Episode 005: The Raft of the Medusa
In which we discuss The Who, sad colors, and cruise ships
The French horn might be my favorite orchestral instrument. Muted, mournful, elegant. Responsible for so many memorable melodies throughout history.
For classical music fans, the horn conjures iconic pieces such as Beautiful Blue Danube by Strauss. The William Tell Overture by Rossini. Any of Mozart’s horn concertos.
Jazz fans might think of Julius Watkins and his recordings with Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonius Monk.
Movie buffs naturally go to the Star Wars theme.
Me? I think of In the City by the Who. And Tommy of course.
That’s right. John Entwhistle: Master of the horn!
I think a French horn must have been playing in Théodore Géricault’s head when in 1819 he painted The Raft of the Medusa.
This is a good example of me treating different parts of the beat as wholly separate entities. The bass, melody, and repeating piano line each get their own keys.
The main theme is played by the horn, eventually doubled by cellos. The horn just sounded appropriately despairing.
Speaking of the repeating piano line: I recorded it with my phone on my living room piano in the middle of the night, trying not to wake anyone. Dropped it into the song and time-stretched the heck out of it. Love how it sounds all alone in the middle eight.
I record a lot of parts with my phone, away from my studio. In unexpected places. I often find that the crappier-sounding the recording, the more it perfectly fits in the beat.
Finally, in case there is any confusion, the whipping-around keyboard and guitar lines at the end of the piece mirror the piano faithfully. Strictly the same notes, same figure, just run through about a billion effects.
What a tragic painting.
The captain deserted his crew and about 150 men. All but 15 died in a couple of weeks on a slipshod raft.
As is only right, things went poorly for him in the aftermath.
In my reduction, I tried to capture all 20-ish people painted on the raft through a grid pattern that I tend to use a great deal.
I really love the palette of this one. The colors capture the sadness of the subject.
Speaking of boats: boats are scary! [Full disclosure: I own a boat]. On a big ship, you can kind of pretend that you're not on a boat. It's like a fairly decent-sized town floating around. But an 18-foot speedboat? Death is everywhere.
This painting proves it.
So, to recap: I’m terrified of boats, but I love books about boats. And paintings about boats. And I own a boat. Makes sense to me.
Until next week, thanks for reading Polyester City. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment by clicking the link above. If you know anyone who likes Music and Art and Stories [and French horns], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.