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There is a film put out by the Statens Museum for Kunst, a seventeen minute film that has four different people from all walks of life (and all different ages) looking at work from Bob Dylan’s latest series of paintingsand telling us what they see. The Brazil Series (now opening in a limited portfolio of 3 at the Castle Gallery in Birmingham, England) is the first gallery to display Dylan's work and is the first show of the work in the series. Prior to the show, the only publication of the work has been in the book, Bob Dylan: The Brazil Series. Castle Gallery has the first and currently only signed limited edition prints from the series available anywhere.
If you want to understand our culture, if you aren’t sure how we take in and spit our it back in in ways that are so lyrical, all you need to do is take a look at Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol standing in front of Warhol’s “Double Elvis”
There is Elvis with his gun drawn, doubled, pointing a gun a both Dylan and Warhol, hunkered down and all lip curl. What is the cover of Dylan’s Tempest but a photograph of the statue of St. Teresa of Avila made by Bernini as St. Teresa is in rapture. As it happens, the cover of Tempest is a red-duotone photograph of part of sculpture in Vienna made by Carl Kundmann between 1893 and 1902 and that sits at the foot of the Pallas-Athene Fountain in front of the Austrian Parliament Building. The statue is of four figures around a fountain bowl, each one representing the main rivers in Austria and Hungary: the Danube, the Inn, the Elbe, and the Moldau.
The Moldau is a symphonic piece by Bedřich Smetana, a Czech composer in the 1800s, who developed a musical style that became closely identified with Czeckoloslovakia’s aspirations to independent statehood.
A few years ago, Dylan had a hit at the Gagosian Gallery with his Asia Series. The artist Richard Prince wrote the introduction to the catalogue. It made sense that Prince would write this introduction. Dylan’s work in the show was a collection of paintings, many of which were painted reproductions of original photographs by Leon Busy, T. Enami, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Prince had himself made a career out of re-photographing photographs.
Beginning in 1977, Prince rephotographed four photographs that had appeared in the New York Times. One, a photograph of Brooke Shields at age ten and standing in a bathtub reflected another photograph – one by Alfred Steigleitz. He called his photograph Spiritual America. Stieglitz’s Spritual America is a photograph, close-cropped, of a horse’s hind legs. Prince’s features a very young Brooke Shields with heavy eye-make up, painted lips, standing naked in a tub, glistening rather like a very young Bathsheba.
And, as it happens, the new cover of Self-Portrait looks just like Richard Prince (I would say it is Richard Prince but until Dylan says that it’s Richard Prince it’s just a painting that looks nothing like Bob Dylan but a whole lot like Richard Prince.)
Noodles for the Masses
As for Dylan, his own odelisk is a copy of the photograph Opium Eater by Henri Cartier Bresson. You can find the hand-painted original, along with others that Dylan used as his template, in the Flickr stream of a man named Okinawa Soba after the Japanese noodle dish.
“My Flickr "Buddy Icon" (avatar) is not me,” Okinawa Saba writes in us his Flickr bio. It is a photograph of T. Enami, a Japanese photographer and taken in Enami’s studio over 100 years ago.
The real Okinawa Soba is a guy named Rob Oeschle – and Okinawa Saba is the name of a Japanese noodle dish. Rob has white hair and a white beard like Father Christmas. He says he is, “a white-haired American geezer in his 60s, who's been living in Okinawa on and off for most of the past 40 years (since 1973). My wife of 36 years is Okinawan.” The couple has three daughters who are now all grown, and who were born and raised in Okinawa.”
But who is Rob Oechsle and how did Bob Dylan find Okinawa Rob’s Flickr timeline? That we’ve yet to discover…
The photographs on Rob Oeschle’s timeline are not copyrighted. They are uploaded there in the public domain for everyone to enjoy. This means they aren’t copyrighted, aren’t protected because the copyright has either ran out or they weren’t copyrighted in the first place so he can put them there for everyone to see and to enjoy the benefit of his extensive knowledge of these photographers.
He says of the photographs on his stream that he uploads them so that everyone can have access to them – and Rob Oeschle has made that his life’s work. He still lives in Japan where he is a local television personality and has researched several books and runs an active Web site that features extensive collections by the T. Enami.
Like Warhol, Oeschle has a fondness for packaging. His timeline features vivid photographs of painted Coca Cola cans with their new-old image of the original Coke bottle. There are photographs of jelly beans and Japanese soda bottles. But most of his timeline features photographs taken by other Photographers: T. Enami, Leon Busy, and others.
So if Leon Busy could journalistically photograph Vietnam capturing scenes of every day life, why is not Dylan the father of lyrical-journalism or at least a nephew or cousin to it? Isn’t that what a lot of Dylan’s his idols did anyway, make something different (a lot or a little) with another person’s collaboration or work. Take Elvis who, as a general rule, performed songs written by other people and who also covered “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” which Dylan wrote. Like all things covered, the artist hopes to make something old something new again: to bring an appreciation It to the thing’s very thingness.
Andy Warhol did it and made a huge reputation in the process copying soup cans and Brillo boxes. So why can’t Dylan do it just because? What, really, is the difference - if any. Consider this for a bit of the cultural loop (and I don’t think it started with Andy Warhol: Warhol just made it more blatantly obvious to us).
The truth is this repetition phenomena was first discovered in nature by an Italian mathematician named Leonardo Bonacci or Fibonacci (who wrote the Liber Abaci). Fibonnaci found that nature repeats in predictable and beautiful ways. When he looked closely at a sunflower, he was able to extract an equation for the angle of degree and vortex of the petals. He found the same ratios in conch shells, in fiddlehead ferns, in leaves and trees. In fact, everywhere Fibonacci looked, he found the same sequence of numbers, elegantly reproduced in a spiral diagram. The Fibonnaci sequence goes as follows:
It shows us that the preceding two numbers will be the total of the next number: so if you add 1 plus 1 you get 2. Two plus 3 will give you 5 and consequently 5 and 3 will give you 8 and so on….
It shows us that the preceding two numbers will be the total of the next number: so if you add 1 plus 1 you get 2. Two plus 3 will give you 5 and consequently 5 and 3 will give you 8 and so on….
So if nature naturally replicates itself, why can’t Bob Dylan and Richard Prince and a whole lot of others make a copy of someone else’s art? If it’s beautiful in nature and we accept it, why are we so less able to accept it when it is one step removed – like say Warhol. Or Bob Dylan.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Bob Dylan, “once traded an Andy Warhol "Elvis Presley" painting for a sofa, which was a stupid thing to do. I always wanted to tell Andy what a stupid thing I done, and if he had another painting he would give me, I'd never do it again."
In his journal, Warhol wrote of the incident, So that was an expensive couch.
All of this is a lot like what Ed Norton tells us in the film Fight Club in which he has insomnia which makes everything feel like a copy of a copy of a copy.
Pass the Seconal.
Mind Set to Sync
When I looked to see if there was any image of Bob Dylan by Andy Warhol, which I was sure I would know about but did not, I found nothing. What I did find were lots of Warholized pictures of Bob Dylan, one of which was a sequence of Bob Dylan’s on a Website called Spacecollective.org.
The header reads, i am an eXperiment. a Syncopated word & image coLLage imported from Our minD sEnse-thoUght collective stream. a trial 2 eXpress the aRhythmia & the off beat that lies in-betwEEn the bond made of: imAge narrative & senSation. an aEsthetic act and aim of WondeR in the search for a CRaCK. as for if anything eXists at all it exisTs i n - b e T w e e n.
So when we speak of Dylan as a cultural phenomenon and his particular brand of genius and when we say he inspires us that means, in part, that we absorb him and his music as part of our personal and collective experience. That Dylan has absorbed his own influences and repeats them should come as no surprise, really. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dylan followed some Fibonnaci sequencing in his music and his art (after all, didn't Dylan tell su he was a "mathematical songwriter". After all, Fibonacci numbers were used by many renaissance painters (Titian was one, but there are many others – often religious images which are ever-so-slightly off center which brings a sense of pictoral harmony to the piece). This was known as the Golden Ratio- and it is believed that following the Golden Ratio added just the right perspective and ratio to any painting.
I’m Gonna Walk Out
At first, one might think the vocal was perhaps too loud on Bob Dylan’s new album Shadows In The Night. Then you realize that perhaps it always was this way and that you preferred it that way. That what got Dylan booed in the first place was being loud and now you’re booing again.
Well never mind the booing.
If music is for us to connect with it, to have an emotional response and not over fucking analyze it by trying to understand the singer’s emotional life but rather to have your own unique emotional response and enjoy it (and I think that is the point) then Dylan has again succeeded. And who is anyone else to tell me (or you) that this album doesn’t make the mark because at times, his voice falters and wavers (it does the same thing on the Basement Tapes which for my money is perhaps Dylan's best album, or one of them).
Here is the voice that we love or that I love and that at times here is breaking and quaking and a little off key. It is the voice of an older man, maybe I can even say old man without offending anyone, but Dylan is younger than that now so what did you really expect
What makes this album another successful Dylan album is that on it Dylan is crooning like Jimmy Stewart to Katherine Hepburn in the film The Philadelphia Story: It makes me, anyway, want to hear Dylan sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” because this is what crooning is all about. It is a lover singing to a lover. It is yearning and aching and lovely precisely because it is a little sad, a little unsure. And that evokes such feelings of tenderness in me I don’t know where to begin.
Opium For The Masses
Karl Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses. Dylan told Rolling Stone of his then new album Tempest that he had hoped to write a “more religious album…” And he once said, “It takes a lot of medicine to feel this much.” Maybe Dylan is our drug after all, even if the album falls short of anything really Biblical (not like the live '66 live show which can bring out the god in anyone and send even the most jaded listener into a sort of ecstatic state). When Dylan said that he felt too much he meant that it took a lot of whatever the fuck it was he was taking to deal with pain, to keep up the pace of the mid-sixties and that tour in particular, which left him hollow-cheeked and looking just like a ghost.
I listened to this album when I was laying in a pose not unlike, Busy’s “Woman Smoking Opium” or Dylan’s painting modeled after it, “Opium”, that was me in a sort of ecstatic state because the music lifted me in fabulous ecstatic-epileptic way which is frankly as good as sex and is a lot like making love the way listening to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” in that one long take is like making love because it is so uncut and so direct and so lasting and full of breath.
I am sure my face was not unlike the cover of tempest which is the cover of Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen which is the statue of St. Teresa of Avila which is so Handel’s Messiah.
And isn’t that love. An hallelujah from Leonard Cohen, and from Bob Dylan, this time an Amen.
So Happy Christmas (War Is Over) echo Yoko Ono and John Lennon.
I’m not understanding what the controversy is regarding Chrysler’s super-bowl halftime ad featuring Bob Dylan. I’ve read in several places now that Dylan is a sell-out (I don’t think he is) and that a lot of people are genuinely surprised by his “pro-rah rah America” stance. As if it were somehow a surprise to them that really, Bob Dylan is just about the most American thing going – he is not only uniquely American at his very core from iron-ore land, he’s a real and true cowboy (and I can’t think of any others except maybe Willie Nelson). In the sixties, he performed with an American flag behind him… Bob Dylan, and Bob Dylan’s lyrics, not only draw on so many cultural sources past and present, Dylan himself has become part of what my friend journalist Phil Gounis calls a sort of cultural loop with the culture referencing Dylan, Dylan referencing the culture and so on. He’s right. The answer is blowing in the wind…. A phrase I see everywhere all the time.
The song Red River Valley is said to have been first sung during the Wolseley Expedition in 1870 as part of the Red River Rebellion in a military expedition lead by foreign soldiers to fight the Metis Indians. It was a terribly long, difficult expedition that started in Ontario with a troop lead by a man named Garnet Wolseley, who lead his men hundreds of miles over rough terrain, terrible heat, and through swarms of mosquitos and flies.
So I am beginning in poetry, my spoken-sung litany with Dylan - as I listen to him; I write and read between the lines for specific songs. I feel we've had this dialogue for years anyway, he and I (which is really between "I and I") so why not make it official more than it is - which again is between the self and the self, for that is what Dylan does best, a reflection of the self allowing us to see deeper and then deeper, almost insisting on it. I am reflecting back to him; saying, Now you look here.... So here is one - this one is Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. I'm gathering them all together for what I pray will be a good and solid collection, an excellent book I hope - but here is the beginning, or the first that I am sharing. I listened to the song while I wrote - you could listen to the song while you read or have it in the background.
Thanks for reading
TD Bank sits atop Boston’s old North Station from where you can catch a trains to just about anywhere on the Northern Shore of Massachusetts. The station and the venue on top of it (which has been there for years: the name just keeps changing) lies on the fringe of Boston’s North End, known for great Italian restaurants and culture and festivals. North Station isn’t in the North End, but just outside of it and it’s there that Bob Dylan and Mark Knopler are playing tonight in about two and half hours. As Dylan says, It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there. The sky is dipping into a darker winter blue and I’m sitting in Caffe Vittorria which is already decked for Christmas, large windows adorned with red and white candy cane streamers and pinwheel wreaths. When I take a photo of one and message it to a friend he writes back, “I think the photo you sent is hypnotizing me…”
You'll find it all here on Dylan's new album, "Tempest", about which much has already been said about the pre-release of the video for Duquesne Whistle video and the other video, also pre-release, New Roman Kings. Whatever you read or think or decided about either, try to listen to the music and the lyrics without those images and listen anew because it's Dylan and it's always worth a fresh look again and again. You'll find the moon shines bright on this album, appearing all over the place lyrically. This latest, aptly named Tempest, is really not for the faint of heart. In fact, some of it is frankly a little scary. He is the raconteur and cowboy. He is Dylan who is of course saved, and he is Dylan who is pissed off again and in love and is both
I've often thought of becoming a foreign correspondent/journalist, for my love of the world, my sense of adventure. My trouble perhaps, or my strength, depending on who would or would not hire me, would be that I would become involved with my subject. I would be in the trenches. I would "Deal with dying" which is exactly what Dylan advises us not to do in his song "To Ramona", although he "cannot explain that in rhyme." I know that, regardless of what he says, I would make some attempt to make sense of it. That no, I would not try to make "rhyme" of it: not that. I would try to explain it in lines. Yet I would absolutely try to extrapolate some theorem or some equation: I would try to find the variables and plug them in and any missing variables, those I would seek out.
I have long liked Dylan's song, Mr. Tambourine Man, in particular the Royal Albert Hall recording of it, which, I heard an ethereal echo of it drifting out the windows of a car in the underground parking lot as I was leaving a Dylan show at Foxwood's MGM Grand several years
To note from the start, I have always been drawn to this particular song ("A song about marriage," Dylan says before performing it at The Rolling Thunder Revue - "This is a song about marriage - ". I connect fully because of the notion of reuniting (which is the legend of Osiris and Isis) with one who is in some way kindred and part of us is really what marriage is all about in Kabbalistic terms and ideally, what marriage is about. The other half.
Perhaps it has to do with the hat that I am wearing around those days. Those early Spring days. It is a straw hat but it is a cowboy hat with a rope draw and leather pull. Or perhaps it is that I wear this with my ultra suede skirt and my suede boots and my long ponytails. Perhaps it is that i feel like a cowgirl and I feel part angel too. No matter what we believe in, how vivid our visions, and I have had some lately that are so intense, I do realize that they all fall with a "crashing but meaningless blow" because as Dylan tells us, "No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden." And of course, there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden. All of our vision and sound then outside of this place amounts to naught. I'm also well aware that to a great many the Cowboy Angel is none other than the Holy Ghost. Well, I make no claims on holiness. Ghost, perhaps. Holiness no. Angelic, at times. Cowgirl, at times. These days, Cowgirl Angel - "Most of the Time" and all of the words that are in that song apply likewise.
I want to write a whole piece about one piece of music. I want to write a whole piece about one track labelled, or mislabeled, (whichever the case may be - either iTunes is right and the bootleg printing is wrong, I don't really know) but the track is on the bootleg, "Now Your Mouth Cries Wolf", the track labelled "CO81315", or on iTunes (corrected by iTunes) the track is "CO83185", which is how I've always known it. I still don't know which is correct.
Here we go. I’ve been grossly unfair, but I have to cut myself some slack for my pissiness and unfairness was dictated by mood. In a recent article that I wrote and that was featured on bobdylan.com, a late review of Dylan’s Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart, I wrote (and I believe) that Dylan’s album skipped all of the steps and went straight from pressing to being an instant classic. I think he knew it would. In the same article I said that I felt Aimee Mann’s Christmas album, Another Drifter In The Snow, was not the sound of Christmas at all. It was not, I wrote, in my view the sound of “rockin’ around the Christmas tree.” It was, I wrote, the sound of my maybe-future-would-be could-be suicide.
Friday November 13th, The Wang Theater, Boston
This is not intended as a timely review of Bob Dylan’s show at Boston’s Wang Theater on Friday, November 13th 2009.
When pondering what Dylan album might be crying out in the wilderness for celebration, reappraisal and re-imagining, Nashville Skyline very well might not register much of a blip on the radar screen. Its relative brevity and generalized Music City tone make it easy to overlook despite its genuine moments of poetry, pathos and paradox. Certainly, Dylan’s earlier catalogue or a smattering from the middle or late career suggest themselves as ripe pickins for a semi-major overhaul in the hands of a smart musician and producer.
Why is is that we cannot get enough of Bob Dylan? Why are we such voracious consumers of all that he produces – hell, even if we loathe the vehicle, even if, like me, you saw a CD of songs sold through Starbucks that has, we are told, influenced Dylan, you bought it anyway, maybe hating yourself the whole time for buying into anything that had anything to do with Starbucks and music, and in particular with Dylan - not because he’s some saint, but because part of you somehow figured he was above that fray. Mind you, if you’re in there in the first place, the question to ask yourself is why the hell he should be “above” something that clearly you are not. You are there: you are buying it while you sip your chai latte. Or maybe you did not. Maybe you’re above all that. I’m not.
Walking north chasing the ghosts of my city and cities past
Strange addresses on yellow post-its lead me to forgotten backwater haunts
You may never find this but right now that’s not important. The important thing is that I get this down on paper, filed away somewhere because otherwise, the historical record will be inaccurate and that pisses me off and frankly, it just seems wrong and I hate that. I studied ethics and philosophy. It bothers me that something that ought be said would be left unsaid. This may or may not be of import.
Bob Dylan and the Cultural Loop | An Interview with Journalist Phil Gounis by Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti
Interview Date: August 7, 2008
An Interview with Poet, Critic, Publisher, the popular and the always waxing poetic, especially on all matters Dylan, Phil Gounis.
Phil Gounis was first drawn toward the songs of Bob Dylan in the early 1960's and never lost interest. Dylan’s work through its many changes has continued to intrigue him and influence his oeuvre as it has that of millions of inspired artists worldwide. Gounis is an American poet, novelist, archivist, filmmaker, publisher and critic. His work has been published in various media, and Gounis is well known for his Blues radio program that was popular during the 1970s, “Crackerbox” on KCLC. In the 1980s, Gounis co-founded a magazine of politics and popular culture – Steamshovel Press – with the impetus of publishing an interview with Ram Dass. His work has also appeared in River Styx Magazine. You can find out more about Phil Gounis on Wikipedia by typing in “Philip Gounis”.
For reasons unknown, and while I was almost all alone this New Year's Eve, I found myself listening, between doses of Handel and Beethoven countdowns on the radio, to my vinyl copy of Planet Waves.