In 1979, when Sony introduced the Walkman—a 14-ounce cassette player, blue and silver with buttons that made a satisfying chunk when pushed—even the engineers inside Sony weren’t impressed. It wasn’t particularly innovative; cassette players already existed, and so did headphones. Plus, the Walkman could only play back—it couldn’t record. Who was going to want a device like that?
Continue reading The Walkman’s Invention 40 Years Ago Launched a Cultural Revolution →
It’s natural to think about the processes that produced the food in your daily sack lunch, but have you ever stopped to consider the manufacturing techniques behind the sack itself? The flat-bottomed brown paper bags we encounter constantly—in the lunch context, at grocery stores, in gift shops—are as unassuming as they are ubiquitous, but the story underlying them deserves recognition. At the center of it is a precocious young woman, born in Maine on the heels of the Industrial Revolution and raised in New Hampshire. Her name is Margaret Kni
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Oahu, Hawai’i, 1877. Queen Lili’uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, prepared her party to leave for Honolulu after spending time at the country ranch of Col. James Harbottle Boyd. As she mounted her horse and looked back to ensure everyone was ready, she saw Boyd pull one of her friends into a tender embrace. Surrounded by the verdant flora of the island, the lovers passionately kissed farewell, then with longing separated.
Continue reading How the Music of Hawai’i’s Last Ruler Guided the Island’s People Through Crisis →
In the jargon of jazz, a “blue note” is one that deviates from the expected–an improvisational twist, a tickle in the ear. It is fitting that Blue Note Records, founded in New York by German expat Alfred Lion back in 1939, took its name from this artifact of genre, for throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the institution was continually surprising (and delighting) its audience.
From boogie-woogie and bebop to solo stylings and the avant-garde, Lion’s label left no tone unturned. The undisputed quality of Blue Note’s output was the direct result of its creator’s willingness to meet the artists on their level, to embrace the quirks and curveballs that make jazz music what it is. As an early Blue Note brochure put it:
Continue reading These Rarely Seen Images Show Jazz Greats Pouring Out Their Hearts →
In the early 2000s, artist LeRoy Neiman—best known for vibrant illustrations that bring American pastimes to life—started to paint the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Continue reading LeRoy Nieman Pulled Together a Dream Band for His Epic Portrait of Jazz Greats →