Thursday, September 02, 2010


For the most part I can't listen to pop music while writing or reading intently; the words being sung simply interfere with the words I'm trying to write or read. Even when I was writing the poems of "Anarchy for the U.K.," I couldn't set the iPod on Sex Pistols or Gang of Four or PiL; I'd listen intently, scribbling notes, then I'd switch off and tinker with the evolving collages of the poems. When I read an interview with Jerzy Kosinski where he talked about always listening to rock music at high volumes while writing, I thought to myself, that explains a lot about his his prose style (which I loathed).

I can on the other hand listen to classical or jazz, or really anything without words, & maintain a pretty decent level of concentration on the language before me. Not happy about this, tho – it makes me feel as tho I'm using music which demands & rewards full attention as something little better than sonic wallpaper. Like the listeners to the dire local NPR classical station – all warhorses, all the time – do. "It's nice music to have on in the background." Me, I think Webern's nice music to have on in the background – but I'm sure Anton himself would be pretty pissed off to be so used.

(The most radical refunctioning of the late 20th century: the intensely autonomous "high" art music of the late 19th c. – Brahms, Wagner – retrofitted to the social function of the baroque era's background sound.)


A.J. Ferguson said...

In regards to Kosinski, I remember being quite taken with The Painted Bird, but it has been some time since I read it.

There is a strange connection, for me, between writing and music. I am unable to put my finger on a specific genre of music I am unable to write to. I only know there are things on my 'writing' play list that are there because they do not distract but enhance my ability to work with the mood of a piece: Nick Cave, Patti Smith, The Chemical Brothers, etc.

E. M. Selinger said...

"The most radical refunctioning of the late 20th century..."

Yes--although the transformation of late-1960s rock music into background music in the ketchup aisle comes close.

Looking forward to hearing "Lost in the Supermarket" AT the supermarket, one of these days.