Episode 021: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
In which we discuss tennis, parasols, and Bo Blaze
Here is a thing that doesn't happen anymore: nobody goes to the beach or to the lake or to the seaside all dressed up. Not a fancy hat to be seen. Zero pocket squares abound. And where are the parasols? It’s all “Let’s relax and have a good time.”
I don’t get it. Whatever happened to the formality?
A goal of mine—and one must have goals in life—is to be invited to some sort of lakeside shindig and arrive in a seersucker suit with a contrasting vest and a straw boater. Spats. Possibly a wooden tennis racquet. Real Three Men in a Boat type of stuff. It seems like an attainable goal.
Also, I’m considering starting a movement to bring back parasols. My incredibly cursory online “research” indicates that parasols are far more effective sun blockers than…sunblock.
Sunblock is a multi-billion dollar market in the U.S., therefore, my parasol business will be wildly successful.
Anyway: all this fancy bathing talk was inspired by an inner-circle-hall-of-fame painting, Georges Seurat’s 1884 masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
A rare bouncy, sunny Polyester City beat!
These drums are some of the favorites I've done. They really sound like they were recorded in somebody's garage in 1975. I left the click track in there too—too loud?
Another one of my typical wandering basslines that harmonically has nothing to do with the rest of the music. Just strolling around looking for some other notes to play with.
I am particularly amused by the jazzy guitar slices. I literally just randomly played cool-sounding chords in groovy patterns and looped them. No concerns about what key they were in.
More Mellotron flute melodies! I can’t stop with that sound sometimes, it’s undoubtedly my biggest cliche.
Looking back on it now, I think I missed an opportunity: the painting has a guy playing the trumpet. Why didn’t I lay down some saucy trumpet lines in this thing?
Ah, well, you can’t have everything.
Here’s something I find interesting about this painting by Seurat: it's basically a mirror image of Bathers at Asnières, a piece he painted a few years earlier. In Bathers, though, everyone is in the bright, bright sunshine. No hiding in that one. Aloe will be needed at the end of the day. (If only they’d been using parasols.)
Sunday Afternoon, though. Here, almost everyone is in the shade. Whether it's from the trees, the giant hats, or the very sensible and stylish parasols, no one's getting a sunburn. Turns out Seurat intended these “opposing paintings” (new term for me) to portray the lives of different social classes from one side of the Seine to the other. Are the upper class here on the Island of La Grande Jatte intentionally in the dark – or possibly hiding? Hmmm.
You might think all this shady business would have inspired some subdued music. Instead, I picked up on the girl dancing halfway into the background, the dogs frolicking, the trumpeter trumpeting, and even the monkey! Whether genuine or putting on airs, it does seem like this group is enjoying a lovely retreat away from the hectic vibes of Paris.
Visiting with him one day, I said something like: “You must really like this painting, yes?”
“Then why is it hanging up in your office?”
“I have no idea.”
Hysterical. I guess the point here is that some of the greatest art ever created has simply become the background of our lives. We see it everywhere and we don't even think about it.
Or at least not often enough.
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 parasols], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.