Top Picks: David Bowie's 'Blackstar,' the documentary 'East of Salinas,' and more

The Web series 'Music Makes a City Now' tells the story of a Kentucky conductor, see how the Danish stay cozy in winter, and more top picks.


Change agent

It’s remarkable that an artist who had made music for half a century just released one of the most modern rock albums ever, and it’s tragic that he died two days later. On Blackstar, David Bowie teamed up with New York’s talented Donny McCaslin quartet, and while the result is not jazz, the new music embodies the freedom and exploratory spirit that word promises. Bowie’s talent at reinventing himself is a testament to his creative genius.

Independent Lens

Resilient children

The “Independent Lens” documentary East of Salinas follows third-grader Jose Ansaldo, who is an undocumented immigrant and the son of farmworkers. Jose is gifted in school but has just begun to realize that some doors may be closed to him because he is not an American citizen. Meanwhile, his teacher, Oscar Ramos, tries to decide how best to help his students, many of whom have migrant parents. The one-hour documentary is available at

Musical visionaries

A PBS documentary that centers on those who strive to build strong musical communities has been released as a Web series, Music Makes a City Now. The first season follows the charismatic conductor Teddy Abrams, who comes to Louisville, Ky., to become its orchestra’s youngest musical director. Be sure to check out the Jan. 13 episode, “Kentucky Royal Fanfare.” It’s available at

Danish warmth

As icy winds whistle past your house, it’s time to explore how the Danes stay cozy. The Danish concept of hygge (HOO-guh), a lifestyle that embodies easy warmth and enjoyment, has spread around the world as a way to defy the dark days. A video from VisitDenmark explores what hygge means to Copenhagen residents. Check it out at

Mary Ellen Matthews/MSNBC

Creative talk

Alec Baldwin has smart and insightful conversations with artists, performers, and policymakers to figure out what makes them tick creatively on WNYC biweekly podcast Here’s The Thing. Recent interviewees include Sarah Jessica Parker, composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, late-night host Jimmy Fallon, and newsman Dan Rather. Check it out at

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