Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Interview with John Darneille about "The Life of the World to Come"

As far as I know, John Darnielle's lyrics are about as close to literature as you can get in music outside of Phillip Glass and a few other songwriters whose worlds unfold in time more poignantly and with less of a chance of vulgarity or speciousness than in film. His most recent release sets its verbal prowess upon the ancient literary architecture of the Bible, in a head-spinning contrast to its predecessor, Heretic Pride. In the year 2009, when verbal, musical, or pictorial references to God in any serious manner have been considered in ill taste for quite some time, in a strange set of circumstances, only John Darnielle, virtual iconoclast to his suburban offspring, whose breadth of interests and knowledge make nothing stick to him, could get away with this type of naive-seeming candor in an age of artificiality and perfidious imitation.

Here is an interview with John discussing many of the scenarios discussed in his songs on the new LP.

Here is a quote from an interview he was a part of earlier this month that seems a suitable introduction to a first listen:

I’ve been in pretty punishing physical and emotional health for the last couple years, buncha weird stuff, and that’ll get a person thinking about his spirit just as a refuge from his body. I’ve always had a pretty dicey relationship with my body—many survivors of abuse do—so there’s that. And also, I’ve had this lifelong thirst to believe, but I just don’t. I try; I go in as deep as I can, but I wonder whether real faith isn’t hard-wired. At the same time, I can’t call myself a non-believer. I talk about “the spirit” and have a hard time accepting that “the spirit” is actually just a sort of Freudian/Jungian collection of personality traits and reactions to them. I’ve experience transcendence both as ecstasy and pain, and I think the life of the spirit, that’s something worth letting loose in little songs, maybe. It’s bigger than they are, so maybe it can knock a few teacups off the shelves, right? It’s just, like, so much of what affects me emotionally is bound up in ideas of God and mercy and forgiveness and wrath and the sort of peace that we mean when we say “peace be with you” in the mass—you know? Huge part of who I am in all this, and I think it’s been darting around like a fish in my songs since at least The Coroner’s Gambit, so I thought, “why not focus, start digging, really head into the cave and see what’s there?”


is John's blog where he educates us all about music

Sunday, November 1, 2009

David Bentley Hart on Foucault's Concept of Freedom

“For Foucault and Deleuze both, the narrative of force is so pervasive that the political desire for ‘liberation’ becomes more and more idealized in their thought: no longer revolution, which is merely another totalizing expression of power, but only occasional and limited forms of resistance, conceived…by Foucault as a Stoical art of crafting the self (from volition to involution). In either model of freedom—of the restraint or diversion of the will to power—the Kantian subject, the inviolable individual, is retained, however diminished, concealed, and unacknowledged. This is inevitable: The Kantian myth of the subject’s moral freedom is the last bulwark against totalitarian impulses. The ghost of the subject must still emerge from one shadowy corner or another to rattle its chains and declare its right to power.

There is a piquant futility in all of this; as much as it preserves the assumptions of modernity regarding the punctiliar individual, the inalienable power of will, and freedom as the lifting of constraints from the will, this school of the postmodern reveals itself as a completion of the project of the Enlightenment, but insofar as it has dispensed with Kant’s unrepresentable but necessary moral analogy between the transcendental subject and God, it has also brought that project to its inevitable collapse…

The longing for an impossible freedom—the dream of a flight to the exteriority of nomadic migrations or to the interiority of self-creation—remains as a governing pathos, although it is obviously nothing but a metaphysical nostalgia.

Inevitably, again, there can be no ethos attached to this vision of things but that of affirmation…As an act of aesthetic evaluation, if it must first and unhesitatingly affirm the whole, it can be accomplished only on mountaintops, from an impossibly sublime perspective; but as soon as one enters into history, evaluation becomes an analogical process of ordering desires, and if one insists on entering history by descending from such heights, those desires and that evaluation may be for or of anything, any practice, however noble or barbaric, kind or cruel. It is nonsensical to assert that the “positivity” of affirmation is somehow a bar against the creative jeu joyeux of, say, fascism; every conceivable perception and desire is compatible—by way of whatever rhetorical negotiation—with super-abounding affirmation.”

- David Bentley Hart, The Veil of the Sublime, from "the Beauty of the Infinite."

Talking about Photography: Nov. 8 in Williamsport, PA

I'll be leading a discussion/presentation on Economy, Form, and Photography next Sunday November 8 at 5 PM, here in Williamsport at the Valley Mosaic space in the old Pajama Factory building. Prior to the dialogue there is traditionally a potluck, so if you're in the area, are hungry, and would like to come and hang out, I'd be honored.

I will be taking two poems (By Rilke and Wendell Berry) and from them extrapolating a bit about the relationship between the content of the text and photographic practice. This will include a brief, mythological visual etymology of sorts, of photographers' work which I find a strong kinship with, as well as a discussion of the difficulties involved with "talking about photography."