While it may be difficult to conjure up words of comfort during these uncertain times, music can graciously fill this void. It is a language spoken in universal emotions, and its unique ability to heal seems limitless. In that spirit, Modern In Denver is launching the HOMEBODY Series, which features playlists curated for specific rooms in your home.
This week we begin with our Living Room playlist, curated by DJ Big Styles. A legendary Denver DJ who has been performing and playing for over 25 years, DJ Big Styles has provided the musical backdrops for events like Design In Bloom and Denver Design Week for years. Along with listening to the playlist, we invite you to read the thoughtful rationale he has provided for choosing each selection under the guiding principle that “Living rooms are where we open our homes and our hearts to our loved ones, friends, and even strangers.” Happy listening.
The indelible and symbiotic relationship between music and film knows no apex. Legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is known for marrying often frenetic scenes and circumstances with vibrant sonic scores. 2002’s Academy Award Winning “Talk to Her(Habla Con Ella)” marked a shift for the film maker, and a sudden surge in his power to convey emotion on the screen. The film is meditative in its nearly silent stretches, scenes float into our conscious where they remain to stay, perhaps for a lifetime. In the first act of the film, we witness a lovely party at the home of Marco, the film’s lead, and his partner Lydia a famous bull fighter. The couple has opened their home to friends and family alike, and we find them as the revelers have gathered on the back patio of their home, an extension of the living room —a common design of modest homes in Spain. Caetano Veloso, Brazilian singer and activist performs “Cucurrucucú paloma” a traditional Mexican folk song about a man who cries day and night for his lost love, his only company the cooing of doves. The scene and the film actually evoke a very Brazilian feeling called Saudade. Saudade is hard to define. Most do agree that it is a feeling of longing, or nostalgia for something that no longer exists. It is not a mournful but rather a loving attachment to what we may never regain. The pursuit of a fantastic home is never ending, a truly fantastic home is constantly evolving and encompassing what we glean from the world, and it makes ample space for what we have lost that we may never regain.
Homes are the foundations of families traditional and non-traditional. 20th century African American families often made living rooms serve several purposes. Red lined into small homes and apartments, living rooms for African American families were gathering places, homeschool classrooms, rehearsal studios, ateliers, and waiting rooms for beauty salon appointments in the kitchen. Ronnie Laws is a product of Houston, Texas and a musical family—his sister Debra, a renowned singer and his brother Hubert, a jazz legend. Ronnie, a formidable saxophonist in his own right, pulled away from standard Jazz in the mid 70s and pioneered a fusion sound more in line with the zeitgeist at the time. His music served many purposes and made room for everyone. “Friends & Strangers” is the title track from his gold selling 1978 album and it brims with the sounds of familiar and unfamiliar faces gathering together. The strings are arranged into a low flying hum and his sax floats on top, an ethereal call to gather.
Harmony is an essential quality of a great living space. Your living room should be the place where all your influences find a common space to shine. Brooklyn’s erstwhile(?) trio Sonnymoon are the very definition of design harmony. Comprised of Berkelee school of Music singer Dane Orr, Kendrick Lamar collaborator and Grammy winning singer Anna Wise and hip hop singer/songwriter J Hoard their voices are different textures, each style a different color creating a hypnotic aural pastiche of their musical influences. “Grains of Friends” builds from foundational hand claps and human percussion to a fervent jazzy jam. Though success has called the members of Sonnymoon off to solo pursuits, their unique palette will never be duplicated.
Little Dragon has been an underground fave for years. Their catalog is full of dance jams that never quite work in the club, but are perfect for spontaneous living room hootenannies. “Are You Feeling Sad?” is no exception, and it feels anything but said, it feels like springtime sun through your living room window. There is no band more qualified to make music for the living room than Little Dragon. The Swedish quartet that lives in a small home together when they record music. Yukimi the charismatic leader of the band occupies the studio full time, while other members of the band have other places with their families.
More than anything else, our homes are where we retire to at the end of a days’ journey. The living room is where many of us first unload and begin to recharge. Brittany Howard knows a thing or two about coming home to comfortable spaces. Her solo debut is fiercely provincial. She wears her love for her home and hometown as a coat of arms. A fantastic home is sometimes a fort offering refuge and sustenance before we return to our outside lives.
The Living Room, as we know it in 2019 is particular to the 20th century American experience, or rather American exceptionalism, and unfortunately American excess. Imagine for a moment the United States as the country where citizens aspire to own a modest pied-à-terre in Myrtle Beach. That idea seems far fetched, but Jay-Z’s sanguine soliloquy to so many material things feels like a new American anthem. Something about a billionaire rapping about marble floors and making love to his wife in the shadow of Jeff Koons balloons and Warhols and Basquiats feels like the spiritual successor to F. Scott Fitzgerald. A new American tale.
The 90s rom-com “Love Jones” is beloved for good reason. Chief among them is a lovely sequence where our couple try to spend the night in the same apartment without sleeping together. After hours (minutes in montage) of anxiety and arousal, Darius climbs the stairs from the living room in the loft of his love Nina to offer a compromise. He asks her to come and join him in her living room to listen to some music. “Nina…can I play you something?” The greatest American composer, and the greatest saxophonist are the best substitute for sex.
Joyce is a brilliant vocalist that embodies the culture and traditions of Brazil. Nana Vasconcelos was one of the first musicians to bring the sounds of Brazil to the world. “Jardim dos Deuses”(Garden of the Gods in English) is self explanatory:
“I have visited the garden of the gods more than once/In search of pleasure and peace/But everything I found/Disappeared after I came back/And I never forgot the perfume of the garden/But I will not be sad at the memory of what happened/I will find love right here”