Thursday, September 16, 2010
STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about one of the greatest thinkers in the world, Leonardo da Vinci. He began his career as an artist. But his interest in the world around him drove him to study music, math, science, engineering and building design. Many of his ideas and inventions were centuries ahead of his time.
STEVE EMBER: We start with one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous drawings, called “Vitruvian Man.” This work is a good example of his ever questioning mind, and his effort to bring together art, math and science. “Vitruvian Man” is a detailed sketch of a man’s body, which is drawn at the center of a square and circle. The man’s stretched arms and legs are in two positions, showing the range of his motion. His arms and legs touch the edges of the square and circle.
Detail from the drawing "Vitruvian Man"Detail from the drawing "Vitruvian Man"
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: With this drawing Leonardo was considering the size of the human body and its relationship to geometry and the writings of the ancient Roman building designer Vitruvius.
Leonardo wrote this about how to develop a complete mind: “Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
STEVE EMBER: Leonardo da Vinci spent his life studying and observing in order to develop a scientific understanding of the world. He wrote down his thoughts and project ideas in a series of small notebooks. He made drawings and explained them with detailed notes. In these notebooks, he would write the words backwards. Some experts say he wrote this way because he wished to be secretive about his findings. But others say he wrote this way because he was left-handed and writing backwards was easier and helped keep the ink from smearing.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The notebooks show many very modern ideas. Leonardo designed weapons, machines, engines, robots, and many other kinds of engineering devices. When disease spread in Milan, Leonardo designed a city that would help resist the spread of infection. He designed devices to help people climb walls, and devices to help people fly. He designed early versions of modern machines such as the tank and helicopter. Few of these designs were built during his lifetime. But they show his extraordinarily forward- thinking mind.
The notebooks also contain details about his daily life. These have helped historians learn more about the personal side of this great thinker.
STEVE EMBER: Very little is known about Leonardo’s early life. He was born in fourteen fifty-two in the town of Vinci. His father, Ser Piero da Vinci, was a legal expert. Experts do not know for sure about his mother, Caterina. But they do know that Leonardo’s parents were never married to each other. As a boy, Leonardo showed a great interest in drawing, sculpting and observing nature.
However, because Leonardo was born to parents who were not married to each other, he was barred from some studies and professions. He trained as an artist after moving to Florence with his father in the fourteen sixties.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: It was an exciting time to be in Florence, one of the cultural capitals of Europe. Leonardo trained with one of the city’s very successful artists, Andrea del Verrocchio. He was a painter, sculptor and gold worker. Verrocchio told his students that they needed to understand the body’s bones and muscles when drawing people.
Leonardo took his teacher’s advice very seriously. He spent several periods of his life studying the human body by taking apart and examining dead bodies. Experts say his later drawings of the organs and systems of the human body are still unequalled to this day.
STEVE EMBER: While training as an artist, Leonardo also learned about and improved on relatively new painting methods at the time. One was the use of perspective to show depth. A method called “sfumato” helped to create a cloudy effect to suggest distance. “Chiaroscuro” is a method using light and shade as a painterly effect. The artist also used oil paints instead of the traditional tempura paints used in Italy during this period.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Leonardo’s first known portrait now hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. He made this painting of a young woman named Ginevra de’Benci around fourteen seventy-four. The woman has a pale face with dark hair. In the distance, Leonardo painted the Italian countryside.
He soon received attention for his extraordinary artistic skills. Around fourteen seventy-five he was asked to draw an angel in Verrocchio’s painting “Baptism of Christ.” One story says that when Verrocchio saw Leonardo’s addition to the painting, he was so amazed by his student’s skill, that he said he would never paint again.
STEVE EMBER: Leonardo once said the following about actively using one’s mental abilities: “Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” His mind was so active that he did not often finish his many projects.
One religious painting he never finished was called “Adoration of the Magi”. He was hired to make the painting for a religious center. The complex drawing he made to prepare for the painting is very special. It shows how carefully he planned his art works. It shows his deep knowledge of geometry, volume and depth. He drew the many people in the painting without clothes so that he could make sure that their bodies would be physically correct once covered.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Around fourteen eighty-two, Leonardo moved to Milan. There, he worked for the city’s ruler, Ludovico Sforza. This ruler invited Leonardo to Milan not as an artist, but as a musician. Historians say Leonardo was one of the most skillful lyre players in all of Italy. But he also continued his work as a painter. He also designed everything from festivals to weapons and a sculpture for Ludovico Sforza.
STEVE EMBER: One famous work from Leonardo’s Milan period is called “Virgin of the Rocks.” It shows Jesus as a baby along with his mother, Mary, and John the Baptist also as a baby. They are sitting outside in an unusual environment. Leonardo used his careful observations of nature to paint many kinds of plants. In the background are a series of severe rock formations. This painting helped Leonardo make it clear to the ruler and people of Milan that he was a very inventive and skillful artist.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Leonardo later made his famous painting “The Last Supper” for the dining room of a religious center in Milan. He combined his studies in light, math, psychology, geometry and anatomy for this special work. He designed the painting to look like it was part of the room. The painting shows a story from the Bible in which Jesus eats a meal with his followers for the last time. Jesus announces that one of them will betray him.
The work received wide praise and many artists tried to copy its beauty. One modern art expert described Leonardo’s “Last Supper” as the foundation of western art. Unfortunately, Leonardo experimented with a new painting method for this work. The paint has suffered extreme damage over the centuries.
STEVE EMBER: In addition to the portrait of Ginevra de’Benci that we talked about earlier, Leonardo also painted several other non-religious paintings of women. One painting of Cecilia Gallerani has come to be known as “Lady with an Ermine” because of the small white animal she is holding. This woman was the lover of Milan’s ruler, Ludovico Sforza.
However, Leonardo’s most famous portrait of a woman is called the “Mona Lisa.” It is now in the collection of the Louvre museum in Paris. He painted this image of Lisa Gherardini starting around fifteen-oh-three. She was the wife of a wealthy businessman from Florence named Francesco del Giocondo. It is from him that the painting takes its Italian name, “La Gioconda.”
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Lisa Gherardini is sitting down with her hands crossed in her lap. She looks directly at the painter. She seems to be smiling ever so slightly. A great deal of mystery surrounds the painting. Experts are not sure about how or why Leonardo came to paint the work. But they do know that he never gave it to the Giocondo family. He kept the painting with him for the rest of his life, during his travels through France and Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci died in France in fifteen nineteen. A friend who was with him at his death said this of the great man’s life: “May God Almighty grant him eternal peace. Every one laments the loss of a man, whose like Nature cannot produce a second time.”
STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. You can see some of Leonardo da Vinci’s work at our website voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
1. The painting of "The Last Supper" was damaged because _____________ .
2.There is no evidence that Leonardo da Vinci studied _____________ .
3. Leonardo da Vinci teaches us that we can develop a complete mind by _____________ .
4. "The Virgin of the Rocks" shows the Virgin Mary with two infants. One is Jesus, the other is _____________ .
5. "The Mona Lisa" is presently __________________.
6. In painting, a method of using light and shadow is called "__________".
7. In one drawing, Leonardo shows the relationships of a man's movement to geometry. That drawing is "__________".
8. Leonardo once said, "Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction _____________."
9. Another name for this article could be "_______________".
10. This article is mainly about _______________.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I’m Shirley Griffith. And I’m Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about Frederick Douglass. He was born a slave, but later became one of America’s greatest leaders. He was an activist, a writer, a powerful speaker and an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln.
Frederick Douglass suffered severe physical and mental abuse during his many years as a slave. He dreamed of one day learning to read and being free. He believed knowledge would lead the way to freedom. Douglass wrote several books about his life as a slave. In eighteen forty-five he wrote "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave." It became an immediate best seller and remains popular today.
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born around eighteen eighteen in Tuckahoe, Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay. Many slaves lived on large farms owned by white people. Each plantation was like a small village owned by one family who lived in a large house on the property.
Frederick did not know his mother well. Harriet Bailey was sent to work on another plantation when Frederick was very young. She was able to visit him only a few times. She died when Frederick was about seven years old.
Frederick then lived with his grandparents, Betsey and Isaac Bailey. He said that his grandparents had a loving home and were respected by other slaves in the area. Because of this, he did not realize at first that someone owned him and the others---that they were slaves.
It was not unusual for African-American families to be separated, often never seeing each other again. Slaves were not treated as human beings. Slave owners bought and traded them as if they were animals or property. Frederick had to leave his grandparents’ home when he was six years old. He later wrote about that day. He said being forced to leave was one of the most painful experiences in his life. He said he began to understand the evil and oppressive system of slavery.
In eighteen twenty-six, Frederick was sent to work for Hugh Auld, in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Auld’s wife, Sophia, was very kind to Frederick. She treated him as if he were a member of her family. Mrs. Auld soon began to teach Frederick to read. Her husband became extremely angry and ordered her to stop immediately. Slaves were denied education. Mr. Auld said if slaves could read they would rebel and run away.
Sophia Auld stopped teaching Frederick to read. But he learned to read from white boys he met in the city. The boys also told Frederick he had the right to be free.
Mr. Auld sent Frederick to work for a poor farmer, Edward Covey, who beat him often. In eighteen thirty-six, Frederick made an attempt to escape. But he failed and was arrested. He was sent back to the home of Hugh and Sophia Auld home in Baltimore.
He met and fell in love with a free black woman named Anna Murray. Ms. Murray had a job cleaning other people’s homes. She gave Frederick money to help him escape by getting on a train to New York City.
When Frederick Bailey reached New York he changed his name to Frederick Douglass to hide his identity from slave capturers. Anna Murray joined him and they were married. They settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts and had five children.
Frederick Douglass became one of the most important leaders of the abolitionist movement to end slavery in the United States.
In eighteen forty-one, he attended the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society meeting in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Douglass was unexpectedly asked to give a speech to describe his experiences as a slave. He had not prepared a speech but he spoke to the huge gathering of people anyway. Most of the supporters were white. He spoke with great emotion in a deep and powerful voice. The crowd praised him.
After that speech, The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society asked Douglass to travel to cities throughout the North. He continued to tell about his cruel and oppressive life as a slave. He told how slave owners beat slaves everyday. How slaves were given very little food to eat. How they worked all day in the fields during dangerously hot weather. How they slept on cold floors and had very little clothing.
Many who heard his story challenged its truthfulness. They refused to believe that Frederick Douglass was ever a slave. Instead, they thought he was an educated man who created the entire story.
In eighteen forty-four, Douglass began writing his life’s story. "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave" was published the following year. He later published expanded versions of his book.
Frederick Douglass wrote his first book partly to prove that he had lived through the horrible situations he described in his speeches. He was asked to speak at the Independence Day celebration in Rochester, New York in eighteen fifty-two. He noted the differences of how blacks and whites considered Independence Day.
”The purpose of this celebration is the Fourth of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom… This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may celebrate. I must mourn…What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him more than all other days in the year, the horrible discrimination and punishment to which he is the everyday victim…There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States at this very hour."
The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society
Two years later, blacks were permitted to join the Union Army, but they were not treated as soldiers. Although they showed bravery they were given less important jobs. Douglass met with President Lincoln in Washington to discuss the issue. Douglass urge that black soldiers be treated equal to white soldiers. Although President Lincoln agreed, he said there could be no immediate change.
In eighteen sixty-five, the Civil War ended. The Union forces had defeated the South. A few months later President Lincoln was killed. And later that year, slavery was ended.
Frederick Douglass went on to hold several positions in the government, including United States Marshall of the District of Columbia. He never stopped his efforts to gain equality for all people. Historians say Douglass gave two thousand speeches and wrote thousands of articles and letters. His work as an activist also included women’s rights. On February twentieth, eighteen ninety-five, he gave a speech at the National Council of Women. Later that day, he returned to his home in Washington and died of heart failure at the age of seventy-eight.
Frederick Douglass ended his "book My Bondage, My Freedom" with these words:
"I shall labor in the future as I have labored in the past, to work for the honorable, social, religious, and intellectual position of the free colored people; while Heaven lends me ability, to use my voice, my pen or my vote to support the great and most important work of the complete and unconditional freedom of my entire race."
This program was written and produced by Lawan Davis. The writings of Frederick Douglass were read by Shep O'Neal. You can download this program and others from our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Shirley Griffith. And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.
Choose the best answer.
1. To Frederick Douglas, American Independence Day, the Fourth of July _______________ .
2. During the civil war, black soldiers in the Union Army ______________
3. Frederick Douglas escaped from slavery with the help of _________________ .
4. Around 1818, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey __________________
5. After his mother died, Frederick Bailey _____________________ .
6. After slavery ended, Frederick Douglas ___________________________ .
7. During slavery, African American families were often ___________________ .
8. Many whites felt that if African American slaves learned to read, they would __________________ .
9. The abolitionist movement was dedicated to _______________________ .
10. Frederick Bailey changed his name to Frederick Douglass in order to ____________________ .
Here is a Youtube video of the famous actor, James Earl Jones, performing
the speech by Frederick Douglass on the subject of July 4th, Independence Day:
Thursday, September 2, 2010
MARIO RITTER: I’m Mario Ritter with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today Jim Tedder tells about modern dancer Isadora Duncan.
JIM TEDDER: Angela Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco, California in eighteen seventy-seven. She was the youngest of four children. Her parents’ marriage ended in divorce when Isadora was three years old. Isadora and her brothers and sister were raised by their mother, Mary.
The family was very poor. Isadora taught dance lessons to local children to earn extra money. She began teaching when she was only five years old.
Mary Duncan taught her children about music, dancing, the theater and literature. Young Isadora believed this was all the education she needed. She did not attend school for very long. She said it restricted her from dancing and thinking about the arts.
Isadora wanted to make dancing her life’s work. And she wanted to live by her own rules, not by what other people thought was right or wrong. The kind of dancing Isadora wanted to do was new and different from other dances at the time. She thought dancing should be an art, not just entertainment.
Isadora Duncan did not like ballet. She said that ballet dancers had too many rules to follow about how they should stand and bend and move. She said ballet was “ugly and against nature.” She wanted her “modern” dance style to be free and natural. Isadora liked to move her arms and legs in very smooth motions. She said this was like waves in the ocean, or trees swaying in the wind.
Isadora spent most of her teen-aged years in the San Francisco area. She continued to teach dancing classes, mostly to young girls.
She also visited local libraries to read the works of Shakespeare and to study about the ancient Greeks.
When she was eighteen years old, Isadora urged her mother to move to Chicago and then to New York. She thought dancing in these two large cities would help her career. She found work in several dance companies or groups of dancers. But she had to dance as she was directed to do. She did not dance alone on the stage and could not become the “star” of the show.
Sometimes Isadora Duncan was paid to dance in the homes of wealthy people or at parties they gave in their gardens. But soon it was hard to find jobs that paid her enough money just to survive. In a short time, she was out of work and poor once again. Using her last dollars, she bought a ticket on a cattle boat and sailed to Europe in eighteen ninety-nine.
Isadora Duncan arrived in London. She visited the British Museum every day for several months. She studied Greek vases and sculpture with their images of ancient Greek women dancing. In nineteen hundred, she danced for a large audience at London’s Lyceum Theater. The people liked what they saw. Soon art lovers in the city were talking about this new dancer from the United States.
People began to think of her as a great talent. Isadora Duncan began using the music of Chopin, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner in her performances. Her fame, and wealth, began to grow.
When she danced, Isadora Duncan wore very thin clothing. Sometimes she dressed in long white tunics, the kind of clothing worn by ancient Greek women. She wanted people to see her body as she skipped, jumped and ran barefoot across the stage. Some people criticized her for doing this. They thought it was not moral to dress this way. At the time, most women wore dresses that covered as much of the body as possible, especially the arms and legs.
Isadora Duncan moved on to Paris, Berlin, Vienna and the other great cities of Europe. She danced and opened dancing schools. Newspapers wrote about her. Artists created sculpture, jewelry, photographs and paintings of her. And by nineteen ten, Isadora Duncan had become the most famous dancer in the world.
Isadora Duncan was often asked to explain her style of dancing and to say how dance as an art might change over time. In nineteen-oh-three, when she was twenty-six, she made a famous speech in Berlin. She said:
“Nature is the source of the dance. The movement of the waves, of winds, of the earth is ever in the same lasting harmony. We do not stand on the beach and inquire of the ocean what was its movement of the past and what will be its movement in the future. Every creature moves according to its nature … that is according to its feelings and physical structure. The movements of the savage were natural and beautiful. So too were the movements of the classical Greeks wearing simple tunics and sandals.
“In my school, I shall not teach the children to imitate my movements …but to make their own. The primary or fundamental movements of the new school of the dance must have within them the seeds from which will evolve all other movements, each in turn to give birth to others in an unending sequence of still higher and greater expression, thoughts, and ideas.
“The dancer of the future will be one whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of that soul will have become the movement of the body. This is the mission of the dancer of the future. She is coming, the dancer of the future: the free spirit, who will inhabit the body of new women; more glorious than any woman that has yet been; more beautiful than all women in past centuries: The highest intelligence in the freest body.”
JIM TEDDER: Isadora Duncan had very liberal ideas for the time. She believed in equal rights for women. She did not think a couple had to be married to have children. She had two children, Deirdre and Patrick, by two different men. She was not married to either of them. She also did not hide the fact that she was bisexual. She had a number of lovers, both men and women. She thought the Bolshevik Revolution and Communism were good for Russia. She said:
“My motto is: no limits. Virtuous people are simply those who have not been tempted sufficiently. We may not all break the Ten Commandments, but we are all certainly capable of it. Within us lurks the breaker of all laws, ready to spring out at the first real opportunity. You were once wild. Don’t let them tame you.”
JIM TEDDER: Isadora Duncan is remembered as the mother of modern dance. But she is also remembered for the tragedy in her life. In nineteen thirteen, Isadora’s two children, Deirdre and Patrick, along with their nurse, were drowned in the Seine River in Paris. The car they were riding in had stopped running.
The driver got out to fix the engine, but he did not set the brakes. When the car suddenly started again, it ran down a bank into the river. Isadora was greatly saddened by this. For a while she thought she would never dance again.
In nineteen twenty-two, she married a Russian poet named Sergei Yesenin. He was almost twenty years younger than she was. He became a violent alcoholic and then had a mental breakdown. Three years later, he killed himself.
In the late nineteen twenties, Isadora Duncan’s dancing career was over. People began to think of her as a sad person whose best days were gone. She was seen in public many times after she had too many alcoholic drinks. She ran out of money, but continued to stay at the finest hotels. She had many debts that she could not pay. Newspapers carried stories of her “reckless” and “scandalous” life style.
In nineteen twenty-seven, her life ended suddenly. Isadora Duncan was in Nice, France. She was riding in a car that had the roof down. She wore a long scarf around her neck. One end of the scarf got caught in the rear wheel of the car. The heavy silk tightened around her neck and broke it. She died instantly at the age of fifty.
The famous American poet Carl Sandburg wrote this about Isadora Duncan:
“The wind? I am the wind. The sea and the moon? I am the sea and the moon. Tears, pain, love, bird flights? I am all of them. I dance what I am. Sin, prayer, flight, the light that never was on land or sea? I dance what I am.”
MARIO RITTER: This program was written and voiced by Jim Tedder. It was produced by Dana Demange. Shirley Griffith was the voice of Isadora Duncan. I’m Mario Ritter. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts on our website, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.