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‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpétuer’: the post-war pastoral in space-age bachelor-pad music

Rebecca Leydon

Popular Music / Volume 22 / Issue 02 / May 2003, pp 159 - 172 DOI: 10.1017/S0261143003003106, Published online: 26 June 2003

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Rebecca Leydon (2003). ‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpétuer’: the post-war pastoral in space-age bachelor-pad music. Popular Music, 22, pp 159-172 doi:10.1017/S0261143003003106

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Popular Music (2003) Volume 22/2. Copyright 2003 Cambridge University Press, pp. 159–172. DOI:10.1017/S0261143003003106 Printed in the United Kingdom

‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpe´tuer’: the post-war pastoral in space-age bachelor-pad music



Juan Garcia Esquivel’s compositions and band arrangements of the late 1950s and early 1960s – his so-called ‘space-age bachelor pad music’ – feature exotic and futuristic instruments, dazzling stereo effects, textless vocalisations, and an array of colourful harmonic resources. This paper situates Esqui- vel’s music within the venerable tradition of the Pastoral mode, a specialised narrative mode met in certain literary and musical works. I begin with an account of the musical pastoral, illustrated with reference to Renaissance madrigals, opera libretti, and especially French concert music from the turn of the twentieth century. In the music of ‘impressionist’ composers, pastoral conventions include a preponderance of ‘slithery’ sounds such as tremolo, trills, glissandi, gauzy timbres, colouristic har- monies and, especially, an over-abundance of motivic material. The steady parade of new themes, with little repetition, and rapidly changing orchestral colours impart a hedonistic atmosphere, consistent with the ‘fantasy of plenitude’ associated with the literary Pastoral. Esquivel’s music, I claim, rep- resents a transposition of this bucolic style, in which the ephemeral sounds of the flute and harp are transformed into their space-age counterparts: theremin, vibraphone, buzzimba, and the ‘zu-zu-zu’ of the Randy Van Horne Singers. Esquivel’s music, I argue, reconstitutes the particular erotic configur- ations of classic pastoral: in place of fauns and nymphs are suave bachelors and their dates. The paper concludes with a discussion of representations of the ‘leisurely bachelor’ in other contemporaneous media.

The fantasy of a golden Arcadia peopled with frolicking nymphs and shepherds originates with the Idylls of Theocritus and the Eclogues of Virgil, and has served as a recurring theme in literature, painting and music for centuries. This article con- siders the ‘pastoral mode’ as a particular subspecies of musical exoticism, associated with a particular set of sonic signifiers. In the first part of the paper I sketch out characteristics of this pastoral fantasy as it is understood in some recent literary scholarship and I discuss how it has historically been encountered in music. In particular, I focus on French concert music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, where pastoral themes were particularly in vogue. In the second part of the paper I turn to the music of Juan Garcia Esquivel, the principal artist associated with the genre known as ‘space-age bachelor pad music’. 1 I want to argue that this American instrumental pop of the Eisenhower-Kennedy era takes over the pastoral lyricism of ‘impressionist music’. This impressionistic quality reveals itself most clearly in Esquivel’s characteristic harmonic vocabulary and his treatment of instru- mental timbres. Moreover, Esquivel’s music reconstitutes particular aspects of the pastoral fantasy itself – a utopian fantasy of plenitude and infinite renewal. Finally,


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I want to suggest some ways that this music ties in with broader representations of the ‘leisurely bachelor’ that we find in mass media of the same time period. With their rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman literature, Renaissance poets began modelling their own work on that of the Roman epic poet Virgil, whose Eclogues became a favourite classical reference. The Renaissance pastoral lyric is easily recognised by its idyllic tone and its array of stock characters: nymphs, fauns and shepherdesses with mellifluous names like Filli, Lilla, Amarilli and Silvio. The principal figure is that of the shepherd who enacts certain well-defined dramatic roles, especially that of poet and of lover. Pastoral poetry typically presents a highly stylised nature setting: sporting shepherds move about in a remote, idealised natural landscape, wholly free of any serious physical threats. Often present are lengthy descriptions of woods, hills, rivers, meadows – descriptions in which nature is depicted as an inventory of benign attributes. Related to this is an emphasis on sensuality, leisure and pleni- tude; the varied pleasures of nature, wine, love and music are enjoyed in abundance by the throng of pastoral personae. These themes of festivity are perhaps most familiar to musicians from the work of Italian Renaissance madrigalists. A favourite pastoral text, set to music in the sixteenth century by Luca Marenzio, among others, reads:

Ecco piu che mai bella e vaga l’aura, Pastor le vostre Ninfe risuegliate, Che’el giorna gia s’inaura Ecco ch’ella di fron’e d’herbe e fiori Vi da varij colori Tessete ghirlandette s’l crin ornate D’amate Pastorelle [Behold, the dawn prettier and sweeter than ever. Shepherds, awaken your nymphs. The

day is beginning already: behold her, giving you various colours in branches, grass and

flowers. Weave garlands and adorn the hair of your beloved


Absolutely typical of the pastoral idiom here are the stylised nature setting, the naive tone, the litany of nature’s bounty, and the throng of happy lovers. The historian Sukanta Chaudhuri has argued that the pastoral mode has to do with working out a special relationship between urban and rural, between ‘court’ and ‘country’. 2 That relationship, Chaudhuri argues, becomes increasingly complicated with the rise of modern European cities in the sixteenth and seven- teenth centuries. Similarly, Raymond Williams in his study The Country and the City views the cultivated naı¨vete´ of the pastoral as a fantasised vehicle for urban values. 3 Other scholars have pointed out that this pastoral fantasy is, more specifically, a fantasy of plenitude. Thomas Rosenmeyer, for example, argues that the pastoral mode, from its Renaissance incarnations onward, is essentially hedonistic, charac- terised by ‘an Epicurean acceptance of the present’. 4 From Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido to Mallarme´’s L’Apre`s-Midi d’un Faune, all pastoral personae are engaged in activi- ties that are essentially non-utilitarian. Rosenmeyer’s understanding of the pastoral, then, centres around the contrast between the bucolic and the heroic: while heroic narrative strategies are goal-oriented and transformational, bucolic ones are static, circular and moment-oriented. In the pastoral mode, this revelling in the present moment is made possible and is sus- tained by a continuous outpouring of nature’s plenitude. As narrative trends evolve

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throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is the heroic strategy that comes to dominate literary genres. Since a bucolic tone can only be maintained at the expense of the kind of volitional agency that is expected of charac- ters in stories, the pastoral idiom comes to appear as something fragile, precarious, trivial, and, consequently, inappropriate for the realisation a proper masculine European subject. If the heroic narrative largely displaces the bucolic in literary genres of the modern period, the pastoral mode continues to thrive in music. Geoffrey Chew has documented the history of pastoral conventions in music, beginning with the elegant entertainments of Italian courts and academies in the late sixteenth century that mark the inception of opera. 5 Opera subsequently retains strong ties to the pastoral mode throughout its history. Even with the shift in the seventeenth century toward opera seria and opera buffa, 6 Chew notes that ‘the use of pastoral ‘oases’ became part of the opera composers’ stock in trade’, and continued to provide ‘a distinctive, affective colouring for the sake of variety’ nested within otherwise ‘her- oic’ plots. 7 Instrumental music of this period, as well, intermittently deals with pas- toral themes. Even Beethoven, the archetype of heroicism, occasionally indulges in pastoral depiction, most famously in his sixth symphony – ‘The Pastoral’ – which has all the hallmarks of the idiom: the stylised nature setting, the inventory of bird-calls, the throng of revellers. In this work the static temporality so typical of the pastoral mode is captured through Beethoven’s choice of harmonic resources; Chew attributes the pastoral quality of the work to ‘an avoidance of the dynamic drive often associated with the tonal design of Beethoven’s forms’, resulting from ‘an unusual emphasis within the formal scheme on the subdominant and to the adoption of a generally slow harmonic rhythm’. Richard Taruskin cites this work as an example of what he calls ‘suspended animation’, an effect produced by a sequence of mediant relationships in the tonal organisation in the first movement:

‘The circle of thirds is an island of mysterious repose that interrupts the forward thrust of the fifths progression. Its quality of time is static rather that active.’ 8 Equal divisions of the octave – including mediant and whole-tone relation- ships – are, of course, hallmarks of a more generalised chromatic idiom in the nine- teenth century. But in certain cases they can be understood more specifically as pastoral conventions, especially when we meet these harmonic resources in con- junction with particular timbres. Certain orchestral instruments have long had explicit pastoral associations. In the orchestration treatise of Berlioz, for example, we find that he ascribes a pastoral quality to the harp, the flute, the oboe, and certain percussion instruments. His descriptive accounts of orchestral resources in his Treatise on Instrumentation include these colourful passages:

The oboe, is above all a melodic instrument: it has a pastoral character, full of tenderness –

I might even say shyness

one must guard against fury, menace, or heroism: for then its small voice tual and completely grotesque.

becomes ineffec-

A certain degree of excitement is also within its power, [but]

[The timbre] of the high bells is particularly suited for

pastoral scenes.

Nothing can be more in keeping with ideas of supernatural splendour or of religious rites

The strings of the

highest octave have a lovely crystalline tone of voluptuous freshness, able to paint pictures

than the tones of a great number of harps, ingeniously employed

of fairy-like delicacy and to whisper delicate secrets with lovely melodies. 9

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162 Rebecca Leydon

Berlioz is just one example of a number of composers in France in the nine- teenth century who developed the pastoral mode to a sophisticated new level. 10 His more complex approach is partly connected to the French tradition of pastoral parody, a comedic practice that culminates in works like Offenbach’s Orphe´e aux enfers (1858). Chew designates this style as ‘the new soft Mediterranean pastoral idiom’, and it is this richer French tradition that much of Claude Debussy’s music engages. 11 Pastoral themes occupied Debussy throughout his career, beginning with his early settings of De Banville’s ‘Triomphe de Bacchus’ and ‘Dianne au bois’. David Code has explored Debussy’s use of pastoral conventions in his study of the relationships among the work of Debussy, Mallarme´, and the painter Matisse, all of whom, Code argues, draw upon the devices of the pastoral mode as a way to ‘stimulate new modes of reading, listening and looking through invocations of mul- tiple idealised pasts’. 12 Code focuses on what is probably the best-known example of Debussy’s treatment of a pastoral subject, the Pre´lude a` l’apre`s-midi d’un faune, in which the composer sought to capture the essence of Mallarme´’s erotic ‘Eclogue’ in a textless orchestral work. To that end, Debussy employs the repertoire of musical codes that listeners will correctly interpret as pastoral references. The prominent use of the harp, the sinuous chromatic melody at the opening, the use of whole-tone and pentatonic sonorities – all are employed to depict Mallarme´’s images of stasis and languid sensuality. The foregrounding of an unconventional timbre, the solo flute, within the orchestral fabric marks the work as exotic and antique. As William Austin remarks:

Faune changed the very character of the flute as an orchestral instrument. From music of the

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries we can still think of the flute as a fife, a whistle, a fluttery

and bird-like personage

smouldering with pagan dreams.’ 13

but from Debussy and his successors we know it as sultry,

As for the form of the prelude, Austin and others have noted that it does not play out any traditional techniques of ‘development’ as such, but rather presents a con- tinuous parade of new motivic ideas and orchestral combinations, with little overt repetition. The implication is that this pastoral world is somehow infinitely renew- able, and the prelude enacts the fantasy of plenitude expressed in Mallarme´’s text – the Faun’s fantasy of the me´nage a trois with the two fleshy nymphs:

Ces nymphes, je les veux perpe´tuer. Si clair Leur incarnat le´ger, qu’il voltige dans l’air Assoupi de sommeils touffus. [‘Those nymphs, I want to make them permanent. So clear – their light flesh-pink, it hovers on the atmosphere, oppressed by bushy sleeps.’]

Debussy’s ongoing preoccupation with the erotic aspects of the pastoral con- tinues well into his later career: the Syrinx for solo flute and the Sonata for Flute Viola and Harp are two late examples. I would argue that the late orchestral work Jeux (1913) could also be considered in this category. Lawrence Berman has remarked upon the similarities between Jeux and Faun, claiming that Jeux may be understood as a second, more successful rendering of the Mallarme´ poem upon which Faun is based. 14 The two works share common narrative elements, such as the theme of pursuit, and especially, the me´nage a trois: the role of the Faun and the two Nymphs in the Prelude map onto the man and the two women playing tennis in the later work. It follows that we might imagine Jeux as a kind of Modernist

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version of the pastoral scene, with the mythological characters transformed into modern-day counterparts – that is, athletes in tennis clothes carrying tennis rackets. Furthermore, what Jeux retains, and indeed amplifies, from the earlier Prelude is precisely its quality of over-abundance: Debussy never pauses to deliberate over the logical developmental consequences of themes, but rather rushes headlong into ever new and varied material. Consequently, scholars have frequently singled out Jeux for its exceptional lack of formal definition – its amorphousness – but I prefer to consider the form of this piece in terms of an over-abundance of materials, a kind of ‘hedonistic’ approach to both the formal layout of the work and the orchestral combinations. That Jeux might be considered as a modernist pastoral lyric suggests that we could look for other modern retellings of pastoral narrative in the twentieth century. But with the advent of Modernism and atonality, ‘high-art’ musical practices largely abandon references to the pastoral mode, albeit in favour of the related theme of Primitivism. Meanwhile, however, the pastoral mode seems to gain a foothold in popular musical styles. American country music, for example, adopts some of its traits, such as an emphasis on pentatonicism and an expressed nostalgia for ideal- ised ‘Arcadian’ origins; and the rich harmonic vocabulary of Debussy and his con- temporaries is frequently adopted by Hollywood film composers. Much closer to the spirit of the ‘soft Mediterranean pastoral’, however, are the unmistakable impressionistic allusions that figure in much of the American instrumental pop music of the 1950s and early 1960s – the ubiquitous pop string-orchestras lead by musicians such as Mantovanni and Ethel Gabriel, as well as the music of popular ‘exoticists’ like Les Baxter. One figure who stands out in this period is Juan Garcia Esquivel, a musician who adopts many aspects of the fin-de-sie`cle pastoral, including its harmonic language, its lyricism, and, above all, its quality of ‘over-abundance’. 15 Esquivel was a pianist and self-taught composer and arranger, born in Mexico in 1918. His formal education at the University of Mexico was in the school of engineering, but he soon found employment at the popular Mexico-city radio station XEW where he was responsible for composing advertising jingles, produc- ing the sound tracks for live broadcasts, and directing the studio orchestra. In 1958, Esquivel moved to Hollywood to record his first album for RCA, Other Worlds, Other Sounds. In a 1994 interview, 16 Esquivel recounts how he was granted only five hours of studio time to record the whole album. Yet he had anticipated every detail of the recording process with such acumen that he was able to complete the task in three-and-one-half hours, and then make use of the remaining time to rehearse and record an entire second album with a small combo (piano, bass, guitar, flute and Latin percussion, released as The Four Corners of the World). Not only was the Other Worlds, Other Sounds project completed with astonishing speed and efficiency, but the album was subsequently nominated for two Grammy awards in 1958, in the categories ‘best orchestra’, and ‘best engineered non-classical record’. (In the latter category, Esquivel lost out to David Seville’s ‘The Chipmunk Song’.) Esquivel had similar success with his subsequent albums: Strings Aflame and Infinity in Sound were both nominated for Grammy awards in 1959 and 1960, respectively. With Latin-esque, released in 1962 as part of RCA’s ‘Stereo Action’ series, Esquivel was able to employ the very latest in stereo audio-engineering tech- niques. The album made use of two orchestras, recorded simultaneously in separate studios and synchronised via an elaborate system of click-tracks and closed-circuit televisions. Esquivel is best known today for the dazzling stereo effects on this and

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164 Rebecca Leydon

subsequent recordings, and also for his television soundtracks in the 1970s (including incidental music used for episodes of Kojak, Magnum PI and Charlie’s Angels). But in the course of his busy composing and arranging schedule he man- aged simultaneously to maintain an active performing career: his light-, music- and dance-spectacle ‘The Sights and Sounds of Esquivel!’ ran at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas each season between 1962 and 1974. The enduring popularity of Esquiv- el’s live show owed much to its coordinated light-and-sound effects, and to the performances of its four women singers, each representing a different nationality:

Japanese Nana Sumi, ‘Swiss’ Della Lee (an accomplished yodeller), French Yvonne De Bourbon, and ‘Greek’ Jashmira. The group performed in the Star Dust’s lounge adjacent to the room housing the Lido de Paris. Esquivel’s music, along with much of the American instrumental pop of this era, has an affinity with French Impressionist music; Debussy’s bucolic style, with its ephemeral flutes and harps, finds a space-age counterpart in the sounds of Esqui- vel’s orchestra: exotic and futuristic instruments such as the theremin, the ondioline, the bass accordion and the buzzimba are some of the more unusual sounds in Esquivel’s arsenal – sounds which are conspicuously ‘showy’ in a way analogous to the solo woodwinds within a traditional orchestral texture. Especially prominent on Esquivel’s albums is the textless vocalisation provided by a mixed chorus – the Randy Van Horne singers, perhaps best known for their work on the theme song for ‘The Jetsons’. But while Esquivel’s music is certainly ‘futuristic’, incorporating all of the newest audio engineering techniques of its day, it nevertheless recalls certain antique aspects of the pastoral idiom. In Esquivel’s harmonic resources, especially, we often find that quality of suspended animation, the ‘static tempor- ality’ associated with mediant relations, whole-tone sonorities, and the like, in com- bination with a particular set of signifying timbres. A striking illustration of the harmonic vocabulary that Esquivel employs is his arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Surfboard’, found on The Genius of Esquivel released in 1967. An excerpt is given in Example 1. The piece features moments of harmonic ‘planing’ (where all voices in the texture move in simultaneous parallel motion) and the juxtaposition of dominant-7th chords separated by a tritone – both classic ‘impressionistic’ tech- niques. Meanwhile, an elaborate polyrhythmic structure obscures the rhythmic alignment of the bass and soprano, which serves to create a sense of weightlessness in the music – a sensation of floating, or rather, ‘surfing’. More explicitly pastoral here is Esquivel’s orchestration. In particular, the use of the textless vocalisation in ‘Surfboard’ recalls the same technique in works such as Debussy’s Sire`nes and Rav- el’s Daphnis and Chloe. Indeed, the sound of the shadow chorus (typically intoning nonsense phonemes, such as ‘zu-zu-zu-zu’) was to become a trademark of Esquiv- el’s style, and much imitated by other instrumental pop ensembles of the period. Esquivel’s rendition of ‘Snowfall’ on More of Other Worlds, Other Sounds fea- tures harp, flutes playing in the low register, and rolled chords in the high register of the piano. The pentatonicism and the half-diminished-seventh chords in the opening section, shown in Example 2, strongly suggest a link with Debussy’s har- monic vocabulary and orchestral conception. Beyond matters of pitch resources and orchestration, what Esquivel shares with the ‘soft Mediterranean pastoral’ of the French impressionists is the familiar theme of over-abundance: Esquivel’s music features what he calls the ‘sonorama’ style, an effect achieved by means of a profusion of orchestral colours and thematic materials, and sudden and frequent shifts from one sound source to another. 17 This

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‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpe´tuer’ 165 Example 1. Excerpt from ‘Surfboard’. generosity of timbres is

Example 1. Excerpt from ‘Surfboard’.

generosity of timbres is matched by an equally extravagant approach to sound spatialisation, as the stereo effects on the title track of Latinesque demonstrate. One of Esquivel’s own compositions, it begins with a series of xylophone glissandi which pan back and forth from channel to channel. A descending scalar flourish first introduced in the piano, shown in Example 3, begins to appear in other instru- ments – the accordion, the organ, and in the high register of the piano. These deco- rative elements seem to burgeon forth in a profusion of ‘slithery’ sounds. Esquivel’s music frequently enacts the theme of ‘over-abundance’ in its tend- ency to foreground the inessential components of the texture. A typical Esquivel arrangement emphasises the accompanimental figures over the ‘theme’ proper, so that the original melody is continually awash in extraneous sound effects. This clouding of the theme proper recalls Debussy’s reluctance to grant coherent ‘themes’ as such, any independent existence. The effect can be heard in the extrava- gantly decorative function of the brass section and piano filigree that close off his arrangement of ‘I Get a Kick out of You’, from More of Other Worlds, Other Sounds

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166 Rebecca Leydon

166 Rebecca Leydon Example 2. Excerpt from ‘Snowfall’. (1962). Note in this arrangement, too, one of

Example 2. Excerpt from ‘Snowfall’.

(1962). Note in this arrangement, too, one of Esquivel’s favourite devices: the spar-

ing use of a brief bit of sung text – here the title phrase, ‘I get a kick out of you’ – placed discretely at the very end of a piece. This touch is reminiscent of the under- stated titles that appear at the end of the Debussy’s piano Preludes, framed with

enigmatic ellipses – e.g.

It is easy to hear in this music – and in that of Esquivel’s contemporaries like Les Baxter and Martin Denny – how the pastoral fantasy interacts with contempor- ary fictions of the tropics. The particular fusion of the ‘Mediterranean pastoral’ with Latin American musical styles is partly connected with ‘Spanish impressionism’ – largely an invention of late-nineteenth-century French composers (like Bizet), and subsequently disseminated abroad via Manuel de Falla, Heitor Villalobos, Darius Milhaud, and Gustavo E. Campa. As an heir to this tradition, Esquivel likewise creates a wonderful fusion of Latin dance rhythms and impressionistic harmonic devices, all the while cultivating a style firmly grounded in the American jazz-band tradition. All of these styles, and more, merge in Esquivel’s sparkling arrangement of ‘The Breeze and I’ on More of Other Worlds, Other Sounds, a work which also highlights his penchant for over-the-top endings. The splashy finale of this arrange- ment positively overflows with closural gestures, as do the concluding passages of ‘Chant to the Night’, ‘Street of Dreams’ and ‘La Mantilla’ from the same album. In

La fille aux cheveux de lin’.

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‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpe´tuer’ 167 Example 3. Excerpt from ‘Latinesque’. each of these works

Example 3. Excerpt from ‘Latinesque’.

each of these works the final cadential gestures are drawn out and reiterated almost to the point of absurdity. Such overstated conclusions, paradoxically, undermine the sense of real closure: it is as if the music could go on and on infinitely renewing itself, luxuriating over the same affect, enacting the Epicurean acceptance of the present. A different sort of ending occurs in Esquivel’s arrangement of ‘Sentimental Journey’, on Infinity in Sound (1960). Here, the final strain of the melody is given to the brass section. The theme is worked up into a massive texture of blaring trumpets and thundering percussion. Yet at the expected climactic moment of the final phrase, the entire ensemble suddenly retreats, leaving only the slide guitar. The piece ends with the sound of tom-toms, Muzzy Marcellino’s whistling, and a celeste playing delicate harmonies of uncertain tonal affiliation. I interpret this moment as a retreat from the heroic tone back to the bucolic: like Berlioz’s oboe, Esquivel’s orchestra is capable of a certain degree of excitement, but never ventures into ‘menace or fury’. Esquivel employs fortissimo only sparingly, dotting his pastoral landscapes with colourful festive touches. 18 The idyllic tone of this music – its sheer optimism – invites the listener to indulge in a fantasy of plenitude, as listeners are themselves transformed into pasto- ral personae – or at least their Kennedy-era counterparts: space-age bachelors and their dates. After all, one of the main functions for these stereo recordings of the late 1950s and 1960s was to create amorous ambience within a bachelor pad. Targeted at audiophiles, Esquivel’s recordings especially appealed to suburban male consumers eager to show off their hi-fi equipment. Esquivel’s music, I believe, is closely tied to the particular representations of bachelorhood constructed in mass media during the same period. In its most distilled form, the image of the ‘leisurely bachelor’ appears throughout the early issues of Playboy magazine, from the 1950s and early 1960s. During this period, Playboy seems to offer its readers some of the same kinds

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168 Rebecca Leydon

of bucolic pastoral fantasies that, I claim, are served up in Esquivel’s ‘impression- istic’ music. In 1958, LeRoy Neiman began a monthly feature for Playboy called ‘Man At His Leisure’. Introduced to the Playboy readership as ‘an impressionist painter’, Neiman often drew upon Mediterranean themes, providing ‘soft-focus’ illustrations of the French Riviera, the Grand Prix auto race in Monaco, and the regatta of gondo- liers in Venice. Such images strengthened the associations already forged between the Playboy aesthetic and an imagined Mediterranean playground. More specifi- cally, there is a particular mystique attached to French subjects. In fact, the whole practice of American ‘cheese-cake’ portraiture exemplified in (pre-70s) Playboy has its roots in fin-de-sie`cle Paris, with the posters designed by Jules Cheret and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec for the Folies Berge`res and the Moulin Rouge. A more proximate antecedent is Raphael Kirchner’s ‘pin-ups’ for La Vie Parisienne in the 1920s and 1930s, which served as models for the work of George Petty, Alberto Vargas, and Gil Elvgren in Esquire and Playboy. The construction of the erotic imaginary of the American post-war leisurely bachelor is closely bound up with the semiotics of fin-de-sie`cle ‘Frenchness’. We find this in the images in men’s magazines just as we find it in the sounds of American instrumental pop of the same era. 19 What I find especially interesting about the representations of bachelorhood in the early issues of Playboy is a palpable tension between the two incompatible modes of the ‘bucolic’ and the ‘heroic’. Not only is the reader invited to overindulge in leisure and sensuality, but at the same time he is supposed to be in control of himself and the women around him. It is the earlier issues of the magazine that most clearly seem to offer a kind of refuge for bucolic indulgence, while later issues increasingly defer to the more ‘heroic’ modes of representation. The shift can be traced in a series of advertisements that runs in each of the issues of Playboy, dis- playing the caption: ‘What Sort of Man Reads Playboy?’ The purpose of these ads is to alert potential advertisers to the demographic of the readership; statistics about the typical readers regularly appear at the bottom of the page, stating average incomes, education levels, and so on. The ads construct an ideal persona that appeals both to the reader, who responds positively to the reflected image of him- self, and to the advertisers who can tailor their own ads to this ideal consumer. In each of these encapsulations of the fantasised image of the leisurely bachelor, we find, almost without exception, the fantasy of the me´nage a trois – a man and two women. The man is pictured in some leisurely occupation – playing tennis, selecting a fine wine, purchasing a tie (or, in one rather strange example, watching a portable television on the beach). In most cases, two women also appear in the image: typi- cally, one engages in a conversation with the fellow, while a second, slightly out of focus in the background, directs her admiring gaze at the man from afar. With increasing frequency through the 1960s, however, the ads begin to depict the man as earnestly engaged in some sort of technological activity: he appears as a scientist in a laboratory, or as a pilot, for instance. By the late 1960s, references to the frivol- ous pursuits of the leisurely male no longer seem appropriate to the construction of the ‘sort of man who reads Playboy’, and the magazine seems far less engaged with the elements of the bucolic fantasy. The image of the self-indulgent space-age bachelor begins to be replaced by other images: James Bond, for example (although Ian Fleming’s stories began running in issues as early as 1960) and, eventually, edgy rock ’n’ roll stars become the dominant references in these pictures, in a decided

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‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpe´tuer’ 169 Figure 1. Dedini cartoon: ‘You’ve had enough’. Reproduced by

Figure 1. Dedini cartoon: ‘You’ve had enough’. Reproduced by special permission of Playboy maga- zine: Copyright 1961, 1989 by Playboy.

shift towards the heroic mode. There is a point beyond which the men pictured in these images actually stop smiling. Explicit pastoral references persist for some time in Playboy, however, in the form of a long-running serial cartoon by Eldon Dedini that depicts frolicking nymphs and satyrs and fauns of classical antiquity in various humourous and risque´ situations. Each of the single-panel cartoons features the faun as a recurring character; Figure 1 shows an example. One particularly telling cartoon, shown in Figure 2, depicts the usual faun character on vacation for the holidays, visiting his ‘big-city’ cousin, another faun almost identical to the first but attired in a tuxedo, sipping a martini in his penthouse apartment, and surrounded by stylishly quaffed female mythological personae in fashionable cocktail dresses. 20 If the pastoral mode functions as a space in which to re-imagine relationships between urban and rural, then this image of the ‘country cousin’ faun visiting the ‘city’ faun shows how these

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170 Rebecca Leydon

170 Rebecca Leydon Figure 2. Dedini cartoon: ‘It’s become traditional. During the holidays the country cousin

Figure 2. Dedini cartoon: ‘It’s become traditional. During the holidays the country cousin visits the city cousin’. Reproduced by special permission of Playboy magazine: Copyright 1967, 1995 by Playboy.

antique pastoral personae can be directly mapped onto the figure of the modern urban bachelor. Esquivel and his musical contemporaries occupy a precarious position in historical accounts of twentieth-century music, where their space-age bachelor- pad music appears as a superfluous afterthought of the big-band era, destined to disappear completely in the coming years with the onslaught of rock ’n’ roll and the British invasion. For baby-boomers coming of age in the 1960s, Esquivel’s impressionism is ‘parents’ music’, banished to the outmoded arenas of Vegas cocktail lounges and supermarket muzak broadcasts. The musical style, along with the fantasy of over-indulgent leisurely bachelorhood, grows more dissonant with competing images of heroic masculinity, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. In the past decade, however, a new audience has rediscovered the instrumental pop of the late 1950s, and the swanky cocktail aesthetic that it represents, and Esquivel has emerged as the most admired among the proponents of this musical style. Much of his work has now been reissued on CD, a movie of Esquivel’s

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‘Ces nymphes, je les veux perpe´tuer’


life is reported to be in process (directed by Alexander Payne and starring Jon Leguizamo), and the renowned Kronos Quartet is recording a new arrangement of one of Esquivel’s quirky numbers, ‘Mini-skirt’ (on a CD featuring Mexican composers). These developments indicate that the popular appetite for bucolic lyricism and sheer musical ‘abundance’, which seems to have persisted since the sixteenth century, remains undiminished. And perhaps the revival of this style has also spurred a revaluation of musical narratives of heroic masculinity and a corresponding awareness of a wider range of alternatives – or at least those bucolic masculinities that were possible, briefly, in the United States of America’s post-war consumer paradise.

Copyright acknowledgements

Excerpt from ‘Snowfall’ used by permission of the Mutual Music Society. Excerpt from ‘Surfboard’ used by permission of the Ipanema Music Corp.


1. According to Irwin Chusid the term was 14. Berman (1980, p. 225).

15. While I am aware of no direct evidence sug- gesting Esquivel deliberately sought to imitate

Esquivel! Space-age Bachelor Pad Music. Debussy, I want to argue here that certain con-

spicuous aspects of the impressionistic style

Patterson (1987). were taken over by Esquivel and his contem-

3. Williams (1973). poraries because they afforded expression of

2. Chaudhuri (1989). See also Haber (1994) and

coined in the 1980s by Brian Werner, a Los Angeles artist. See Chusid’s liner notes for

4. Rosenmeyer (1969). ‘leisureliness’ and ‘indulgence’, and that these

5. Chew (2001). expressive devices were newly relevant for

6. The terms opera seria and opera buffa denote eighteenth-century genres of heroic/tragic

post-war bachelorhood. 16. Vale and Juno (1994, p. 154).

opera and comic opera, respectively. 17. These aspects of Esquivel’s style may be traced

7. Chew (2001). to his former career in radio: qualities of inter-

8. Taruskin (1985). mittency and concision, required of cues in

and advertising jingles, trans-

lated into the ‘zing!’ and ‘pow!’ in Esquivel’s later ‘sonorama’ arrangements. The fragmen-

identifying as

‘impressionistic’ in Esquivel’s music, then, is probably partly connected with the technologi- cal constraints of radio. At the same time, one reason that the sonorama style ‘works’ is that it closely resembles a historical antecedent characterised by similar features and con- cerned with similar expressive aims. 18. Esquivel reports that special care had to be taken with the volume levels in his arrange- ments for the ‘Sights and Sounds of Esquivel!’ group: ‘The job at the Stardust was difficult, because I was performing in a lounge near the poker, blackjack and roulette tables. The main room housed the Lido de Paris show, and we had to be interesting enough to attract the crowd that was leaving, but quiet enough to

the sustain pedal in piano music. not distract the poker players! Even though we

12. Code (1999). couldn’t play loud, we had to attract the atten-

13. Austin (1970). tion of the people: ‘hey – here we are!’ It was

11. A set of particular musical devices pioneered by Debussy serve as hallmarks of impression- ism. The idea of music as an invitation to plea- sure, and an emphasis on the immediate sen- suous qualities of musical sound, led Debussy and his imitators toward harmonic strategies which deliberately ignored traditional require- ments for the resolution of dissonance: ostin- ati, unresolved 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th chords, harmonic ‘planing’, octatonic and wholetone sonorities, modal scales, motivic ‘duplication’, and the extensive use of string tremolo, and of

10. Chew points out Berlioz’s development of new pastoral conventions via the use of solo wood- wind melodies characterised by irregular ara- besques, exemplified in the passages for oboe and English horn in the third movement of the Symphonie Fantastique, the ‘Scene in the Country’ movement (1830).

9. Berlioz (1858).

radio dramas

tary quality that I am

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172 Rebecca Leydon

a challenge’. See his interview in Vale and

Juno (1994). 3 (2000). ‘The gay modernists, in staking their

music to French ideals, reclaimed qualities of music elsewhere rejected as feminine, and opposed the patriarchal authority of canonic musical Germanness’ (Hubbs, p. 403).

‘Modernist codes and the musical closet’, in 20. Playboy, January 1969, p. 201.

GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 6/

19. Interestingly, an alignment with ‘Frenchness’ is also characteristic of the musical aesthetics of gay modernists, such as Ned Rorem, as Nadine Hubbs has pointed out in her recent article,


Austin, W. 1970. Norton Critical Scores: Debussy, Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun’ (New York: Norton) Berlioz, H. 1858. Grand traite´ d’instrumentation et d’orchestration (Boston: Oliver Ditson) Berman, L. 1980. ‘Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Jeux: Debussy’s Summer Rites’, in Nineteenth Century Music, 3/3 Chaudhuri, S. Renaissance Pastoral and its English Developments (Oxford: Clarendon Press) Chew, G. 2001. ‘Pastoral’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie, on-line edition, Chusid, I. 1994. Liner notes for Esquivel! Space-age Bachelor Pad Music, Bar/None Records AHAON 043 Code, D. 1999. A Song Not Purely His Own: Modernism and the Pastoral Mode in Mallarme´, Debussy and Matisse, Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley 2001. ‘Hearing Debussy reading Mallarme´: Music apre`s Wagner in the Pre´lude a` l’apre`s-midi d’un faune’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 54/3, pp. 493–554 Haber, J. 1994. Pastoral and the Poetics of Self-Contradiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Patterson, A. Pastoral and Ideology: Virgil to Vale´ry (Berkeley: University of California Press) Rosenmeyer, T.G. 1969. The Green Cabinet: Theocritus and the European Pastoral Lyric (Berkeley: University of California Press) Taruskin, R. 1985. ‘Chernomor to Kaschchei: Harmonic sorcery; or Stravinsky’s angle’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38, pp. 72–142 Vale, V., and Juno, A. 1994. Incredibly Strange Music, Volume II (San Francisco: Re/Search Publications) Williams, R. 1973. The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press)

Esquivel Discography

To Love Again. RCA Victor LPM 1345. 1957 Four Corners of the World. RCA Victor LSP 1749. 1958 Other Worlds Other Sounds. RCA Victor LSP 1753(stereo); LPM 1753 (mono). 1958 Exploring New Sounds in Hi-Fi. RCA Victor LPM 1978 (mono). 1959 Exploring New Sounds in Stereo. RCA Victor LSP 1978 (stereo). 1959 Strings Aflame. RCA Victor LSP 1988 (stereo); LPM 1988 (mono). 1959

Hello Amigos. Songs with the Ames Brothers. RCA Victor LSP 2100. 1960 Infinity in Sound, Volumes 1 and 2. RCA Victor LSP 2225, LSP 2296 (stereo); LPM 2225, LPM 2296 (mono).


Latin-esque. RCA Victor LSA 2418 (stereo); LPM 2418 (mono). 1962 More of Other Worlds Other Sounds. Reprise RS-6046. 1962 The Best of Esquivel. RCA Victor LSP 3502 (stereo); LPM 3502 (mono). 1966 The Genius of Esquivel. RCA Victor LSP-3697. 1967 Burbujas. Children’s songs, with Silvia Roche. Profono International/Telediscos PTL-1001. 1979 Esquivel! Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music. Bar/None Records. AHAON 043 cd. 1994 Music from a Sparkling Planet. Bar/None Records AHAON 056 cd. 1995 Cabaret man˜ ana. BMG. 1995 Merry Xmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad. Bar/None Records AHAON 083 cd. 1996 See It In Sound. 7N/BMG Special Products. 1999[1960]

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