Skip to content

Index: Music and Photography

The first 80 years of Bob Dylan.

Alan Wall: ‘The aristocracy to aim for was the aristocracy of the road. It was the lineage described in Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory. It was there in the great blues tradition of Blind Willie McTell and Robert Johnson. You keep on moving from town to town.’

The Persistence of the Song.

Alan Wall: ‘Blues has had an incalculable influence on modern song. Many of the basic riffs of the Rolling Stones come straight out of standard blues refrains: Keith Richards has been an assiduous student of black music.’


Dan Coyle: ‘The blues began for me in the middle of the 1960s during the so-called Blues Revival. That’s when record collectors and talent scouts drove the Southern backroads asking locals about musicians once known to live in those parts.’

Passion framed by silence.

Michelene Wandor: ‘The Great Passion is clearly what we would call a ‘literary’ novel (a tautology! How could imaginative writing be anything but literary?). Useful definitions claim the literary as a novel which doesn’t race along on a plot axis, may be considered ‘serious’, perhaps belonging to ‘high’, as opposed to mass or popular, culture. It may garner prizes, possibly move at a slower pace than, say, a spy novel or a thriller.’

Pictures, with poems.

John Matthias: ‘Bolder, builder of Bildungsroman
Make materials gleam’

Pop Songs.

Alan Wall: ‘ You could half-whisper into a mike, and you were instantly in a bedroom, disrobing. Leonard Cohen was very close to the mike. There was a reason for this: in any orthodox sense, he couldn’t sing. He was endearingly aware of the fact.’

Adorno on Modern Music — A Coda

Tronn Overend: ‘In Adorno’s analysis, jazz is simply equated with ragtime. It is certainly correct that Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag (1899) and Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1911) were important foundations. The edifice that was then built, however, evolved rapidly.’

Return to tonality.

Tronn Overend: ‘An analysis of these contradictions, or conflicts, is a touchstone of truth. There are contradictions within artistic material – such as traditional music – and there are ‘contradictions in the world’. It is only by ‘measuring this contradiction’ that it ‘is actually perceived’, then ultimately reconciled and overcome. Adorno’s leaps at this point are not clear, but returning to the distinction between cognition and perception, arts ‘cognitive character becomes radical in that moment’. It ‘is no longer content with the role of perception.’’

Antithesis: Schoenberg.

Tronn Overend: ‘Following Vassily Kandinsky’s review of Schoenberg’s paintings (not his music), Adorno enigmatically contends Schoenberg’s music also has ‘blotches’. These proclaim, as in a Rorschach, ‘…the id against the compositional will. They destroy the surface and are as little to be removed by subsequent correction as are the traces of blood in a fairy tale.’

‘Last kind words.’

Peter Riley: ‘The song was recorded in 1930 in a makeshift studio in Grafton, Wisconsin, and issued by Paramount Records as‘ Last Kind Words Blues’ on one side of a 78 rpm shellac disc with the musician’s name given as “Geeshie Wiley”. It’s not a simple lyric. It’s not about slavery, but slavery is there in it. It’s about the victims of war, but forgets that and after verse four goes off into transferable formulae (floating verses).’

The School of Giorgione.

Walter Pater: ‘All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. For while in all other kinds of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, and the understanding can always make this distinction, yet it is the constant effort of art to obliterate it.’

The Weimar Republic and critical theory.

Tronn Overend: ‘In 1925, [Adorno’s] life took an interesting turn. Having met Alban Berg in Frankfurt, he decided to become a student of musical composition, and follow him to Vienna. There, over three years, he became seduced by The Schoenberg Circle.’

Back in the building.

Ian Seed: ‘Things went downhill for Elvis with tragic momentum after 1974. I have to admit that for a few years I didn’t listen much to his music anymore. I couldn’t tie in my discovery of poets such as T.S. Eliot with my admiration for Elvis. ‘

The listening body.

Jona Xhepa: ‘The place of listening seems significant: an art gallery in the city centre on a Sunday afternoon. As if the audience is poised for assessment through listening in the mutual scrutiny between listener, musician, notated piece. We are emboldened to place the sounds in front of us for scrutiny in the same way our scrutiny is placed on paintings. Time is punctuated by members of the audience leaving, not diminishing the act of patience by doing so, within the undercurrent of continued heed.’

The funeral of Isaac Albéniz.

James Gallant: ‘Along the way Catalan flags flew at half-mast. Albéniz noted with pleasure black crepe decorating the façade of a Catholic newspaper that had once condemned flamenco influences in his music. From balconies in the narrow winding streets of the old city people rained roses and carnations on the hearse. The procession paused in front of the municipal music school for students to pile flowers atop the hearse, and a little further on a line of riflemen at a military installation raised their weapons and fired a salute.’