death or supermarkets.

    read more » DocumentaryMusicRock

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, June 3rd 2014

    Sitting in traffic on a rainswept motorway the other day, forced to listen to BBC Radio 5 Live (the joys of half term), I noticed that I had something in common with the Englishman living in Brazil being interviewed about the imminent World Cup. Impoverished Brazilians, he said, resented the sums of money being spent on new stadia. Then a few seconds later he talked about new stadiums. Like me, he wasn’t sure what the right plural was for Latin words ending with "um".

    read more » grammarlatin

    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, May 27th 2014

    No one seems more surprised at the success of the BBC TV series "The Trip" than its two leading men, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan. Remarkably, for comedians who have authored much of their own careers, it wasn't even their idea. It was during the shooting of "A Cock and Bull Story" (2005) that Michael Winterbottom, who has directed much of Coogan's best work since "24 Hour Party People" (2002), asked Coogan and Brydon to improvise together in a trailer "in a cantankerous way".  

    Winterbottom thought the riffing could work as a series of six half-hour shows that followed the journey from one restaurant to another as Coogan supposedly wrote about food for the Observer. "Six half-hours?" Brydon said to a packed Hackney Picturehouse, after a recent screening of the second series, "The Trip to Italy". "We could maybe on a good day get 10 minutes!" 

    "We were very concerned," said Coogan, sitting next to him. "I felt it had been done a lot, celebrities self-satirising. Michael promised us it would be more than that."

    read more » COMEDYimprovisationItalyTV