Glorious weather, Ithaca at its best. Hope it will keep up for the weekendI understand Barrett Watten and Carla Harryman are coming to town. I learned this from a woman named Christine (I didn't catch her last name) who's attending the School of Criticism & Theory conference up at Cornell this summerran into her while walking Bogie in one of the gorges.
For those interested, here are my notes on the Brent Hayes Edwards talk I went to on Monday:
African proverb on the back of the shirt of an audience member: "He who offers his head for the breaking of a coconut should not expect to eat from it."
Edwards is an engaging, soft-spoken, and dapper presence. His talk's title, "Come Out," turns out to entirely lack the queer subtext one might expect. He begins with a discussion of the work of Ed Roberson, specifically a serial poem titled Lucid Interval as Integral Music, which has a structure similar to that of Spicer's The Heads of the Town Up to the Aether: a poem on the top half of the page is separated by a line from other textsometimes fragments, sometimes white space, sometimes a poem in itselfthat comments on or emends what's above the line. Edwards: "Upper voice is the poem, lower voice is a singing under or a singing through," a voice of mourning addressed by the "preacher." Edwards talks about the concept of the lucid interval as a moment of sanity that emerges from a general background of madnessan experience of oscillation. Roberson speaks of trying to put as many "keys or cues" as possible into the work. Mentions zeugma, a word shared by two or more syntactic units. Edwards: "Ignescent associations between things."
Foucault: madness is forbidden languagesubmitting language that follows a recognized code to another code. Madness "sketches the empty form from which the work comes." Edwards criticizes Joseph Conte's Unending Design for not delving deeply enough into the musical sources of serial work.
Spicer: "You have to be tricked into" serial form and not know what you're doing. Spicer in Vancouver urging poets to learn from popular songwriters like George M. Cohan. (Jack Spicer, song and dance man!)
History unspokenRobeson's sense of powerful unacknoweldged forces shaping his world as he grew up in the 1940s. From here Edwards segues into a long discussion of the "Long Hot Summer" of Harlem in 1964 and the highly prejudicial and misleading serial newspaper coverage of an incident of police brutality in Harlem that eventually escalated into full-blown riots. Media creation of a sinister whites-hating gang, the "Blood Brotherhood." Serial form of the newspaper allows the build-up and accumulation of rumor and innuendo until it bursts. Racialized violence constructed as serial, as all the contemporary articles on the '64 uprisings referred back to riots in the 30s and 40s, creating what was happening as a moment of repetition.
Langston Hughes was a newspaper columnist for the New York Post (this was before Rupert Murdoch, obviously) for many years, including 1964. In his columns he created a character named Jesse B. Semple, whose adventures were eventually collected as The Simple Stories. Semple as a kind of "barstool theorist." Column devoted to the riots in which a female character is beaten and loses her $40 wig at the hospitalwarns other ladies not to wear their wigs if they go rioting. Subtle redefinition here of criminal riots into political uprisings.
Scenes from a strange film based on a strange book, The Torture of Mothers, a reconstruction of testimony by accused rioters and victims of police brutality (Ruby Dee appears in it). Serial accumulation of testimony with dashes of insight (mentions Reznikof). Steve Reich made a tape loop called "Come Out" that used a phrase from the testimony of Daniel Ham: "I had to cut my leg to let the bruise blood come out to show them": the tape loop, which apparently goes for fifteen minutes (Edwards played only snatches) repeats and reprocesses primarily just "come out to show them." Repetition as animating history rather than numbing or nulling it. Reich's piece played at a Town Hall benefit for the legal fees of accused rioters. Repetition breaks open the identical, "singularity becomes multiplicity." Edwards: "An Orphic vulnerability torn out and rent in the fury of its own music."
Reich sought a seriality devoted to "perceptible processes," designed to make seriality audible.
Duke Ellington's phrase "tone parallel"an attempt to avoid hierarchies in building structural relations.
In the Q&A someone mentions Mackey (who as you've noticed by now was not featured in the talk) and his book Atet A.D., which apparently riffs on the title of a 1970s jazz album by Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D., which was inspired by the culture of a tribe in Mali, the Dogon, that was never exposed to the slave trade. Atet A.D. is part of a serial poem with a title even more elaborate than Robeson's: From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. Letters from a multimedia artist named N. to "the Angel of Dust."
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