Monday, March 14

"The canon is an idealistic maze and should ideally prefigure a range
of meaningless mood musics, from elevator Muzak to New Age
music, to ambient sound construction by Brian Eno, Soundlab and
others, to endless TV soap operas and, most of all, to mid- to
late-'70s disco with its emphasis on monotonous rhythms, its
superficiality, and its blatantly unsubtle sexual innuendoes. The
best way to listen to prerecorded voices and background music
is to listen carelessly and accidentally, as if one were reading a
poem by John Ashbery, T.S. Eliot or Charles Bernstein. Rod
McKuen makes you care, unfortunately, and the last thing one
wants to do while reading a poem is to care. Reading is too selfish
for that. That is why the most boring and long-winded writings
encourage a kind of effortless non-understanding, a language in
which reading itself seems perfectly (I say this in a positive way)
redundant. One needn't read through great novels anymore like
one did in the nineteenth century with Balzac or now with someone
like Tom Wolfe whose works are basically dull repetitions (realism)
that function like a nineteenth-century version of the Nynex Yellow
Pages or Page Six of the New York Post. They work to destroy
that thing known as chance and probability and they replace it
with that thing known as humor. Humor like that, especially in
outmoded forms such as the novel, is always terrifyingly obvious
because it tries to include everything. Unlike the overdeterministic
exercises of Wolfe, the truly great works of the twentieth century
are works that should remain unread, and Gertrude Stein is the
most important writer of the twentieth century who ought to remain
completely unread. One need read only a sentence and sometimes
only a word to imagine the rest. I have never read more than two
sentences of The Making of Americans at a time (they put me to
sleep or make me want to eat something like pizza or hot dogs),
and in that way I have read the book many, many times. I have, in
a sense, never been able to put the book down and I hope that in
the future I will continue to never put it down until the day that I
die or stop eating. In other long-interlude disco-oriented works
there are increasing possibilities for loss of recognition, that
patterning of sounds we all speak to each other and upon which
a host of social conventions depends. It is not an accident that
disco has strong gay undercurrents and that the four-on-the-floor
disco beat is totally canned and compared to the bluejeaned rock
n' roll--unauthentic, mechanical and machine-based. Turntables
replace the live voice. The dance floor replaces the stage concert
pit. Two discs on two turntables, spinning simultaneously, replace
the long-haired rock star. Synthesizers and drum machines replace
the realistic. Disposability, superficiality and ephererality rule. Except
for Donna Summer and a few others, most disco performers never
became stars. Poetry should be like that. It should not be permanent,
it should be very impermanent. It should aspire to the interminably
pure moment of an interlude."

--Tan Lin

from "Ambient Stylistics"
[Conjunctions 39, 2000]

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