Episode 010: Elephants
In which we discuss Henry Mancini, King Louis IX, and domesticated ocelots
Both my wife and brother count Salvador Dali as their favorite painter of all the forevers. So I have been exposed to a lot of his work over the years.
Bless him, that mustachioed genius. Had to get around to him at some point. This likely won't be the last time.
"I am painting pictures which make me die for joy, I am creating with an absolute naturalness, without the slightest aesthetic concern, I am making things that inspire me with a profound emotion and I am trying to paint them honestly.”
~ Salvador Dali
Yes! Can there be a better way of approaching art-making? This is my daily goal.
There are so many Dalis to love, but his towering “Elephants” from 1948 have a special place in my heart.
A few things I needed to get across in this beat:
On the one hand, elephants are big, heavy, lumbering. You can imagine what elephants walking would sound like in a song.
On the other, a vibrant sunset in an empty desert would probably sound a bit different than that, no? Lighter and happier – or even eager with a touch of eerie.
Ultimately I gave in: the beat’s foundation had to be a stomping, hulking figure. Did I overdo it? The bass is so loud, and Dali’s elephants don’t even look that ponderous…they are kind of fragile with their spindly legs and all [Henry Mancini would disagree with my choices.]
Then a light, breezy melody saves the day and introduces some high-end to the party. That's the sun.
Then the garbled, super lo-fi cello counter-melody enters halfway through to rep the sandy desert.
The chimes are the main harmony. Moving major chords played in the left hand, doubled a minor ninth higher in the right hand. So funky!
In the end, I think all the confusion balances out. I hope it does The Great Dali justice.
I love elephants. My favorite non-dog animal. Smart. Kind. Tremendous in every way.
Plenty of elephants in Dali’s work, a recurring theme. But this one is different, I believe it’s his only piece that has these long-legged fellows as the main focus. Usually, they are playing second fiddle to some tigers or a knight attacking a cello or some such madness.
This wasn’t one of the more difficult reductions I’ve done…the colors kind of just fell into place.
Also: I mentioned I love elephants? Did you know England’s first elephant was given to Henry III in 1255 by his cousin King Louis IX of France? Please dive into the surprising history of Britain’s elephants.
Dali was just so wonderfully Dali. He himself was art. Inventing brilliant ways to realize his visions. Creating what looks like computer-generated art before computers were a thing to generate art.
Also: A pet ocelot named Babou!
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 elephants], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.