Monday, August 09, 2004
Migrating the folk process
DrunkenBlog: Convergence Kills [via Joe Katzman & Sven-S. Porst]
"[...] It's a sad truth, but yes, the iPod is going to go away. Everyone knows it; they just don't know when. This isn't dismissing the fact that it's shot out of the gates on a wildly successful run and become to MP3 players what Kleenex is to tissues, but it's eventually going to start losing share in one form or another.
[...] That's why they're so freaked out about what RealNetworks is doing, even though it'd sell iPods. At the end of the day it's not going to be about who is selling what end-play device, it's going to be about who is sitting in the middle. And Apple wants to be that benevolent dictator, parsing DRM-protected content to whatever device you're using at the time. It's also why the deal with Motorola is so significant; Apple can live without you buying an iPod, but if you're going to be buying DRM-protected content, Apple damn sure wants it to be through them.
[...] they're creating a new light-DRM platform that is riding on top of everyone else's platform. iMacs, Windows, mobile phones, everything. Google is also creating a platform riding on the backs of other platforms... except its based around becoming the access point for all things internet. Apple wants that, but for DRM content."
Vipin V. Nair: Harmony sparks dissent
"Every time we buy a CD, do we really worry about whether it will work on our music systems? We don't. Globally-accepted standards in digital storage of music CDs and DVDs make sure that regardless of the make of our music systems, they will work.
But those who buy music from the Internet don't enjoy such peace of mind yet, since each service provider has his own choice of audio compression format that runs only on a particular music device. So a user is, in a way, tied down to a particular online music store.
Take the instance of iPod, the most popular portable music device from Apple Computers. It plays only songs downloaded from the company's online music store iTunes. Apple uses a format called Advance Audio Coding (AAC), fortified by its Fairplay digital rights management (DRM) system, to encrypt songs in the iTunes store.
Now, a new software announced by RealNetworks seeks to do away with the incompatibilities that exist in the world of digital music. RealNetworks claimed recently that its Harmony Technology is the world's 'first DRM translation system' that enables users to play music purchased from anywhere on more than 70 devices, including Apple's iPod.
[...] Apple, the most successful company in the digital music business so far, has sold four million iPods and over 100 million tracks from iTunes. The company recently entered into a deal with mobile phone maker, Motorola to make iTunes compatible with Motorola handsets."
Society for the Study of Social Problems - 29.2 Review: Karen N. Werner
Question: What do eyeglasses, reproductive technologies, art forgeries, mimeographs, mannequins, parrots, sex dolls, Siamese twins, wax museums, Doublemint gum advertisements, carpel tunnel syndrome, and camouflage have in common?
Answer: According to Hillel Schwartz, they are all clues to understanding "the culture of the copy," a culture thick with doubling, mimicry, repetition, and simulation.
Real Life Rock Top 10 by Greil Marcus - City Pages - 30 June 2004
4) and 5), PJ Harvey, Uh Huh Her (Island) and Nick Catucci, "Carnal Fission" (Village Voice, June 9)
Harvey rubs, scrapes, drags chairs around the room; sometimes it feels as if her music comes from her guitar applying pressure to her skin rather than her fingers applying pressure to her guitar strings. Each album seems to gravitate toward the point where a certain state of mind and body will flare up into a single image--which will then burn out and disappear, leaving you incapable of remembering what the image was, only that you glimpsed it. Here, you're on the way with the pulse of "Shame," only the second song; you can feel the destination has been reached with the next, "Who the Fuck?" which combines a Lenny Kravitz beat with an extremist, primitivist Sheryl Crow vocal -- an affinity that lets you hear Harvey listening to Crow, lets you hear Harvey hearing something in Crow's voice nobody else hears, maybe including Crow herself.
That's the problem with artists: They know things other people don't. They feel compelled to say what those things are, and to conceal the strangeness and alienation of the act. If there is an "I" in their work, it ceases to refer back to the person writing, painting, singing; the person whose name is on the work has momentarily replaced herself with a made-up person who can say or do anything. This is what makes such a person an artist, and it's why critics who try to reduce an artist's work to her life are cretins. Thus we have Nick Catucci in the Village Voice, assuring his readers that Uh Huh Her is "a break-up album"--"as all save her last have been," he adds, in case you think there might be something out there that doesn't fit into a thimble. Forget that situations everyone goes through might go through Harvey differently than they do through you or me; don't worry that there might be anything here that isn't immediately obvious; after all, Catucci says, she's "an easy read" and "she's got a one-track mind." "We know she's been fucking and fighting, probably in equal measures, and maybe in the same moments." You can almost smell him, can't you?
6) and 7), Patti Smith, "Radio Baghdad," from Trampin' (Columbia) and Michael Kamber, photo accompanying Edward Wong's "Deputy Foreign Minister Is Fatally Shot in Baghdad" (New York Times, June 13)
Smith has been selling death for years -- but now mere husband, brother, friends, and poet comrades take a backseat to a whole city, a whole civilization: civilization itself! That's what was destroyed when the U.S. took Iraq. For Smith it's a chance to gas up the piety boilers, and remind us that we (or, rather, "they," which is us, but not her, unless we accept her vision, in which case we can be her, gazing with sadness and disgust at those who remain "they") destroyed a perfect city, the center of the world, where once walked "the great Caliph." How does it sound? Silly. The Aloha-Elvis wall hanging you could see in the background of Kamber's photo--captioned "American soldiers searched a suspected stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr"--was infinitely more interesting. Why doesn't Smith write a song about what Elvis was doing there: about a "we" that even she might not be able to make into a "they," unless the "they" included Iraqis, too?
TVTechnology - Net Soup: Love and Theft by Frank Beacham (08.06.03)
"[...] The organized commercial recording industry -- enabled by cheap, salable recording media -- has existed for less than 100 years. Before that people sang and performed for each other. Folk singer Pete Seeger has called the oral tradition of constantly learning and revising songs "the folk process." The constant variations of songs were passed from artist to artist and finally refined to versions that lived on through the ages. Today, lawyers call that copyright infringement.
Seeger's "folk process" is a bigger threat to the music industry than Internet freeloaders seeking a song. In fact, perhaps more than any other media, the Internet's sharing capability has brought a return to this oral tradition of trading and revising words and music. Thus, we witness the harsh fight by large corporations to retain control of the sale and distribution of their recordings.
Those who appreciate Bob Dylan's work flash a knowing smile when confronted with the Wall Street Journal's revelations. "Bob Dylan often walks a fine line between plagiarism and allusion, and therein lies his genius," wrote Geoff McMaster in a recent article on Dylan's work.
In fact, said Dr. Stephen Scobie, a Dylan biographer and former University of Alberta professor, noted that another song on Love and Theft -- titled High Water (for Charley Patton) -- included more than a dozen quotations from sources as varied as English Nursery Rhymes, African-American Blues, an obscure 1950s pop song, and even Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. In some instances, whole lines and even couplets are lifted verbatim from the source.
"Dylan takes the whole idea of love and theft very seriously," said Scobie. "He loves the stuff, but also unashamedly steals it. At what point does allusion become quotation or become theft?"
Don't confuse Dylan's art with a historian's work, warned Jon Pareles, a music critic for the New York Times. "Mr. Dylan was not purporting to present original research on the culture of yakuza, the Japanese gangsters. Nor was he setting unbroken stretches of the (Saga) book to music... He was simply doing what he has always done: writing songs that are information collages. Allusions and memories, fragments of dialogue and nuggets of tradition have always been part of Mr. Dylan's songs, all stitched together like crazy quilts."
Sometimes Dylan cites his sources, wrote Pareles, but more often he does not. The music critic groups Dylan with performers such as Woody Guthrie and the Carter Family, who "thought of themselves as part of a folk process, dipping into a shared cultural heritage in ways that speak to the moment."
Pareles muses that the hoopla over Dylan's use of Dr. Saga's book is "a symptom of a growing misunderstanding about culture's ownership and evolution, a misunderstanding that has accelerated as humanity's oral tradition migrates to the Internet. Ideas aren't meant to be carved in stone and left inviolate; they're meant to stimulate the next idea and the next."
Not so, argue America's major media companies, who fear a day when they won't be able to profit from music, movies and even digital television programming. Thus, the conflict between digital information technology -- where the shared cultural heritage becomes more accessible -- and the media company gatekeepers who want to place roadblocks in the way of open access.
At stake in this dispute is the right of "fair use," a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without payment. Also in jeopardy is "public domain," the period after copyright expiration when works can be freely copied and distributed. Both are essential components to artistic freedom.
"The absolutely original artist is an extremely rare and possibly imaginary creature, living in some isolated habitat where no previous works or traditions have left any impression," wrote Pareles. "Like virtually every artist, Mr. Dylan carries on a continuing conversation with the past. He's reacting to all that culture and history offer, not pretending they don't exist. Admiration and iconoclasm, argument and extension, emulation and mockery -- that's how individual artists and the arts themselves evolve."
Personally, I hope to ask Sony's Howard Stringer to expound a little more on the differences between Internet "thieves" and Love and Theft. If that day comes, we'll report back to you."
Plagiarism in Dylan, or a Cultural Collage?
The New York Times - 12 July 2003
Jon Pareles: "An alert Bob Dylan fan was reading Dr. Junichi Saga's "Confessions of a Yakuza" (Kodansha America, 1991) when some familiar phrases jumped out at him. There were a dozen sentences similar to lines from songs on Mr. Dylan's 2001 album, " 'Love and Theft,' " particularly one called "Floater (Too Much to Ask)."
In the book a father is described as being "like a feudal lord," a phrase Mr. Dylan uses. A character in the book says, "I'm not as cool or forgiving as I might have sounded"; Mr. Dylan sings, "I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound." Mr. Dylan has neither confirmed nor denied reading the book or drawing on it; he could not be reached for comment, a Columbia Records spokeswoman said.
The Wall Street Journal reported the probable borrowings ... as front-page news. After recent uproars over historians and journalists who used other researchers' material without attribution, could it be that the great songwriter was now exposed as one more plagiarist?
Not exactly. Mr. Dylan was not purporting to present original research on the culture of yakuza, the Japanese gangsters. Nor was he setting unbroken stretches of the book to music. The 16 verses of "Floater" include plenty of material that is not in "Confessions of a Yakuza," although the song's subtitle and its last line -- "Tears or not, it's too much to ask" -- do directly echo the book. Unlike Led Zeppelin, which thinly disguised Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" as "The Lemon Song" and took credit for writing it, Mr. Dylan wasn't singing anyone else's song as his own.
He was simply doing what he has always done: writing songs that are information collages. Allusions and memories, fragments of dialogue and nuggets of tradition have always been part of Mr. Dylan's songs, all stitched together like crazy quilts.
Sometimes Mr. Dylan cites his sources, as he did in "High Water (for Charley Patton)" from the " 'Love and Theft' " album. But more often he does not. While die-hard fans happily footnote the songs, more casual listeners pick up the atmosphere, sensing that an archaic turn of phrase or a vaguely familiar line may well come from somewhere else. His lyrics are like magpies' nests, full of shiny fragments from parts unknown.
Mr. Dylan's music does the same thing, drawing on the blues, Appalachian songs, Tin Pan Alley, rockabilly, gospel, ragtime and more. "Blowin' in the Wind," his breakthrough song, took its melody from an antislavery spiritual, "No More Auction Block," just as Woody Guthrie had drawn on tunes recorded by the Carter Family. They thought of themselves as part of a folk process, dipping into a shared cultural heritage in ways that speak to the moment.
The hoopla over " 'Love and Theft' " and "Confessions of a Yakuza" is a symptom of a growing misunderstanding about culture's ownership and evolution, a misunderstanding that has accelerated as humanity's oral tradition migrates to the Internet. Ideas aren't meant to be carved in stone and left inviolate; they're meant to stimulate the next idea and the next.
Because information is now copied and transferred more quickly than ever, a panicky reaction has set in among corporations and some artists who fear a time when they won't be able to make a profit selling their information (in the form of music, images, movies, computer software). As the Internet puts a huge shared cultural heritage within reach, they want to collect fees or block access. Amazingly enough, some musicians want to prevent people from casually listening to their music, much less building new tunes on it.
Companies with large copyright holdings are also hoping to whittle away the safe harbor in copyright law called fair use, which allows limited and ambiguously defined amounts of imitation for education, criticism, parody and other purposes. The companies also want to prevent copyrighted works from entering the public domain, where they can be freely copied and distributed. The Supreme Court recently ruled, in Eldred v. Ashcroft, that individual copyrights could extend for 70 years after the life of the creator, or in the case of a corporation, for 95 years. As a result, Mickey Mouse will be kept out of the public domain -- that shared cultural heritage -- until 2024.
The absolutely original artist is an extremely rare and possibly imaginary creature, living in some isolated habitat where no previous works or traditions have left any impression. Like virtually every artist, Mr. Dylan carries on a continuing conversation with the past. He's reacting to all that culture and history offer, not pretending they don't exist. Admiration and iconoclasm, argument and extension, emulation and mockery -- that's how individual artists and the arts themselves evolve. It's a process that is neatly summed up in Mr. Dylan's album title " 'Love and Theft,' " which itself is a quotation from a book on minstrelsy by Eric Lott.
Hip-hop, ever in the vanguard, ran into problems in the mid-1980's when the technique of sampling -- copying and adapting a riff, a beat and sometimes a hook or a whole chorus to build a new track -- was challenged by copyright holders demanding payment even for snippets. Although sampling was just a technological extension of the age-old process of learning through imitation, producers who use samples now pay up instead of trying to set precedents for fair use.
That might be a good idea; a song that recycles a whole melody (like Puff Daddy's productions) calls for different treatment than a song that borrows a few notes from a horn section, and courts are not the best place for aesthetic distinctions. But in practice, it means fewer samples per track, and it can make complex assemblages prohibitively expensive. Mixes heard only in clubs and bootleg recordings are now the outlets for untrammeled sampling experiments. Yet, samples have extended and revived careers for many musicians when listeners went looking for the sources.
Mr. Dylan has apparently sampled "Confessions of a Yakuza," remixing lines from the book into his own fractured tales of romance and mortality on " 'Love and Theft.' " The result, as in many collages and sampled tracks, is a new work that in no way affects the integrity of the existing one and that only draws attention to it.
Dr. Saga has no need to keep his book isolated. He told The Associated Press that he was ecstatic to have inspired such a well-known songwriter. And as news of the Dylan connection surfaced, sales of "Confessions of a Yakuza" jumped ...
Of course, Dr. Saga can't be too possessive about the writing. The book is an oral history, told to him by the yakuza gangster of the title. It's another story that has drifted into humanity's oral tradition. Mr. Dylan's complete lyrics are freely available at www.bobdylan.com. As for the song, if someone asks Mr. Dylan for sampling rights, it would be only fair to grant them."
Interview with Chuck D & Hank Shocklee of Public Enemy by Kembrew McLeod
Stay Free!: What are the origins of sampling in hip-hop?
Chuck D: Sampling basically comes from the fact that rap music is not music. It's rap over music. So vocals were used over records in the very beginning stages of hip-hop in the 70s to the early '80s. In the late 1980s, rappers were recording over live bands who were basically emulating the sounds off of the records. Eventually, you had synthesizers and samplers, which would take sounds that would then get arranged or looped, so rappers can still do their thing over it. The arrangement of sounds taken from recordings came around 1984 to 1989.
Stay Free!: How did the Bomb Squad [Public Enemy's production team, led by Shocklee] use samplers and other recording technologies to put together the tracks on It Takes a Nation of Millions.
Hank Shocklee: The first thing we would do is the beat, the skeleton of the track. The beat would actually have bits and pieces of samples already in it, but it would only be rhythm sections. Chuck would start writing and trying different ideas to see what worked. Once he got an idea, we would look at it and see where the track was going. Then we would just start adding on whatever it needed, depending on the lyrics. I kind of architected the whole idea. The sound has a look to me, and Public Enemy was all about having a sound that had its own distinct vision. We didn't want to use anything we considered traditional R&B stuff -- bass lines and melodies and chord structures and things of that nature.
Chuck D: Corporations found that hip-hop music was viable. It sold albums, which was the bread and butter of corporations. Since the corporations owned all the sounds, their lawyers began to search out people who illegally infringed upon their records. All the rap artists were on the big six record companies, so you might have some lawyers from Sony looking at some lawyers from BMG and some lawyers from BMG saying, "Your artist is doing this," so it was a tit for tat that usually made money for the lawyers, garnering money for the company. Very little went to the original artist or the publishing company.
Stay Free!: As you probably know, some music fans are now sampling and mashing together two or more songs and trading the results online. There's one track by Evolution Control Committee that uses a Herb Alpert instrumental as the backing track for your "By the Time I Get to Arizona." It sounds like you're rapping over a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass song. How do you feel about other people remixing your tracks without permission?
Chuck D: I think my feelings are obvious. I think it's great.
AlterNet: Protest Music by Annalee Newitz (7 July 2004)
"By waging a war of litigation on file sharers and copyright infringers, the Recording Industry Association of America has unwittingly created a new kind of protest art. Mash-ups -- digitally knitted-together compositions made up of two or more popular songs -- are anti-authoritarian folk music for a generation whose "establishment" is represented by corporate intellectual-property owners.
[...] Often called "bastard pop" or simply "bootlegs," mash-ups are as easy to perform as a rip-off of a Bob Dylan tune. Cheap audio software allows anyone with a half-decent computer to convert the act of copyright infringement into something undeniably gorgeous and amusing by turns. Australian masher Dsico - who has been repeatedly threatened with legal action for his work - traces the style back to modernist art: "Much as Duchamp once drew a mustache on a copy of the Mona Lisa, bastard pop artists deface mainstream pop music." New York University professor and copyright reformer Siva Vaidhyanathan calls the movement a combination of innovation and infringement, adding, "Some of the greatest innovators of the past 100 years were accused of being infringers."
The very structure of the music itself is a direct response to the conditions under which it's made: lovingly assembled from pop sifted down off P2P networks, a Dsico creation like "Compton Magic" (NWA vs. Olivia Newton-John) seems to echo the mixed-up, black-market cacophony of an eDonkey addict's music collection.
Dodging lawyers' cease and desist orders, mash-up DJs often change their names and move their music from host to host in order to keep serving it up. But they soldier on, sharing tips and litigation horror stories on Brit mash-up site Get Your Bootleg On (gybo.proboards4.com) partly in the hope that one day their efforts will change copyright law. "I would love to see a form of copyright where as long as money isn't changing hands, everything is up for grabs," San Francisco mash-up DJ Adrian says.
Grey Tuesday, a recent mash-up protest organized by anti-RIAA group Downhill Battle, inspired more than 100,000 people to download copies of DJ Danger Mouse's dubiously legal bastard pop creation The Grey Album (a mash of the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album). "There's a public interest served by making this album available," protest organizer Holmes Wilson argues. "If people can't hear works that the copyright regime suppresses, they can't make an informed decision about what these laws should be."
More interesting than Wilson's considered stance are the sometimes-fantastical copyright theories of the DJs, promoters and activists who make up the bootleg community. Without a legal background in how copyright works, mashers feel free to develop a whole range of ideas about why their music is legal or illegal. For example, Adrian told me that as long as he plays mashed-up ASCAP music in an ASCAP-licensed venue, it's OK.
Unfortunately, it's not: Mash-ups are derivative works (a big I.P.-law no-no). Adrian also argued that since he's crediting the artists he mashes and giving away his mixes for free, he isn't hurting anyone. This theory wouldn't hold up in court, but it's far more commonsensical than current I.P. law.
Mash-ups also spawn social mixing that mimics the genre's political agenda: At a recent mash-up event in San Francisco, famous underground hackers mingled with locally known drag queens and wide-eyed indie rockers. And many bootlegs are explicitly designed to create mixes that cross racial or sexual identity lines -- thus, a mash-up might combine a Village People song with something by Public Enemy. A kind of political hopefulness or idealism seems to animate many of these mixes.
As a masher on GYBO recently posted, "Everything is illegal." Under an I.P. regime where artists feel like nothing goes, it seems that everything could. The infringement generation aims to mash up copyright law in pursuit of better music. But it also has a chance to challenge social divisions more profound than the distinctions between hip-hop, rock and electroclash."
Neuronal Resonance Fields, Aoidoi, and Sign Processes
"We must reconstruct, not abandon, an ideal of authenticity in our lives. Whatever we come up with, authenticity can no longer be rooted in singularity, in what the Greeks called the idion, or private person. That would be, in our culture of the copy, idiocy ... The impostors, "evil" twins, puppets, "apes," tricksters, fakes and plagiarists ... may be agents provocateurs to a more coherent, less derelict sense of ourselves. They may call us away from the despair of uniqueness towards more companionate lives."
Hillel Schwartz - The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles (New York: Zone Books, 1996, page 17)
Sony Walkman - Music to whose ears?
"The social pleasure of sharing music was terminated when people clamped plugs in their ears and tuned into a selfish sound. Music in the Walkman era ceased to connect us one to another. It promoted autism and isolation, with consequences yet untold."
Building Brandwidth in an Internet Economy
"She walked right up to me and got within my comfort field," Crandall stammered. "I was taken aback. She pulled out the earbuds on her iPod and indicated the jack with her eyes."
Warily unplugging his own earbuds, Crandall gingerly plugged them into the woman's iPod, and was greeted by a rush of techno.
"We listened for about 30 seconds," Crandall said. "No words were exchanged. We nodded and walked off."
The Shortwave And the Calling (3 August 2004 - The Washington Post)
David Segal: "In a cluttered home office in the World's End section of London, Akin Fernandez is trolling the dial of his newly acquired shortwave radio. It's December 1992 and it's late at night, when the city is quiet and the mad-scientist squawks of international broadcasts have an otherworldly tone. Fernandez, the owner and sole employee of an indie music label, is about to trip across a mystery that will take over his life.
Shortwave signals are bouncing, as they always do, around the globe, caroming off a layer of the atmosphere a few hundred miles above the Earth and into antennas all over the world. Fernandez can hear news from Egypt and weather reports from China. But his browsing stops when he tunes in something startling: the mechanized voice of a man, reading out numbers.
No context, no comment, no station identification. Nothing but numbers, over and over, for minutes on end. Then the signals disappear, as if somebody pulled the plug in the studio. And it's not just one station. The more he listens, the more number monologues he hears. [...]
What's with the numbers?
Answering that question, it turns out, would take Fernandez years, and it left him nearly penniless, at least for a while. It also brought him a horde of admirers on another continent, eventually earned him a credit in a Tom Cruise movie and sparked a legal battle with the acclaimed band Wilco.
Fernandez would study numbers stations largely because he couldn't stop even if he tried -- which is to say, he fell into the grip of an obsession. But along the way, by both accident and design, he discovered amid all that static the raw material for a point he likes to make, with characteristic zeal, about the future of rock-and-roll."
New Perspectives Quarterly - Summer 2004 - Neural Darwinism
Gerald Edelman: "The most important thing to understand is that the brain is "context bound." It is not a logical system like a computer that processes only programmed information; it does not produce preordained outcomes like a clock. Rather it is a selectional system that, through pattern recognition, puts things together in always novel ways. It is this selectional repertoire in the brain that makes each individual unique, that accounts for the ability to create poetry and music, that accounts for all the differences that arise from the same biological apparatus -- the body and the brain. There is no singular mapping to create the mind; there is, rather, an unforetold plurality of possibilities. In a logical system, novelty and unforeseen variation are often considered to be noise. In a selectional system such diversity actually provides the opportunity for favorable selection.
Here, Darwin and his effort to explain variance within biological populations through natural selection provided the key idea. In considering the brain, we are talking about a population of hundreds of billions of cells that far exceeds the number of stars in the sky. The number of possible connections these cells can make exceeds the number of particles in the universe."
The Guardian: Nicholas Lezard reviews 'Falling' by Garret Soden
"The path of virtue, said Thomas Browne at the beginning of his Christian Morals, is not only narrow: it's "funambulatory", a tightrope over an abyss. [...]
There are primatologists and anthropologists who suggest that it was a very strongly vested interest in not falling that led to our development of consciousness."
The Poetics of Gardens
Charles W. Moore, William J. Mitchell, & William Turnbull, Jr.
"A garden path can become the thread of a plot, connecting moments and incidents into a narrative. The narrative structure might be a simple chain of events with a beginning, middle, and end. It might be embellished with diversions, digressions, and picaresque twists, be accompanied by parallel ways (subplots), or deceptively fork into blind alleys like the alternative scenarios explored in a detective novel."
Randolph Jordan - The Echopeople: Reflections on the concept of echolocation in Gerry: Part 1
"They struggle to remember what they have done, to retrace their steps within the space of their minds, to create a coherent space out of the multitude of environments the desert has engulfed them with ..."
The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map
"One wonders whether there will come a breaking point where, as eventually they must, the trails within dissolve to waving grass and the crossroad signs lie twisted and askew on rotting posts. Where, then, will the wanderer turn?"
Loren Eiseley - The Mind as Nature (Harper & Row, 1962, page 32)
Finnegans Wake - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The book begins with the fall of Finnegan, a hod carrier, from a scaffold. At his wake, in keeping with the song "Finnegan's Wake," a fight breaks out, whiskey splashes on Finnegan's corpse, and he rises up again alive. Note how the simple removal of the song's apostrophe emphasizes and universalizes the theme of awakening: At Finnegan's wake, Finnegans wake. (Not only is the "wake" simultaneously Finnegan's funeral and his birth, the beginning of the dream in which he is paradoxically awakened, it is also the turbulence left by his absence, the expanding ripples and rhythm in the wake of his vessel.)
Continuing past the original song, Joyce has Finnegan put back down again ("Now be aisy, good Mr Finnimore, sir. And take your laysure like a god on pension and don't be walking abroad"). Someone else is sailing in to take over the story: Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, whose initials HCE ("Here Comes Everybody") lend themselves to phrase after phrase throughout the book.
HCE is a foreigner who has taken a native Irish wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle (whose initials ALP as well are found in phrase after phrase), and they settle down to run ..."
posted by Andrew 8/09/2004 08:08:00 AM