Episode 011: Watermelons
In which we discuss great adversity, sinister bad guys, and medjool dates
I am fascinated by artists who overcome adversity to produce exquisite, transcendent art. That describes most artists to a degree I suppose, but it defines Frida Kahlo.
Let's have a quick rundown of Kahlo’s bio:
polio [leg problems her whole life]
bus accident at 18 [torn through by a metal rod: shattered spine, hips, never fully recovered, something like 30 operations]
unfaithful husband [with her sister, really?]
You get the idea. Any one of these events could destroy a person. Not Kahlo. Instead, she created incomparable, inspirational art.
“Viva la Vida, Watermelons” is her final painting, likely finished just a few days before she died. Profound. Deeply personal. Optimistic! Kahlo’s final artistic breath compels us to live life. Viva la vida, indeed.
Needed a positive beat for this painting. On first listen, my beats might not generally be considered upbeat. Or happy or joyful, I suppose.
Now, I certainly feel that my music is happy and joyful. But traditionally, music in minor keys—or more specifically, music with tonal or rhythmic dissonance—is considered predominantly sad. Or mysterious. Even sinister.
The bad guy is always coming when there is a minor 2nd afoot.
Anyway, this thing is as bouncy and happy a beat as anything I am going to write—and that is in spite of it being in three or four different keys at the same time.
The relentlessly rolling acoustic bass figure just floats around, not really harmonically connected to anything else in the song. It's just a cool bit that really works with the drums.
I thought about reworking the tops a bit [shakers/tambourines/hats, etc], but decided against it in the end. I made them stiff on purpose...I usually don't, I generally want my beats to feel looser, but here locking them to the grid worked for some reason.
Quantizer’s remorse. Dilla would likely disapprove.
Also, this is another in a long history of me coming up with two different melodies and instead of choosing one, jamming them both into the beat. They play off each other nicely I think.
The strictest of the constraints that I've put on this whole reduction concept is:
That's it. I have to choose five colors from the original painting to use in the reduction. No cheating. No shades of colors, no slight differences.
That often leads to some hand-wringing. I’ve spent hours trying to pick the exact spot on a wall or a shirt or a car from where I’ll pinch a hex code. Not here though. Outside of a watermelon. Inside a watermelon. Pretty straightforward.
Another control: only 90º angles. No circles, no triangles. A little challenging when every figure in the original painting is a big round thing. Like, for example, a watermelon.
Also, the happiness and optimism in this painting are unmistakable. How am I supposed to get that across? How can that translate? That was the hardest thing for me here, but I think I got it!
So, to recap this one: colors, easy; shapes, not as easy; lovingkindness and joy, improbable but in the end realized?
While we are recapping things, let’s discuss fruit. In particular order:
I think that’s a solid top-five fruit list. Watermelon must be first, inarguable. But those dates are creeping up in the rankings.
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 tasty fruit], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.