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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 09:14 GMT 
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Hi all.

This is not intended as a discussion of the charges that Dylan is guilty of plagiarism. I will explain why below.

Instead, I hope that we might discuss the difficult and fascinating work being done by Scott Warmuth, at least part of which is being published at his blog http://swarmuth.blogspot.com/

Warmuth's work is aimed at tracing out Dylan's intentional "incorporations" of passages from (and sometimes just a phrase from or a reference to) a vast array texts. Those sources are not strictly from high culture. They range from Twain to travel guides and the decidedly seamy Joe Esztehas.

I think the word "incorporations" is extremely instructive. I settled on this word myself before reading Warmuth's interesting 2008 essay "Bob Charlatan" (full title and pdf here: http://newhavenreview.com/wp-content/up ... armuth.pdf) where he uses it in the first paragraph.
It is an especially apt word, both avoiding the inaccurate connotations of words like 'quotation' or 'borrowing' and pointing to the way in which the texts Dylan draws upon are transformed and made to play a new and unintended purpose in Dylan's writing.
1) The incorporated texts are not being quoted -- that is, they are not being referred to as external texts, separate from his own, in order to be discussed in relation to his own text.
2) Nor are the incorporations being illicitly used to avoid having to write for himself -- that is, as if he were unable to write and chose the texts as a cop out (like buying a term paper on line)
3) nor are they meant to replace his own poorer writing without being noticed to be another's text -- again, like buying a term paper on line.

Warmuth (and his collaborator Edward Cook) claim that these incorporations are in fact a kind of game that Dylan is playing. For instance, in the first paragraph of the essay I noted above, Warmuth writes, regarding Chronicles (which is the focus of the essay): "Dylan has hidden many puzzles, jokes, secret messages, secondary meanings, and bizarre subtexts in his book". The incorporations are meant to be noticed, but not easily. They are a puzzle that is to be played and solved.

A brief note regarding the now-locked Plagiarism thread: the claims Warmuth and Cook are making render the quasi-moral arguments that emerged in that thread about Dylan failing to cite his sources irrelevant. If Dylan's aim is to create a kind of cryptograph, to write in an esoteric style, then citing his sources would undermine the project. In order for the project, as Warmuth describes it, to work, Dylan must not cite or draw explicit attention to his sources. There remains a legal argument -- but it would have to be reformulated: in our corporatist, capitalist culture, is the kind of project Warmuth and Cook suggest Dylan has undertaken even possible?

I hope to spend some time working through Warmuth's work and to draw attention to it here, in this thread. I want to do this for a number of reasons. The main one is my sense that, should his research hold up, Mr. Warmuth's (and Cook's) work is transformative. It will require that everything that Dylan has written, at least since "Love an Theft", (and apparently even his interviews) be reconsidered. Despite a few essays in recent years, I do not think that the consequences of what may be happening in Dylan's work have been seriously considered.

But there is also a scholarly reason. Mr. Warmuth's work has not been taken up in the serious and critical manner that it seems to deserve. Assuming that their conclusions and claims hold up to scrutiny, Warmuth's and Cook's claims and research project will be strengthened by questioning and by the efforts and contributions of a broader community which has a wide range of expertise and a deep familiarity with Dylan's work.

I hope that you will join me is taking up Warmuth's hypothesis. I recommend that you start by reading the essay "Bob Charlatan" (linked above). It states clearly Warmuth's project and at least vaguely refers to his methods.

Of course, there is also the possibility that Warmuth's and Cook's work may not hold up to scrutiny. A lot remains to be examined -- both with regard to their findings and their methods. But, that cannot be decided without a thorough examination of their work. A relatively brief foray into their work (and Cook's only through Warmuth's) suggests that there is a a real likelihood that the late Dylan is engaged in a fascinating and, it must be said, unusual project. If W and C are right, what it is not is troubling.

Please do not post dismissals of Warmuth's work in this thread without spending some time working through his writing.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 09:30 GMT 

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I am all for it, as long as we manage to keep the discussion within the boundaries of etiquette, and some know-it-all does not spoil the conversation.

For my own work outside "Dylan studies", I have often relied on Umberto Eco's concept of encyclopedia, which describes accurately what I think (as a reader and analyst) Dylan is doing. In this sense, the issue of borrowing, stealing, plagiarizing, and the like, makes absolutely no sense.
I think Scott's work is important, once we see it as a sort of decrypting Dylan. For my own part, I am trying to see how encyclopedic references construct "Bob Dylan" through the game of past and present, detaching the artist's work from his established image. Highly skilled craft, IMO, and totally intentional.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 09:52 GMT 
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andrea75 wrote:
I am all for it, as long as we manage to keep the discussion within the boundaries of etiquette, and some know-it-all does not spoil the conversation.

For my own work outside "Dylan studies", I have often relied on Umberto Eco's concept of encyclopedia, which describes accurately what I think (as a reader and analyst) Dylan is doing. In this sense, the issue of borrowing, stealing, plagiarizing, and the like, makes absolutely no sense.
I think Scott's work is important, once we see it as a sort of decrypting Dylan. For my own part, I am trying to see how encyclopedic references construct "Bob Dylan" through the game of past and present, detaching the artist's work from his established image. Highly skilled craft, IMO, and totally intentional.

PS: MMD: are you a professor? You arguments sound like you are one in life behind the screen...


Andrea75,
Your approach sounds fascinating. I am a fan of Eco and would love to hear as much as you are willing to type about your thinking about this -- and how you think it differs from or improves on what Warmuth and co. are doing.
I think your idea of "constructing 'Bob Dylan'" sounds just about right (and fascinating). This construction, I think, includes a notion of 'America' and of Empire. Just what I mean by that remains to be worked out though. Ha.

I second your points about the tired and uninformed arguments about plagiarism and stealing. As I said in the opening post, whatever we end up thinking about Warmuth's answers about why Dylan is incorporating texts (what the answers to the puzzles are), that Dylan is engaged in a complex project of incorporation of texts that entails their being in some sense 'secret' is now obvious. That has to be the starting point.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 10:09 GMT 
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Two minor points -

Firstly, I urge posters to read the extract from the Forum Terms of Use below - try and adhere to this in your use of quotations, some recent contributions on other threads here have been rendered all but incoherent by the lazy and inappropriate use of the quote function.

§2.10 Use quoting carefully
Quoting should only be used if it is absolutely necessary to repeat what someone else said in order to understand your post. Never quote when you are replying to the last post made to a thread. You should always edit your quote, so that only the portion you are referring to is used. Do not quote pictures. If someone posts to a thread while you are composing a response, you will be warned and given a chance to edit your post if necessary.

Secondly, the Plaigarism Debate Thread will be returned to General Discussion (I hope) later on today so don't feel you have to reproduce your posts from that thread in this one.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 10:21 GMT 
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MMD wrote:
my sense that, should his research hold up, Mr. Warmuth's (and Cook's) work is transformative. It will require that everything that Dylan has written, at least since "Love an Theft", (and apparently even his interviews) be reconsidered. Despite a few essays in recent years, I do not think that the consequences of what may be happening in Dylan's work have been seriously considered.



It's sometimes fascinating stuff and I'd wager future students of Dylan's work will owe a great debt.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 10:44 GMT 
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Smoke, with regard to Chronicles,I guess my point is that it is more than fascinating. It fundamentally transforms what the text means. If you look at Warmuth's work on the memoir, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that the book is not about Dylan in the traditional sense. And further, to read it without following the sources is to not be doing much of anything. That is a strange thing to say, but seemingly true.

An example that is powerful for me is the purported dialogue between Dylan and Archibald MacLeish.
If you read it straight, without recognizing what Dylan is up to, you believe you are getting an (impossibly remembered) account of an amazing meeting. It seems to say a lot about Dylan, MacLeish, their relationship.

Then, when you hear that Dylan has lifted a good part of the dialogue from MacLeish's poem "Conquistador" but also (accidentally) Sandburg's introduction to the book, you feel cheated. Dylan is not a plagiarist and a liar.

But, what if Dylan means to say something about himself and MacLeish and their relationship by drawing, specifically from that poem? What Dylan means is caught up in the play between the surface and its relation to the source text.

The text becomes a kind of machine that, once its sources are uncovered, creates a new set of meanings. A passage that seems to reflect straightforwardly what Dylan thought about someone ends up being a statement, via the play of meanings between he source text in its new context and the moment in the memoir, about Dylan and the subject Dylan is discussing in relation to the topic and implications of the source text.

WIth songs, the exoteric (or surface) meaning of the lyrics would be only one level of meaning.

1. there is the surface meaning of the line or stanza -- and also the historical context of its composition (e.g., Tweedle Dee and contemporary politics was a discussion)
2. there is the surface meaning of the line or stanza in relation to the other lines of the song and the whole song
3. there is the source text -- its meaning in its own context (the source text as a whole)
4. there is the context of meaning (history broadly conceived) of the source text
5. there is the play of meanings between 1&2 and 3&4

The incorporations can bring a whole other set of ideas once they are identified.

Of course, there is just listening to the songs and enjoying the music. :shock:

And that is fine, but Dylan has made this part of his art, and so it is part of experiencing it. You can enjoy it (or not) for its surface qualities. The point of this thread is to further than that.

So, a broad question: why would Dylan be doing this?

Some possible answers:
1. traditionally, esoteric writing is meant to hide something from those who might threaten the author or the ideas. Perhaps Dylan hopes to convey certain ideas but only to those willing to do the work. This is a very well established practice of writing. It has conventions.
2. Warmuth seems mostly to think that Dylan is up to fun and games. That Dylan is taken with old, weird American charlatans, snake-oil salesman, magicians, carnival barkers but also puzzlers and spiritualists. His writing just mirrors their practices and is a way of having some fun with an audience that has always liked his games (eventually).

I have already suggested another possibility but will reserve a full articulation of it until I have sorted my thoughts better. Andrea75 has suggested she has another.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 11:02 GMT 
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Interesting!

Let me see if I understand this by trying to reframe or restate a couple of points about the approach of the thread

1) the discussion will - hopefully - be about Dylan's artistic use of incorporation (or re: andrea75's idea '"constructing" the artist Bob Dylan, separate from consideration of the person Bob Dylan)

2) there need not be moral value ascribed to the consideration of this project. i.e. There is no moral "right or wrong" assigned to Dylan taking this approach to his work, if, indeed, he is building a codified work of incorporations in a kind of intentional 'puzzle' - which at this point is a theoretical claim that is not proven

3) there need not be discussion of the legality of incorporation. In terms of this thread the legality of this concept is not relevant, since legal considerations, which do apply to art in the marketplace, are external concerns to the creation of art in it's essential nature

4) attention accorded to the idea of "America", "American art" or "empire" is politically neutral in that it does not presume any superiority of the U.S. to other cultures. Any focus of discussion on Dylan's attention to "America" does not imply a belief that the U.S. is better or exceptional, or negate that there are influences beyond U.S. culture or history in Dylan's work

Am I close to the purpose of the thread as you've envisioned it, MMD? (and andrea75? - whose idea I think is fascinating)

What seemed to sink the plagiarism thread were immovable positions staked out around these concerns about artistic incorporation

is it moral?
is it legal?

From a purely artistic standpoint, these questions don't matter in this particular discussion. They could certainly be discussed in a different thread about legal or ethical concerns in Dylan's work. But reverting to these questions in this particular thread will probably lead us back to a quagmire where the artistic discussion will again be overwhelmed or lost.


Am I off the mark about what you hope will be the concerns of the thread? (Obviously people can contribute what they want.....)


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 11:12 GMT 
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the-revelator,
Well, that is an extremely lucid re-formulation (and improvement) of my initial intentions.

I would only add, with regard to #4 ('America') that the poster's position on the value of 'America' is not within the parameters of the topic. That is, discussing Dylan's possible views about 'America' ought not to be supposed to be the position of the poster nor ought that poster be attacked for stating what they believe Dylan is suggesting.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 11:18 GMT 
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Please note: below, I've fixed a typo in the 6th overall post (my third) that radically changed the meaning of the sentence. Here is the correct sentence with the corrected part in caps and red.
MMD wrote:
Then, when you hear that Dylan has lifted a good part of the dialogue from MacLeish's poem "Conquistador" but also (accidentally) Sandburg's introduction to the book, you feel cheated. Dylan APPEARS TO BE a plagiarist and a liar.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 11:25 GMT 
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MMD wrote:
the-revelator,
Well, that is an extremely lucid re-formulation (and improvement) of my initial intentions.

I would only add, with regard to #4 ('America') that the poster's position on the value of 'America' is not within the parameters of the topic. That is, discussing Dylan's possible views about 'America' ought not to be supposed to be the position of the poster nor ought that poster be attacked for stating what they believe Dylan is suggesting.



Okay. Thanks.

I'm intrigued by andea75's idea and hope more on that will be forthcoming.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 12:02 GMT 

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I am not pretending to add much to this thread, but to me this incoporation technique has always been used by Bob Dylan, only in the 2000's he extended it to lyrics and other writings, before that it was used only in his music, and sometimes he alluded to that in the lyrics, like in Blind Willie McTell, when he writes of the St.James Hotel, alluding of course to that song's music borrowed from St.James Infirmary.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 12:12 GMT 
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To get things started --

The initial set of questions that ought to be asked about Warmuth and Cook's project is about method.

I can think of two method questions at this point:
-- how do Warmuth and Cook arrive at their conclusions about the sources of Dylan's incorporations? That is, how can Warmuth (and how can we) be at all certain that some part of Dylan's text (which means anything Dylan has written) is from some other particular text (source)?
-- how does Warmuth "solve the puzzles" (to paraphrase him) implied by Dylan's incorporations -- that is, once a source is identified, how does he go about deciphering what it means in the context of Dylan's text?

I'll begin by focusing on the first one.

1) Natural Recognition.
I assume that there are incorporations that are discovered by simple recognition. Warmuth reads along, and just like any Dylan listener, he recognizes a key phrase or even larger passage from a text s/he has read. For instance, I was reading Huck Finn several summers back, then, while driving, I recognized a very close approximation of a line from Huck Finn in Lonesome Day Blues: "Last night the wind was whispering' something'/ I was trying' to find out what it was".
In this case, while the Dylan song might not have been incorporating Huck Finn, there is an extremely high likelihood that he did.
The evidence for this?
a) a high degree of similarity between the two lines
b) the fairly unusual nature of the line (it is not a common phrase)
c) the broader context of recognizing Dylan's affinity for Twain (that is, other instances of Dylan tied to Twain).
d) The likelihood Dylan knows and has read Huck Finn.

A general point:
Does this insure that Dylan, in fact, drew this line from Twain or anyone else? Simply: NO.
There can be no absolute certainty about this. Even if Dylan said directly that he drew the line from Twain, we would still not have absolute certainty. Dylan has been proven to lie to the public. Even if we saw Dylan with Huck Finn, saw him underline the passage, and saw him write the song with the line, Dylan may have heard the line from another source, or coincidentally thought of it himself and only pretended to take it from Twain's book.
No source can be determined with certainty. Only degrees of probability. A likelihood that increases depending on the evidence one can gather.

2) Leg-Work based in clues
It is possible that, drawing on clues left by Dylan, Warmuth was able to determine possible sources and then spent the time reading these texts, and compared these possible sources against Dylan's texts.
This method is highly time-consuming, but, by its very nature, seems to provide a higher level of certainty that a text is a source.
It also suggests that Dylan's texts include not just incorporations but hints and clues for the reader. It further implies an esoteric (or hidden) stratum of meaning and intention int eh text.
One goal of a reader might be to try to discover any possible conventions, rules, principles that are deployed by Dylan as part of his esoteric writing.

3) The Google Search:
This approach includes the kinds of software/search engines that allow professors to check student papers against databases of on-line papers.
The danger here lies in the rather random nature of discovery.
Because there are neither internal clues, nor the fact of a shared, broad culture (which Dylan might assume his listeners/readers share), a "match" between a phrase in a Dylan text and a source remains less likely only because there is no internal reason for their connection. This kind of finding might be bolstered by an accumulation of instances in which the source appears in the Dylan text.


The leg-work method is clearly at work in Warmuth's essay ("Bob Charlatan"). Part of that leg work included immersing himself in a series of books and manuals:
"To sharpen my skills I studied cryptography and puzzle-solving. I explored techniques used by crossword-puzzle champions.."
"Another path I took was to delve deeper into Dylan's interest in sideshow, which goes back as far as an early interview in which he claimed to be a carny...I read books on poker strategy and how to cheat at cards..."
In the essay, it is clear that Warmuth read the books that Dylan let be know he had read. He let those books guide him to others.

As for the scatter-shot "Google Search" method, I think that while this may yield lucky results, it is likely to lead down false paths. Especially when what one is identifying is a short phrase. In a post on the Book Discussion thread, there is a discussion a phrase "gutless and flabby" that the poster named scottw (whom I believe is Warmuth himself) finds appearing in a music criticism book. If this source is discovered by search engine (rather than the leg-work and clues method) I would be highly skeptical barring repeated references to that source.


There are certainly more. But that is, at least a start.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 12:39 GMT 
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moonpeeler wrote:
I am not pretending to add much to this thread, but to me this incoporation technique has always been used by Bob Dylan, only in the 2000's he extended it to lyrics and other writings, before that it was used only in his music, and sometimes he alluded to that in the lyrics, like in Blind Willie McTell, when he writes of the St.James Hotel, alluding of course to that song's music borrowed from St.James Infirmary.


Moonpeeler,
Who says you are not contributing? I agree that Dylan has drawn on other sources in writing his songs for longer than the post-Love and Theft era. And further, it is clear Dylan has done this with both lyrics and the musical elements of his songs.

If you haven't yet, you should take a look at (at least) the essay "Bob Charlatan" to which I linked in my first post. You'll see that what Warmuth is arguing is that there is something significantly different than just using old melodies or borrowing stock blues lines at work in Dylan's latest works. It's not a long piece and it really drives home Warmuth's findings.

To push what you said a little further:
First, it may be true that he has more or less always done something almost exactly like what is happening in the post-LT period. That is, he may have always been doing more than to just quote old blues or folk songs or follow the "folk-process" of repurposing melodies and lyrics to old songs, but because there was that folk tradition, it was simply subsumed into that existing practice and Dylan's more radical practice was blocked out of view. That's worth pursuing.

Second, Assuming that what is happening since 2001 is new for Dylan, there is still no reason to exclude music from the way I have characterized the topic here -- post-Love and Theft. It is possible that music is being incorporated in the same ways as Life Magazine etc.

That said, Warmuth seems to focus on the latter work of Dylan and on language. And I think the focus on the recent years, at least, is appropriate because there seems to me to be a marked difference between the pre- and post-LT writing style.

Finally, what differentiates what Warmuth's proposal from the "folk-process" is, in part, his claim that there is a kind of puzzle/cryptogram quality to the later style of incorporation.

If you find examples in earlier Dylan that match the kind of practice Warmuth (or others in this thread are discussing) your contributions would be much welcomed.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 13:13 GMT 

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the_revelator wrote:


Okay. Thanks.

I'm intrigued by andea75's idea and hope more on that will be forthcoming.


Sure. I am really busy today, but I will catch up with the thread tonight.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 13:51 GMT 
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I don't feel as if I have anything particularly insightful to add to this topic, but I sure appreciate it and greatly look forward to the conversation. Being very new to Dylan, the first indication I had that there was something unique going in in his modern work, was the LIFE magazine painting.

Image


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 13:54 GMT 
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Thanks for posting the Bob Charlatan link, MMD. Interesting read. I did find this puzzling:

MMD wrote:
For instance, I was reading Huck Finn several summers back, then, while driving, I recognized a very close approximation of a line from Huck Finn in Lonesome Day Blues: "Last night the wind was whispering' something'/ I was trying' to find out what it was".
In this case, while the Dylan song might not have been incorporating Huck Finn, there is an extremely high likelihood that he did.
The evidence for this?
a) a high degree of similarity between the two lines
b) the fairly unusual nature of the line (it is not a common phrase)
c) the broader context of recognizing Dylan's affinity for Twain (that is, other instances of Dylan tied to Twain).
d) The likelihood Dylan knows and has read Huck Finn.

Without suggesting that it wasn't 'incorporated' from Huck Finn, what's unusual or uncommon about that/those line(s)? We're all familiar with the idea of whispering winds, and 'I was trying to find out what it was' is surely a commonplace phrase?

MMD wrote:
the poster named scottw (whom I believe is Warmuth himself)

Indeed he is, as a quick search within the sacred walls of ER will reveal (although his old fairfieldweekly blog- which is linked to in both these threads- has clearly disappeared, and been replaced by the one to which you provide a link). The first thread is his reveal of the Bethany Bultman lift, and the second identifies scottw as being Scott Warmuth:

http://expectingrain.com/discussions/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=31926

http://expectingrain.com/discussions/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=31964


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 14:11 GMT 
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Just a relevant side point here :
Unless a phrase is a cliche, even common-sounding, unremarkable sentences are often incredibly rare.
For instance, I've just googled this simple sentence I've just constructed : "I opened the window and looked outside at the fields" - there are no exact matches. Given the billions and billions of sentences out there on the internet this seems a little bizarre, but language provides such a huge number of possible phrases, even for a very commonplace occurance.
This post may now register that simple sentence, and be the only example so far on the internet of what would seem to be a phrase that would have been made thousands of times before.
When you remove the quotation marks there are 331, 000, 000 hits, but looking through the first few pages of results there actually aren't any phrases that even approximate "I opened the window and looked at the fields".


Last edited by Trev on Tue June 19th, 2012, 14:19 GMT, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 14:16 GMT 

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I am very curious about Mr. Warmuth's methods. The sheer breadth of texts he is able to link Dylan's work to is astonishing from works of antiquity through 40's dime store novels. I've often half-wondered if he isn't somehow linked to Dylan's people, like Dylan is trying to get the word out about it himself. After having read most of Mr. Warmuth's works, I'm pretty convinced. Some of the associations he makes are tenuous, but a good number are almost word-for-word. Whole chunks of novels appear threaded through other chunks of other novels. I wouldn't be surprised if you could link every line Dylan has written since recording World Gone Wrong to something else. If you think about it, the clues are there-- "Love and Theft" in quotes practically telling you that it's theft, Modern Times having the anagram of Timrod in it-- the source for much of the lyrics. Time Out Of Mind hinting at the beginning of a dredging up of long dead cultures. He's been "conjuring up all these long dead souls from their crumbling tombs." He's being very forthright about his aims here, he's trying to resell us Western culture at a reduced price


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 14:33 GMT 
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At this rate, the next album will get googled and cryptanalysed as much as it's listened to.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 15:23 GMT 
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Very interesting thread. Thanks, MMD!

It never occured to me there was any puzzle to solve. Or message to decode. But that he was using this technique to create a conversation in his work with the ghosts of other artists. To consciously tap into the collective unconscious this way. To create work that's richer for it. But dang, that blog is wild. Like down the rabbit hole.

I wonder if Bob isn't transitioning out of this method of writing, beginning with TTL (with the help of a co-writer there). I suppose we may see soon.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 16:21 GMT 

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I too am intrigued by Scott's work, but I am not sure it is an "either/or" of the three methods.
I was thinking he may use a combination of an academic search and old fashioned reading/leg work.
Perhaps he is able to tell when certain passages are 'incorporations' (i.e. longwinded paragraph about brick houses) then look for certain phrasings and search them. Once he has a match with a literary work he can go through each in order to understand the context/attitude/etc Dylan is conveying over the surface meaning.

I hope we can continue an epistemic community over this, it is the gateway to the wonder that is Modern Times. :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 17:22 GMT 
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the_revelator wrote:
Interesting!

Let me see if I understand this by trying to reframe or restate a couple of points about the approach of the thread

1) the discussion will - hopefully - be about Dylan's artistic use of incorporation (or re: andrea75's idea '"constructing" the artist Bob Dylan, separate from consideration of the person Bob Dylan)

2) there need not be moral value ascribed to the consideration of this project. i.e. There is no moral "right or wrong" assigned to Dylan taking this approach to his work, if, indeed, he is building a codified work of incorporations in a kind of intentional 'puzzle' - which at this point is a theoretical claim that is not proven

3) there need not be discussion of the legality of incorporation. In terms of this thread the legality of this concept is not relevant, since legal considerations, which do apply to art in the marketplace, are external concerns to the creation of art in it's essential nature

4) attention accorded to the idea of "America", "American art" or "empire" is politically neutral in that it does not presume any superiority of the U.S. to other cultures. Any focus of discussion on Dylan's attention to "America" does not imply a belief that the U.S. is better or exceptional, or negate that there are influences beyond U.S. culture or history in Dylan's work

Am I close to the purpose of the thread as you've envisioned it, MMD? (and andrea75? - whose idea I think is fascinating)

What seemed to sink the plagiarism thread were immovable positions staked out around these concerns about artistic incorporation

is it moral?
is it legal?

From a purely artistic standpoint, these questions don't matter in this particular discussion. They could certainly be discussed in a different thread about legal or ethical concerns in Dylan's work. But reverting to these questions in this particular thread will probably lead us back to a quagmire where the artistic discussion will again be overwhelmed or lost.


Am I off the mark about what you hope will be the concerns of the thread? (Obviously people can contribute what they want.....)

MMD wrote:
the-revelator,
Well, that is an extremely lucid re-formulation (and improvement) of my initial intentions.

I would only add, with regard to #4 ('America') that the poster's position on the value of 'America' is not within the parameters of the topic. That is, discussing Dylan's possible views about 'America' ought not to be supposed to be the position of the poster nor ought that poster be attacked for stating what they believe Dylan is suggesting.


MMD.... Looking forward to following your new thread.
..I'm sure sure you'll be bringing all kinds of interesting things to light...
if anyone around here is capable of handling a discussion of this touchy subject
without having it blow up in our faces, you are that person! :D 8)


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 17:24 GMT 
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Excellent thread....

I have read some of Scott's work before.... and find it quite amazing.... if not a bit over the top...

I must admit my first reaction to it was this:

If you go treasure hunting..... and start from the treasure end of the search and go back to the beginning..... won't you always find the "correct" path?

But then if you take this as a game, a puzzle, a fun thing to do then the journey is a worthy one. Actually if you think that this was ALL intentional writing on

Dylan's part, making of a puzzle while writing great lyrics, doesn't it make it all that much more incredible..... 8) and then add to that the volume of his work.

We, the hardcore may want an album every year :lol: .... but in comparison to many he is cracking them out at quite a good pace and for many, many years now.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 17:28 GMT 

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John B. Stetson wrote:
Very interesting thread. Thanks, MMD!

It never occured to me there was any puzzle to solve. Or message to decode. But that he was using this technique to create a conversation in his work with the ghosts of other artists. To consciously tap into the collective unconscious this way. To create work that's richer for it. But dang, that blog is wild. Like down the rabbit hole.

I wonder if Bob isn't transitioning out of this method of writing, beginning with TTL (with the help of a co-writer there). I suppose we may see soon.


I think there is no hidden message, but the pleasure of listening is different when you recognize all those references. I remember the first time I listened to High Water, which I take as one of Dylan's best songs ever, for the way it evokes this series of lines with the past through the incorporation of references, not last the link with Dylan's own Crash on the Levee, which has in turn echoes of Charlie Patton's work (and Dylan wrote that in the 1960s). There are a lot of references, but the ones that are great are the line taken from the Cockoo (in a song driven by the banjo, the instrument reinforces this musical memory-effect), and the line from "Dust my broom). I smiled because I recognized the game.
I favor the interpretation of inter temporal dialogue with other artists' work. In my work I must have described it as Dylan "at the head of a march of the dead", or something like that.

Also, I think TTL has enough of these references, not last the beginning of If You Ever Go To Houston (you better walk right), taken straight from Midnight Special.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 17:38 GMT 
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It's interesting - some long-time fans may recall...I don't remember all this info being available when I first started listening to Bob. Does anyone else? I've been listening for over 30 years. Just curious...


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