Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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February 29, 2008
"Orson Welles"

TiR was unable for a while this week to identify why Nina Katchadourian's "cover" version of the song entitled "Orson Welles," that appears on this page, was interesting to us for a couple days during the prior week.

We had listened to the "original" version and "conversation" (on the same webpage) with the songwriter, Eric DeLuca, about the circumstances under which he wrote the song.

Then we consciously noticed the dizzying number of lenses or frames-within-frames through which (the ever interesting) Orson is viewed in the cover version.

We decided that, for us at the moment, the cover version is interesting because it is performed by:

an artist in her 40s, who is looking back today at

herself in her 20s, when she was in a band and looked across the stage to

a guy in his 20s, bandmate DeLuca, who wrote the song at Brown University while looking up artistically, it seems, to David Lowery but also laterally at

his fellow students, many of whom sought intellectual guidance by looking to

the 1980s Brown semiotics department, and who, in the songwriter's view at the time, we take it, were somewhat pretentious, as they mimicked and looked up to

the semiotics professors
(folks, we suppose, like
      Robert    Scholes
      (John) Michael Silverman
      Leslie    Thornton and
      Mary Ann Doane)
who, per the song's humorous viewpoint, indoctrinated students about how to view through the eyes of the faculty the films of

a director, whose work relied so much on shifts in lenses and framing, who had died a few years earlier and, who, within the song, is in (or beyond) his dying years and gazes back at his life at various stages, including

himself at age 3, when he looked upon himself as a genius who looked laterally at

the adult world, with which he felt himself reciprocally to converse and regard on equal footing.

Perhaps we're overthinking it. Nothing new there.

However, the tune seems like one of those theatrical conceits in which a character meets and has a conversation onstage with herself at different ages.
(e.g. Jenny Kemp's Still    Angela or
Michel Tremblay's Albertine, in Five Times).

But, here, it's more multi-levelled and confused/ing.

Here, the characters gaze across the time stream to other characters who may exist only in memory, characters who themselves gaze at and converse with still other possibly only remembered characters, and sometimes speak with each others' voices.

All dizzyingly ventriloquistic.

One wonders about how many persons (or artists) might commonly maintain in their imaginations ever-shifting background multilogues of a very similar kind.

Finally, the song also is a reminder of how many messages embedded in a work of art are often "inside jokes" addressed to personal friends. Impersonal recipients and strangers who receive the work as a detached commodity through the medium of the market
(or even via an artist's page on MySpace -- a for-profit entity that seems designed to confuse everybody about who has "friends" and who has "a public.")

    initially can mistake the intended audience
(as indeed being "The Market," or consumers just like ourselves

   (a successful commodity should flatter our personal vanity always))
and misinterpret what the piece means
(e.g., that it is About Great Themes or Universal, Timeless Truths meant for Everyone -- because, after all, the measure of the success of an artwork or any commodity is its use value for the widest possible cross-section of consumers -- right?)
-- forgetting that why many pieces turned out the way they did often cannot be appreciated without reconstruction of an entire, lost time period and social circle of associates, collaborators, competitors, friends and enemies (real or imaginary). Failing that, the rest of us aren't supposed to "get it." And we don't.

Richardon's Picasso biographies seem to be a great recent demonstration of how such a reconstruction of a lost world can come closest to being done.