documentary

The gospel according to Aretha Franklin

This is a terrific compilation and commentary on Aretha’s roots in gospel and how she was able to bridge into blues and rock.

I’m glad VOX mentioned Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records but I wish they’d mentioned Tom Dowd (pictured in a few of the stills) who was Atlantic’s engineer and helped produce much of Aretha’s work at Atlantic (and numerous other artists).

Here’s a great post at the Atlantic Records/Warner site: The Record Man: Ahmet Ertegun, Founder of Atlantic Records.

I highly recommend two documentaries if you can find them:

Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built
Tom Dowd and the Language of Music (out of print, expensive, hopefully streamed at some point).

[via Uncrate]

Commodity City

COMMODITY CITY from Jessica Kingdon on Vimeo.

Commodity City is an observational documentary exploring the daily lives of vendors who work in the largest wholesale consumer market in the world: the Yiwu Markets in China. The film explores moments of tension between commerce and individuality, between the goods for sale and the humans who sell them.

Incredible piece. A wormhole on another world. Zoom it out, full screen. Lots of great detail in these almost-still images.

[via Colossal]

Dance in the Real World

The New York Times has a dance documentary channel on youTube: Dance In The Real World which is brilliant.

Here are two of the five up there now:

Dance in Trinidad: Moko Jumbie on 9-Foot Stilts

Dance in New York City: The New Vogueing Scene

Note: I have and love the movie mentioned in this one: Paris is Burning about the vogueing and ball scene in New York City.

[via The Kid Should See This]

The Art of Listening

This is a documentary about making music, from instrument making to playing to mixing, mastering, and listening. It was sponsored by Sony although there are only a few plugs in it for Sony gear, the rest is a variety of musicians and music producers talking about how they make and share music. It’s about an hour and 14 minutes long.

The comparison to photography is interesting:

Music: one needs a great song, well played on a decent instrument, well recorded and mastered and played on a decent audio player to channel what the musician laid down.

Photography: one needs a great image, well recorded with decent equipment, well processed and seen on a decent screen or a decent print to channel what the photographer saw and recorded.

In the photography world I like to think of Ansel Adams: he chose great subject matter (Yosemite), used a view camera (big negative, high definition), stopped down to small apertures (more detail), used filters (to get the dramatic look he wanted), and he took great care in developing his negatives and making his prints. If you’ve ever seen a large Ansel Adams print, in person, it’s a thing of wonder and you can feel that care in the print, very much like these musicians and producers talking about the care they take in making and sharing music.

[via Uncrate]

Lunch atop Rockefeller Center

The reason this particular construction project was so well documented was that it was Rockefeller Center.

No one, not even the photographers, is wearing safety equipment.

The subjects and the photographer are unknown, but the photo is one of the most iconic of all time. With Central Park in the background, 11 men casually have lunch 800 feet above Manhattan. In this short piece by Time Magazine, archivist Christine Rouselle explores the story behind this historic image.

[via Devour]

Ueno San

My friend and neighbor Christine Owen apprenticed in Japan with this potter, Ueno San. This process especially the wood fire piece of the video, is what my neighbor Joy Brown does every year in her anagama kiln in Kent, the next town west of me. Both Christine and I not only put pieces in her fires (the kiln is huge), we help fire it. The kiln takes a week to load, a week to fire, and a week to cool.

This is a terrific process video on ceramics in general and what the Japanese tradition looks like in particular.

The Last Steps on the Moon

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon in NASA’s Apollo program. It took place in 1972. No doubt we’ll go again at some point although at the moment its tough to imagine any single country or the world getting focussed enough to make it happen.

Some of us are old enough to remember the Mercury program and John Glenn orbiting the earth, the Gemini program and various astronauts doing the first space walks, and then Apollo and the moon landings. All of that was over in 1972, and then we had Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and now the International Space Station.

This entire arc of space exploration is incredible but nothing has caught my imagination like the moon landings. I’ll never forget Walter Cronkite taking his glasses off and looking awestruck as he announced that Neil Armstrong was on the moon. This video brings some of that feeling back. Zoom it out, its well worth it.

[via Devour]