Saturday, December 10, 2005

Auditory Experiences

There is now a website where you can listen to an archive of contemporary poetry, its only unfortunate that its chosen the proprietary RealAudio solution; and I'm indebted to Ready, Steady Book for its pointing me in the direction of UbuWeb, a treasure trove of the avant garde, including, I'm amazed to hear, various recordings of Gertrude Stein amongst others. I'm becoming hopeful that what the internet has done, has provided access to some of the less accessible writers and writings of the last century. I mean "accessible" in the sense of being able to even read them; not whether or not their art is accessible (that should be self-evident, I would think). Just reading a little about William Burroughs, from the Word Virus anthology, and its clear that this concept of an "international avant garde" was a very real one. In literary terms, I guess I see it, not as "postmodern" (whatever that is?) but as a second wave of modernism. They're nearly all dead, now, of course, but everywhere you look in late 20th century culture you find Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bowles, Nin, Miller etc. There was Ginsberg on the Dylan documentary; talking about how he was in a room with Dylan and the Beatles, and how unprepared they seemed to be "spokesmen of a generation." It was 25 years ago this week that John Lennon was shot. I remember being woken by my parents to be told the devastating news. (At 13 I was a massive Beatles fan.) I went to school and nobody else - not the teachers or students - had the slightest interest. I've decided I should update my Beatles collection by getting a couple of the albums, rather than relying on a hotch-potch of cassettes and compilations; but listened to "Abbey Road" and faced with the double whammy of "Octopus's Garden" and (probably the worst song they ever recorded) "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" I might just stick to "Revolver."

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