This summer, I had the unique opportunity to write orchestral arrangements for Lushlife, moniker of the extraordinary hip-hop artist Raj Haldar, who had been invited to create a piece for Shaking Through, an audio/video series curated by Weathervane Music. ‘Toynbee Suite’ is Raj’s extended meditation on the infamous Toynbee Tiles, mysterious license-plate-sized tiles of unknown origin, embedded in streets and sidewalks all over the country, and even in South America. The cryptic and inscrutable message of each tile is the same:
In Kubrick’s 2001
On Planet Jupiter
The piece is divided into four movements, one movement per line, and all of Raj’s formidable word-smith prowess is aimed at spelunking the impenetrable nature of the Tiler’s words; of trying to ascertain what vision of human and cosmic flourishing could account for such heroic but obscure measures, such urgent but opaque lengths taken to communicate.
Writing for any artist is always a fun challenge. You are trying to crack the code of a particular artist’s vision while maintaining the integrity of your own aesthetic. This piece was that challenge squared: I interacting with the rich and clear artistic tableau of Lushlife, but I was also interfacing with the rich but decidedly unclear message of a bracingly sincere and single-minded Tiler. It was both invigorating and bizarre.
With that, click here to listen to ‘Toynbee Suite’ in its entirety (arrangements executed with soul and precision by the inimitable Dark Horse Orchestra), and click below to see the short documentaries about the making of. All are terrific.
Meet you on Planet Jupiter…