Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Juan Tizol played in the Ellington band and co-wrote "Caravan."


"The explosion of Language writing . . . in the late 1970s defeats the notion of the canonical, single-authored work." -- Barrett Watten, via Ron Silliman

The notion of the canonical, single-authored work was left for dead on the battlefield, in a pile of corpses on top of the notion that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth. It was thought to have perished from the shrapnel resulting from an explosion of Language writing.

The notion of the canonical, single-authored work raised its bloody head. "I'm not dead yet!" it protested. Another explosion of Language writing detonated. "Run away! Run away!" shrieked the notion of the canonical, single-authored work. "We'll head for the hills and wait the insurgents out!"

The battle rages.


The other night
s post was on literalizing metaphors -- something the Langpoets like Watten and Silliman know about. Barthes’ image of the Death of the Author has found itself literalized in Langpo discourse -- big time. And also like Barthes, by and large the Langpoets hope for the eventual canonical elevation of their own single-authored works, as they deploy their pompous, dull war tropes unself-consciously and unironically against their own publishing and polemicizing practice.

But suppose the Langpoets are right. Suppose that Watten’s vision points to artworks where solo-authorship really is not operational.

Pop music, jazz, the movies.

Single-authored works scarcely exist in these artforms.

All of them drawing vitality from the collaborative nature of their production.

I love a lot of 20th century poetry and classical composition and painting, but I would have a hard time arguing against the proposition that pop music, jazz, and the movies were the most vital forms of the 20th century. Their collaborative mode of authorship has played an enormous role in that vitality.

In the movies, the producer hires the team, the writers write (most movies have more than one writer), the director decides on filming options and coaches the actors, the actors contribute their interpretations, and the editor chooses from several finished fragments to complete the finished work.

Jazz thrives on its multiplicity of authorial voices. Duke Ellington's orchestra is exemplary. Duke's voice is primary as primary composer and arranger, but half-a-dozen co-composers and arrangers worked with him regularly, plus myriad improvisers with distinctive authorial voices contributed the dearest productions of their artistic imaginations to the finished artworks.

Night and stars above that shine so bright
The myst'ry of their fading light
That shines upon our caravan

Listen: Our caravan.

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