SET THE MOOD
Parties and gatherings. I remember one of the first parties I went to as a young man in my twenties in Little Rock, Arkansas. Well, really, I don't remember a whole lot about it. But it definitely made an impression. It was a cocktail party/art show kind of thing, featuring some beautiful small painted/glazed tiles by this guy:
Thom Hall. I remember that the tiles were all beautifully done and beautifully displayed - a lot of attention to detail, not only in the tiles themselves, but also in the way that each one was framed and then how each was hung on the wall. Likewise, the event itself was beautifully executed. And it was the first time that I remember realizing this: The music you choose as the soundtrack for your party or event sets the mood. For Thom's party he chose this woman's music:
That realization - that the music you choose for a party is important - has stayed with me ever since. I believe that guests coming into your home respond (whether they realize it or not) to the music that's being played. If you've got some great classical music playing, you'll get a certain kind of behavior from your guests. If you're giving them a little Al Green, the vibe will be different.
I like walking into the modern boutique hotels that are in every major city and hearing the ambient electronic dance music that seems to be playing in every one. A few years ago in Chicago Mr. Beers and I stayed at one of the the W Hotels. The room came equipped with a nice little contraption that was a combination alarm clock/iPhone charger/CD player. The hotel even furnished a CD that you were invited to enjoy while in the room. It was a great mix of music, and we ended up (of course) purchasing a copy in the hotel gift shop to take home. The music was modern, electronic, and relaxing. Favorite songs included "This Life" by Mandalay and "Weekend" by Kenny Lattimore.
Several years ago the wonderful boys at sloan/hall introduced us to this series:
The Hotel Costes compilations put together by Stephane Pompougnac. Perfect background music for a cocktail party. If you haven't heard any of these (I think there are probably 15 or more of these available now), look for the Hotel Costes series online (available on iTunes) or wherever you buy music. These albums (do we still call them that?) are like wonderful mix tapes full of audio treasures.
These days software like Pandora has made it so easy for us to create a soundtrack for our parties. We can be a little lazier, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. If you get a good Pandora or iTunes radio station (or whatever you use) going, you're set and that's one less thing for you to stress about. At a friend's house in Memphis the "James Taylor" station created the perfect auditory setting for us to enjoy each other's company on a Friday night while we partook of margaritas and a delicious shrimp boil.
And now we've been inspired by some television commercial (I know, right?) to throw together a smart little dinner and/or cocktail party with a Louis Prima soundtrack. Soon. I'd be willing to bet that Thom Hall has no idea that his most excellent art exhibit event in Little Rock in the 1980s is still influencing the parties that we throw today.