Expecting Rain

Go to main page
It is currently Wed November 22nd, 2017, 01:52 GMT

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 03:03 GMT 
Titanium Member
User avatar

Joined: Sat January 3rd, 2009, 15:19 GMT
Posts: 8339
Location: Desolation Row
Hi all, I was reading an article by the wonderful Eyolf Bjorner (http://dylanchords.info/professors/tt/ttch28.html) on Dylan and Post-Modernism, when I started to consider Chronicles. Upon telling my mother (who has a PhD in English Lit), who was halfway through Chronicles, that alot of it bore 'loose connections' (shall we say) with the truth she expressed her dissapointment... What resulted was a lengthy email under the influence of a an amphetamine fuelled study session on Chronicles as a Post-Modernist comment on authorship - aswell as some other discussing some of his other work on similiar terms.... a madcap post-modernist endorsement to get my darling mother to persuade finish it...

Here's the jist of it, it's a little incoherent due to the time of night and my state of mind and only a rough outline of ideas that could be developed in far greater detail... I may later turn it into a proper essay - how does one go about getting published in Isis and other such publications? :mrgreen:

...I may have course got the definition of post-modernism wrong: I'm not an English major and have generally only covered it in my studies of history.

Quote:

Mother, half-way through reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles, expressed her dissapointment after I told her a lot of it was 'made up' (although it is broadly a correct account of Dylan's career). It just struck me that it is infact a wonderful post-moderntist statement on authorship. The casual reader buys the book expecting the autobiography of Robert Zimmerman, assuming he is inseprable from the Bob Dylan who wrote the songs they love. Zimmerman is instead giving us an idealized account of what he feels Bob Dylan's career should be. Now that doesn't mean that Bob didn't spend 1961 playing harmonica in New York coffeehouses as the first section describes - the settings of the four sections are correct and the narrative generally true of Robert Zimmerman's career; it is the small flourishes such as the opening paragraphs where the head of the publishing company mistakes him for a boxer and most prominently the scene in 1989 where he stumbles across a Jazz band in New Orleans and magically re-discovers his passion for performing. Dylan is creating his own mythology - it's an biography by Zimmerman of his self-created persona of Dylan: not an autobiography of Robert Zimmerman by Robert Zimmerman, nor an autobiography of Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan. Zimmerman is removing his own flesh and blood from his songs by turning the character of Bob Dylan into a myth and fiction and fictional. For instance, in Chronicles he rebukes the commonly held and instinctual association between the album 'Blood on the Track' and Zimmerman's personal divorce, stating instead that the album is based on Checkov short stories. Zimmerman is toying with the idea that Bob Dylan, the author of so many songs and other work, doesn't exist in flesh and blood or is historically tied down.

No Direction Home is doing this aswell - the interview of Dylan was conducted by his own manager, then Martin Scorsese's name was pinned to the release to make it appear as a legitimate rock documentary. Viewers of traditional documentary biopics assume that they are getting a true and factual documentary. Dylan is playing with our perceptions and recreating his own image and history, albeit again subtly. A couple of quotes from Zimmerman assuming the role of Dylan and distancing the two figures: 'I was born very far from where I’m supposed to be'; 'some people just get born to the wrong parents'.

Again, his film'Renaldo and Clara' is obsessed by the identity of Bob Dylan as author. In the film, Zimmerman plays a character called Renaldo who is seen performing Dylan songs wearing a mask. Ronnie Hawkins plays the role of Bob Dylan. Zimmerman is playing Dylan songs, yet he is not Bob Dylan. Simiarly, in his film 'Masked and Anonymous' Zimmerman plays the character of Jack Fate, performing Dylan songs, but not as Bob Dylan. These two examples are exactly what Zimmerman is doing in Chronicles, he is creating an idealized past of what he feels should have occured to the author of the songs.

A quote from Live 1964 and the song Abanoned Love:
'I'm wearing my Bob Dylan Mask'... 'Everybody's wearing a disguise / to hide what they've got left behind their eyes'.

It has struck me that Dylan is a wonderful post-modernist. Much of his work is a challenge to common perceptions of authorship, which hasn't really been attempted in the field of popular music. For instance, the recent accusations of plagiarism beggining with his album "Love & Theft" - the name and the quotation marks which are intentionally included in the title say a great deal - again is all about authorship. If a song which says 'written by Bob Dylan' on the label contains lines reworked from old blues songs, Fitzgerald novels and Ovid, is it still a Bob Dylan song? Dylan (or is it Zimmerman?) appears to be challenging the original author's rights to ownership of their work while also toying with the extent to which we can define Dylan authorship. I also feel this links in with inter-textuality.

Bob appears to be obsessed with this recreation of himself, to retrospectively remove himself from his past creations. Most recently this manifested itself in an interview with rolling stone (a must read! http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ ... s-20120927) where Bob claims became transcended. Bob claims that that Robert Zimmerman and Bob Dylan became disconnected after a Hell's Angel named Robert Zimmerman died in a motorcycle accident around the same time as Bob famous crash in '66.

'An artist must always be in the state of becoming'

These ideas do challenge the current intellectual views of Dylan as an historian and as an author tied to his historical context and indeed a greater historical context as put forward by Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus. I feel that Bob is most definetly interested in history and historical context- and is indeed a very succesful historian, studying primary and seconday history. The passage in Chronicles about the Civil War (as does 'Cross The Green Mountain which I think is a wonderful piece of Civil war history 'from below') highlights this as does Theme Time Radio Hour'. Dylan said somewhere that to understand the Civil War you need to read contemporary accounts from the most obscure source, not modern secondary historical literature (I don't know what that says about post-modernism, but it's certainly a fascinating and admirable view as a historian). Yet Dylan somehow balances these two roles as historian and post-modernist; he's deeply interested in the historical context of old music, yet cuts himself off from his own past to prevent getting bogged down in it (the past is like treacle, someone once said).

The historical facets of Dylan songs are too somewhat post modernist - All Along The Watchtower could relate to biblical times, 9/11 or the judgment day; Tangled up in blue seems to spread the course of history; the songs of Love and Theft seem to both live an older America and post 9/11 America. Simiarly, while giving a haunting account of the individuals involved in the Civil War, 'Cross the Green Mountain seems to echo some of the mallaise of post-9/11 America. Infact I think the narrative structure and aim of Tangled up in Blue have parallels to that of Chronicles. But I'm digressing from the point of Dylan's post modernist treatment of the author...

To summarise, Robert Zimmerman is continually attempting to separate the entities of the flesh and blood Robert Zimmerman and the author Bob Dylan. It is Dylan's attempt, I summise, to free himself from his own past by untethering Bob Dylan from his own body, creating a malleable and eternal myth to assume the authorhip of his work - while challenging perceptions of the author in the world of popular music. In years from now when historians and critics study Chronicles and No Direction Home (and perhaps the body of Dylan's interviews), they will be studying the life of Bob Dylan, not Robert Zimmerman and not indeed a life lived by anyone in history. Bob Dylan/Robert Zimmerman is the quintessential post-modernist author.

Here are some Bob-quotes on the subject which I haven't incorporated but feel are relevant and indicate some degree of post-modernism:

- It’s not a character like in a book or a movie. He’s not a bus driver. He doesn’t drive a forklift. He’s not a serial killer. It’s me who’s singing that, plain and simple. We shouldn’t confuse singers and performers with actors. Actors will say, “My character this, and my character that.” Like beating a dead horse. Who cares about the character? Just get up and act. You don’t have to explain it to me.

- I don't know how I got to write those songs

- 'It's like a ghost is writing a song like that ... You don't know what it means except the ghost picked me to write the song.'


- There's a quote somewhere where Dylan's talking about Blood on the tracks and says that just because you've listened to them, doesn't mean you know anything about him


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 12:19 GMT 
Promethium Member
User avatar

Joined: Tue December 14th, 2010, 14:22 GMT
Posts: 43267
Location: Beneath the Southern X
Mr Gibson, you need to join us over at the P&P forum. This post and your On The Road thread are great contributions to that field of research. Thanks.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 13:14 GMT 
Mercury Member
User avatar

Joined: Wed September 14th, 2011, 13:25 GMT
Posts: 12325
Location: Wherever I am welcome
I agree. Thanks for posting this, Gibson. I read it last night before bed which was a mistake because I then lauded awake thinking about it for awhile. :wink:


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 14:41 GMT 
User avatar

Joined: Thu February 2nd, 2006, 05:11 GMT
Posts: 3063
Location: Tokyo, Japan
It's funny how we always assume Bob is a role-player who creates personas for his "Bob Dylan" identity.

Is it not possible that he's a simple dude who changed his name to something cooler when he was 19, and that subsequently he's simply gone through some changes?

Speaking for myself, I would say (being male and being a slightly late-developer) that I was still in a late-adolescent stage of cognitive and physical/intellectual development up to the ages of 23 and 24 (at which time I was already independently living abroad and having some of the most important experiences of my life). Dylan, by the same age, had already written 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'Like a Rolling Stone'. I don't think I was thinking about creating personas for myself very much, and maybe Dylan wasn't either.

Certainly, Dylan's music would suggest he's neither a modernist nor, really, a post-modernist. He's more of a traditionalist, or at least he wants to be. Or maybe, as I'm suggesting, he doesn't want to be anything... he just is.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 16:24 GMT 

Joined: Sun August 30th, 2009, 08:41 GMT
Posts: 1565
He's just a song and dance man!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 17:58 GMT 
Titanium Member

Joined: Thu November 4th, 2004, 18:54 GMT
Posts: 8461
Location: NYC
Post-modernism is a dated and decadent movement that has produced a few great artists in its early years, a lot of critical baloney, and a huge wad of mediocre art flattering the mediocrity of its audiences/"critics". Don't waste your time on such piffle. It's obvious and boring.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 18:46 GMT 
Titanium Member

Joined: Fri June 11th, 2010, 15:47 GMT
Posts: 6952
Location: Gurt lush England
I couldn't even begin to say what post-modernism consists of. But bloody hell gibbo, you're a good writer, how do you find the inspiration? What is it you're studying again?


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri March 1st, 2013, 19:19 GMT 
User avatar

Joined: Tue January 29th, 2013, 15:16 GMT
Posts: 679
Location: got a house in baltimore
Gibson, thanks for sharing your writing. I found your piece intriguing and thought it had some good insights.

However, I think you sail into some treacherous waters when you write...

Quote:
I feel that Bob ... is indeed a very succesful historian, studying primary and seconday history.


I would strongly disagree that he's a successful historian. And I've studied history, including postmodernist historiography (I have a MA in history).

Simply reading primary sources does not make a person a successful historian. It simply means you're taking the first step to doing actual historical research.

Myth-making is not history. Not even postmodernist history. History, even postmodern history, needs to be evidence-based. Dylan has shown numerous times that he does not care for his facts to be straight or based in evidence (um, Hurricane being a glaring example) in his song-writing.

It's extremely dangerous to equate reading some civil-war era newspaper accounts & then writing "'Cross the Green Mountains" with anything approaching actual historical scholarship.

Bob is many things. A historian is not one of them.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat March 2nd, 2013, 02:08 GMT 
Titanium Member

Joined: Wed April 27th, 2011, 03:44 GMT
Posts: 7568
Location: the home for teenage dirt
panther wrote:
It's funny how we always assume Bob is a role-player who creates personas for his "Bob Dylan" identity.

Is it not possible that he's a simple dude who changed his name to something cooler when he was 19, and that subsequently he's simply gone through some changes?


.......... I don't think I was thinking about creating personas for myself very much, and maybe Dylan wasn't either.



Sorry for abbreviating your quote - I just wanted to highlight something about your comments. There's no way to know whether BD creates personas but I was struck in a recent documentary when Mick Jagger commented that obviously he couldn't go through life being 'that character I play onstage.'

I assume that given the vagaries and disorientation of BD's early fame - which in the U.S. and England was on a massive level and public and media attention was focused on him intensely for at least a decade before waning a bit - that he probably did develop a persona (or number of them over time) as a method of self-protection against the constant assault upon his privacy from a media and public that continually demanded answers from him about who he 'really' is, what his work 'really' means and why he made his early work. He's written himself in CHRONICLES about his anger at being stalked at his out of the way family home in Woodstock after he retired there and has made it evident almost his entire adult life how wary he is of talking to the press and providing interviews, except when it suits him to do so to market himself. He had to be out there a bit in order to sell his music but obviously strained to try to keep the media and public from invading him in his private life.

I think it's a good idea to assume that what we know about him is what we are allowed by Bob Dylan to know about the various personas he has presented to the public to satisfy curiosity about him. I'd be very surprised if these personas every really linked up to the private Bob Dylan in any significant way. Celebrity is littered with the deaths, addictions and nervous breakdowns of many many people who couldn't withstand the public scrutiny and pressures of being examined and hounded on a constant basis - by both the media and 'fans.' Dylan seems smart enough to have figured all this out many decades ago and gives us just enough of a glimpse of some 'construct' of his 'authentic' self to keep people believing they know something about him. I imagine the truth about him is not available to us. This is wise on his part. Never forget that the people in his songs (and often the narrator) are 'characters' and that his work is fiction, not autobiography. This is a problem a lot of people never get their heads around. He may in fact bear little resemblance to the persona in the songs and may even hold different opinions than what he's expressed in his work. I think the interviews with him are usually 'performances' or constructs of personas he's comfortable presenting to the public. He's commented many times that he performs and sells music and owes his audience absolutely nothing else. It's likely a good idea to take that to heart in terms of what he has ever been willing to expose about his private self - probably not much and even less so as the years have gone by.


Very interesting essay, gibona. Thanks for letting us read it.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat March 2nd, 2013, 14:02 GMT 
Titanium Member
User avatar

Joined: Tue April 1st, 2008, 16:38 GMT
Posts: 7568
Location: The North Country
Yes, nice essay gibson. Thanks for posting. It made me think of Sloman's account in On the Road with Bob Dylan of the Sunrise ceremony conducted by the Cherokee medicine man Rolling Thunder with some of Bob's people.

Each participant gathered around the ceremonial fire is asked to express a wish/prayer before throwing a ball of tocacco into the flames. Bob's wish: I pray that man will soon realize that we are all of one soul.

The main striving I read in Bob's work is an attempt to transcend the ego to experience what Ralph Waldo Emerson called, the over-soul. The ego clings to identity. I am a teacher and a husband, a father and my personality is that and that. These are "facts" and labels that disconnect us from who we really are. This little Chopra quote gets at it: "The Ego, however, is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear.”


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon March 11th, 2013, 03:17 GMT 
Promethium Member
User avatar

Joined: Tue August 28th, 2007, 07:16 GMT
Posts: 23501
Location: any where a music tragic might be found
Most of us even if we do not admit are composed of many different personalities which we adopt or adapt according to where and when we are and whom we are with.
Just think of how many times we are told by some one, " I never knew you were like that". Or time when you see some one in a new situation and they seem like another person. I am aware that I am seen in different ways by different groups of people. What Dylan does is not strange or unusual. However because he is so well known and we all have our own ideas of what or who he is it is mush more noticed.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon March 11th, 2013, 03:22 GMT 
Promethium Member
User avatar

Joined: Tue August 28th, 2007, 07:16 GMT
Posts: 23501
Location: any where a music tragic might be found
faerie queen wrote:
Gibson, thanks for sharing your writing. I found your piece intriguing and thought it had some good insights.

However, I think you sail into some treacherous waters when you write...

Quote:
I feel that Bob ... is indeed a very succesful historian, studying primary and seconday history.


I would strongly disagree that he's a successful historian. And I've studied history, including postmodernist historiography (I have a MA in history).

Simply reading primary sources does not make a person a successful historian. It simply means you're taking the first step to doing actual historical research.

Myth-making is not history. Not even postmodernist history. History, even postmodern history, needs to be evidence-based. Dylan has shown numerous times that he does not care for his facts to be straight or based in evidence (um, Hurricane being a glaring example) in his song-writing.

.

As is Ballad Of Donald White, Hollis Brown and Hattie Carroll to name but 3.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed April 10th, 2013, 15:56 GMT 

Joined: Wed March 20th, 2013, 21:30 GMT
Posts: 21
This is a great post. What you are talking about is the stuff that I find most intriguing about Bob Dylan outside of chilling and listening to the albums. We live in Modern Times, I was born in 1990 and every year this guy has been going out and doing 100 dates or so. This life he has created is fascinating to me because it can't be lived anymore. You can't start out like Dylan started out in 1960 in this new world.

I find your ideas great and very inspiring to my own studies of Bob Dylan. This is a very interesting thesis you have that brings up questions about what is art, theft, life, beauty, love, etc. All things that are explored within the craft that Bob Dylan preforms. A life lesson seems to be in the reality that this is still just a soul singing into a microphone so that the ears of people who are not in front of him listen.

It's like how much dedication a carpenter puts into every swing of the hammer onto the head of a nail while no one is around. The beat combined with isolation produces a person who is focusing on creating something that will exist past his time and self.

Very cool read, I'm a big "Love and Theft" era Bob fan, mostly listen to the stuff after I was born but do know and own the whole cannon. It just seems that when I listen to the first Bob Dylan album, hear the song "See that my Grave is Kept clean" and think that when this man does die, who will sweep away the leaves? Full circle for him, he is now the whiskey soaked rambling man he always has claimed.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed April 10th, 2013, 19:29 GMT 

Joined: Tue November 13th, 2012, 17:27 GMT
Posts: 1966
Location: Passing through
Drew Fortune wrote:
It just seems that when I listen to the first Bob Dylan album, hear the song "See that my Grave is Kept clean" and think that when this man does die, who will sweep away the leaves?


They'll be blowing in the wind, dear.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Thu January 15th, 2015, 05:28 GMT 
User avatar

Joined: Sat May 14th, 2011, 17:19 GMT
Posts: 109
John B. Stetson wrote:
Yes, nice essay gibson. Thanks for posting. It made me think of Sloman's account in On the Road with Bob Dylan of the Sunrise ceremony conducted by the Cherokee medicine man Rolling Thunder with some of Bob's people.

Each participant gathered around the ceremonial fire is asked to express a wish/prayer before throwing a ball of tocacco into the flames. Bob's wish: I pray that man will soon realize that we are all of one soul.


This wish of Bob's is very much of a structuralist bent, and accords with Barthes's ideas and various structuralist and post-structuralist theories of language that the soul/self is structured like a language. If the very self, the "I" that you refer to when you say "I", is nothing but language, it is a shared language with its roots in an ur-language from which all languages derive. The greatest myth modern power has constructed and is heavily invested in, is that of the "individual" (thus making us each feel individually responsible for our behaviour and thus controllable) when the only individual thing about a person is her particular coincidence of place and time which gives rise to the language and culture she experiences growing up and which shapes her "personality" but which is really just comprised of endless permutations of language.

I suspect there's a "God-like" entity behind Bob's use of the word "soul". For me, there's no need for such an entity if by 'soul' we can mean 'language'. Before you can speak, or understand language, around the first year of your life you are clearly not an individual personality. Few would dispute that. The only thing that gives rise to your perceived individuality is your acquisition of language - a pool from which everyone drinks, but which few seem to realise is so shared as to make each of us practically identical, and really just "one soul".


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Thu January 15th, 2015, 05:46 GMT 
User avatar

Joined: Sat May 14th, 2011, 17:19 GMT
Posts: 109
the_revelator wrote:
Celebrity is littered with the deaths, addictions and nervous breakdowns of many many people who couldn't withstand the public scrutiny and pressures of being examined and hounded on a constant basis - by both the media and 'fans.' Dylan seems smart enough to have figured all this out many decades ago and gives us just enough of a glimpse of some 'construct' of his 'authentic' self to keep people believing they know something about him.


Was reading the part of Sean Wilentz's book Bob Dylan In America a few days back where it mentions the movie A Face In The Crowd and how Dylan "was [reportedly] more shaken by it than by any film he'd seen since Rebel Without A Cause or The Wild One." So I downloaded said film, which for 1955 is brilliantly satirical, incredibly prescient and immensely watchable.

No surprise Dylan loved the film - it's smart and biting. No surprise that Dylan learned from the film not to become the hypocritical schmuck that Lonesome Rhodes becomes.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed January 21st, 2015, 07:18 GMT 
Titanium Member
User avatar

Joined: Fri April 14th, 2006, 18:43 GMT
Posts: 5403
Lonesome Rhodes plies a lonesome road, you are correct, AlanBumstead. very cool movie, yes.

great catch on how the moral codes often in the old movies informed Bob's philosophy,
why his songs hit so deep in the American DNA - i gather that was the point being made in Wilentz's book. thanks


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ] 

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group