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"Song of Bernadette"

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JenniferWarnes.com

“Song of Bernadette”
Written by Jennifer Warnes, Leonard Cohen, and Bill Elliott (1986)
Performed by Jennifer Warnes

The Music

One of the great overlooked albums of the 1980s, Famous Blue Raincoat by Jennifer Warnes features the singer covering the songs of Leonard Cohen. Warnes had toured with the Canadian poet-musician as a background vocalist for years, and had a deep feeling for his dense, lyrical songs.

Warnes even ended up co-writing one of the album's tracks, based on the life of a modern-day Catholic saint. She explained, “I was given the name Bernadette at birth. But my siblings preferred the name Jennifer so my name was changed. In 1979, on tour in the south of France with Leonard, I began writing a series of letters between the Bernadette I almost was, and Jennifer—two energies within me. One innocent, and the other who had fallen for the world. So the song arose in a bus nearby Lourdes. I was thinking about the great Saint who held her ground so well, and was not swayed from what she knew to be true. But the song is also about me longing to return to a place that was more pure, honest and true.”

Here's Warnes performing the song live:

The History

In 1858, near Lourdes, France, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirious had visions of a lady believed to be the Virgin Mary. Soubirious was later canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church, and Lourdes became a destination for religious pilgrims from around the world.

Marie-Bernarde Soubirious was born in 1844, the eldest of four children. Though her family was initially well-off, a series of misfortunes plunged them into poverty. At the lowest point, they lived together in a dank one-room basement that was once used as a prison cell. Marie-Bernarde, nicknamed Bernadette, was a cheerful, kind-hearted girl who always pitched in with the chores to help her family.

The Visions

On February 11, 1858, she was out collecting firewood when she came upon a grotto filled with debris. It was there that she had the first of her 18 visions. As she described it: “I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white.”

Bernadette said that initially she felt confused by the vision, but was soon overcome with a peaceful feeling. When she told her parents about what she'd seen, her mother forbade her from returning to the spot. But Bernadette couldn't stop thinking about the lady in white.

A few days later, back at the grotto, she had another vision. On her third visit to the grotto, the lady in white spoke to Bernadette, requesting that the girl keep returning over the next month. Soon, hundreds of people were accompanying Bernadette to the grotto. While no one else could see the the lady, the witnesses claimed that when the visions occurred, they felt a change in the atmosphere and that Bernadette's face took on an otherworldly look, as if she was in ecstasy.

Bernadette described the lady as being “so lovely, that when you have seen her once, you would willingly die to see her again.”

In her ninth vision, Bernadette was asked by the lady to drink from the spring. But there was no spring. Bernadette began to dig with her bare hands in a muddy patch near the grotto and drank a few drops of dirty water. In the days after, a clear spring began to flow from this hole. And this was the beginning of the healing waters that have become one of the main attractions for miracle seekers at Lourdes.

During one of her final visions, Bernadette asked the lady her name, and was given the answer: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Though the idea of the Virgin Mary's conception by her mother Saint Anne had been part of Catholic doctrine for centuries, it had had only been formally proclaimed by the Pope a few years before the Lourdes visions. Some believe that as an uneducated child, Bernadette would not have known the phrase Immaculate Conception.

Sister Act

In the years after the visions, Bernadette's life was a constant parade of uninvited visitors, skeptics and religious pilgrims, all curious to hear her recount her tale over and over. Though she always answered questions with sincerity and humility, she grew weary of the attention.

In 1866, Bernadette escaped into the convent at Nevers, and as Sister Marie-Bernarde, assumed the simple, quiet life of a nun. With her positive attitude and patience, she was an inspiration to the other sisters. But over her 13 years there, she had ongoing respiratory problems. Often confined to her bed for months at a time, she never complained. She said her function was to “suffer” and to offer her own “feeble prayers” to God. When asked why she didn't return to Lourdes for healing, she replied, “It is not for me.”

In 1879, Sister Marie-Bernarde died from complications of tuberculosis. She was 35.

Sainthood

After her death, there was a Papal investigation and examination of the evidence surrounding her visions. The Catholic Church believes that one of the signs of a saint is a person whose body remains intact after death. Bernadette was exhumed 30 years after her burial. Though she hadn't been embalmed, she was remarkably well preserved. In 1925, her body was transferred to a glass shrine at Nevers. Thin wax masks were laid over her face and hands, which had begun to discolor.

In 1933, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI, for both her visions and the simplicity of her life. The little girl from Lourdes became Saint Bernadette, the patron saint of the sick and also of the family and poverty.

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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Art
6 Great (and Not-So-Great) Works of Art Made by Robots
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Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images

Cold, calculating, unfeeling—none of the stereotypes associated with robots seem to describe makers of great art. But that hasn’t stopped roboticists from trying to engineer the next Picasso in a lab. Some machines and algorithms are capable of crafting works impressive enough to fool even the toughest critics. As for the rest of the robot artists and writers out there, let’s just say they won’t have creative types fearing for their jobs anytime soon. 

1. A BEATLES-ESQUE POP SONG

If you heard the song above at a party or in a crowded store, you might assume it’s just a generic pop tune. But if you listened closer, you’d hear the dissonant vocals and nonsense lyrics that place this number in the sonic equivalent of the uncanny valley. “Daddy’s Car” was composed by an artificial intelligence system from the Sony CSL Research Laboratory. After analyzing sheet music from a variety of artists and genres, the AI generated the words, harmony, and melody for the song. A human composer chose the style (1960s Beatles-style pop) and did the producing and mixing, but other than that the music is all machine. It may not have topped the pop charts, but the song did give us the genius lyric: “Down on the ground, the rainbow led me to the sun.”

2. A NOVEL THAT MADE IT PAST THE FIRST ROUND OF A FICTION CONTEST

Will the next War and Peace be written by a complex computer algorithm? Probably not, but that isn’t to say that AI can’t compose some serviceable fiction with help from human minds. In 2016, a team of Japanese researchers invented a program and fed it the plot, characters, and general structure of an original story. They also wrote sentences for the system to choose from, so the content of the novel relied heavily on humans. But the final product and the work required to string the components together was made possible by AI. The researchers submitted the story to Japan's Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Contest where it made it past the first round of judging. Though one notable Japanese author praised the novel for its structure, he also said there were some character description issues holding it back.

3. A 'NEW' REMBRANDT PAINTING

Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images

In 2016, a 3D printer did something extraordinary: It produced a brand new painting in the spirit of a long-dead artist. The piece, titled “The Next Rembrandt,” would fit right in at an exhibition of art from the 17th-century Dutch painter. But this work is entirely modern. Bas Korsten, creative director at the Amsterdam-based advertising firm J. Walter Thompson, had a computer program analyze 346 Rembrandt paintings over 18 months. Every element of the final image, from the age of the subject and the color of his clothes to the physical brushstrokes, is reminiscent of the artist’s distinct style. But while it’s good enough to fool the amateur art fan, it failed to hold up under scruntiny from Rembrandt experts.

4. DREARY LOVE POETRY

What do you get when you dump thousands of unpublished romance novels into an AI system? Some incredibly bleak poetry, as Google discovered in 2016. The purpose of the neural network was to connect two separate sentences from a book into one whole thought. The result gave us such existential gems as this excerpt:

"there is no one else in the world.
there is no one else in sight.
they were the only ones who mattered.
they were the only ones left.
he had to be with me.
she had to be with him.
i had to do this.
i wanted to kill him.
i started to cry."

To be fair, the algorithm was designed to construct natural-sounding sentences rather than write great verse. But that doesn’t stop the passages from sounding oddly poetic.

5. A CREEPY CHRISTMAS SONG

Christmas songs rely heavily on formulas and cliches, aka ideal neural network fodder. So you’d think that an AI program would be capable of whipping up a fairly decent holiday tune, but a project from the University of Toronto proved this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Their algorithm was prompted to compose the song above based on a digital image of a Christmas tree. From there it somehow came up with trippy lyrics like, “I’ve always been there for the rest of our lives.”

6. A CROWDSOURCED ABSTRACT PAINTING

Art made by a robot.
Instapainter

The image above was painted by the mechanical arm of a robot, but naming the true artist of the piece gets complicated. That’s because the robotic painter was controlled by multiple users on the internet. In 2015, the commissioned art service Instapainting invited the online community at Twitch to crowdsource a painting. The robot, following script commands over a 36-hour period, produced what looks like graffiti-inspired abstract art. More impressive than the painting itself was the fact that the machine was able to paint it at all. Instapainting founder Chris Chen told artnet, “It was a $250 machine slapped together with quickly written software, so running it for that long was an endurance test.”

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