Spires in the sky

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

The year be­gan with David Bowie re­leas­ing one of the most ac­claimed albums of his vast ca­reer, a sign of new cre­ative en­ergy from the rock leg­end. Two days later, he was dead af­ter a bat­tle with can­cer.

Three months af­ter that, an­other pop icon, Prince — who had cov­ered Bowie’s classic He­roes at one of his fi­nal con­certs — also died, suc­cumb­ing to an ac­ci­den­tal over­dose of painkillers de­spite his out­ward signs of vigor.

By late 2016, Leonard Co­hen put out an al­bum omi­nously en­ti­tled You Want It Darker — and the sto­ried song­writer and poet, who spent his life re­flect­ing on spir­i­tu­al­ity and mor­tal­ity, passed away within weeks.

The past year — so mo­men­tous on the po­lit­i­cal front — also marks a sym­bolic turn­ing point for rock, with a gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cal el­ders start­ing to exit the stage.

The sense of a rock era’s pass­ing could also be felt in Cal­i­for­nia in Oc­to­ber with Desert Trip, a new mu­sic festival fea­tur­ing acts in­clud­ing The Rolling Stones, Paul McCart­ney and Dy­lan — with a sub­text that it was un­clear for how much longer the sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian greats would be play­ing.

Other ma­jor mu­si­cians who died in 2016 in­cluded: Mau­rice White, founder of funk all­stars Earth, Wind and Fire; Ea­gles front­man Glenn Frey; coun­try icon Merle Hag­gard; two-thirds of the prog-rock trio Emer­son, Lake and Palmer (only Carl Palmer is left); Jefferson Air­plane co-founder Paul Kant­ner; and Phife Dawg of hip-hop ground­break­ers A Tribe Called Quest.

It is ob­vi­ously co­in­ci­dence that so many artists died in quick suc­ces­sion. But there is also a prece­dent — the 1980s and early 1990s, when tow­er­ing fig­ures in jazz were dy­ing.

In a loose par­al­lel to Dy­lan’s No­bel prize and the es­tab­lish­ment recog­ni­tion it rep­re­sents, the US Con­gress in 1987 des­ig­nated jazz as “an Amer­i­can na­tional trea­sure”.

Law­mak­ers at the time were hop­ing to step up ed­u­ca­tion and his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion of jazz — a process well un­der way for rock, with Dy­lan ear­lier in 2016 an­nounc­ing that his archive would go to the Univer­sity of Tulsa, along­side pa­pers of his Ok­la­homa-born in­spi­ra­tion Woody Guthrie.

Like with jazz in the late 20th cen­tury, the deaths in 2016 come at a time when mu­sic purists fret that the fu­ture will have fewer co­he­sive albums of the type of Bowie’s fi­nal work, Black­star.

The top stars who died in 2016 con­sciously made mu­sic away from the spot­light.

Bowie lived with his family in a New York pent­house and was rarely seen, Co­hen re­treated to Los An­ge­les where he spent time in a Bud­dhist monastery and the pro­lific Prince se­cluded him­self in his Pais­ley Park com­plex in Min­nesota.

For Bowie and Prince, “ba­si­cally for the last cou­ple of decades, they ei­ther were in iso­la­tion or at least had au­ton­omy over what they were do­ing,” said Theo Cate­foris, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of mu­sic his­tory and cul­tures at Syra­cuse Univer­sity.

“And that seems un­usual for a newer artist who has such ac­ces­si­bil­ity and is ex­pected to have a Twit­ter feed and be in some sort of con­stant en­gage­ment,” he said.

“Their pass­ing al­lows us to re­flect on what ca­reers were like in pre­vi­ous eras — and that kind of artist may be less and less fre­quent in the fu­ture.”

An aerial view of the Res­ur­rec­tion Cathe­dral at the New Jerusalem Monastery in the town of Is­tra, in the Moscow Region of Rus­sia.

It has been hailed as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary way to get peo­ple mov­ing, us­ing smart­phones to pur­sue car­toon crea­tures through city parks and streets on foot, in­stead of tak­ing the car or metro.

But has Poke­mon Go made peo­ple more ac­tive and healthy? A study on Wed­nes­day re­ported mixed success.

In the first week of play­ing the game, peo­ple took 955 ad­di­tional steps per day on av­er­age — equal­ing nearly half the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rec­om­mended phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity level, re­searchers found.

But this soon pe­tered out, with ac­tiv­ity levels “back to pre-in­stal­la­tion levels” of around 4,250 steps per day by week six of play­ing the game which has be­come a global phe­nom­e­non.

“The re­sults sug­gest that the pos­i­tive health im­pact of Poke­mon Go is mod­er­ate and di­min­ishes af­ter six weeks of play­ing,” said a state­ment from the Har­vard TH Chan School of Pub­lic Health, whose re­searchers con­ducted the study.

The team mea­sured daily walk­ing among a group of 1,182 adults ages 18 to 35 in the United States. All used an iPhone 6 smart­phone, which records the num­ber of steps you take while car­ry­ing the de­vice.

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