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Get a Lesson in Shakespeare From Young Ian McKellen

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s best known and most widely taught works, but that doesn’t mean we all fully understand it (apologies to my 11th grade English teacher). If you could use a refresher, take a peek at the above video, in which Ian McKellen discusses the play's famous “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy.

The speech, in McKellen’s words: “… is a description of total blackness, total despair, that life is finite," and is delivered by Macbeth in response to (spoiler alert) the news of Lady Macbeth’s death. It isn’t very long, but as you might expect, packs a lot in its lines. McKellen reveals the meaning behind the words, and how, when considered together, the last word of each line can tell you a lot about the subject matter.

At the end of his talk McKellen also reveals that such close reading might in fact be most valuable for the actor.

“I must have all that in my mind as I’m going through it. Not so that you the audience can understand those complexities, because i’m not giving a lecture. I think the poetry, and the rhythm and all those devices that Shakespeare uses are not for the audience’s benefit, they are for the actor’s. So that having absorbed them into his heart and his mind, he can then express them with all the other things at his command.”

The "in-studio master class" was aired on British television around 1979, when the actor would have been around 40 years old, and you can see him deliver the address in a 1978 production (which also starred Judi Dench) that became a 1979 TV movie.

[h/t Dana Stevens]

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
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At One Swiss University, You Can Now Major in Yodeling
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Switzerland’s yodeling tradition began in remote Alpine meadows, but now, new generations of students can opt to learn the folk art in a college classroom. The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts has become the nation’s first university to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in yodeling, according to The Local.

Lucerne University has offered folk music degrees since 2012, but it took the department several years to find a qualified yodeling teacher. They finally settled on Nadja Räss, a famous Swiss yodeler who runs her own academy in Zurich. Under her tutelage, three to four incoming students will learn to yodel-ay-ee-oo while also taking classes in musical history, theory, and business.

Yodeling is today performed on stages, but it was once used as a method of communication among Alpine shepherds. By alternating falsetto notes with natural singing tones, they were able to communicate across mountains and round up livestock. These lyric-less cries developed into songs by the 19th century.

Today, the technique is no longer just for shepherds. Yodeling is undergoing a musical revival and occasionally enjoying five minutes of YouTube fame.

In 2014, Swiss officials announced that they intended to submit Alpine yodeling for consideration to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, along with traditions like mechanical watchmaking, typography, and managing the risk of avalanches, according to The Telegraph. Due to current guidelines, countries can only supply one entry each year. At least Switzerland’s yodelers will now have new opportunities to study their craft as they await their chance to shine on the international stage.

[h/t The Local]

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Chris Ford, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Magical—and Endangered—Whistling Language of Oaxaca
Chris Ford, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Chris Ford, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

In the rugged cloud forests of northern Oaxaca, Mexico, the Chinantecan people communicate in one of the world's most unusual languages—not by speaking, but by whistling.

In the clip below, spotted by Open Culture, Dr. Mark Sicoli of Georgetown University and David Yetman of the University of Arizona visit the region as part of an episode for PBS's In the Americas with David Yetman. Their quest is to find out how many people still speak (or rather, whistle) the tongue, which is used to communicate across the hills and valleys of the mountainous terrain. Along the way, they discover how the language has been involved in the community's rites of passage, town meetings, gender norms, and cornfields. They also get a beaming crowd of schoolchildren to whistle "I'm tired," and witness a whistled conversation about a taco. Perhaps not surprisingly, the language is in danger of dying out—unless the youngest generation can save it.

As special as the language is, the Chinantecan whistlers of Oaxaca aren't alone: 42 examples of whistled human tongues have been documented, in the Amazon, Turkey, Greece, and the Canary Islands, to name just a few spots. The languages are usually found in places with high slopes or thick forests, where regular spoken communication is tricky. Whistling, it turns out, isn't just for the birds.

[h/t Open Culture]

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