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15.7.05 R v. r II  

My fattening, unfashionable Robert Lowell hang-up has drawn me to his recently published correspondence, which I learned of in the New York Review of Books. Perusing the NYRB archives, I dug up an old essay, & found a passage that struck me as (vaguely) relevant to my last post. "It seems plain," to Irving Ehrenpreis

that "The Nihilist as Hero" through its eloquent coarseness conveys one-half of the poet's ambition, while "Reading Myself" conveys the other, and that Lowell illustrates by his technique a yearning to reconcile art as process with art as product.

Hmmm; I'm already pondering a nightmarish Hegelian vision of music history after reading this ...

10.7.05 Record v. recombinant  

In the July issue of Wired, sci-fi author William Gibson traces sampling back to Burroughs, who was "interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of authors was no plagiarist at all." This collage esthetic--which worked wonders for Picasso, Duchamp, & Godard--found sonic manifestation in 1970s Jamaica, with King Tubby/Lee "Scratch" Perry's analog deconstructions, or "versions." (I'm reminded of American poetry's tradition of free translation, pioneered by Pound, burnished in Lowell's Imitations.) From them DJs in New York & London cribbed their production approaches. It's a fin de siecle, music-historical agon: "the recombinant," associated by Gibson with the bootleg & the remix & the mash-up, will finally supplant the static physicality of "the record." In Gibson's democratic vision of music, viz. the favor given to process over product, I see us sliding away from rockism. What, after all, embodies the static physicality of the record better than rock? That is, what is less amenable to street-corner bootlegging, DIY remixes & polygeneric mash-ups than rock?

8.7.05 Niche-wagon  

LJJ's raison d'etre is pretty straightforward: to balance against the fitfully closeted, overly rockist esthetic conservatism of the indie press/scene. The margins--breakcore, screw tapes, dancehall, neo-drum & bass, even "New Weird America"/avant-folk, &c.--should be pulled toward the center, if not out of a sense of esthetic preference, then of esthetic diversity & experiment. And the best older music, from Kiwi pop to No Wave to kosmische, should be kept fresh in our minds. With any luck, LJJ will help preserve exciting music from the dustbin, & in the process introduce a few people to new sounds & ideas. Warning, warning: I'll probably digress now & then into armchair art crit, political philosophy, & Robert Lowell worship.

Ab ovo