Food Music Playlist #10: Got Milk?

Scenes of Eating

I’ve been enjoying a reread of Barthes’ Mythologies, a collection of short semiotic studies of the foods, entertainments, and obsessions of mass culture. In “Wine and Milk,” Barthes picks up on an idea of Gaston Bachelard’s that wine corresponds to the element of fire; its opposite is the quenching power of water. Barthes is captivated by the idea of wine as a transformative substance like fire: wine warms and intoxicates, wine makes the weak strong and the silent talkative. But, he suggests, a more exact opposite to wine is milk. Where wine warms, milk cools; where wine penetrates, milk spreads. Where wine transmutes, milk soothes and restores.

In music, milk occasionally takes on that cooling, comforting connotation. Milk most often enters music by way of idiom: “milk and honey,” a biblical vision of plenitude; “the milk of human kindness,” that gentle substance which made Macbeth weak in fierce Lady Macbeth’s opinion; or the “milk cow…

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