by carl wilson

Animals Think They're Pretty Smart

Mr. B. and his "What Is It?" tree.

David Byrne's albums since the late 1980s have had their ups and downs, but his blog is consistently worthwhile (for instance, his recent musings on the idea that we might all just be fooling ourselves into thinking we have personalities, as a kind of mental support system comparable to the apparently built-in impulse toward religious faith, which you might argue is just an evolutionary shield against murder/suicide). But ya gotta check out these tree drawings he's made, apparently a future possible McSweenys book. As he describes them, "a kind of humorous disjointed scientism of the mind heaves into view." And humorous disjointed scientism is great on waffles. The Music Tree breaks the subject up into the categories "What it is" ("body language speaker," "sex catalyst," "personality annihilator," "heartbreak device," "time machine") and "What it's made of" ("sparse events," "frequent repetitions," "subliminal messages," "gimmicks") to create a kind of graphical representation of the immense surprise and unlikelihood that music works at all.

I was being interviewed for a teevee show about music writing and blogging today, and among my staircase moments afterwards, I thought that my answer to the question, "If writing about music is such a non-lucrative career, why do it?" should have been that precisely because music is so abstract and inimical to verbal capture, it opens up an infinite field to write across, an unending series of creative near-or far-misses - and because music is so insinuated in everyone's personal lives and consciousnesses, it burrows tunnels into every subject matter, making it a subject that potentially permits you to write about anything and everything in the world. But then again, I thought, that could be said of writing about food or clothing or a hundred other things. You could do it even if you were covering the scrap-metal industry, and it would be all the more dazzling because more unlikely. At least with scrap metal you probably couldn't fall back on writing a lot of articles using the words "angular" and "seminal."

Then it occurred to me that the real TV answer should have been, "Because it still pays better than writing poetry."

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 31 at 07:19 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)



There's also poetry ON money, I'd like to point out, at least on Canadian banknotes: John McCrae on the $10, Miriam Waddington on the $100.

(I had to use Google to find out about Waddington. I don't see $100s that often.)

Posted by Nadia on February 2, 2006 07:13 PM



Aye, that it do, that it do.

Posted by Jordan on February 2, 2006 04:42 AM



There's more lucre in music than scrap metal (though it is not as filthy)...

Posted by Carl Z. on February 1, 2006 01:16 PM



I think the real question here is which show Carl is going to be on, and when we can all watch it, screaming, I read your blog!

Posted by Craig on February 1, 2006 03:11 AM



I love Robert Graves! But he's wrong about no poetry in money. He himself pointed out that Pluto god of death is also god of wealth -- is that not a poetic insight, the equation of wealth and death? And Norman O. Brown pointed out in "Life Against Death" (1959 or so) that for many many centuries, the ratio of the value of gold to silver was analogous to the ratio of the sun's cycle to the moon's: 13 times as large. (And the Freudian insight equating money and excrement -- filthy lucre! Beautifully transmogrified into fertilizing manure by Thornton Wilder in his play "The Matchmaker," which became "Hello Dolly.")

Granted, since we left the gold standard, we've lost our poetic connection with those sun-moon gold-silver celestial religious prejudices, and the poetry of money is now wacked out and intensely anxious, addicted to constant speculative expansion, and based on nothing but faith. Faith in what? Government? Current agreements holding good in the future? (Ezra Pound: free verse jeremiads against usury.)

And while the high-art mavens may not deign to call it poetry, there's poetic wit as well as rhyme in Canada's Loonie & Twonie (Toonie?).

Posted by john on February 1, 2006 01:37 AM



"There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either." ~ Robert Graves, 1962 interview on BBC-TV, based on a very similar statement he overheard around 1955

Posted by guy tanentzapf on January 31, 2006 08:11 PM



"and because music is so insinuated in everyone's personal lives and consciousnesses, it burrows tunnels into every subject matter,"

-- excellent answer, and not true of scrap metal, nor of clothing in the same way. Nor even food -- food isn't as glamorized, and there's a reason for that. What that reason is, is -- how'd you put it? -- "abstract and inimical to verbal capture."

Posted by john on January 31, 2006 07:44 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson