How Close to the Street You Gotta Be?
Chaboy John Jeremiah Sullivan published a distant autobiographical paper in Harpers. I'm not sure I understand it. The brotha confesses that he listens to blues music while he works the Oxford English Dictionary with his other hand. Therefore y'all should print it, read it and keep it in a safe place so you can come back to it.
Some of his argumentation is already clear and not much about the blues, but everything. "The problem words refused to give themselves up, but as the tape ran, the song itself emerged around them, in spite of them, and I heard it for the first time." I think we just caught him (and his friends in the American Primitive factory) in the liturgical act -- worshipping the aura of the original while listening to a rekkid. Let's not remind Jeremiah that "For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual."
Next, Jeremiah trysta get Elijah Wald to redeem his sh*t. J misreads E, adding complexity to J's own misreadings, calling E out for believing that "all folk was someone else's pop." This almost catches our heroes at the crossroads where they dwell: "when the music was all but unknown, they hailed it as great, invincible American art; when people...caught on and started blabbering about it, they rushed to remind us that it was just a bunch of dance music for drunken field hands."
In the end, Jeremiah becomes the shark writah -- copies someone else's story that, though, brilliantly apropos, betrays just the point he's missing, and does it by ventriloquy. It's a long one.
"There's a moment on those discs of Gayle Dean Wardlow's interviews the ones in Revenant's Patton discs. Wardlow is talking w/ Booker miller, a minor prewar player who knew Charley Patton. And you can hear Wardlow... trying to describe the ritual of his apprenticeship to teh elder Patton. 'Did you meet him at a juke joint,' asked Wardlow, 'or on the street.' How did they find each other? It's the kind of question one would ask. 'I admired his records,' answered Brooke Miller."
So here's what's what.
1.) The distinction between primitive and artifice (or underground and crossover, or roots and mainstream, or Robert Johnson and Sam Collins, or etc., etc., etc., or original and mechanical reproduction) means more to shark listeners biting up a way to think 'til they think different. It's not a bad thing to do, but it doesn't do much unless it gets either the autobiography tag or the aesthetics tag or both.
2.) Even then we are all crossovers, even the shark listeners. Send my regrets to Nelson George (but more on that later).
In the mean time, some unnaground queenz for your soul: