Episode 025: Steam
In which we discuss childhood memories, a great melody, and baseball cards
If you know me, you know I HAD to write about baseball at some point. Outside of my family and music, it’s probably the thing I’ve spent the most time doing in my life. It’s been a lifeline for a lifetime.
A quick back-of-the-napkin calculation has me watching or listening to parts or all of over 5,000 games in my life.
Never considered that before.
A few highlights:
The first baseball game I ever attended was opening day of the new Yankee Stadium in 1976. I’d never seen so many people or anything so big and green. Love at first sight. I remember everything about that day.
Visiting my grandparents each summer, I would sit on the ground next to my grandfather’s recliner as he tried to tune in games on his little AM radio everywhere from Cleveland to Detroit, from Philadelphia to Milwaukee. I’m pretty sure my love of the static and vinyl sounds that I use incessantly comes from this.
I would sit in front of the TV with the sound off and practice announcing games while recording myself. When I was nine. The cassette tapes still exist somewhere.
No artist captures the beauty and grace and history and love of the game quite like Graig Kreindler. He is incredibly prolific, with so much to love. But the piece that makes me happiest is his 2015 work Steam, based on a 1956 baseball card of the wonderful player and human being, Roberto Clemente.
When I was scrolling through Kreindler’s collections, deciding on a work to write a beat for, I just assumed I would end up choosing some Yankee portrait. The power of this painting, however, could not be denied. It gets across both the excitement of an amazing baseball moment (they happen all the time) and the relaxing joy of a Saturday afternoon. Not sure how he managed that.
Almost broke my five-color rule here. Had to make some choices:
the yellow from the wall is obviously the background
the writing on the wall in red and blue is a must
contrasting Clemente components in black and white (jersey, belt, shoes, glove hat)
That’s five. Really wanted to add that green from the grass and brown from the dirt into the reduction. Expected, but not necessary when I shifted my focus totally on the ballplayer himself.
Sure, I ended up with a ball field with no grass. That’s art, right?
Another unexpected twist: this exciting depiction of such a gymnastic, athletic marvel inspired music that is probably more cheerful than dynamic. I suppose the idea of baseball on a summer day is so soothing to me, the music that needed to come out was to be on the lighter side.
Unsurprisingly to my regular listeners, there's still a lot of dissonance going on in here. Some interesting loops. Lots of noodling in no discernible key. Microtonal things… OK, maybe it isn’t SO happy.
But melody is the ultimate equalizer. If I’ve learned nothing else from your comments and emails and feedback each week, it’s that if you have a happy melody, it really doesn't matter what's going on underneath it. It just sounds happy.
On the complete opposite end of the baseball-art-spectrum, I have a huge soft spot for Mark Mosley, the artist behind I Draw Baseball Cards. I used to collect cards when I was a kid, and still have many thousands of cards in tubs in my basement.
I just couldn't resist buying a set of cards from Mark. If you are a baseball fan, you might consider it too. Or at least this one of Donnie Baseball on a Cap’n Crunch box!
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 baseball on the radio], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.