Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SILENCE/JANDEK/SONTAG

The Houston, Texas musician Jandek has self-released one or more albums of discordant howling freak folk songs every year since 1978 without granting any interviews to the public.



It wasn't until 2004 that he performed live, unannounced at an obscure folk festival in Scotland. Attendant music geek jaws hit the floor as the recognition slowly set in that the gaunt nearly albino man in black playing on stage matched the likeness of the figure that would sometimes appear on Jandek album covers. The organizers of the festival never claimed to have had any dealings with anyone called Jandek, only "a representative of Corwood Industries" the record label whose sole artist is Jandek and is presumably run single handedly by the individual behind the music.

Below, Susan Sontag has some intelligent things to say on the subject:

"Rimbaud has gone to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the slave trade. Wittgenstein, after a period as a village school-teacher, has chosen menial work as a hospital orderly. Duchamp has turned to chess. Accompanying these exemplary renunciations of a vocation, each man has declared that he regards his previous achievements in poetry, philosophy, or art as trifling, of no importance. 
But the choice of permanent silence doesn't negate their work. On the contrary, it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off—disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its validity, a certificate of unchallengeable seriousness. That seriousness consists in not regarding art (or philosophy practiced as an art form: Wittgenstein) as something whose seriousness lasts forever, an 'end,' a permanent vehicle for spiritual ambition. The truly serious attitude is one that regards art as a 'means' to something that can perhaps be achieved only by abandoning art; judged more impatiently, art is a false way or (the word of the Dada artist Jacques Vaché) a stupidity. 
Though no longer a confession, art is more than ever a deliverance, an exercise in asceticism. Through it, the artist becomes purified—of himself and, eventually, of his art. The artist (if not art itself) is still engaged in a progress toward 'the good.' But whereas formerly the artist's good was mastery of and fulfillment in his art, now the highest good for the artist is to reach the point where those goals of excellence become insignificant to him, emotionally and ethically, and he is more satisfied by being silent than by finding a voice in art. Silence in this sense, as termination, proposes a mood of ultimacy antithetical to the mood informing the self-conscious artist's traditional serious use of silence (beautifully described by Valéry and Rilke): as a zone of meditation, preparation for spiritual ripening, an ordeal that ends in gaining the right to speak.
So far as he is serious, the artist is continually tempted to sever the dialogue he has with an audience. Silence is the furthest extension of that reluctance to communicate, that ambivalence about making contact with the audience which is a leading motif of modern art, with its tireless commitment to the 'new' and/or the 'esoteric.' Silence is the artist's ultimate other-worldly gesture: by silence, he frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, consumer, antagonist, arbiter, and distorter of his work." — Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will, The Aesthetics of Silence 

1 comment:

Runaway Serfer said...

Nice find, trumanwater!