Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-05-04 - 5:25 a.m.
Back in the West Midlands after a few days in Surrey. I have my driving licence back. This morning’s journey to work (not an easy one) may be the last on public transport for a while. During the journey I finished Gracyk’s book on identification and identity in rock. I think its less original than Rhythm and Noise but worthwhile even so. It came at the right time because I feel something about identity and music looming - despite the confusions.
Some of the confusions - people distinguish between the disinterestedness that characterizes an aesthetic attitude to music and the utilitarian attitude which comes from identification. Rock (or sub-styles) are part of the marking system which youth sub-groups use to identify themselves eg skinheads and ska at one stage. To use music in this way to (for example) promote group solidarity is not the same as giving oneself over to the music to appreciate as many aspects as one can. Gracyk is sympathetic to sub-group uses of music in particular in contrast to the mass market, hit parade etc. He wants rock to have the potential to liberate - and so the more small groups come up with their own styles and interpretations the better - especially when these new ways of using the music counter (for example) some of the grosser sexual stereotypes.
Indeed in his heart of hearts he wants the music to support individual self-realisation. But he doesnt quite believe there is such a thing. He quotes Hume (who was a sceptic about personal identity) to the effect that personal identity isn’t really ‘inside’. When you look inside you mostly find chaos. I suppose his problem is that of a number of relatively sophisticated liberals in that liberalism worked with a model of the meaning and the self which they n longer find tenable. Unfortunately he doesn’t take the scepticism about identity and apply it to the paradigm of disinterested listening. I imagine he is aware of this gap and will return to it at some point
All of this is grist to the mill - in that I feel I want to write about songs and identity and I also feel that I have a quantity of material that might help me get somewhere. Part of the issue is the idea that music has something to do with feelings and that these feelings can sometimes can connect with identity - for example we would believe someone who heard Patti Smith for the first time and said she felt as though she had never before heard music that talked so directly to her. That s quite credible - but does this experience have anything to do with feelings - say in the sense that one feels too hot with a coat on in this weather?
I found the CD of Lotte Lenya singing American and German theatre songs of Kurt Weill - and also dredged around in my bio of KW - which though long is actually rather disappointing. It shows clearly just how complex the Berlin songs were but doesn’t really discuss how they work. KW seems to confuse everyone - apparently on his death in 1950 his reputation declined because he was not regarded as serious as Webern and Schoenberg even though he came from a broadly similar central European heritage. The 1961 revival that B Dylan saw in New York and was ignited by was something out of the ordinary. I have ordered some of the music - or at least I think that’s what I have done - the stuff seems to be quite well hidden.
Went to the Goodwood Sculpture Park - pretty good fun.
Enjoyed the programme on Klimt - I have a book of his pencil sketches.