The last founding member of the visionary German band left alive, the 81-year-old recalls how he refused his Nazi father to find freedom in music
In the dining room of his rambling farmhouse in Provence, Irmin Schmidt pours a glass of rosé in preparation for being interviewed. At 81, he is twinkly, genial company, a little at odds with the image he projected as the keyboard player in Can, the Cologne band once described as “the most influential and revered avant-garde band of the late 20th century”. While his bandmate Holger Czukay used to play up for the camera, Schmidt tended to stare sternly down it from between a pair of immense sideburns, every inch the serious musician who had trained under Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Since the band split up in 1979, he has made solo albums, conducted, written film scores, penned an opera. He says he doesn’t much concern himself with the past. He is dismissive of Can’s brief late-80s reunion on the grounds that it “sounded too much like Can” and balked at a suggestion that he should join an all-star Can tribute group at the Barbican’s 2017 celebrationof the band’s 50th anniversary: “It was a wonderful performance they did, but I mean, playing a Can piece as a song, having to learn the fucking piece and remember it …” He laughs. “We never cared about what people expected. I always imagined if one day we would go onstage again, people would think: ‘No, this isn’t Can. This is another group – we are in the wrong place.’”
But, of late, he has been dwelling on the band’s history. For one thing, 2017 left him the sole survivor of Can’s original four-piece line-up. Guitarist Michael Karoli died of cancer in 2001, while drummer Jaki Liebezeit and bassist Holger Czukay both died last year, the latter in the disused Weilerswist cinema that had once housed Can’s Inner Space studio, and where Czukay had continued to live after the band broke up. And then, at the urging of Hildegard, his partner of 51 years and Can’s manager since the early 70s, he has co-authored, with Rob Young, a definitive biography of the band, All Gates Open.
It is a fascinating book, not least because Schmidt’s life was extraordinary even before he formed Can. Born in Berlin in 1937, he can remember seeing Allied planes strafe a German military train with gunfire while he was an evacuee in Austria; returning to Germany in 1946, he found it “absolutely flattened by bombing. I grew up in these total ruins. That was an experience that is still deeply within me: growing up in this town, this land, where everything was devastated, all the buildings, all the culture.” His teenage years were marked not just by the usual adolescent surliness but by an obsessive fury over his homeland’s recent history: he was expelled from school for using its student magazine to expose his teachers’ Nazi pasts, while his relationship with his father – another Nazi supporter who had done nothing to intervene when their Jewish neighbours were taken to Auschwitz – was “pure war”. “Always asking, ‘Why did you do this?’, ‘Why didn’t you do that?’, ‘How could you? How could you?’ I think there is this kind of … mourning within me which I can never get rid of.”
We think we are super ‘woke’,” says playwright Polly Stenham, “yet in reality we rely on a whole cast of modern slaves. On the one hand, we are reading the Guardian and on the other, we may be paying the cleaner cash in hand.”
Stenham is at the National Theatre in London working on her fifth play, Julie, an adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Her lead, played by the Bafta-winning Vanessa Kirby, is a rich, thirtysomething Londoner while Jean, a Ghanaian immigrant, is her driver. Katrina is a Brazilian maid and like Jean, a victim of the zero-hours economy.
“It becomes really intersectional and really fucking political,” says Stenham. “I wanted to show the dark heart of liberalism, especially in this building which is populated by the liberal elite, and to go for the jugular. I’m part of it: Julie is not a million miles off me as a character.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story box office results are a crossroads moment for the space saga. Here is what Disney must do to move the justice forward
When the dust finally settles on Solo: A Star Wars Story, long-term acolytes of George Lucas’s space saga may be reasonably content with it. Although this latest episode may have finally emerged, as AO Scott of the New York Times memorably put it, as “a curiously low-stakes blockbuster, in effect a filmed Wikipedia page”, its muted nature is unlikely to affect audiences for future Star Wars films. Nor will it send Alden Ehrenreich’s chances of retaining the role of Han Solo spinning into the nearest asteroid field.
As a shallow exercise in establishing Solo’s backstory, it ticks all the relevant boxes – even if it does so in workmanlike fashion. It is off screen, in areas that rarely find their way into critical reviews or fan verdicts (but that matter so much to industry watchers), that there is reason for concern.
If there were ever an exhibition of artistic “one-hit-wonders,” surely Edvard Munch’s The Scream would occupy a central place, maybe hung adjacent to Grant Wood’s American Gothic. The ratio of those who know this single painting to those who know the artist's other works must be exponentially high, which is something of a shame. That’s not to say The Scream does not deserve its exalted place in popular culture—like Wood's stone-faced Midwest farmers, the wavy figure, clutching its screaming skull-like head, resonates at the deepest of psychic frequencies, an archetypal evocation of existential horror.
Not for nothing has Sue Prideaux subtitled her Munch biography Behind the Scream. “Rarely in the canon of Western art,” writes Tom Rosenthal at The Independent, “has there been so much anxiety, fear and deep psychological pain in one artist. That he lived to be 80 and spent only one period in an asylum is a tribute not only to Munch’s physical stamina but to his iron will and his innate, robust psychological strength.” Born in Norway in 1863, the sickly Edvard, whose mother died soon after his birth, was raised by a harsh disciplinarian father who read Poe and Dostoevsky to his children and, in addition to beating them “for minor infractions,” would “invoke the image of their blessed mother who saw them from heaven and grieved over their misbehavior.”
by Will Knight
No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem.
Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn’t look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.
Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it’s also a bit unsettling, since it isn’t completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle’s sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you’d expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected—crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can’t ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did.
The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car’s underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries.
But this won’t happen—or shouldn’t happen—unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur—and it’s inevitable they will. That’s one reason Nvidia’s car is still experimental.
Already, mathematical models are being used to help determine who makes parole, who’s approved for a loan, and who gets hired for a job. If you could get access to these mathematical models, it would be possible to understand their reasoning. But banks, the military, employers, and others are now turning their attention to more complex machine-learning approaches that could make automated decision-making altogether inscrutable. Deep learning, the most common of these approaches, represents a fundamentally different way to program computers. “It is a problem that is already relevant, and it’s going to be much more relevant in the future,” says Tommi Jaakkola, a professor at MIT who works on applications of machine learning. “Whether it’s an investment decision, a medical decision, or maybe a military decision, you don’t want to just rely on a ‘black box’ method.”
This BBC adaptation cuts the play to two hours, adds helicopters and mixed martial arts, and splurge fab performances all over the place
London at night, the capital’s priapic new edifices – the Shard, Gherkin etc – sparkle and thrust proudly skywards, something to do with the lusty stealth of nature perhaps. It looks a bit like the start of The Apprentice but it’s King Lear. “Nothing will come of nothing” … you’re fired.
Just along the river, Gloucester and Kent (Jims Broadbent and Carter) arrive at the Tower in a black Range Rover. The king presumably will land at City airport in a Learjet. He doesn’t. They missed a trick there.
Anyway, he’s already here at the Tower. In Richard Eyre’s TV adaptation, Lear (Anthony Hopkins) is a military dictator in the present, gathering the troops – and the family – for the division of the kingdom.
The north, and its powerhouse presumably, goes to Goneril (Emma Thompson). The West Country to Regan (Emily Watson, this is a seriously sparkly cast). The prosperous south-east is due to be Cordelia’s, until she fails in her filial flattery and is disinherited, disowned and sent to France (boo) instead.
A week ago, Björk came back to TV without precedent for a long time, a pair of predictably (and delightfully) off-kilter performances on Later… with Jools Holland. It was awesome! Far and away superior, she came back to the greenery secured organize only a couple of days after the fact for another match of exhibitions and a drawing in talk about how composing a collection resembles fathoming a murder riddle, woodwinds, and the significance of the Paris Climate Accord.
The primary execution, "Blissing Me", sees the Icelandic lyricist singing the ethereal tune in front of an audience plant heaven, encompassed by veil wearing flute players. In the second, an unpleasant execution of "The Gate", Björk and her instrumentalist wood fairies make a sonic scene that proposes she's summoning a type of extraordinary soul from inside a universe made of pixie clean and Disney motion pictures and passing, or something. It's astonishing.
Björk has beforehand communicated a craving to release live version of Utopia featuring more flutes,, a prospect that is considerably all the more alluring at this point.
watch the videos below:
Translated by Jody Gladding
Album provides an unparalleled look into Roland Barthes's life of letters. It presents a selection of correspondence, from his adolescence in the 1930s through the height of his career and up to the last years of his life, covering such topics as friendships, intellectual adventures, politics, and aesthetics. It offers an intimate look at Barthes's thought processes and the everyday reflection behind the composition of his works, as well as a rich archive of epistolary friendships, spanning half a century, among the leading intellectuals of the day.
Barthes was one of the great observers of language and culture, and Album shows him in his element, immersed in heady French intellectual culture and the daily struggles to maintain a writing life. Barthes's correspondents include Maurice Blanchot, Michel Butor, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Georges Perec, Raymond Queneau, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marthe Robert, and Jean Starobinski, among others. The book also features documents, letters, and postcards reproduced in facsimile; unpublished material; and notes and transcripts from his seminars. The first English-language publication of Barthes's letters, Album is a comprehensive testimony to one of the most influential critics and philosophers of the twentieth century and the world of letters in which he lived and breathed.
Melbourne’s contemplative indie rock star addresses the trials of squaring love with life on the road on her direct and downbeat second album
Courtney Barnett makes lackadaisical-sounding music about being uptight. More often than not, her breezy, sung-talked tunes sweat the small stuff, carrying those underlying anxieties with a strolling gait, a cock-eyed grin and a two-guitar wig-out.
Avant Gardener, the song that introduced this extraordinary Melbourne artist outside the local scene in 2013, told the tale of Barnett going into anaphylactic shock while weeding. Naturally, she blamed herself for being bad at breathing. She worried about the hospital bill. The conclusion to this gem of a slacker-pop tune? She should have stayed in bed.
A recent single, City Looks Pretty, finds Barnett pulling off a similar trick. Her fine band motors along blithely, with just a few guitar effects dissociating in the background to alert you that all is not peachy. In the lyrics, a plaintive Barnett contemplates the ironic lot of the touring musician. “Friends treat you like a stranger and strangers treat you like their best friend,” she notes. “One day, maybe never, I’ll come around.” It’s a mark of Barnett’s skill that she makes this most cliched of themes not only fresh but somehow universal. We all have someone we’re neglecting, some sort of affective jet lag. In a similar vein, Need a Little Time is another grunge-pop classic whose buoyant tune drags some very well-reasoned, considerate misery along behind it.
It is no wonder Barnett has new best friends wherever she goes.
Spike Lee and Jean-Luc Godard were also among the prizewinners at the 71st annual film festival
In a surprise verdict, the Japanese film Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, has been awarded the Palme d’Or for main feature at the close of the Cannes film festival. “The ending blew us out of the cinema,” said jury president Cate Blanchett.
Beating a field of 21, including two or three titles that had been hotly tipped for the top by the critics, the film took the prestigious prize on Saturday night ahead of the screening of the final film of the festival, Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited adaptation of Cervantes, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
Cannes 2018 verdict: sombre brilliance wins day despite Von Trier's unwelcome return
The Danish provocateur, back at Cannes after a seven-year ban, is on maddening form with a dreary, nasty serial killer thriller partly redeemed by its spectacular finale
Lars von Trier, the giggling charlatan-genius of world cinema, has returned in a kind of triumph to the Cannes playground of provocation from which he was temporarily exiled in 2011, having miscalculated a Nazi gag at a press conference, and proved unable or unwilling to walk it back. He has reappeared to give the finger to all America’s liberal complainers, with a film that casts Uma Thurman – yes, the male-auteur-nemesis Uma Thurman – as the very, very stupid victim of a serial killer, a film that also mocks the sexual politics of grievance and for good measure makes light of tightening up America’s gun laws.
His latest tongue-in-cheek nightmare The House That Jack Built is two and a half hours long but seems much longer – longer than Bayreuth, more vainglorious than Bayreuth. It is an ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness that was every bit as exasperating as I had feared. But it concludes with what I also have to concede is a spectacular horror finale that detonated an almighty épat here in Cannes. The film ends with a colossal but semi-serious bang, an extravagant visual flourish and a cheeky musical outro over the closing credits to leave you laughing in spite of yourself as the house lights come up. But there is silliness and smirkiness where Von Trier believes the delicious black comedy to be.
As ever, this is a pseudo-American Psycho, set in an America that looks heartsinkingly like the forests of Denmark or perhaps Germany, locations in which the appearance of American automobiles and American actors look almost surreally out of place. There is supposedly a place called “Carlson’s Supermarket” near one of these very remote chalets, and although we don’t see this store, we see its brown bag with its logo. I don’t think I have ever seen a more obviously faked artefact in a film in my life.
The veteran auteur returns to Cannes with his latest essay film, a mosaic of clips and fragments lent the urgency and terror of a horror movie
The Image Book is a work that reprises many of Jean-Luc Godard’s familiar ideas, but with an unexpected urgency and visceral strangeness. It’s an essay film with the body-language of a horror movie, avowedly taking Godard’s traditional concerns with the ethical status of cinema and history and looking to the Arab world and indirectly examining our orientalism – Godard cites the Conradian phrase for a culture held “under Western eyes”.
Appropriately there are some amazingly fierce images, and the screen of Cannes’s Grand Theatre Lumiere is a colossal canvas over which to spread them.
As so often in the past, Godard churns the dark waters of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Image fragments are dislodged from the deep, and come floating up to the surface: paintings, news headlines, classic Hollywood clips, often digitally distorted or bleached out or suffused with a snow-blind white glow. These are juxtaposed with brutal news footage and Isis YouTube propaganda. Here are the alienations and macroaggressions of the contemporary world.
The Image Book is the signature Godard irony-mosaic of clips and fragments, with sloganised, gnomic texts, puns in brackets, sudden fades-to-black, unpredictable, unsynchronised sound cues which appear to have been edited quite without the usual concern for aural seamlesness, and vast, declamatory orchestral chords.
by Roar Høstaker // Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences //
In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari launched the concept of rhizome as a critical alternative to the ‘root-book’. However, the environment in which we now cultivate our reading habits is not the printed book, but the rhizomatics of the World Wide Web, which according to some leads to distracted ways of reading. Due to the plasticity of the brain, new habits of shared attention make it physiologi- cally more difficult for us to do a deep reading of books. Are Deleuze and Guattari, who simply wanted to open the way to more experimentation, victims of the irony of history? Has the concept of rhizome finished its task? The article discusses the tortured relationship between the rhizome as a philosophical concept and its success as a way to describe the Internet. The Internet, however, only conforms to what they called the ‘canal-rhizome’: the rhizome in its despotic form. Herein lies the concept’s continued relevance.
Roar Høstaker: The rhizome, the net and the book
Published in Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication, Volume 8, Number 2.