Love and theft. Plundered, pillaged, worn and shorn. The fragmentary reality that nothing is totally new, it just gets cut up and re-pasted in new and ingenious ways. The background screens and templates remain vitally similar, but the contexts keep changing like a wheel of fortune offering seemingly unlimited potential for rebirth, death and resurrection, eventually hoping for that one big break, that busting through to what Walter Benjamin called “now time,” the sundering open of historic and known horizons.
A violent collision between the time of capital, time is money and the messianic, moments inside of history and lacking the structure of time. Symbols and their markers become separated from meaning creating what seems like a new conceptual framework that can contain and articulate cultural shifts. Our world of mediated, constructed, simulated and orchestrated reality can be hawked off as an everlasting now; in a McCluhanesque irony, the media moment, the fifteen minutes of fame, is a kind of epiphany of religious exaltation. In Excelior and ex-Celcius do-do. At its best, the recycling as contemporaneity manifests itself as existing, being, in a space separated and fleeing from history, where tradition mutates into new re-enactment and vintage images and figures are re-jigged into contemporary media events, and the established certainties are tested through unusual combinations of seemingly disparate value systems…
(see link at end) …“When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate dishonesty.” The line comes from Don Siegel’s 1958 film noir, The Lineup, written by Stirling Silliphant. The film still haunts revival houses, likely thanks to Eli Wallach’s blazing portrayal of a sociopathic hit man and to Siegel’s long, sturdy auteurist career. Yet what were those words worth—to Siegel, or Silliphant, or their audience—in 1958? And again: what was the line worth when Bob Dylan heard it (presumably in some Greenwich Village repertory cinema), cleaned it up a little, and inserted it into “Absolutely Sweet Marie”? What are they worth now, to the culture at large?
Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan’s music. The songwriter has grabbed not only from a panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric Lott’s study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and Theft. One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk the sweetness of love, as they do so often in Dylan’s songs. Lott’s title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, which famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg—a series of nested references to Dylan’s own appropriating, minstrel-boy self. Dylan’s art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in lyrics on Dylan’s newest record, Modern Times. Dylan’s originality and his appropriations are as one.Read More:http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081387
(see link at end)…Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked. Technology has only multiplied the possibilities; musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate them through allusion. In Seventies Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry deconstructed recorded music, using astonishingly primitive pre-digital hardware, creating what they called “versions.” The recombinant nature of their means of production quickly spread to DJs in New York and London. Today an endless, gloriously impure, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of music.
Visual, sound, and text collage—which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here, a folk pastiche there)—became explosively central to a series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrète, situationism, pop art, and appropriationism. In fact, collage, the common denominator in that list, might be called the art form of the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first. But forget, for the moment, chronologies, schools, or even centuries. As examples accumulate—Igor Stravinsky’s music and Daniel Johnston’s, Francis Bacon’s paintings and Henry Darger’s, the novels of the Oulipo group and of Hannah Crafts (the author who pillaged Dickens’s Bleak House to write The Bondwoman’s Narrative), as well as cherished texts that become troubling to their admirers after the discovery of their “plagiarized” elements, like Richard Condon’s novels or Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons—it becomes apparent that appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion, and sublimated collaboration consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act, cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production. Read More:http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081387
(see link at end)…Dylan’s apparent borrowing of Timrod’s work was first uncovered by Scott Warmuth, a radio disc jockey based in New Mexico, who used the internet to try to discover the source of Dylan’s lyrics. He said he found 10 instances on the album where Dylan’s lyrics are similar to Timrod’s poetry.
Mr Warmuth told the New York Times: “I think that’s the way Bob Dylan has always written songs. It’s part of the folk process, if you look from his first album to now.” But he said he still considered Dylan’s work to be original. “You could give the collected works of Henry Timrod to a bunch of people but none of them are going to come up with Bob Dylan songs,” he said.
Mr Warmuth originally posted his findings on the internet forum Dylan Pool. There, not everyone agreed with his assessment that Dylan’s borrowing was acceptable. One displeased poster, Harvey, wrote: “Bob really is a thieving little swine – the melodies, the riffs, the solos, hell entire songs even. Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/dylan-borrowed-from-obscure-civil-war-poet-say-critics-416069.html