Found 74,707 Resources
A new analysis of the fossil record by scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has revealed that the structure of plant and […]
The post Smithsonian Scientists Trace Anthropocene Roots to Early Human Activity appeared first on Smithsonian Science News -.
Pulverized planet dust might lie around double stars » A planet like Star War’s Tatooine, which orbits twin suns, would have likely suffered from more […]
The post “Star Wars” Roundup: From Science Fiction to Science Fact appeared first on Smithsonian Science News -.
In April 2015, after traveling for about half the age of the universe, a flood of powerful gamma rays from a distant galaxy slammed into […]
The post VERITAS Detects Gamma Rays from Galaxy Halfway Across the Visible Universe appeared first on Smithsonian Science News -.
The debate about the world’s oldest tattoos is over—they belong to Ötzi, the European Tyrolean Iceman who died and was buried beneath an Alpine glacier […]
The post Ancient Ink: Iceman Otzi Has World’s Oldest Tattoos appeared first on Smithsonian Science News -.
Just in time for the holidays, we’ve scoured our collections to find you some appropriate imagery to go along with that beloved carol, “The 12 Days of Christmas”. This post was written and compiled by Mario Rups, cataloger in our Resource Description unit. We hope you enjoy the delightful selection! A Partridge and Pears more »
Jeanette Winterson inaugurates “The Hogarth Shakespeare” series – “a major international project [that] will see Shakespeare’s plays reimagined by some of...
The post The Gap of Time [Hogarth Shakespeare] by Jeanette Winterson [in Library Journal] appeared first on BookDragon.
Very few plant species can survive close to the ocean, where pounding surf fills the air with tiny salt crystals. Too much salt is not good for us, and it is not good for most plants. When you think about it, the land side of the seashore is a really harsh environment, with crashing waves, salty spray and a constantly moving shoreline. Living things need special adaptations to survive there.
One group of organisms called lichens, however, have made a specialty of surviving in difficult environments. In places like deserts and mountaintops where not much else can live, you will often...
Exactly a year ago today, POTUS and Cuba’s President Raúl Castro announced a joint agreement reestablishing relations between two countries...
The post Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle appeared first on BookDragon.
Curator and FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 exhibition project director Paula Johnson recalls a memorable visit with Chuck Williams.
Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma—the kitchenware emporium that, beginning in 1956, introduced Americans to distinctive tools and cookware from different parts of the world—died on December 5. Upon hearing the news, we thought back to a sunny December day in 2011, when we took a field trip to Mr. Williams's San Francisco offices on behalf of the exhibition project, FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000.
Curator Rayna Green, Associate Director Maggie Webster, and I were visiting several California donors to the exhibition and our first stop was at Williams-Sonoma headquarters. At 96, Mr. Williams was still coming to work regularly, and, dapper in coat and tie, he welcomed us warmly into his office overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The room itself was rather like a Williams-Sonoma store—open wooden shelves held an array of objects, artfully placed, that subtly beckoned to us, urging us to come a bit closer: a brilliant red KitchenAid stand mixer, a white ceramic creamer shaped like a playful cow, a painted water pitcher in the form of a chicken, and ceramic tea pots and decorated bowls arranged just so. We realized that this was the same design aesthetic that set Mr. Williams's stores apart from other purveyors of kitchen equipment—at the time, mostly hardware stores, where stacks of pots, pans, and tools were the norm. When we settled in for a conversation, he remarked on how his sense of design informed the look and layout of his stores from the very start: "That was one of the things I did right at the beginning. . . Not just putting the pots on the shelf without thinking about it. Putting it so the handle was partly out in front of the shelf and it welcomed the customer to pick it up to look at it."
Much of the conversation that day had to do with Mr. Williams's role in what we were calling the "good food movement" in the exhibition.
With roots in northern California, the movement was largely a reaction against the fast, processed, and packaged foods that had become so popular in households across America in the 1950s and 1960s. The California devotees of fresh, local, and organic foods were also interested in trying new cuisines and learning to cook beyond just the basics. While Julia Child guided these intrepid home cooks through unfamiliar techniques and recipes, Chuck Williams supplied them with previously unavailable cookware from France and Italy to help them achieve results. When asked about particular items, he said, "I think the most popular one was the soufflé dish. Just a plain, white soufflé dish. There wasn’t anything like that available in this country." We decided then and there to include one of Julia Child's white soufflé dishes made by one of Mr. Williams's favorite sources, the French company Pillivuyt, in the exhibition.
During our visit, Mr. Williams also talked about the early 1970s and the debut of the Cuisinart food processor, and what a difference it made to home cooks. He recalled offering the Cuisinart for sale almost immediately in his stores and how he, too, began using one in his own kitchen. As we talked about Julia's early adoption of the food processor, Mr. Williams offered to donate his first Cuisinart for the museum's collections and for the exhibition.
We note Chuck Williams's passing with sadness, but also with gratitude for his generosity to the museum. By sharing his memories of the "good food" movement, he helped us shape a section of the exhibition and provided insight into the types of objects that would most accurately represent that important story in American culinary history.
Paula Johnson is a curator in the Division of Work and Industry. She has also blogged about cooking with Julia Child in Washington, D.C.
Do you think of Frank Sinatra as a jazz singer? As we celebrate his 100th birthday, guest author Eric Felten explores this question.
When Frank Sinatra took the stage at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, the "jazz purists" were unhappy (so said Variety). Unhappy not because of "his own brand of casual hipness" nor even because of his Vegas-honed "glamour showmanship"—an aesthetic that included leaving the festival by helicopter like some stadium rock star; no, the purists' problem was that Sinatra was "technically not a 'jazz singer.'"
Not a jazz singer? Says who? It's a debate that has persisted, and still has some relevance. What, after all, was the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra doing presenting a Sinatra centennial concert if the man's music can't credibly be called "jazz"?
It depends, of course, on what one expects from a jazz singer. Sinatra rarely strayed far from a melody; he didn't sing the blues; he didn't scat (unless one counts "doo-be-doo-be-doo" at the end of "Strangers in the Night," the less said about which the better). But he did swing—was one of the great champions of swing—and without that jazz idiom underpinning everything he did, Sinatra never would have achieved his undeniable status as the greatest interpreter of the Great American Songbook.
Saxophonist Lester Young clearly thought Sinatra was up to snuff, jazz-wise: "If I could put together exactly the kind of band I wanted, Frank Sinatra would be the singer," he said. "Really, my main man is Frank Sinatra." (Sinatra would eagerly return the favor: "We had a mutual admiration society," he said of Lester Young. "I took from what he did, and he took from what I did.")
And after all, it was jazz that saved Sinatra's career, after it had become mired in Columbia Records producer Mitch Miller's dismal concept of what made a hit record—two parts treacle to one part novelty. Miller pressed Sinatra into notorious atrocities such as "Mama Will Bark," sung as a duet with a tone-deaf actress named Dagmar. But once Sinatra had escaped Miller, the question was how he would differentiate his new Capitol Records sound from his old Columbia Records output. Capitol's producers found the answer in the sophisticated swing arrangements being penned by a young house arranger, Nelson Riddle.
Riddle's arrangements remain the essential Sinatra sound. They start off with that distinctive two-beat that Riddle pilfered from the Jimmie Lunceford band (to hear where that Sinatra groove comes from, listen to Lunceford's 1935 recording of "My Blue Heaven"). Then, following the ease of that two-beat, comes a hard-swinging 4/4 with Frank's phrasing driving the rhythm every bit as much as the bass and drums.
Nowhere is the concept more perfectly executed than in Riddle's arrangement of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin." It starts with an easy two-beat riff; Sinatra sings the song beautifully and (perhaps more important) knowingly; then the band builds and builds through layered riffs, exploding into Milt Bernhart's hard-swinging trombone solo; when Sinatra comes back in, he somehow manages to ratchet up the energy and excitement a notch or two more, wailing "Dooooon't you know, little fool…" And then after that cascade of climaxes the whole thing is neatly buttoned up with a tidy double-bass coda.
"Under My Skin" remains a high point of 20th-century American culture—and if it doesn't count as "jazz," more's the pity for jazz.
Through the '50s and '60s, Sinatra would work with many of the greatest arrangers in jazz and swing and orchestral pop—not only Riddle but Billy May, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones, Johnny Mandel, Don Costa, and Gordon Jenkins. The ace Los Angeles studio groups that usually backed him included such jazz masters as trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, bassist "Little Joe" Comfort (who happened to teach a young Charlie Mingus how to play), and drummer Alvin Stoller. Sinatra, whose apprenticeship was with the bands of Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, would continue to perform with essential jazz big bands—Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, and most compellingly, Count Basie.
All along the way, Sinatra operated at the intersection of pop and jazz, even as jazz began to move away from its popular roots as dance music. At a time when jazz was succumbing to a tendency to ramble—please, oh please, no more seven-minute bass solos!—Sinatra and his arrangers proved time and again what could be accomplished in three minutes and change. And though the Chairman's comic stage-show interludes were excruciating—please, oh please, no more Sinatra "monologues!"—when the singer was singing, he proved time and again that high art and entertainment can coexist.
Sinatra did not call himself a jazz singer, choosing to identify himself, instead, as a "saloon singer." That label captures a moment when jazz was the province of juke joints, and the music was about love, lost or found, when swing could bring both swagger and solace. Now, 100 years after Sinatra was born, jazz musicians still—or maybe more than ever—have much to learn from Frank.
Eric Felten is a writer and jazz musician in Washington, D.C.