Saturday, October 01, 2005

song and dance man

My but how far we've come. Thankfully, the point was never to question the blindingly obvious, such as that artists like Bob Dylan have shared a life-long, entirely healthy suspicion of the status-soaked preenings of pedigreed psuedo-intellectuals (sometimes, especially today, known as "liberals"). The point was to move beyond an analysis of convenient labels and biographical arguments (or even personal anecdotes) about authorial intention to look more carefully at how an artist's work–in this case a distinctively hybrid American blend of folk and rock genres (perhaps equal parts getting by and getting free?), functioned in its unique manifestation of literary distance, but also as cultural re-sponse or 'pop,' if such a philosophy of pop may be finally understood. The point being that there may in fact be profound implications for such things as a 'politics of community' and other such fancy-pants phraseology, and that an analysis of this is not necessarily something to, as if by default, fear, although a healthy dose of distrust remains essential, a distrust always negotiated from within, an ownmost interiority–nobody is asking you to sacrifice that–because that inner tension is precisely the point of any true beginning after all.

Bob Dylan is about solitude, about preserving an inner space indifferent to what makes it great, about staying in that realm of always beginning again.

You can see a closed space at the heart of many of Radiohead's songs. To draw out one of their own images, it may be something like a glass house. You live continuously in the glare of inspection and with the threat of intrusion. The attempt to cast stones at an outer world of enemies would shatter your own shelter. So you settle for the protection of this house, with watchers on the outside, as a place you can still live, a way to preserve the vestige of closure–a barrier, however glassy and fragile, against the outside. In English terms, a glass house is also a glasshouse, which we can call a greenhouse. It is the artificial construction that allows botanical life to thrive in winter.

Radiohead's songs suggest that you should erect a barrier, even of repeated minimal words, or the assertion of a "we," to protect yourself–and then there proves to be a place in each song to which you, too, can't be admitted, because the singer has something within him closed to interference, just as every one of us does, or should. We'll all have to find the last dwellings within ourselves that are closed to intrusion, and begin from there. The politics of the next age, if we are to survive, will be a politics of the re-creation of privacy (Mark Greif, from the same article as before)

I think the same applies to Dylan, or rather Dylan's art (the distinction remains important), and call it poetics if you must. Or, put another way: Radiohead is in a sense an example of the theory of/from Dylan today.

No comments: