18 September 2006

Blowin' ill winds

There is this absurd teapot tempest blowing ill winds about these days. It concerns the alleged plagiarism by Bob Dylan of the work of Confederate poet, Henry Timrod. Here’s what the New York Times reports: “More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours,” the 65-year-old Mr. Dylan sings in “When the Deal Goes Down,” one of the songs on “Modern Times.” Compare that to these lines from Timrod’s “Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night”:

A round of precious hours
Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked
And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers.

Hasn’t anybody ever heard of ‘allusion,’ a literary trope in which one work makes reference to another work, and by so doing, calls up all of the associations the work referred to suggests? It is a very powerful trope, and one that requires alas, some intelligence to appreciate. Hence, Tom Stoppard called his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a phrase lifted verbatim from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I don’t recall anyone accusing Stoppard of plagiarism. And hey, James Joyce’s Ulysses is so chock full of allusions that if they were removed to protect copyrights there would be little of the novel left. And the title of that sentimental movie, “Bang the Drum Slowly,” derives from a folk song. Oh please, this is all too silly. Allusions are all about us.
I think that either there must be nothing else in the world to report about (which we know isn’t the case); or someone doesn’t want to report anything else (we’re getting warmer); or they just want to get you down in the hole that they’re in (which is a line from Dylan’s “Gates of Eden,” the title itself an allusion to you know that other Garden. That’s the song which includes the line,” Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” There is no allusion in that line. It’s a fact.

The title of this blog entry is an allusion. Its also an example of irony.

13 September 2006

Later in the Day than Usual

It has been so long since I’ve visited here that I wonder how to begin again. No way to recount the place I’ve seen.

Perhaps I’ll start with where I presently sit: in my office. Waiting for class.

Gary was talking about Blondel Park in Amsterdam. He loves that park—I think he runs there when he visits Amsterdam every winter. His mention reminded me of a group I listened to in the early 1970’s—The Amazing Blondel. I own their album, but, of course, I can’t play it because I’ve abandoned the use of turntables. But as soon as I recalled them to mind, I wanted to hear them, and so I went to iTunes and purchased more than a few of their songs. Apparently they re-formed, or re-united sometime in the recent past.

So I was listening to them today in the car, and as I listened to the music I heard it first in my body. I was transported to the time and place where first I heard them—to the moments in my life when I was still in my twenties, and it was still the 1960’s (even though it was early 1970’s). Life was full and tense and frightening, and I think I was terrified, and confused, and lost most of the time. And the music of Amazing Blondel took me there; and driving in my car what I viscerally felt was that time in my life, was me at that time in my life.

I have different terrors and confusions and moments of being lost now; but being transported back there by Amazing Blondel gives me a perspective on the present and the past. Music can do that for me better than most stimuli—except, perhaps, my dreams.