I spend part of this summer thinking about loungin.’ Not actually loungin’ myself, really, just theorizing it (theorizin’). Actually, what I did was to make a mixtape of music I thought most perfectly captured the essence of loungin’ and sent it to my friends, with a picture of Maria Montez as the Cobra Woman glued on the cover and a small liner note I had written:
Lounge is a precursor element* of funk. Lounge can groove, but loungin’ keeps you in the pocket. You might move but you’re not going much of anywhere. Lounge is music for a state of heightened sensual receptiveness, or heightened desire. Except desire impels movement towards the thing desired; when you lounge, everything you want is right there, surrounding you. The lounge is where you array your pleasures just so, everything in easy reach, all contingencies handled in advance. It is where pleasures are contained—and pleasure is refracted back through its containment. Civilization, depending on your point of view, is either a prison or the lounge writ large. Or it is both: the velvet prison. Either way, loungin’ is the proper mode for civilized existence. Lounge music offers the consolation of small vices and taboo indulgence.
Dig my hipster prose, daddy-o. Well, whaddaya want, it’s a mixtape.
Virginia Postrel wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly that can be found excerpted on her blog, The Dynamist. It’s about the photographer Julius Shulman, whose greatest claim to fame lies in the images he created of California midcentury modern architecture. This image, in particular, is, to me, the quintessence, the Platonic perfection, of loungin’:
*As in the “precursor elements” to chemical weapons or methamphetamines. From Wikipedia: “Chemically, a precursor is a substance that, following a reaction, becomes an intrinsic part of a product chemical.” That kind of precursor. Funk absorbs loungin’ into its metabolism, to switch up scientific metaphors.