Art & Jazz: The Bad Plus, "Prehensile Dream"

[From the Art & Jazz Series]


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The Bad Plus is a jazz trio, featuring Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass, and Dave King on drums. The three first met and played together in Minneapolis in 1989, but didn't officially form The Bad Plus until 2000. The trio's music could be described as containing elements of avant-garde jazz but with rock and pop influences, as they have recorded jazz versions of rock hits such as Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and "Tom Sawyer" by Rush, among others.

"Prehensile Dream" is an original composition by Reid Anderson, and was the opening track on their 2005 album titled "Suspicious Activity?"

Do you know what "prehensile" means? Prehensile means having the ability to grab or seize something by wrapping around it, like in the case of a snake that wraps itself around its prey in order to kill it. As you listen to this song, see if you can get any sense of why this song might be titled "Prehensile Dream." While there's no literal reference within the song to something being seized or grabbed, the way the song intensifies, starting between 3 1/2 - 4 minutes into the song, it could certainly suggest the growing intensity of something that is wrapping around you, squeezing you tighter and tighter. The intensity relents around the 6 minute mark, perhaps suggested that the "dream" has released its tight grip on you, and the composition quietly fades out at the end.

Scroll down below the video for our description of the art project to accompany this music ...



The Art Project for "Prehensile Dream:" using your art materials of choice, create an art work where you are depicting a "prehensile" action (using the definition of prehensile given above).

It can be a literal image, or an abstract one, but see what you can do to visually create the idea of something or someone being seized and wrapped up. We've got two examples of "prehensile" images below, with a very literal photograph by Mary Ellen Mark, below left, of an elephant wrapping its trunk around its trainer (note the look in the elephant's eye ... it's as if he's thinking about how hard he might want to squeeze this guy's neck). Below right we have a sculpture by Jeancy Nsumbu, an artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In his sculpture, the "prehensile" action is a bit more abstract, as the black-headed bird has a purple body that wraps around a man's head along with two other somewhat abstract animals. We don't want you to copy either one of these art works, but wanted to give you something visually as a starting point to think about how you might want to portray something prehensile.

animals wrapping around people in a prehensile fashion

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