Episode 012: The Dingoes That Park Their Brains with their Gum
In which we discuss fences, the balafon, and street art
I had no idea that dingo scalping—including government bounties for skins—was a thing. A thing that is happening today. You can read about the horrifying attempted extermination of dingoes in Australia HERE, if you wish.
I also didn’t know that there was an Australian carnivore-marsupial-dog-like-creature called a thylacine that became extinct in the 1930s, possibly from similar activities. A pouched pooch! But I digress.
This painting: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s brilliant The Dingoes That Park Their Brains with their Gum from 1988. It’s another recent discovery for me, and it really floored me. The title alone is quite the gripper. And the artwork itself? It immediately started conjuring up notes in my head. So here we are.
The most important thing for me in this beat was to try and portray the suffering of these animals. After the drop you slowly start to hear some synthesizer madness fading in, rising up until you get to the coda when we are in full-on wailing dingo mode.
And how do you depict a fence in music? I thought a big, almost stately main theme could stand in for one. It's big and silly, ridiculous almost. You can't get past it. Neither can the dingoes.
Floaty-spooky voices! In some other key! Maybe these are the landowners? Ghosts of dead dingoes?
Finally, the balafon. All hail wooden xyylophone-marimba type instruments. I love the sample set I used to play the percussive counter-melody in this one. Won't be the last time I use it I'm sure.
And yes, I know, the balafon originated in West Africa and this painting is Australia, but creative license and all that.
This painting seems simple, but there is quite a lot going on here. Tons of ways you can interpret this, but I went for the low-hanging fruit—dingoes!
Tried a number of ways to get that fire underneath Mr. Purple Doggie, but it never really looked right. So I just raised him up a bit. You can still feel the fire under his feet.
Sometimes it feels impossible to reduce these great paintings down to just 5 colors, my self-imposed rule. Not this time. It's almost like he knew I was coming.
"He" of course being Jean-Michel Basquiat, the artist. If you don't know his story, check him out HERE. Started out in street art, graffiti, but quickly became a celebrated mainstream cat. Truly fascinating.
Finally: any idea what is in the text box underneath 'keep frozen'? Maybe “I’d give my right eye for it”? Hard to tell, but pretty funny if that’s it.
Another brilliant artist, an innovator, felled by drugs at the infamous age of 27. The ‘27 Club’ includes far too many: Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain, Winehouse… and Basquiat.
What is the link between the unholy triumvirate of the creative mind, depression/anxiety, and drug/alcohol use?
And how many more non-famous members of the club are out there? Too many too-early deaths.
Including dingoes. And thycalines.
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 balafons], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.