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Sunday, March 07, 2004

John Latta confirms tongue-and-cheekness of 'once-popular-music' jab -- still, it activates a concern I sometimes have about how much of my own response to nearly everything is filtered through music (in my case, often as not, never-very-popular). I mean, even some of my broader metaphysical views stem from a view of the relation between musical works [inc. 'songs'] and their performances. A distorting lens, surely, though I suppose everyone has one.

Candidly*, my Chantal Akerman experience did not start all that well. (Oh -- context? Major retrospective of her films over the next 3 weeks at UCLA and Disney Hall's 'alt'-space Redcat.) An 2000 'autoportrait' by the filmmaker from French TV was engaging; 1st half direct address by Akerman to the camera, reading an explanation of the impossibility of the project [this feels like a particularly French (well, Belgian) strategy, using apparent straightforwardness as a way into 'the difficulties']. 2nd half clips from her various works arranged for (perhaps) autobiographical significance. It would be interesting to see this again after the whole series.

But I dozed off for bits of the feature, All Night Long. This happens; it's as much an indication of my physical state, and the fact that my filmgoing muscle has atrophied somewhat over the last few months, as anything else. But a not-great print of a film whose first two-thirds are shot entirely at night didn't help. Turns on the combination of 'structuralist' presentation and 'romantic' concerns; curiously, the best effects are comic. (In one sequence, a middle-aged woman packs and leaves the house while her husband is sleeping, though she makes no special effort not to wake him. Quite a bit later in the movie, in the morning, she comes back w/ her suitcase, changes into her nightgown, and gets back into bed -- the husband might as well be furniture for all he's moved. Seconds later, the alarm clock rings, and she gets up to start a presumably normal day. This gets, and deserves laughs, but it felt a little unfair in the context of the film's slow-developing method -- we're seeing just the stretches that make the joke work.)

I was a bit phenomenologically absent for the film (poorly put, I know), but sense that I got 'the point': The 'romance' of a summer evening engenders moments of crisis and passion (we rarely see what leads up to/psychologically 'explains' these), which to one degree or another dissipate in the morning. You know...the day destroys the night, the night divides the day. (Sorry, John.) In any case, I expect to be more alert for tonight's screening; and I'd better get a good night's rest before Tuesday's showing of the three-hr Jeanne Dielmans -- which I also need to see for comparison with Farber/Patterson's final published essay, "Kitchen Without Kitsch." (It's possible that once I saw this scheduled, I subconsciously 'timed' my work on the Farber piece to finish up around the time of this screening.)

Earlier that day, reading/'salon' at Green Integer offices for/by Charles Bernstein. (The wine I had there may have wrecked me for the movie.) We spoke a bit about the death, last year, of Rogers Albritton, who, along w/ Cavell, was one of CB's Wittgensteinian teachers at Harvard; some time later, he settled in at UCLA. I could go on more than a tangent about Rogers, and ought to here or elsewhere at some point; my contact w/ him was brief (he was just going emeritus by the time I got into the program) but significant. Reading: Two 'didactic' poems, one closely based on Austin and Ayer; all of a new war-related chapbook called World On Fire, w/ many Tin Pan Alley refs. (inc. Kern's "The Folks Who Live On The Hill); an oddly lyrical new one, "The Bricklayer's Arms"; and a section of new libretto (Shadowworld?), voiced by a cross between the figure in Durer's Melancholia (sudden flash on Coolidge's chapbook) and Klee/Benjamin's Angel of History (sudden flash on Mekons and Laurie Anderson). This last included a good bit of rhyme, and sections of 'sound poetry' that were, one gathers, meant to mime back-masking. Seemed pretty singable, but I doubt I'll be in Berlin or NYC to find out. Dustbin, necessary but now-moved-beyond theoretical position, yes, yes -- still considerable juice there.

Good conversation after with Catherine Daly and Scott Saul about the difficulty of getting reprint permission for lyric quotes, even in academic and poetic contexts. Catherine says that the music-copyright activists she's engaged don't seem to care about this end of things much. (Seriously: While we're agitating for a standard rate for sampling uses, what about one for print quotation? Authors and publishers can get gouged on this, badly.) Scott says Mingus' people, and John Sinclair, were very fair and easy to work with; Knopf (for Langston Hughes) was not. Both gave me something great -- Catherine, her new book DaDaDa from Salt; Scott, a sheaf of copies of guitar chords to Caetano Veloso songs (many from the very early Domingo, plus meaty sections of an instructional book on samba and bossa nova guitar styles, w/ accompanying CD. I'll be excited to delve into this -- the mission statement of this blog has not reflected my activities very well in recent months (and probably won't until April).

Also in the house (at both events), Joseph, to whom I will look for more informed (and alert) treatment of Akerman-to-come.

*People always think I'm being cute when I use the word "Frankly."

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