Drifting on a read

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Title:
Drifting on a read jazz as a model for literary and theoretical writing
Physical Description:
xii, 320 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Jarrett, James Michael, 1953-
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Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Rhetoric -- Effect of jazz music on   ( lcsh )
Style, Literary -- Effect of jazz music on   ( lcsh )
Jazz music in literature   ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre:
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1988.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Statement of Responsibility:
by James Michael Jarrett.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001104276
oclc - 19712563
notis - AFK0438
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AA00002140:00001

Full Text











JAZZ


AS A MODEL


DRIFTING ON
FOR LITERARY


A READ:
AND THEORETICAL


WRITING


JAMES


MICHAEL


JARRETT


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


UNIVERSITY


OF FLORIDA


1988


































Copyright 1988

by

James Michael Jarrett





































Pam and


Boys














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


In this most secular of ages--what we could call


Age of the Book--where both the addressor and the addressee


are demonstrably absent,


it is most fitting that pages of


acknowledgment take the form of prayers


(as Derrida would


remind us, always already answered).


In every case,


they


are benedictions posing as invocations.


Written after books


are complete,


they,


their placement,


nevertheless, stand at their beginnings;


in the liturgy of the Book,


represents a


call to personal muses that will be summarily answered.


shall not depart from this practice.


What follows is a list


of magical names which will,


henceforth,


summon forth my


words. Amen.

I took my first graduate course in English as something

of a lark. It was a course in modern American literature


taught by Dr.


Larry Broer.


actually to start,


working.


He encouraged me to continue,

To him and two other faculty


members at the University of South Florida,


owe a special


debt of gratitude. Robert Chisnell made me aware of the

tropes of Medieval drama. Joseph Bentley provided my first


- .~ -l -








My experience at the University of Florida has been


immeasurably rich.


It is, nevertheless, possible to


out a few moments that have made it


First,


single


while in my


second semester,


took


courses


offered by Gregory Ulmer and


Aubrey Williams and sat


in a class taught by Robert Ray.


subsequent work has virtually been an improvisation on motifs


raised by these men.


Next,


I would like to acknowledge the


influence of a most unlikely pair of scholars.


John Leavey


taught me to read postmodern criticism with the rigor of a


Jesuit and the eye of a heretic.


Melvyn New gave me the


opportunity to read extensively in the literature of satire


and the freedom to write a highly experimental


findings.


essay


Both genuinely cared about my progress.


on my

Last,


regard the members of my supervisory committee--Gregory Ulmer,

Robert Ray, Anne Jones, Andrew Gordon, and Robert D'Amico--as


friends, no small praise given the institutional


constraints


under which students and professors operate.


A host of people, sometimes unknowingly,


have contributed


to my work


Some to whom I


owe a special debt of gratitude


are


follows:


Richard and Yvonne Jarrett, Michael Disch,


Bruce Carnevale, Alex Menocal, John McKenzie, William Kinnally,

Michael and Lori Fagien, Don Ball, and Eric Whiteside.


Finally


wish to thank the two people who,


in vastly


different ways,


serve


as my model


for writing,


which is to
*















TABLE OF CONTENTS


page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS..................................... Iv

ABBREVIATIONS....................................... viii

ABSTRACT.................................. .......... xi

CADENZA............................................. 2

Notes.......................................... 27

CHAPTERS

1 JAZZOLOGY: A BIRD'S EYE VIEW................ 30

Warming Up a Riff......................... 31
Meandering................................ 37
Thriving on a Riff........................ 48
Just for the Record....................... 52
Out of the Tropics........................ 60
Notes......... ................... ... ... 65

2 OBBLIGATO: I GOTTA WRITE TO SING THE BLUES.. 69

Agr ments................................. 69
Obbligato................................. 84
Obbligato Played with a Borrowed Horn:
Ellison's Invisible Man and
Derrida's Dissemination................. 87
Notes..................................... 105

3 SATURA: FILE GUMBO.......................... 108

Amalgam..... ... ...... ......... .. ..... 108
Satura.................................... 124
Eight to the Bar:
Ondaatje's Coming through Slaughter,
Cage's Silence, and a Gathering of
-_ S *









Rapsody in Read: Reed's The Free-Lance


Pallbearers and Barthes's


S. . ....


Notes..................................... 233

CHARIVARI: CONJUGAL WRITES.................. 239

Chasse Beaux................................ 239
Charivari................................. 267


Chasin' the Twain:


Scorsese's


New York, New York and Levi-Strauss's
The Raw and the Cooked.*.............. 273
Notes..................................... 301

WORKS CITED. ........ ............................... 306

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................................. 319














ABBREVIATIONS



Gregory Ulmer, Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy


from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys


(Baltimore: The


Johns Hopkin


Univ.


Press, 1985).


Whitney Balliett, American Musicians


(New York: Oxford


Univ.


Press, 1986).


Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight:


Essays in the


Rhetori


of Contemporary Criticism, 2nd ed


. (Minne-


apolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971)


Nathaniel Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook


(Lexington:


Univ.


of Kentucky,


1986).


Joseph Kerman, Contemplating Music


: Challenges to


Musicology


(Cambridge: Harvard Univ


. Press, 1985).


CMAL


Gary Lindberg,


The Confidence Man in American Litera-


ture


(New York


: Oxford Univ.


Press,


1982T.


CTHC


Robert B. Ray, A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood


Cinema, 1930-1980
1985).


(Princeton: Princeton Univ.


Press,


Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter
Penguin, 1976).


(New York:


Diss


Jacques Derrida, Dissemination,


trans.


Barbara Johnson


(Chicag


Univ.


of Chicago,


1981)


Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz:


Roots and Musical


Development


(New York: Oxford Univ.


Press,


1968).


Ishmael Reed,


The Free-Lance Pallbearers


(New York:


Avon Books,


1967)


Marjorie Perloff,


The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde,


Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture


(Chicago:


I


111


__









HCDM


Don Michael


Randel,


Harvard Concise Dictionary


Music
Press,


(Cambridge:
1978).


The Belknap


Press


Harvard


Univ.


Ralph


Elli


son,


Invisible Man


(New


York:


American


Library,


1947)


Roland Barthes


"The Grain


," Imag


e-Mus


Text,
19-T)


trans


. Stephen


Heath


(New


York


: Hill


and Wang,


"Jazz"


Alan
Word,


Merriam and Fradley H


" Ethnomu


sicology,


. Garn


(1968),


"Jazz--The


385-86.


Martin


Williams,


Jazz


Tradition


(New


York:


Oxford


Univ


. Press


, 1970).


Hayden


White


, Metahistory


Nineteenth-Century


: The Hi


Europe


storical


(Baltimore:


Imagination
Johns Hopkins


Univ.


Press,


1973).


Jacques


Derrida,


Grammatology,


trans.


Gayatri


Chakraborty


Spivak


(Baltimore:


John


Hopkins


Univ.


Press,


1976).


Len Lyons, The
Jazz on Records


Best


(New


Jazz


York


Albums:


A Hi


: William Morrow


story of
and Company,


1980).


Walter


Ong,


the Word


Oralityh
(London


eracy:


: Methuen,


The Technologizing


1982) .


Edward W.


Said,


Orientalism


(New


York:


Vintage


Books,


1978).


Phono


Roland Gelatt,


The Fabulous


Phonograph 1877-1977,


(New


York:


Macmillan


Publishing


1977)


Fredri


Jame


son,


The Politi


Unconscious


: Narrative


as a Soc


ially


Symboli


(Ithaca


: Cornell


Univ


ess


1981).


Claude
duction


John


Levi


to a


-Strauss,


Science


and Doreen


The Raw


Mythology,


Weightman


(Chicago


the Cooked


Volume
: Univ.


: Intro-


trans.


of Chi


Press


, 1969).


cago


1


Y I


1


_


I









Sub


Dick


Hebdige,


Methuen,


Subculture:


The Meaning


1979).


Style


(London:


Umberto
Indiana


Eco, A
Univers


Theory


Press


Semiot
1976)


(Bloomington:


MacDonald


Americ


Smith Moore,
an Identity


Yankee


Blues


(Bloomington:


: Musical


Univ.


Culture
Indiana


Press,


1985)














Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

DRIFTING ON A READ:
JAZZ AS A MODEL FOR LITERARY AND THEORETICAL WRITING

By

James Michael Jarrett


August,


Chairman: Gregory L.


1988


Ulmer


Major Department: English

A pun on Charlie Parker's composition "Drifting on a

Reed," my title points to three questions which guided this


study.


First,


what happens when


jazz enters the discourse


of this culture


Next,


to what extent is j


azz


an effect of


representation


Last, and most important,


what could it


mean to employ jazz


as a model for writing?


To engage these questions,


examine representations of


z in literature and film.


Specifically,


working from a


critical posture associated with postmodern literary theory


and taking Gunther Schuller's study,


Early Jazz,


a departure


point,


survey musicological


treatments of


jazz and locate


four multivalent images--rhapsody,


satura,


obbligato, and


charivari--which mark the entry of


jazz into discourse.


r a f I t a a. S S









jazz.


accomplish


this


task,


pair


four


works


critical


theory with


texts


four


employ


examples


are Jacques


azz


Derrida


fiction.


The critical


s Dissemination,


John


Cage'


Silence,


Roland


Barthes


s S/


and Claude


Levi-Strauss's


Raw


the Cooked.


The fictive


texts


analyzed


are


Ralph


Elli


son


Invis


ible


Man,


Michael


Ondaatje'


Coming


through


Slaughter,


Ishmael


Reed's


The Free-Lance


Pallbearers,


Martin


Scorsese


film New


York,


York.


The purpose


this


pairing


to demonstrate


how the


tropes


jazz


can


employed


as models


conceptual


zing


and writing


critical


theory.


Throughout


this


study


assume


that


acoustical


patterns,


they


are


to be perceived


counted


as music


noise),


must


be mediated,


that


our


experience


such


phenomena


s necessarily


constrained by modes


representation


operative


particular


culture


specific


culturally


sanctioned


representations.
















He suddenly became awar


that th


weird, drowsy throb of the


African song and dance had been swinging drowsily in his brain
for an unknown lapse of time.
--George Washington Cable


Musi


are in


is an oversimplification of the situation we actually
.


--John Cage














CADENZA


My feeling--or my doubtlessly ineradicable prejudice


writer--is that nothing will endure if
that our present task, precisely (now


as a


it remains unspoken;
that the great literary


rhythms I spoke of are being broken up and scattered in a


series


of distinct and almost orchestrated shiverings,


to find a way of transposing the symphony to the Book


: in


short,


to regain our rightful due.


For,


undeniably,


true
bras


source of Music must not be the elemental sound of


ses


, strings,


or wood winds,


but the intellectual and


written word in all it


s glory--Musi


of perfect fullness and


clarity,


the totality of universal relationships.
--St6phane Mallarm6


Couldn't I
of a tune


try.


. Naturally,


. but couldn't I,


it wouldn't be a question


in another medium?


. It


would have to be a book:


don't know how to do anything else.
--Jean-Paul Sartrel


One story told by jazz aficionados--probably the one most


frequently repeated--goes like thi


A socialite asked Louis


Armstrong to define jazz.


He replied,


"Lady,


if you gotta ask


what


you'll never know."2


Coming from an entertainer who would one day be accused


of obsequiousness


(charged with playing the role of Uncle


Tom), Armstrong's rejoinder seems puzzling--uncharacteris-


a S. .3 .t .. -









sycophantic bluestockings.


entertainer,


Or else,


the normally sanguine


feeling especially zealous about his art,


merely expressing a heartfelt conviction.


In either


was


case,


though, whether prompted by frustration or conviction, Arm-


strong's motivations are essentially irretrievable.


importance of hi


declaration lies neither in its putative


origins in an individual psyche,


nor in its correspondence


with some "real"

verbal structure.


object--jazz music--but


It is,


in its status as a


in the words of Kenneth Burke, an


allegory: an interpretation of one semiotic system by the


terms of another.3


Quite obviously,


is not


jazz


(although,


through an imaginative act of "reframing," we might be able


to hear it as such).


The issue,

jazz speaks, wh


it has made


jazz speak.


then, at least for my purpose,


iat does it say?


is this: when


To engage this question,


necessarily involve myself


in several large issues in


aes-


thetics and,


then,


initiate an investigation into what might


be called the discourse of


jazz,


studying representations


jazz in literature


(nonfiction and fiction)


and film


(Martin


Scorsese's New York,


New York).


Throughout this study I


assume that our experience of


jazz is not simply a matter of


acoustic


but that,


like any other experience, musical


otherwi


is contingent upon, mediated and constrained


by, prior representations.


Jazz,


it turns out,


is an idea









and presence in and for the West."4


Detailing this history


and tradition is a task this study assumes.


Students of


literature and critical theory will


immedi-


ately notice that my real subject here is the problem of


representation and that my study is redolent of


tively indebted to)


White'


(if not posi-


such well-known, applied studies as Hayden


Metahistory and Said's aforementioned Orientalism,


like the authors of these texts,


I seek not to formulate


a veridic discourse about some autonomous object


(which has


been, and, often still is,


the goal


of musicologists, histor-


ians, and Orientalists), but to theorize a group of texts


which constitute a body of knowledge.


I examine systems of discourse;


from Said, analyze "the text's surf


Like White and Said,


to take another phrase

ace, its exteriority to


what it describes"


(Or, 20).


My emphasis


s does differ from


theirs,


however.


White character


zes


historical texts as


"in reality formalizations of poetic insights that analytically

precede them and that sanction the particular theories used


to give historical accounts the aspect of an


xii).


zes


'explanation'"


His elaborate schema, which systematically organ-


the ways rhetorical tropes are formalized--transformed


into plots,


arguments, and ideologies--bears this out.


Said


regards Orientalism as "a distribution of geopolitical aware-


nPCC in-n Asacd-h~Pi r


crhnlv a r 1 v nnnnm r -


Snri n1 nnaI rl


hisctor-









sustained argument bear this out.


Imagine


jazz as the


musical and written dissemination of several culturally engen-


dered images or,


in Barthes's designation,


symbolic codes,


and I


trust that this


essay


will not only bear this out,


will


convince the reader that,


when applied to the study of


jazz texts


(and, by extension, any kind of text), postmodern


critical theory is not merely adequate for analysis


s (i.e.,


verification)


but for invention


as well.


In short,


then,


White foregrounds the logic of consciousness


("a historical


thinker chooses conceptual strategies by which to explain or


represent his data"--MH,


x); Said foregrounds the logic of


ideology

energies


(the "intellectual, aesthetic, scholarly,


[which


and cultural


went into the making of an imperialist tradi-


tion"--Or, 15);


foreground the logic of writing.


But again,


this is a matter of emphasis.


written representation seriously:


three texts treat the


first, because writing


always signifies a strategy of circumscription, whereby some

thing is forced to submit to the institution authorizing the


written text;


second, because writing always signifi


strategy of production,


whereby a thing is made to come into


representation, made to make sense.



II









code.


First,


it is a commonplace.


It refers to,


but at the


same time summarily refuses to define or sanction, an accepted


body of knowledge about ja

of language to obscure mor


zz, and it points to the "capacity


than it clarifies in any act of


verbal figuration"


(MH,


37).


In other words,


through the


rhetorical figure of aporia


(literally "doubt"),


jazz has


been brought


into language,


imbued with an ironic voice that


tacitly acknowledges a preestablished and normati


knowledge, and, paradoxically, afforded "a basi


tific or moral authority."5


body of


in scien-


Armstrong, a sign functioning


as a metonym for the sign


jazz, alludes to and,


thus, affirms


an inarticulable body of knowledge and an ever-receding epis-

temology for the express purpose of warranting an authorita-


tive, but highly problematic,


withdrawal from discourse.


Next,


as a gnomic expression,


a speech formula repeatedly


appropriated by members of a subculture


(which I shall call


"the jazz community"), Armstrong's rejoinder reflects and


reinforces social relationships.


Taking a phrase introduced


by Malinowski and theorized extensively by Jakobson,


tions phatically.


it func-


It conveniently divides the world into


two groups,


those who do not know what


jazz is and those who


no longer ask, and it sententiously reaffirms a set of shared


assumptions


(cultural codes or connotations)


about the nature


of the music.6


Nevertheless,


the double bind it


- P- I- .


expresses--







7

example, Barthes observes that language manages "very badly"


"when it has to interpret music," and Elmer Bernstein


Man with the Golden Arm,


(The


The Magnificent Seven, Walk on the


Wild


virtually


revises


Armstrong's quip when he states,


"Music is particularly emotional:


if you are affected by it,


you don't have to ask what it means."7


Indeed, music is traditionally characterized


tional,


"irra-


" "unrepresentable," "largely unknowable and mysteri-


ous":


that is to say,


as a woman.


Novelist Fatima Shaik,


The Mayor of New Orleans, acknowledges this when she has her


character, Walter, declare,


and truth is too,"


"Music and love is both women


and thus echo Nietzsche's formulation,


"Truth is a woman."

of film music, note


Carol Flinn,


is it when she w


in her study of the discourse

rites: "the tendency to


align music in general with the feminine circulates extensively


across


a wide range of critical


celebrates it.


theory."8


He imagines the drum


And Duke Ellington


as a woman,


"its form a


womb,


its skin a maidenhead";


in his autobiography, Music Is


My Mistress,


Music i


Music


Music i
Simple,


in a poem entitled "Music," he writes:


a beautiful woman in her prime,
a scrubwoman, clearing away the dirt and grime,
a girl child
sweet and beaming,


A thousand years old,


Cold


sleet, and


scheming.9


Although this stanza and the ten which follow it make one


A









Jazz,


it seems,


"organizes"


its discourse by advancing


"a real or feigned disbelief


in the truth of


its own state-


ments"


(MH,


37).


It inscribes, even shrouds itself with


mysteriousness


(aporia/unsigni f abilityy.


It does thi


several levels:


the level of employment or narration


(the


Armstrong anecdote),


the level of poetics or figuration


(Ellington


engendered metaphor),


the level of


ideology


(the implications of an epistemology based on inarticulable


"experience,"


a secularized version of divine revelation)


and the level of exposition or argument


demonstrate).


(as I


will later


And it lays claim to a double enigma.


It can


be neither notated on a score, nor represented in words.


classical music cannot be put into words, or


the argument


goes,


it can,


nonetheless, be notated


(here and elsewhere I


employ the term classical music and,


occasionally,


if I


want


to convey a hint of


irony,


the proper noun Music


as an inclu-


sive term referring to the entire European musical tradition).

In fact, notation and classical music are related reciprocally;

the development of each is unthinkable without the other.


Jazz, on the other hand,


is characterized


as wholly other.


Certainly,


this claim demands scrutiny; we must return to


Before we do that,


however,


we shall consider another


bold claim--one made by Mallarm6 in the 1890s.


It functions


as a pedal point for my study.10


He wrote:


"Mystery is said









The jazz community,


like all subcultures, differentiates


itself


from the larger culture:


by marking off a body of


knowledge--what Julio CortAzar had one of his bohemian char-

acters in Hopscotch self-righteously proclaim "a repertory

of insignificant things"--that distinguishes and situates


(albeit problematically)


an "inside" and an "outside" audience,


by protecting and policing this body of knowledge by


repeating it in the form of gnomic codes or references to


specialized repertori


es.


Indeed, as anyone familiar with


the hit parade


(or the rankings of Cash Box, Billboard, Radio


and Records, and Rolling Stone)


understands,


repetition consti-


tutes


(creates and reflects)


recognition.


When a subculture,


out of all the utterances made by its member


particular


, grants one


statement the status of "proverb," recognizes it


as meaningful,


it does so by repeating it.


Or conversely,


when a subculture, out of all


the utterances made by a single,


highly-regarded member,


repeats one particular statement,


that


statement acquires meaning;


it becomes a proverb.


Repetition, as numerous theorists argue, has consequences.


According to Benjamin,


it "emancipates the work of art from


its parasitical dependence on ritual,


question of


" displaces the whole


"authenticity," and brushes "aside a number of


outmoded concepts, such


as creativity and genius, eternal


value and mystery."


For Attali.


writina specifically of the









price system. "13


We shall concern ourselves with,


perhaps,


less utopian themes and look at two effects of repetition:

the destabilization of the notion of author and the notion

of meaning.


If a statement gets repeated, gains recognition


proverb or cultural code,


exc


then it must give up its


lusive product of a single consciousness.


claim


Proverbs,


by definition,

subcultural) t


express agreed upon


:ruths.


(if only


For the materialist,


localized or

they are products


ideology.


For the metaphysician,


they are utterances of


Truth.


Therefore, elevating


lowering)


Louis Armstrong's


rejoinder to the level


(or raises)


of proverb, paradoxically,


reduces


its author to one--but only the first--in a


to cite an "already-written" truth about


jazz.


series


Repetition


retrospectively transforms the author of the phrase,


"If you


gotta ask,


you'll never know,"


into a


"collective and anonymous


voice


" the voice of


jazz


(s/z,


18).


The phrase itself


tionships,


is transformed into a system of rela-


completely independent of what one literary theor-


ist, Paul


de Man, describes


of a presence."14


Practically,


Theoretically


it means only what,


"the substantive assertions

y, it can come to mean anything.


but everything that,


"collective and anonymous voice" of


azz


will allow.


As an


i ma 1 rl mnl tB nn 4- a r A nn n h a aa I l o t nf mt i nrt


1 ^jyc~ h ^^ mn a n i









nevertheless,


unalterable and,


through work or help from on


high,


discoverable.


Obviously,


I must delineate what


I mean by this now-


mysterious voice of


jazz and investigate its textual-political


machinations,


but before I begin that task,


notice that the conditions


(e.g., cutting,


the reader must

spacing, and graft-


ing)


which operate on Armstrong


rejoinder--making it possible


and destabilizing it at one and the same time--moving


from an "original" utterance created in the moment to a cita-

tion of the "already formulated"--all derive from an economy


of repetition


(writing in the broad sense)


and operate on


all texts


(including thi


oneJ.


Far exceeding any narrowly


circumscribed boundaries of


tions,


language or writing,


t


of what has been called a theory of general


hese condi-

textuality,


serve as tropes--collectively, as models or rhetorics--by which


post-modernist theory conceptualizes


(produces or


imagines)


the world.


Rather than suggesting a theory which regards


music and language as different effects of similar conditions


(formalism)


or as isomorphic systems


(structuralism),


hence,


graspable through some especially sufficient metadiscourse


of science


(a master


language for consumers),


they suggest


the possibility that debates over referentiality


also must pass through)


(which we


can be finally displaced by a theory


of textual nrondctinn thAt wnnli, rnarA Ar 1 nnianom anAi micin









By the term trope I,


of course,


not only refer to "turns"


or "tricks"


used loosely,


language, but allude to a musical term which,

signifies any interpolation or embellishment


"of text, music, or both into a liturgical chant"


As one will recall, most scholars hold that


(HCDM).


it was from such


tropes--the Quem quaeritis texts--that medieval drama


developed.


Bevington writes:


According to a ninth-century monk from St. Gall named


Notker Babulus,


"tropes" had begun as word


ess


musical


sequences with which the singers in the choir would
embellish the vowel sounds of certain important words


in the service.


alleluia in the in
the Easter mass.
of this sort had b


One such word,


troit


for example, was the


(opening processional chant)


Babulus reports that musical tropes
become so elaborate in the ninth century


that words were added to make the sequences easier to
memorize.15


But,


and this


is the rub,


tropes were amplifications of holy


texts--the liturgy and the scriptures.


They signified a


rupture in the Church'


s hegemony,


for taken collectively,


they tended towards gl


osso


lalia or plurality.


They allowed,


some might say encouraged,

(literally "misuse"), "the


the rhetorical figure of catachresis


Manifestly absurd Metaphor designed


to inspire Ironic second thoughts about the nature of the


thing characterized or the inadequacy of


the characterization


itself"


(MH,


37).


And just


surely as the Protestant Refor-


mation


(in 1517 Luther affixed his 95 theses to the Schloss-


kirche at Wittenberg)--itself a trope writ large--they opened









glossed.


practice--what


surprisingly,


we could


impli


call


cations


politics


tropological


mnemonics


logic


embellishment--proved


much


Roman


Church


to bear.


the Council


Trent


(1545-63),


con-


sidered abolishing


"all


music


service


other


than


plain-


song,


" and


ended


suppressing


"all


four


tropes


sequences"


(HCDM).


Drama,


course,


continued


to be


thorn


the side


both


Catholics


Protestants.


My main


point


here


relatively


straightforward.


like


White,


we follow the practice


"traditional


poetics


and modern


language


theory"


postulate metaphor,


metonymy,


synecodoche,


irony


four


basic


tropes


figurative


language,


then


representations


music


are


easily


classified


ironic,


preci


sely


because


they


tend


to draw


attention


inadequacy


their


own


representations.


They


are


"'senti-


mental'


Schiller's


sense


'self-conscious


arti-


ficial


(MH,


term,


37) .


though,


emphasizing


we notice


the medieval


obvious--that


jazz


use


always


conceived as


operating


according


logic


i.e.,


tricks


turns


embellis


hment


broadest


sense


the word)--and


we understand


that


very


notion


trope


already


implies


a more-or-i


ess,


self-conscious


deploy-


ment


the musical


written


sign


s arbitrariness


, then


our


work


has,


actually,


only


begun.


We need


to write


trope


I













In "The Rhetoric of Blindness,"


"real" Rousseau,


de Man maintains that the


opposed to Rousseau's misinterpreters


(whether Starobinski, Raymond,


or Poulet--the unwittingly


blind--or Derrida--the wittingly aberrant),

implications and consequences" of general t


understood "the


:extuality--"the


semiotic and non-sensory status of the sign"--and that,


the Essay on the Origin of Languages


(which had the original


title, Essai sur


le principle de la ml1odie), he reversed


"the prevailing hierarchy of eighteenth-century aesthetic

theory" by asserting "the priority of music over painting


(and,


within music, of melody over harmony)


in terms of a


value-system that is structural rather than substantial"


127).


(B&I,


As partial evidence for this contention, de Man produces


the following passage from Rousseau's Essay.


What is impor-


tant, for our purposes,


is its restatement and extension of


an oft-repeated analogy between music and language, which,


by underscoring points I have already introduced,


further


illustrates the destabilization of meaning necessarily accom-

panying a theory of representation that privileges the conse-


quences of general


textuality.


No sound by itself posses
allow us to identify it:


ses


absolut


s high or


attributes that


low,


loud or


soft with respect to another sound only.


By itself.


IKL.









In this system of signs,


rellement,"


where "un son n'est rien


"the musical sign," writes de Man,


. natu-


"can never be


identical with itself or with prospective repetitions of


itself."

stance"


It i

(B&I,


volatile,


128):


"not being grounded in any sub-


characterized by aporia.


On the one hand, music


a moment,
meaning;


is condemned to exist always


as a persistently frustrated intent toward


on the other hand,


it from remaining within the moment.


this very frustration prevents


(B&I,


129)


Walter Ong makes a similar observation when he states,


"Sound exists only when it is going out of existence.

not simply perishable but essentially evanescent."17


It is

And


Sartre's character Roquentin writes:


For the moment,


the jaz


playing;


only notes, a myriad of tiny jolt


there i


no melody,


They know no rest,


an inflexible order gives birth to them and destroys
them without even giving them time to recuperate and


exist for themselves.


They race,


they press forward,


they strike me a sharp blow in passing and are obliter-


ated.


would like to hold them back,


but I know if I


succeeded in stopping one it would remain between my


finger


only as a raffish languishing sound.


accept their death;


I must even will it.


impressions stronger or more harsh.


I must


I know few


(Nausea, 21)


But whereas Ong


(as part of his program to distinguish orality


from literacy)


and Sartre


(as part of an extended analogy)


emphasis


the unique physical properties of sound, de Man


general


izes


its semiotic implications to make a point about


textuality.


Ong states,


"[N]o other


sensory


field totally


resists a holding action, stabilization,


in quite thi


way"









"Like music,


language is a diachronic system of relation-


ships"


(B&I,


32).


In effect,


de Man


reverses


the commonplace,


"Music works


like a language," to read,


"Language works like music,"


declares the conventional superordinate/subordinate relation-


ship between language and music problematic


(if not void),


and suggests a fundamental or, at least, an imaginable homology


between language and music.


Like Mallarm&,


he enlarges the


boundaries of the written word to admit mystery--a domain


formerly


ass


signed to


(structuring) music.


Indeed,


insofar


an analogous


(even homologous)


rela-


tionship between the workings of music


systems can be maintained,


and language as sign


the adage "music is a language"


(with the metaphorical


vehicle,


language, structuring our


conception of a tenor, music)


can be reversed and pressed


into a new metaphorical


(allegorical)


arrangement.


Music


can serve as a vehicle structuring a tenor,


"language," and


language can be


(to employ a highly suspect verb)


imaged


a music--the relational play of difference, a matrix of possi-


abilities.


But,


here again,


there are consequences.


When we


admit a metaphorical reciprocity between music and language


--aver


that "music is a language


a music"--or allow that


language may be a subordinate category of a superordinate


cateaorv. music.


-c -


in sffs nrt-, ArPclar0 tha t e ho rla*-i n ncin









cultural/political necessity--not substance.


a metaphysics of presence,


Unhooked from


from an unshifting, ontological


base


(or tenor),


the words we employ and the syntagms we


construct fall under a logic of


structural relativity conven-


tionally reserved for explanations of music or,


in Derrida


employment of the term,


writing.


He states:


For some time now


. one


says


"language" for action,


movement,


ness,


thought,


reflection,


experience, affectivity,


"writing"


consciousness


etc.


unconscious-


Now we tend to say


. to designate not only the physical


gestur
tion,


of literal pictographi


or ideographic inscrip-


but also the totality of what makes it possible;


and also,
face itsel


beyond the


signifying face,


the signified


And thus we say "writing" for all that


gives rise to an inscription in general, whether it is
literal or not and even if what it distributes in space
is alien to the order of the voice: cinematography, chore-


ography,
tural "w


of cour
writing."


, but also pictorial, musical, sculp-
One might also speak of athletic writ-


ing, and with even greater certainty of military or
political writing in view of the techniques that govern


those domains today.


this to describe not only the


system of notation secondarily connected with these


activities but the


essence


and the content of these


activities themselves.18


Thus,


before ensconcing "music"


as the new term of privi-


lege,


we must call for a deconstruction of the binary opposi-


tion music/language


(a project only suggested here),


one


that would stage the question: To what degree is the term


music


(as a key term in a particular system)


"broached/ruptured/held incomplete by that element


semantics?


closure as


[writing?


which the system must exclude in order to find


a system and yet is necessary for the functioning









logocentrism


("writing reined in by metaphor, metaphysics,


theology"--OG,


would need to demonstrate


(write out)


the "structurally and axiologically determined rela-


tionship"


assumed between language and music


(OG,


27);


the means by which one set of phenomena--the "identity


category" music--is made to differ from another set of

phenomena--the "identity category" language;20


and the historico-metaphysical effects of


(maintaining)


such a system of difference.

More practically, such a study could ask such questions as:

1) Can we read music as an effect or continuing realiza-


tion


(exploration and repression)


writing or recording


(i.e.,


the possibility of


hypomnesia or "artificial


memory")


2) Can we demonstrate that


"recording technologies"


(from


musician's guilds and griot society


compact discs)


to sheet music and


traditionally perceived as supporting


music were actually the conditions for the possibility


of music?


For example,


standard notation,


is it possible to show that


ostensibly developed


an efficient


means for recording music on paper, carried beyond its


goal and made classical music possible?


Contrariwise,


can we demonstrate that recording technologies make

music impossible by undoina orevionlslv rstahlih a enn rn-









Thelonious Monk,


one of the founders of modern


jazz


(bebop),


was also one of


its dismantlers.


Is building


and dismantling a simultaneous operation?


Given "that historicity itself


is tied to the possi-


ability of writing"


(OG,


27),


what


is the historical


relationship between music


and writing


(Acriture:


inscrip-


tion in the narrow sense of


the word)?


What modes of


representation have been privileged or disallowed when

writing about music?

4) To what extent is the history of music--as one version


(one track)


of a


(multi-tracked)


history of recording


technologies--a series of


ideological strategies cal-


culated to contain


(repress)


the effects of new recording


technologies by forcing those effects to bolster or

disguise the vulnerable points of previous technologies.


Do the recording technology


associated with music


(from apprenticeship to digital sampling)


anticipate,


duplicate, or follow technological changes in other


areas of culture?


And how far can one generalize from


the compositional strategies associated with music


(writing in the broad sense of the word)


to compositional


and apply them


tasks in other disciplines?


6) Music is often characterized


a nonrepresentational


semiotic system.


Quoting Eco.


it "presents. on the one









denotative value (trum

are syntagms or entire


pet signals in the army)


'texts


and there


possessing pre-culturalized


connotative value


('pastoral'


'thrilling


' music,


etc.).


meaning


The question is,


(denotation and connotation)


by what process do we assign


to such a system?


And should we conceive of music as a semiotic system


that normally


lacks meaning


(i.e.,


as an exceptional or


deficient language)


or as a system where overdetermi-


nation--a surfeit of meaning--is labeled lack, until

such time as cultural restrictions generate a semantic

effect.

The project outlined by these questions--an elaboration or

application of structuralist and post-structuralist thinking


applied to music--is part,


begun pro-gram: grammatology.


but only an extension,


In fact,


of an already


as Eco maintains,


"the whole of musical science since the Pythagoreans has

been an attempt to describe the field of musical communication


a rigorously structured system"


(TS,


10),


then grammatology


could be regarded as the discordant overtones of just such an

attempt--that is, unless we read musical science as an ever-


vigilant effort to dampen the grammatological implications


its own endeavors.


Rousseau,


as we have seen, announces


(and,


in Derrida's


reading, summarily suppresses


- a


imatoloav when he works an









issues


assoc


iated


with


in The


Rational


Social


Founda-


tions


of Musi


when


speculates


the question:


"Why


polyphonic


tone


well


system develop


harmonic-homophoni


the widely


music


diffused


modern


preconditions


polyvocality


only


the Occident


A Theory


Semiotics


Eco writes:


We note


that


scarcely


until
been


a few year
influenced


s ago


contemporary


current


mus


icology


structuralist


studi


, which


are


concern


with


methods


themes


that


absorbed


three


century


years


es ago.
musical


Neverthel
semiotics


ess


been


definite


establi


s 'pedigree'


the pioneer


J.J.


works


Nattiez


shed


a discipline


developing
et us quote


in Musique


new
the
jeu,


aiming


perspectives.
bibliography
5. 1971. As


find
Among
elaborated


relationship


music
1967),


pref


betw


cultural


Ruwet


ace


(1959,


een


music and


anthropology,


1973)


The Raw


lingui


see


Levi


stics
Jakob


-Strauss


the Cooked)


between


son


(1964,


(1965,


Outlines


new


trends


are


to be


found


Natti


(1971,


1972,


1973),


Osmond-Smith


(1972)


(1972,


other


1973),


(TS,


Stefani


(1973),


sseur


10-11)


list


Attali,


Noise


we should

; David


Sudnow,


yven more

Talk's


recent

Body: A


studies


Meditatio


Jacques

n between


Two K


keyboards;


Joseph


Kerman,


Contemplating Music;


and Wendy


Steiner,


, The Sign


in Music


and Literature.


In Appli


ed Grammatology,


work


theory


zing


pedagogical


application


a mode


writing


longer


subordinated


speech


thought,


" Gregory


Ulmer


identifies


three


phases


grammatol


ogy:


history


writing


(still


under


way),


eory


writing


(one


vers


now


formulated b


errida).


i ..


. -


U~IU U


1








seeks to maneuver the discourse of


musicology,


jazz--representations in


literature, and film--into a position from which


this goal could be actively pursued.



IV


Jazz cognoscenti


will immediately notice the "origin"


of my title.


easy


pun on Charlie Parker's composition


"Drifting on a Reed,"


it points to three questions which


directed my endeavors.


First,


what happens when


jazz


(imaged


metonymically


as a reed)


realm of reading


effect of


Next,


representation


enters discourse


to what extent i


(e.g.,


(imagined


jazz always an


of phonograph records or


writing), and to what extent do jazz music and jazz literature


enjoy a reciprocal relationship?


Finally, and most impor-


tantly,


what could it mean to employ jazz


a model for


writing


(composition and improvisation)?


In order to engage these questions I read widely in the


literature of


jazz, and in


so doing,


I noticed and, finally,


isolated four multivalent tropes which,


a set, provide


azz


with a rhetoric


They are the images of


the obbligato


or agreements,


the satura or amalgam,


the rhapsody or


counterfeit,


the charivari


or chasse beaux.


Marking


the entry of


jazz into discourse,


these images


(examples of








level.


But this is not all.


They also enable what I


come


to label


jazzology


(musicological methodology applied to the


study of


jazz).


That


they make possible the "serious"


study of


jazz and disrupt such a study--and they provide us


with a model for writing;


indeed,


they have already been proven


as generative


(agents of dissemination).


organize my dis-


cussion by these tropes.


In the first chapter,


touch on the broad theoretical


issues raised by an investigation of the discourse of


jazz,


spell out what I mean by a "grammatological" study, and explain


my methodology.


Chapters Two through Five are organized by


the four tropes and form the body of my essay.


has two main parts


Each chapter


(with one transitional section).


first part locates a particular trope in the nonfiction liter-


ature of


jazz and analyzes how it has been employed to generate


a referential--i.e., scientific--effect.


Here,


like White,


I demonstrate that the supposedly scientific text is predicated

on a conceptualization of phenomena that is "generally poetic,


and specifically


linguistic,


in nature"


(MH,


ix), and I argue


that nonfiction representations of


jazz most often work by


disguising their


literary-rhetorical base


(i.e., suppressing


ideologically disenfranchised connotations of

fiers which make representation possible). T

points evident I stage an especially close, i


the very signi-


o make these

intentionally









surveys of what a literary scholar would call


jazz criticism


exist,


and since no study has taken the literature of


jazz


its sole object of study,


beginning with Chapter Two


the first part of every chapter


necessarily detailed.


second part of each chapter,


however,


is much sketchier,


in the interest of suggesting a broad range of approaches to


a wide range of materials,


choose to recommend departure


points, actually critical positions, from which one could


play out full-fledged grammatological experiments.


Here,


match the trope I located in the nonfiction literature of

jazz with exemplary literary and theoretical texts, and briefly


suggest


how the literary


(i.e.,


the belletristic)


representation of


jazz can be conceptualized--i.e.,


organized


and disrupted--as the play of these highly efficacious images,


how these same tropes


("turns"


or "tricks")


occupy


the concerns of postmodern critical theory


The pairings of


texts made in the second, more experimental parts of Chapters

Two through Five are most easily represented by the following

figure:


CHAPTER TWO
OBBLIGATO
Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man
Jacques Derrida
Dissemination


CHAPTER THREE


SATURA


Michael Ondaatje
Coming Through Slaughter
John Cage
Silence


CHAPTER FOUR


CHAPTER FIVE









Briefly,


obbligato,


both what


is obligatory and merely


an ornament,


raises the issue of composition and improvisation.


The refrain


"What did I


do to be


so black and blue?" and the


Rinehart episode from Ellison


s Invi


sible Man, are examined


with a view towards writing obbligati


on these texts rather


than writing a "theme" about them.


The experimental


essay


which results from this study takes its lead from Derrida


Dissemination which,


a whole, advances the "thesis" that


the concept thesis is untenable:


a hermeneutic of dissemination


could replace a hermeneutic concept of polysemy.

Satura, a word originally signifying a mixture or medley,

and the word from where we get the English word "satire,"


contests and,


yet, maintains distinctions between the pure


and the amalgam.


Cage's Silence is read


a manifesto declar-


ing modern music's reinvestigation of satura


a generative


trope, and Ondaatje's docu-novel


is advanced


as a model work,


repeating the image of the satura on both the syntagmatic


and paradigmatic


axes.


This section surveys fictive represen-


stations of


jazz music through a model derived from Cage and


Ondaatje.


Rhapsody works off notions of


symphony and order and


problematic


the opposition "counterfeit/genuine."


Ishmael


Reed's work


taken


a rapp


(an counterfeit coin that passed


for current


in 18th-century Ireland),


i.e.,


as a genuine


w i









(classical) musical score"


and that "to unlearn the readerly


would be the


same


to unlearn the tonal"


(s/z,


30).


The Charivari


represents the ritual/political employ-


ment of noise


(noi


comes from the Old French word "nausea").


The Raw and the Cooked provides the conceptual tools for


viewing New York, New York,


a film directed by Martin Scorsese,


as a celebration and a warding off of


unnatural unions.


In its efforts to set up the possibility of a grammato-

logical reading of texts devoted to the representation of


jazz,


this study,


finally, offers the reader a choice of


thesi


s statements:


Certain literary or artistic texts, although sometimes


only intermittently, assume a grammatological


writing and "self-consciously"


theory of


employ a grammatological


methodology in representing jazz.


2) Certain literary or artistic texts,


because they


represent provisional solutions to the problem of repre-

senting jazz, can be understood or conceptualized as


creative imitations, elaborated or


improvised models,


not of some transcendental signified named Jazz,


the cultural codes that make sense


jazz


but of


(and nonsense)


in this culture.


The first thesis assumes that


jazz served as a model for


literary writing;


it finds something


mimesiss).


The second









effects, does not make analysis or "scholarship"


its goal.


Here,


instead of analyzing j


azz,


one would use it


as an occa-


sion for making a text.


of course,


is Barthes lesson


s/z.


He writes,


"[T]he goal


of literary work


(of liter-


ature


work)


is to make the reader no longer a consumer,


but a producer of the text"


(S/z,


And it is also the


lesson of the elementary school teacher who has her students


draw or paint


in response to music.


The active reader or writer


(the two can be scarcely


differentiated)


assumes something elementary:


texts prompt


texts.


Every jazz musician knows this, knows that the best


response to someone else's composition or solo is to blow


one of your own.


Sartre knew it, and Kerouac knew it.


Sartre


believed that the most adequate response he could possibly

have to listening to Sophie Tucker sing "Some of These Days"


was to write Nausea.


Kerouac, after hanging out on 52nd


Street,


listening to Monk, Bird, and Dizzy,


wrote On the


Road.


And I know it too.


Notes


1The


citations which form this study's epigraph were


taken from George Washington Cable,


Hill and Wa
town, Conn.


ng,


1957),


96, and


The Grandissimes


John Cage, Silence


: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1961), p. 149.


at the beqinninq of "Cadenza"


(New York:
(Middle-


The epigraph


is from Stdphane Mallarm4,









2Len Lyons,


on Records


The 101 Best Jazz Albums:


(New York


A History of J


azz


: William Morrow and Company, 1980), p.


3Kenneth Burke,


in Hayden White, Metahistory:


The Histor-


ical
John
tion


Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe


Hopkins Univ


. Pr


ess,


1973)


14-15


(Baltimor


Subsequent cita-


s from White will be designated in the body of the text


as MH


4Edward W


1978), p.


. Said, Orientalism
Subsequently cited


(New York:


Vintage Books,


as Or


Roland Barthes,


Hill


and Wang,


trans.


1974),


Richard Miller


Subsequently


(New York:


cited parenthetic-


ally by title.


6Roman Jakobson and B. Malinowski


The Raw and the Cooked:


Introduction to


in Claude L~vi-Strauss,
a Science of Mythology,


volume i,


trans


of Chicago Press,


. John and Doreen Weightman


(Chicago: Univ.


1969), p.


7Roland Barthes,


"The


Grain of the Voice," Image-Musi


Text trans.
p. 179; Eln


(New York: A.


Stephen Heath
ier Bernstein,


Barnes,


subsequently cited


(New York


: Hill and Wang,


in Tony Thomas, Musi


1973),


. 193.


1977),


for the Mov


Image-Music-Text


IMT.


8Carol Flinn,


"The


of Film Music," Screen,


'Problem'


of Femininity in Theories


(1986), 57-58.


9Brian Morton,
Ellington, Music Is


Company, 1971), p


"Percussion," Wire, April 1988, p.
My Mistress (Garden City: Doubleda


12; Duke
iy and


. 39-40.


10A pedal point consi


in the bas
other part
of Music,


continuing to sound


"a long-held note, normally
as harmonies change in the


--Don Michael Randel, Harvard Con


(1978).


Charles Mingu


cise


Dictionary


I associate the term with jazz bassist


but here and throughout this study,


assume


that the reader has neither a specialized knowledge of musical


terms nor a broad acquaintance with ja


subsequently cited


zz musicians.


Randel


HCDM.


"Mystery in Literature,"


and Pr


ose


. 32


in Selected Poetry


_ __


m m m


1


_ _~__


I


IlMallarmb,


I_









Music,
Press,


trans. Brian Massumi


1985),


106-107.


(Minneapolis, Univ.


of Minnesota


Attali subsequently cited as Noise.


14Paul de Man,


Blindness and Insight:


Rhetoric


of Contemporary Criticism,


University of Minnesota Press,


2nd ed.


1971), p


Essays in the
(Minneapolis:


. 128


Subsequently


cited


B&I.


15David Bevington, Medieval Drama


(Boston: Houghton


Mifflin, 1975), pp.


21-22.


. Rousseau,


Essai


sur


i'origine des langues,


texte


reproduit d'aprds l'4dition A. Belin de 1817


(Bibliothbque du


Graphe:


Pari


536,


in B&I,


. 128


17Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy


: The Technologi


zing


of the Word


(London: Methuen, 1982), p.


Subsequently


cited


as O&L.


18Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology,


trans.


Gayatri Chakra-


borty Spivak


(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ.


Press, 1976),


Subsequently cited as OG.


19Robert Cheatham,


"Interview: Jacques Derrida," Art


Papers, Jan.-Feb.


1986, p


0Roger Brown,


Words and Things


(New York: The Free Press,


1958),


21Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics


(Bloomington


: Indiana


University Press,


1976), p.


Subsequently cited as TS.


22Max Weber,


The Rational and Social Foundations of Music,


trans


. and ed. Don Martindale, Johannes Riedel and Gertrude


Neuwirth


(Carbondal


Southern Illinois Univ. P


ress,


1958),


p. 83


3Gregory Ulmer, Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy


from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys


(Baltimore


: The Johns


Hopkins Univ.


Press, 1985),


Subsequently cited


. 31


n.d.),














CHAPTER 1
JAZZOLOGY: A BIRD'S EYE VIEW


Storyville nights,


tne
oser
airl
ch un
th sc


Bla
to
beb
hot
in
wal
Cop
bri


ck B
labe
op,
and
cont
tz,
enha
ngs


that g
they c
lonely
a music
of ins
the re
in Bix
Horace
or Art
small
strange
and th
room o
of mus
is tru
way th
grates


C
t


century
together


ines,
ivers
hisms
ottom
1 its
cool,
inte
rast
the z
gen a
adole
ves t
n kno
surro


a
s
s
h
w
u


c that
trument
action
Beider
Silver
Tatum,
groups,
e title
at whol
r in so
ic that
e unles
ings ar
or imm


had
and
music
ty a
bdic
ts S
rms,
coun
ctua
stup


mba,
well
cents
em na
each
nded
accep
al 78
ry cu


b




e
Im

s
e
i


where
come f
I


1
C
nd
at


id


a m
as
to
mes
ot
by
ts
'S
It


ecke, o
or Tha
repenta
mystery
and la
freeman
ie basem
horrific
there
and ja
grates


n a
which
goo
ions
mmy,
his
rpoi
jazz
ani
usic
in
geth
and
her
boss
all
with
of D
r in
d Jo
nce
ous
bels
sonr
ent
es s
are
zz i
or t


the old
rom, so
better
h was p
d enough
, and h
its Fo
style a
nt of r


only
methi
way t
rimit
h to
eresi
x Tro
nd th
omant


human mus
1 dance m
hat could
ndoza or
, with re
elodies t
d become
, families
agination
reddie Ke
ieland, a
he advent
s, the vu


nd re
record
made
of S
af6 .
lid c
rogra
like
ansmi


i
U


really universal music


ng
han
ive
mak
es,
t,
e o
ici
C,
sic
be


that
Espe
enou
e its
its
its S
their
sm an
music
, the
known


brought


ranto
gh to
own
Charl
tomp,
one,
d cla
with
-


p


Capetown,


C
ii
S
S
P1
n
u:
1'


jecti
ings
up on
aturd


ords under
use as p
intimate a
, and bit
and tast
pard or B
academic
res of Th
garities
n, a pref
ith false
the spur
y nights
11 of thi
s who thi
ushers,
d who mig
, roadblo


e
u

e
o
e


h


OIKa,
nd li
music
their


people
UNESCO,
ave gain
story,
ton, its
ts Blues
ing,
icism,
history
the


ked
c t
r a


sswords
d feel
er love
s, a co
nk John
special
lonious
f Errol
rence f


names


f the mo
n a stud
from a
k that n


ed


V


in
hat
rms,
so
ess
affairs,
election
on,
zation
Monk,
Garner
]r
d
ment,
ent's
kind
nothing


d that's the
tes or emi-
jumper,


smuggler, something that runs and mixes in.


. jazzology, deductive science,
four o'clock in the morning.


particularly


easy


after


--Julio CortAzarl







31

Warming Up a Riff


The disappearan
off a power of
Polyphonic.


of the "authorial


inscription that


s no


voice"


. triggers


longer verbal but phonic.


--Jacques Derrida2


However much post-Saussurean theory may hold to a view


language and music


non-mimetic,


ceaseless


play of


signification whose only referent is,


in Rousseau's words,


"le ndant des choses humaines," we must admit that our day-

to-day experience of language and music seems far more circum-


scribed.3


For example,


"If you gotta ask,


I may concede that the jazz proverb,


you'll never know,"


the meanings listed below.


could suggest any of


But in practice I know,


or at


least sense,


query


that Loui


("What is jazz?")


Armstrong


signifies a


retort to a socialite's

very limited set of possi-


biliti


Armstrong the Zen master.


Speculation, even the


need to ask what jazz is, precludes knowing.


Armstrong the phenomenologist.


. Mumon.


Jazz is of the order


of experiencing,


not the order of knowing.


There is a


radical split between language and things,


objects.


subjects and


Husserl.


Armstrong the linguist.


Asking "What is


jazz?" can







32

relational difference between the set of signs the partic-


ular sign


jazz


includes and the


of signs it excludes


(i.e., everything from acoustic phenomena to styles of


clothes).


The socialite who asks Armstrong to define


jazz cannot know jazz;


she is one of the "signs"


jazz


excludes.


Cf. Saussure.


Armstrong the metaphysical poet.


Given the obscene


etymology associated with the word


jazz,


the socialite's


question is the equivalent of Armstrong asking the social-

ite a question that carried with it the connotation,


"What


is copulation?"


is a knot of


irony.


The answer--coyness to the coy--

Cf. Marvell.


Armstrong the modernist.


Jazz cannot be inherited,


passed on to another


like a Persian rug.


"If you want


it you must obtain it by great labour.


It involves,


the first place,


the historical sense


* and the


historical sense involves a perception, not only of the

pastness of the past, but of its presence." Cf. Eliot.4


Armstrong the postmodernist.


If we presume to ask the


question "What is


jazz?" we have already presumed the


validity of, and an answer to,


"What


the recursive question,


We have already grounded our inquiry on


a preestablished notion of being,


i.e.,


presence.


Thus,


the initial


(typically modernist


question assumes too


r







33

statement--which cunningly, parasidically mimes the

motions of a metaphysics of presence--exemplifies a poli-


tics of


indirection


(it,


through a ruse,


teases


presuppositions), deconstructing


dental signified)


jazz


and suggesting that


(as a transcen-

it is "definable"


only


praxis,


textual strategy.


Derrida.


Armstrong the home-spun philosopher.


Lincoln,


if we


trust material given in a short play by Woody Allen,


was once asked,


"Mr.


President,


how long must a man's


legs be?"


He replied,


"Long enough to reach the ground."


Some questions require answers that make common sense


(which isn't


To this list,


so common nowadays).


I should,


Will Rogers.


but will not, add more interpretations:


an Afro-American, feminist, Marxist,


or Lacanian reading,


for example,


would work well.


Armstrong's rejoinder,


could even declare that


like his recording of, say,


"Potato


Head Blues," has the potential to mean anything


(which is to


say, everything and,


thus, nothing)


because it can be read


in an infinite number of contexts.


possible reading


ment means


But why heap on more


Everyone pretty well knows what the state-


Right?


Outside of a few institutional sites


(schools,


churches,


courts,


or the media,


where "trained"


exegetes--teachers,


iudaes. ministers and priests, and news commentators--make









And explicating an off-the-cuff


(even if


remark such as Armstrong's


is frequently appropriated), as though it were a


line of lyric poetry,


is likely to strike us as, at best,


pedantic, at worst,


completely asinine.


Why is this the


case,


though?


I suspect two reasons.


One,


the labor of expo-


sition imbues the phrase with value, and this value teases out


ideologically assigned values,


the values our culture thinks


that the phrase merits


("It


isn't a line from Pope or Keat


It's Loui


Armstrong,


for crying out loud, not Schoenberg!").


Quite obviously,


this is exactly what is happening when a


jazz critic,


for instance Gary Giddins declares,


"In four


decades of prize-giving,


the Pulitzer Committee has never


recognized a


jazz composer."6


On the one hand,


statement


calls attention to the institutional


(non)status of


jazz.


On the other hand, because it does not evoke peals of laughter


over the absurdity of


its implied suggestion,


it can be made with a straight face,

calls attention to the rising status,


that is, because


(like this study)


to the institutionali-


zation, of


jazz.


Two, exposition violates a tacit interdic-


tion forbidding speculation, undercuts the assurance that


things ar


exactly what they seem to be


(by merely assuming


the need for explanation), and,


thus,


opposes the very


logic


a "correct"


interpretation of the phrase would demand


("Pops


meant


just what he said!


The music speaks for


itself.


Asking








My point could be taken as trite,

paid to the omnipotent work of ideolog


yet another homage


ry, a restatement of


the claim that any sign of any sort is always made to mean


less than it could mean.


But it is not--that is,


not trite


and not a homage.


do assume that meaning is socially pro-


duced and constrained,


that,


in Fiske'


s words:


The meanings I


find in a


sign derive from the ideology


within which the sign and I


exist


: by finding these


meanings I


define myself


and in relation to my


Soc


in relation to the ideology
iety.7


But instead of emphasizing the constraints ideology places upon


(unimaginable but,


somehow, felt)


potential meanings--or how


ideology delimits both orders of signification


(denotation


and connotation)


or, more specifically, what I


even think about a phrase such a


can say or


my chosen example--I


would


rather trace the means by which ideology--writing as a poli-


tico-social activity--produces


(appropriates and validates)


tropes to conceptualize representations of "objective" struc-


tures in this culture.


Stated practically,


I am less inter-


ested in demonstrating how the dominant ideology has contained


potential meanings of


jazz


(although thi


s needs to be shown),


exposing the rhetoric of


jazz "as the signifying aspect of


ideology," than in naming favored images--"signifiers of


connotation"--which thi


s culture


has chosen to represent


model)


jazz to itself


(IMT, 49).


But more than this,


I am








--always threaten the hegemony of


the system that generates


them,


because in their multiplicity they reveal


that


denotation


[truth, objectivity,


the law]


s not the first


meaning,


but pretends to be so; under this illusion,


is ultimately no more than the last of the connotations


(the one which seems both to


reading),


establish and to close the


the superior myth by which the text pretends


to return to the nature of language,


nature.


(s/z,


to language as


In subsuming denotation under connotation or


in writing


out the connotations of the tropes a culture employs to concep-


tualize a given system, one will,


of course,


remain within


ideology, for if ideology or "society," as Durkheim states,


"may


. be seen as that total genus beyond which nothing


else exists," then it has no bounds, no beyond


(both terms


become problematic);


getting outside it is less than desirable,


if not positively dangerous.8


But if,


as Barthes writes,


"Connotation i


the way into the polysemy of the classic


text"


(S/Z, 8),


then reintroducing the plurality which was


banished


always ineffectually because it cannot be sent


"outside")


for the sake of


insuring univocality


(canonical


meaning)


insures the substitution of a model of production


for the


classic


model


of representation


(s/z,


4-7);


stressing


suppressed connotations


always return)


(available, once again, because they


is tantamount to forsaking "the path of the


object"


(the "study of the natur


of the


'objective'


struc-


tures of a given cultural


text")


for "the path of the subject"







Again, s

into discours


tated practically,


are enabling imag


the tropes which bring jazz

es. They successfully enunci-


ate jazz--differentiate it from other music and imbue it


with meaning for our culture.


But they also have connotations


which would disrupt discourse, difference,


Writing out of these tropes


and meaning.


(employing them as thesauri)


therefore,


not an attempt to "arrange all


the meanings of a


text


[jazz


(s/z,


in a circle around the hearth of denotation"


but an attempt to employ the discourse of


jazz as


a compositional/improvisational model for opening up,


scatter-


ing, and disseminating.


Meandering


[TIher


would be no music if language had not preceded it


and if music did not continue to depend on it.
--Claude Ldvi-Strauss


The analogy with language,
in discussing their work,


often used by improvising musicians
s useful to illustrate the building


up of a common pool of material--a vocabulary--which takes


when a group of musicians improve


together regularly.
--Derek Bailey


Who can tell




Before I


you what love is?




proceed any farther


--Miles Davis9



I should make it clear that


jazz has two types of meaning for me, arising from two orders


of signs.


First,


it has specifically musical, non-referential







38

After years of listening to Louis Armstrong, Charlie


Parker, Ornette Coleman, and other jazz musicians,


understand


and enjoy their music because I have learned the musical


language they "speak."


I have learned to make intramusical


maps;


can translate within the realm of music.


More specif-


ically, because I have learned a group of "musical" signs


(including codes of


selection and combination: e.g., a para-


digmatic code given the title of "blue" note, a syntagmati


code designated the I-VI-II-V chord changes to Gershwin's "I


Got Rhythm,"


or a musical


grammar called "tonality"),


I recog-


nize certain acoustical patterns as jazz, other patterns as


not-jazz. These signs--which produce what could be termed

musical meaning (perhaps a different order of meaning than


that produced by referential

for musicology and ethnomusic

culture," to use Alan P. Merr


signs)--form the object of study

ology ("the study of music in


s phrase).


The nature of the purely musical sign raises serious


problems for study,


though.


In the Overture to The Raw and


the Cooked, Levi


-Strauss


states that music cannot be


"the


object of linguistic discourse,


when its peculiar quality is


to express what can be said in no other way."'1

we may admit the arbitrariness of all signs, bu


For example,


t examples of


synaesthesia such


"blue note,"


"hot


jazz,"


"sweet


jazz,"


or "hard bop,"


or oxymorons such


"musical siqn"


or "sound


-C







39

language with the contradictory attributes of being at once


intelligible and untranslatable"


(R&C,


18).


So then, L&vi-Strauss would agree with Louis Armstrong.


Jazz makes sense, and it cannot be translated.


in American Jazz Music,


Wilder Hobson,


writes:


It i


often said that


jazz cannot be notated.


It cannot;


and, strictly speaking, of course, neither can any other
music. Any music is played with a "translation" of the
written note values according to tradition for that
particular kind of music and the instincts of the
performer.12


Itself a type of notation,


this statement,


it would seem,


is, paradoxically,


the only completely accurate statement


one can make about


jazz or any other type of music.


But we


are in the midst of a double bind.


Translation--in this


case,


translation


performance--implies a stable text which


has some type of prior existence and which is not


knowable as already known


so much


(hard-wired into our brains).


Given the critical positions of Armstrong, Levi-Strauss,


and Hobson,


we observe that naming sounds, designating types


or styles of music,


constitutes an impossible translation,


an employment of catachresis.


Mapping jazz onto linguistic


discourse, moving from music, a potentially analogical


code,


to words, a digital code,


not only does


jazz violence,


inevitably fails.


Translation or mapping captures only that


which is common to both


jazz and linguistic discourse.


That







40

in the following statement made by Winthrop Sargeant.


Jazz:


Hot and Hybrid


(1946),


he writes:


Anyone who has attempted to transcribe folk music .
in terms of our musical notation has observed that the
symbols traditionally used by us in writing music are


very imperfectly suited to such purposes.


somewhat similar to that of


word


The problem


recording in printed


s the precise sound values of a dialect only remotely


related to the language for which the system of writing


was created.


The task of


the musical


transcriber is,


indeed,


more difficult than the comparison would indicate,


since music involves a far more complex group of


distinctions in the realm of

The distinction here indicate


important


sound than language does.

d ["between music itself and


the usually somewhat inaccurate representation of music


that


is achieved in


symbols written or printed on paper"]


is not only valuable to our discussion in that it points
to the untrustworthiness and inaccuracy of notation as


a conveyance for


a different


jazz;


it is also important as indicating


of attitude toward the art of music


between


whose idea


s of music are often colored by notational


considerations,


whose idea


and the musically illiterate


s of music are not


folk artist


so colored.13


This


is an important passage, because it represents a set of


problems which must concern any ethnomusicology;


states the pitfalls of ethnocentrism.


it cogently


It repeats points


raised by any number of texts--e.g.,


by Vico,


Voltaire, Rous-


seau,


and Swift--written when Western thinkers began to come


to terms with what were actually the implications of explor-

ation and colonization, echoes contemporary concerns in anthro-


pology


(it was written in 1946), and anticipates issues that


would later


.e.


now


animate orality/literacy discussions


in the humanity


ies.


it also manifests all


the marks of








derives


(and to which all music supposedly strives).


Faced


with the difficult


task of extricating his logic from the


very system it would oppose, Sargeant relies on that which is


untenable to deny that on which he relies.


That


he appeals


to Music to maintain the distinction between "music itself"


and representations of music and,


hence,


opposes a logic of


repetition which,


if generalized,


could actually account for


the possibility of his argument


well


folk music.


The


point is, given full rein the logic of notation,


what Derrida


has called iterability, would destabilize both the concept


Music and the concept notation.


Thus,


in order to function


--in order to keep the concepts of notation and translation


from becoming problematic,


implicating all music and,


hence,


collapsing the distinction between notated and unnotatable


music--Sargeant's argument must stop the logic of


its own


logic.

Sargeant's argument is a jazz version of the tune harped

on by numerous philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to L~vi-


Strauss, and my argument, although much too sketchy,


be read as a


could


jazz version--a fleeting quotation in the middle


of a solo--to a tune played by Derrida in Of Grammatology


(cf. OG,


195).


Sargeant continues:


The noblest department of Western concert music
the art of composition. This art of composite
concerned directly with the creation of music


has become


on is not


(i.e.,









composer.


Actually improvisation--the art of creating


music directly with vocal


more fundamental


to music


or instrumental means--is far
than is the complex, difficult


and specialized art of planning compositions on paper.

If we may alter the familiar opening to Genesis to suit


yet another connotation:


"In the beginning was improve


station "


(pp.


32-33


Thus, Sargeant's affinity for jazz is easily explained.


among all


the music of the West,


is one of,


if not the closest


music to Music.


Rhetorically and symbolically,


jazz--the


art of the improviser not the composer--still

of the purity of an originary Music because it


shares a vestige

is created


"directly" without the mediation of a composer; compared to


classical music,


jazz has sustained fewer translations.


is primitive music in the best


sense


of the word.


This


precisely Socrates' argument for dialectics over writing in

Plato's Phaedrus, and it is Rousseau's argument for music in


his Essay on the Origin of Languages.


One might even note


that my rhetoric, although it opposes this tendency,


is contra-


dicted by my grammar,


for when I


write or seek to theorize


"representations of


jazz,"


I assume the very notion I


would


deny--namely,


that


jazz can be distinguished from its repre-


sentations,


that representation


(which,


of course,


includes


is not restricted to the written


is supplemental,


tacked


on--to the real, musical item.

Many ethnomusicologists and musicians would readily agree









In an interview conducted in 1983, he reiterated the ancient,

metaphysical argument against notation (representing music


graphically)


and carried the


jazz version of


the logocentric


position to its inevitable--Socratic--conclusion.


Here is a


portion of his statement.


MUSICIAN:


Let me also broach the issue of Con Ed and


what it has wrought on the musical landscape. It's now
ten years since your major anti-electric music proclama-
tion.


JARRETT:


Today there ar
with electronic
And I think it'


think my argument is more persuasive today.


a lot more "interesting" things happening


music than their


were ten years ago.


probably more dangerous than it was then.


MUSICIAN: What do you mean, dangerous?


JARRETT:


I mean it


is a kind of poison.


Something that


takes your connection from the soil away is a poison.


I think that for a long, long time it wi
fun, and then at a point electronic music


11 be a lot of
c will either


go away or


it will be all that we have.


it's


all we


have,


then the poison has don


its job.


Peopi


are


able to listen to acoustic


music after they've heard


electric music


I know this is true for me;


it's a


very difficult, difficult thing to get used to.


MUSICIAN


Why poison?


Why an image of sickness and death?


JARRETT: Because it's something people are doing to
themselves.


MUSICIAN:
JARRETT:


What do you become desensitized to?


feel first of all,


there doesn't need to be


art.


Even acoustic


music is,


in the end,


a secondary


thing to the spirit that animates
painting is not the most important


Likewise,


t thing;


it's what the


painter does to paint
have to take ourselves


So I don't understand why we
far away from basic, close


organic substan


acoustic


ces


instrument


that are already far enough away in
s. I know ultimately that it's a


poison that either can get worse or get better and if
it gets better we're lucky.14

Although I am tempted to devote much more space to discussing


Sargeant and Jarrett's restatements of


logocentrism,


will








over


literature, presence over writing--has,


as I have noted,


already been redressed, most notably,


in the work of Derrida


and de Man.


will emphasize,


however,


the assertions of Sargeant


and Jarrett are particularly interesting and deserve further


attention.

notation,


They approach the problem of "writing"--i.e.,

translation, and representation--from outside philo-


sophical discourse, and,

metaphysics of presence


years,


yet,


they echo the rhetoric of the


(or voice


which, for two thousand


has dominated Western ways of thinking.


As popularized


versions of continuing but ancient philosophical debates,

they readily demonstrate that the discussions animating contem-


porary critical


theory, far from being abstruse and hidebound,


reflect and speak to issues which concern culture as a whole.


Jarrett's argument is especially noteworthy.


glaring example of telephobia


It is a


(the fear of being separated


from "basic, close, organic substances that are already far


enough away").

tronic medium


And, because it is advanced against an elec-

(electronic music is a copy of acoustic music,


which is itself a copy of "spirit"),


it is particularly timely,


indicative of a larger issue producing similar arguments

used in polemics against all forms of "secondary orality":


e.g.,


television and the computer.


A generalization or exten-


sion of Sargeant's rather specific complaint,


it is powerful







45

translations--problematic mappings from one "language" to


another.


Finally,


in updating and practically paraphrasing


Socrates'


condemnation of writing,


it suggests that we


reassess


and ultimately reject L6vi-Strauss's thesis that


ability and untranslatability are sui


intelligi-


generis features of the


language called music, precisely because this claim ha


been made for speech and other "languages."


s also


As Andrei,


protagonist of Tarkovsky's film Nostalghia, puts it,


"Poetry


is untranslatable like the whole of art."


All languages,


it could be maintained,


seem to "express


what can be said in no other way."


Intelligibility and


untranslatability are general attribut


of language.


Inter-


semiotic mapping is both an impossibility and a precondition


of language,


whether one is translating from painting to


linguistic discourse,


from English to Chinese, or from the


thoughts in my brain to the typed words on this paper.


Two questions must be engaged.

uniqueness of music essential to L4

The Raw and the Cooked? And, given


Why is establishing the


!vi-Strauss's argument


, the untranslatability of


music


(not to mention all languages),


how does intelligibility


arise?


I shall answer the first and a related question--Why


must structuralism reject serialism?--in a later chapter,

but for now, notice Levi-Strauss's response to the question


intelligibility.


He writes:


He writes:







46

According to L vi-Strauss, music and mythology are natural


teams,


sys-


automatically intelligible, because they are expressions


of the a priori


conditions that make communication possible.


They are originary


languages.


Everyone understands them


(for they constitute the condition


s for understanding);


one can translate them.


Or stated differently,


"when the


mind


[individual or corporate]


is left to commune with itself


and no longer has to come to terms with objects,


it is in a


sense reduced to imitating itself as object"


product of such


(R&C, 10).


self-reflexive objectification is music


The

(indi-


vidually produced)


or mythology


(socially produced).


Hence,


we understand music and mythology because these isomorphic,

original languages mimic--actually model--the structures of


the human mind.


This is why Levi-Strauss can declare,


"music


has its being in me, and I listen to myself through it"


17).


(R&C,


Demonstrate the logical operations that govern music


and mythology, and you reveal the pattern of basic and univer-

sal laws that govern human beings.


There is,


however, another--my preferred--way of account-


ing for the intelligibility of music, and although this way

accepts the impossibility of translation, it also asserts


the necessity of


translation.


Unlike structuralism,


it does


not seek to ground itself


in ontology.


It declares that


intelligibility is an effect produced by mapping one system








And it


inevitably occurs.


Stated more forcefully,


assume


that intelligibility is a by-product of


maps;


imagining or creating


institutionally sanctioned maps create the effect of


ontological stability,


truth.


If a music is to gain signifi-


chance in a culture,


and,


it must be turned into some kind of text


thereby, acquire referential meaning.


So then, as I


stated earlier,


jazz has referential


meaning.


or, better,


possesses


denotative and connotative values,


it acquires these values when it enters


onto or translated into)


discourse


(is mapped


(textuality): when,


pairing "cultural" signs (ling

reference, and symbolic codes)


luistic and nonlinguistic semic,

with "musical" signs, our


culture represents--enunciates--jazz to itself.


Because I


am acquainted with the "cultural" signs which signify jazz


(and which jazz signifies)

wrongly is not the issue)


I assume


(whether rightly or


that I understand jazz.


The point


the effect of believing that I know what


jazz means results


not so much from the ability to read musical signs


(which could


be called the ability to play or listen), but from an acquired

competence in deciphering the culturally assigned and politic-


ally privileged signs that govern the presentation of


(e.g.,


jazz


the metascientific discourse of ethnomusicology,


styles of clothes worn by beboppers,


or the argot of


hipster).


These


signs or codes,


which mark sites of


ideolog-









to what


jazz


but to what


jazz


They are always


identifiable


writing


(in the broad


sense


the word),


and in my study,


except in the section on Martin


Scorsese's


film New York,


New York,


as 4criture


(writing in the narrow


sense).


Thriving on a Riff


In December 1965,


with my personal life and fortunes at low


ebb.


went to Rome.


One day I


visited many churches.


was overawed to observe that in each one there were urns


containing the remain


of saints and soldiers.


How incredible


that persons of such opposite beliefs each in his own way


attempting to influen


the same pla


our world--could end up in exactly


ce--a


--Ornette Coleman


. tout, au monde,


existe pour aboutir a un livre.
--St6phane Mallarm616


As one with a background in literary


studies,


conceptu-


alize


jazz as a text--actually


a textual ensemble, an


imaginary bibliography of preferred and


exc


luded readings.


And I


regard my own knowledge of


jazz


something pre-written:


composed by records


I have heard,


movies I have


seen,


stories


I have been told,


books I have read,


concerts I have attended,


and musicians with whom I have spoken.


Along with Jameson,


tend to assume that


we never really confront a text


immediately,


in all its


says.









Probably, Jameson is correct

arrive always-already-mediated.


Our readings of texts do


But what do we make of this


notion of a "fresh"


text?


Just because we never really experi-


ence


azz


in its pristine form "as a thing-in-itself"--isolated


from "sedimented layers of previous interpretations"--does

not insure that it could be heard in a hypothetical pre-lapsar-


ian,


utopian, or millennial state.


such a state,


that


Never having been in


we should be willing to imagine


jazz must be especially good there


(with Jameson)


(since it is fresh,


does not have to pass through layers of sediment), fear


(with


L6vi-Strauss


that there is no jazz there


(because, even


though music


[like mythology], provides a basis for language,


it is meaningless without language),


or be satisfied to observe


that,


in this culture,


in our experience,


jazz,


like any


music, drifts on a read--on socially produced texts that


sustain


(even create)


it as a music with specific meanings.


What,


then, are we to make of the texts which name--


present, model, and situate--jazz,


course?


that bring it into dis-


How should we approach the recordings, clothes,


musical instruments,


spaces


for performance, and especially,


at least for my purposes,


the books and films that position


(and overdetermine)


this culture's experience of


jazz?


how can we speak of these types of representations or of

jazz without assuming an impossible position outside text-







50

African drumming"--has his protagonist, N., offer one possible


solution to our dilemma.17

writes to the Angel of Dust,


After awaking from a dream,


the recipient of his correspon-


dence:


I awoke to the even mor


radical realization that it's


not enough that a composer skillfully cover hi


that he eras


tracks,


the echo of "imposition" composition can't


help but be haunted by.


In a certain sense,


realized,


to do so only makes matter


s worse.


The question I


was


left with,


of course,


was:


What can one do to outmaneuver


the inertia both of what one knows and of what one feels


or presumes to feel?


There must be some way,


I'm con-


vinced, to invest in the ever so slight suggestion of
"compost" I continue to get from the word compose.


(BH,


78-79)


N.--a founding member of a musical collective known as the

Mystic Horn Society, an aggregation patterned after Sun Ra's

Arkestra or the Art Ensemble of Chicago--hints at a grammato-


logical approach to compositional inertia (i.e., a provisional

solution to the problem of how to unclench one's teeth--trigger


composition).


Although he declares,


don't claim to have


come up with a solution yet," he does admit that he has prob-


ably assumed John Coltrane's stated goal


(quoted in the liner


notes to Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard Again!)


is "trying to work out a kind of writing that will allow for


more plasticity, more viability, more room for

in the statement of the melody itself." His a

position--has the extravagance and elegance of


conceit, but


improvisation


approach -decom-

a metaphysical


as a postmodern inventio it is, according to


W









Detecting


word


"compose"


ever


so slight


discourse


whiff


equivalent


"compost"


reversing


direction


sens


sublation,


begins


the work


returning


composition,


a master


concept


Western


thought,


bodily


metaphor


(phil


osopheme)


on which


was


based


(or,


least,


to a


base,


bodily metaphor).


this


method,


whereby


intelligible


is manured


(from manouvrer,


to work


with


hands,


cultivate


into


sensible,


decomposition


challenges


outmaneuverss)


"the


idealizing


appropriating


operations


metaphysics,


which


lift


ed metaphors


into


concepts


and which


exalted


steme


over


aisthesis


the only


genuine


which


source


was


truth"


suppressed


(AG,


51-52


ignored.


reintroduces


It presents


a way


that


to write,


that


write


tropes


which


organized Western


meta-


physi


, and


provides


s study with an


experimental


(tentative and


alternative)


means


writing


about


tropes


which


organize


rhetoric


jazz.


Ulmer writes


such


project:


In decomposition


opposite


. aa


metamorpho


term does


ses


into


own


generate
alloseme


without


unity,


task


conclusion,


(de)composition,


hierarchy,


then,


only


to break


scatt


down


ering


(letter-


alize)


the concepts


that


compose


one's


knowledge


particular


field


into a


textual


compost


pile


that


can






52

be haunted by" or skillfully covering writing's tracks to

past texts, a grammatological mode of writing--like jazz


music--feeds "off the decay of


tradition."18


In stating this I am,


of course,


feeding off the theory


(grammatology)


and method


(deconstruction)


exemplified in


the work of Derrida and a group of theorists broadly referred


to as textualists,


just


traditional studies continue to


feed off a theory


mimesiss)


and method


(formal analysis)


old as, and most readily identified with, Aristotle


Accordingly,


(p. 87).


I feel no more incumbency to actually restate


the textualist


(deconstructionist/grammatological)


position,


than a traditional scholar would feel


to restate Aristotle'


Poetics.


Both have already been done.


commentary on Derrida


is, however,


(except


(though it


My study is not a


in an oblique sort of way).


is hard to use the word anymore


without wincing)


something of a deconstruction of the musico-


logical literature of


jazz and,


then, a suggested application


of grammatological theory to three books and a film which


represent jazz: an experiment in


an allegory or model


decompositiono, an emblem,


of a new kind of writing.


Just for the Record


[T]he disc is scratched and is wearing out, perhaps the singer






53

might say that it is one, maybe the institutionally privileged,


means by which this culture provides


jazz with a speaking


voice


Unlike its object of study,


however,


the musicological


work


is susceptible to the type of theoretical scrutiny and


speculation most frequently reserved for so-called "literary"


or "artistic" texts,


because it


first and foremost a verbal


structure.


to paraphrase White, combines "data," theoret-


ical concepts for "explaining" these data, and a linguistic


structure to, presumably,


present an icon of the music under


examination


(MH,


ix).


If we grant that music is the purview


of musicologists,


we must allow that the products of musi-


cology--since they are written and not musical--fall within


the realm of


literary studies.


Or stated even more forcefully,


musicology may possess a specialized language or metadiscourse


sufficient for the study of music,


including jazz,


but it


possesses no discourse capable of self-reflexively analyzing


its own, exclusively,


linguisti


products.


Literary theory,


it seems,


s that discipline which has developed a metadis-


course sufficient for the study of musicological discourse.


Accordingly,


this study does not attempt to examine jazz


music, nor does it directly examine musicological


"data" or


"theory."


Rather,


it concerns itself with representations


representations.


It shifts the object of study to the


written or filmed representation of


jazz and attends to matters








(Or,


21) .


As far as


I have been able to ascertain,


it is


the first book-length study to privilege the signifiers of


jazz over the signified,


rize how I, and,


jazz.


by extension,


It seeks, above all,


this culture,


to theo-


have managed to


understand one of the most interesting art forms of this

century.


chose to survey the language of musicological studies


jazz for five reasons.


First, since the language of musi-


cology occupies a privileged position in university music

departments, an investigation of that language constitutes

an institutional imperative to any study that would investigate


representations of


jazz in imaginative literature or the


perception of


jazz in the cultural reference.


Second,


although, generally speaking, musicological literature describ-

ing classical music has become increasingly self-conscious


s basis in language, musicological literature describing


jazz has shown little interest in scrutinizing--philosophizing


or theorizing--its own rhetoric.


done.


This work needed to be


Third, a survey of musicology provides an occasion


for commenting on issue


associated with the theoretical


problem of referentiality and with what has been called a


theory of general


textuality, because it foregrounds that


large set of problems which inevitably arises when one seeks

to represent music--"a semiotic system without a semantic






55

formed the soundtrack to the Modern Age and pointed towards


postmodernism


(much


rock and roll--more than the music of


Cage and Boulez--forms the soundtrack to postmodernism and


points to something else


yet unrealized).


A survey of


musicological responses to


jazz provides a convenient departure


point for discussing institutional responses to questions


that concerned modernism.


Fifth and more to-the-point,


I am


what the French call an amateur de musique; surveying musico-

logical literature devoted to jazz gave me a scholarly excuse


to read what I enjoy reading anyway, and, of course,


me a way of, at least obliquely,


it granted


writing about something I


love.


In order to draw up the list of books that guided this


survey,


I surrendered both to the scholar's urge to systema-


tization and to the jazz lover's urge to spontaneity.


the systematic


side,


to start my work,


classified and evalu-


ated a selection of texts chosen from three bibliographies:


Booth's chapter,


"Ragtime and Jazz,"


in American Popular


Music: A Reference Guide; Kennington and Read


s The Liter-


nature of Jazz; and Harrison's chapter on


azz


in The New


Grove: Gospel,


Blues and Jazz.20


But thi


s study is in no way


intended to be encyclopedic in scope. I hav

of the books listed in these bibliographies.


reading widely but selectively


,e not read all


Instead,


I attempted to gain a general









followers,


elaborators,


new


authorities"


(Or,


22).


spontaneous


side,


followed


a general


rule


invention


laid


down


Edison.


He said,


"When


are


experimenting


come


across


anything


thoroughly


understand,


don't


rest


until


run


down;


very


thing


are


looking


may


be something


more


important.


Gelatt


describes


how


this


rule


invention


phonograph.


For
of


years


Edison


telegraph.


labored


* In


increase


summer


the efficiency


1877


he was


working o
indenting


Morse
times


n an


instrument


a paper


code
and


that


tape with


later


rate


repeated
of speed


transcribed


the dots


the message
required.


telegrams
dashes of t
any number
To keep th


tap
he
at


e


proper


noticed
a high


that
speed,


the end


adjustment


when
the


spring


described


human


talk


heard


light
indi


he
tape


indented
gave off
musical,
stinctly.


use


race
dots


a steel s
d through
and dash


pring,
his i


es


noise which


rhythmic


sound,


instrument


striking


son


res


embling


Instead


ignoring


this


phenomenon,


Edison


pursued


interest


telephone--a


recently


invented


carbon


trans-


matter


thirty


Bell'


-year-old


one-year-old


Edison


invention


financially


already made


independent--encouraged


him


speculate


that


one


could


record


a telegraph


message,


one


could


also


record


human


voice--more


specifically,


telephone me


ssage.


abandoned


work


telegraph


shifted


his efforts


makeshift


to which


resorted


during


work


carbon


transmitter.


Gelatt









rest lightly on this needle,


the pricks would show him


the amplitude of the signal coming over the line.


back to this experien


Harking


Edison reasoned that if the


need


could prick hi


s finger it could just a


well


prick a paper tape and indent
human voice.


it with a record of the


In theory,


the phonograph was invented.


On July 18,


1877,


Edison


jotted in his notebook:


Just tried experiment with diaphragm having an embossing
point and held against paraffin paper moving rapidly.
The speaking vibrations are indented nicely, and there's


no doubt that I


shall be abl


to store up and reproduce


automatically at any future time the human voice


per-


fectly.

In subsequent experiments, Edison improved his invention--for


example,


he substituted tin foil for paraffin wax--but


general


operating principal


remained the same.


On August


he handed John Kruesi,


a sketch of the phonograph.


"one of his most trusted mechanics,"


Thirty hours later, according


to "official"


accounts, Kruesi was finished.


Edison shouted


"Mary had a little lamb"


into the instrument's mouthpiece


and made the first phonograph recording.


relate this account for a couple of reasons.


For one


thing,


it provides a


(mythic)


rationale for digressive tenden-


Just


Edison


of the phonograph,


digression precipitated the invention


one of my


lapses from systematic reading


in the field of


jazz turned up Joseph Kerman's Contemplating


Music: Challen


to Musicology


(1985)


This exemplary work


introduced me to the study of


classical music


as organized


es.








ethnomusicology and criticism.


It functioned for me much as


Terence Hawkes's Structuralism and Semiotics, Catherine Bel-


sey' s


Critical Practice, or similar introductory surveys of


literary theory might function for a student of music inter-


ested in critical


theory.


Although it did not discuss any


books or articles specifically on jazz,


it oriented my thoughts


vis a vis contemporary musicology.

But I also repeated the story of Edison's invention of


the phonograph for another reason.


Because the history of


jazz


is coextensive with the invention and development of the


phonograph


(including associated inventions such as the micro-


phone and tape record

motifs which we shall


this account


repeatedly encoun


introduces several

ter in this study.


For examp

at once,


le,


the phonograph was perceived and situated as,


"an invention, an industry, and a musical instru-


ment"


(Phono,


11).


As such,


its products,


which include


jazz,


like the products of the Edison's Kinetograph or Kinetoscope,

must be received as imbricating science, economics, and aesthe-

tics.


If cinema would be impossible without


is inseparable


from)


the technology which brought it into existence,


a much more problematic


case,


jazz,


because it could have conceivably


developed without electronic modeling systems


electronically


dependent technologies for recording and reproducing sound),








the early phonograph,


does not store up its reproductions).


As Miles Davis quipped,


when speaking of a fellow trumpet player's campaign to preserve


time-honored,


jazz traditions:


"Wynton Marsalis?


don't know about him, man


I know he doesn't talk like that when we're alone toge-


their.


'Preserve this'


'preserve that'--the way they're


going we'll have blacks back on the plantation.


it already is preserved.
all about?
"I just tell people it
bell-bottom pants anymore
I drive a Ferrari."22


I mean,


Isn't that what records are


like this


And I


: I can't wear


don't drive an Edsel.


Yet,


as virtually everyone who studies this type of music


observes, jazz is also antithetical to "artificial" recording

technologies. Martin Williams notes that "phonograph records


are in a


sense


a contradiction of the meaning of the music."


Gunther Schuller states,


performance


azz


. is a one-time thing,


ding of an improvised

in many instances the


only available and therefore


that was never meant to be definitive."


'definitive' version of something


But probably the


most famous testament to the jazz musician's antipathy to

recording is the brief anecdote told about Freddie Keppard


and the Original Creole Band.


"Early in 1916


[one full


year


before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first


jazz record,


"At the Darktown Strutters' Ball,


" for Columbia]


the Victor Phonograph Company approached the Original Creoles


with an offer to record.


Keppard thought it over, and said:


which could record and play back,









Jazz,


then,


is a response to, and a reaction against,


technology of electronic sound reproduction and,


therefore,


makes a good test


case


for studying how electronic modeling


systems--actually new means of writing--inevitably get bound


up in philosophical,


scientific,


economic, and


aes


thetic


issues with,


ultimately, political ramifications


(i.e.,


raise


issues of power, most often discussed in terms of class,


race and gender).


In the following pages I shall return to,


expand and focus,


these observations.


But for now,


enough to noti


that the questions raised by the electronic


reproduction


(and recording)


jazz--a music created, as


Anthony Davis put it,


interesting,


"in the moment"--present a particularly


contemporary version of the ancient opposition


between mneme and hypomnesis and, consequently,


recapitulate


the orality/literacy discussions which have concerned theor-

ists such as Parry, Lord, Havelock, Foley, Ong, McLuhan,

Goody, and Derrida for the last twenty-five years or so.24



Out of the Tropics


She told me things she knew,


like when the white man came to


Africa he acted friendly at first and tried to show the tribes


his superiority in magic--but our people'


medicine was as


advanced


his and mor


so when


it came to tropical fever


and diseases.
he could write,


The white man had one magi


he could writ


we didn't have-


down ideas and this amazed


our people.









One critic described Early Jazz:


Its Roots and Musical


Development as "among the two or three finest contributions


to jazz literature."26


But that


is not why I employ the


Preface to Volume I


of Gunther Schuller's, as yet uncompleted,


"comprehensive history of


jazz music,"


as the departure point


for my survey and analysis of musicological literature devoted


to jazz.


My reasons are guided primarily by personal-profes-


sional interests:


the concerns of my thesis.


Schuller's Preface,


whatever its other putative merits,


serves my purposes because it provides a history of writing


about


jazz as well as a register of the author'


attitude


toward


s that history.


As a succinct, diachroni


(or syntag-


matic)


account of


jazz musicology,


it affords a useful


overview


of the rhetorical


topography of


jazz.


Hence,


I shall cite


it almost in its entirety.


But in addition to this, Schuller's


Preface also presents--in its first paragraph--what could be


called a synchronic


(or paradigmatic)


representation of


jazz


musicology.


In this passage Schuller,


who was formerly Presi-


dent of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston,

Artistic Director at the Berkshire Music Center at Tangle-


wood, and the French horn player on Miles Davis


' historic


recording,


The Birth of the Cool,


accuses the majority of


books on


jazz of some very specific mistakes.


His reasons


for doing


so are simple, a rhetorical


necess


itv.


To distin-


..... i w








allows him to write)


and after him


(whose future--if his


book is taken as definitive--will be fixed or even foreclosed).


In order to accomplish this task,


to mix my metaphors,


attempts to situate his own work within a critical field,


and at the end of a historical/intellectual


lineage.


And in


the process of


identifying his work with, and distinguishing


it from, a critical


tradition,


he--perhaps unintentionally--


attributes a extraordinary, albeit negative,


group of writings.


unity to a diverse


He states:


Although their


is no dearth of books on


jazz,


of them have attempted to deal with the music


very few
itself i


anything more than general descriptive or impressionistic


terms.


The majority of books have concentrated on the


legendary of


jazz,


and over the years a body of writing


has accumulated which is little more than an amalgam of
well-meaning amateur criticism and fascinated opinion.
That this was allowed to pass for scholarship and serious
analysis is attributable not only to the humble, socially


"unacceptable" origin of
held notion that a music
often musically illiterate


jazz, but also to the widely
improvised by self-taught,
e musicians did not warrant


genuine musicological r
many "serious" composer


research.


Despite the fact that


s and performers had indicated


their high regard for jazz as early as the 1920s,


academic credentials of


jazz were hardly sufficient to


produce a serious interest


in the analysis of


niques and actual musical content.


For reasons I shall soon produce,


remarkable as it


(EJ,


its tech-


vii)


this passage i


is altogether unexceptional.


s as eminently

fold your finger


on it.


The bibliography following the


jazz entry


in The New Grove


Gospel, Blues and Jazz lists 109 books under the headings







63

it does produce could be likened to collective improvisation,


that is,


analogous to descriptions of early, New Orleans-


style jazz,


where,


without subordinating one instrumental


voice to another, all group members played at the same time).


Since the word


jazz


started to appear


in print sometime between


1913 and 1915--or,


to give the reader several


other points


of reference, since Jelly Roll Morton claimed he invented


jazz


(1902), Paul Whiteman debuted Gershwin's Rhapsody in


Blue


(February 12, 1924), and Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five


made their seminal recordings


(1928)--the literature that


brings jazz music into language has agreed on very


little.27


In describing it one constantly runs the risk of writing

useless generalities or engaging in endless specificity.


Schuller's opening paragraph avoids these dangers,


though.


Grante<

study


d,


it envisions a set of texts that


(whose definition, although problema


be knowable, even self evident).


Granted,


share an object of

tic, is assumed to

it supposes that


jazz--the object of study--can be observed by "itself," unen-


cumbered by past representations.


And granted,


it speaks


from a narrative position where it can purportedly measure

the value of a representation against a thorough knowledge


of the thing represented:


assumptions we have already discussed


and to which we shall return.


But more importantly,


this


passage comprehends


lazz


scholarship


- -


a lecacv of lack.







64

to--jazz scholarship by assigning images of paucity to past

texts and by filling in this poverty with a tacit promise of

imminent plenitude.


it turns out,


the "negative"


images Schuller


uses


organize j


azz


scholarship are,


in slightly disguised form,


privileged tropes that all who represent jazz in writing--

whether in fiction or nonfiction--use to conceptualize this


music.


Sometimes they are given a negative valence


(as in


the writings of Adorno


; sometimes they are given a positive


twist or turn


(as in the body of Early Jazz).


In the following


chapters,


I shall introduce these enabling images--four tropes


which provide a means of "writing" jazz.


This will lead me


to an examination of Schuller's project, or, better, his


musicological


ideal,


which, by means of a generalization,


read as the dream of the science of jazzology:


how "serious


analysis"--"genuine musicological research"--seeks to rise


above


(supplement or cast out)


the merely rhetorical--the


deficiency


of "general descriptive or impressionistic"


texts.

Without a doubt, my comments could be misconstrued


an attack on musicology, and its stepchild,


jazzology.


That


would be a mistake.

a literary theorist


In fact, my comments should be taken


s attempt to understand how musicology


succeeds--how it comes to count as


truth--not how it inevitably








words; all have failed."28


But, strange


it may seem,


contradiction and failure have never been barriers to writing


or rhetorical


success.


Far from it.


As structuralism has


repeatedly shown,


contradiction motivates composition,


poststructuralism is fond of pointing out,


the semioti


conditions which would undo writing


of establishing a stable context)


(e.g.,


the impossibility


make it possibi


(iter-


ability,


the mobility of the sign, allows writing).


Hence, although I make no claims of being disinterested,

I did not choose the Preface to Early Jazz because I featured


that it would make an easy whipping boy.

it exemplifies contradictions that animate


nonfiction discourse on jazz

of scholarship that books on


to achieve,


chose it because

(enable and defeat)


and because it evidences a level

jazz have consistently striven


but seldom attained.


Notes


iCortAzar, pp.


69-70,


2Jacques Derrida, Dissemination,


(Chicago:


Univ


. of Chicago, 1981), p.


trans.
332.


Barbara Johnson
Subsequently


cited


as Dis.


3Rousseau,


La Nouvelle Hbloi


se, Pldiade edition, Oeuvres


completes,


. II,


693,


in B&I, p.


131.


'T. S. Eliot,
Selected Prose of T


"Tradition and the Individual Talent,"


. S.


Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode


(New York:









6Gary Giddin


tion in the


'80s


s, Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innova-
(New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), p. 20.


7John Fisk


Introduction to Communication Studies


New


York: Methuen,


1982), p.


8Quoted in Fredri


Jameson,


The Political Unconscious:


Narrative


a Socially Symbolic Act,


Itha


ca:


Cornell Univ.


Press, 1981),


Subsequently cited


9Claude Ldvi-Strauss,


The Naked Man,


trans. J


. Cape


(New


York


: Harper and Row,


1981), p.


647; Derek Bailey,


Improv-


isation:


Its Nature and Practice in Music


(Ashbourne: Moorland


Publishing Co., 1980), p.


126,


in John Corbett,


"Writing


Around Improvisation," Subjects/Objects


(1986), p.


53; Mil


Davis,


in Nat Hentoff,


The Jaz


z Life


(New York


: Dial P


ress


1961), p. 250


10Alan P


. Merriam, cited in Joseph Kerman, Contemplating


Music


Challenges to Musicology


(Cambridge: Harvard Univ.


Press,


1985), p.


Kerman subsequently


cited as CM.


11Claude L6vi-Strauss,


The Raw and the Cooked, p.


Subsequently cited


R&C.


12Wilder Hobson, American Jazz Music (New York:
1939), p. 29.


13Winthrop Sargeant, Jazz: A Histor


Hot and Hybrid


(New York, McGraw-Hi


Norton,


, originally Jazz:
46), pp. 29, 31-32,


and in brackets, p


. 28.


14David Breskin,


"Keith Jarrett," Musician, Nov. 1983,


reprinted Feb.


1987, p


15Dougla
Golden Braid


s R.


Hofstadter, G del, Escher, Bach: an Eternal


(New York


: Vintage Book


1979),


160rnett


Coleman,


The Musi


& Sounds, RCA Bluebird, LM/LSC


of Ornett


Coleman:


-2982, 1987; Mallarimi,


Forms


"The


Book, A
p. 24.


Spiritual


Instrument,


" in Selected Poetry and Prose,


17Nathaniel Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook


(Lexington


: Univ.


of Kentucky,


1986), p.


144.Subsequently


cited


18Greaorv L.


Ulmer,


"The Obiect of P


- -


-Criticism,"


_









1983), pp. 101-36; Donald Kennington and Danny L.


Literature of Jazz: A Critical Guide,


2nd ed.


Read,


The


(Chicago: Amer-


ican Library Association, 1980);


Paul Oliver, Max Harrison,


and William Bolcom,


The New Grove: Gospel,


with Spirituals and Ragtime
1986).


(New York: W


. W.


Blues and Jazz


Norton & Company,


21Roland Gelatt,


The Fabulous Phonograph 1877-1977, 2nd


(New York


quently cited


: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1977), p


Phono.


invention of the phonograph,


. 18


Subse-


c following account of Edison
including the citation from


Edison's notebook,


is taken from Phono, pp


. 18-21.


22Mark Rowland,


"Miles Davis Is a Living Legend and You're


Not,


" Musician, May 1987, p


. 90.


3Martin Williams,


The Jazz Tradition


(New York


: Oxford


Univ.


Press,


1970), p.


251.


Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz


Its Roots and Musical Development


(New York


: Oxford Univ.


Press,


1968),


"New Orleans Music,"
Charles Edward Smith


William Russell and Stephen W. Smith,
Jazzmen, ed. Frederic Ramsey, Jr. and
(New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company,


1939),


p. 22.


Williams subsequently cited as JT,


Schuller


EJ, Jazzmen in the text by title.

24Data are available should one wish to trace the dissem-


nation of


jazz


a direct


(if unintended)


result of the


technology associated with the invention of the phonograph


("an invention, an industry, and a musical


instrument").


One


should consult,


first, Stephen W.


Smith'


"Hot Collecting,"


in Jazzmen, pp.
Eisenberg, The


287-99,


then,


Recording Angel


the following


Phono;


Evan


Explorations in Phonography


(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987); Peter Gammond and Raymond


Horricks,


The Music Goes Round and Round: A Cool Look at the


Record Industry
Hitchcock, ed.,


(New York: Quartet Books, 1980); and H.


The Phonograph and Our Musical Lif


Wiley


Pro-


ceedings of a Centennial Conference,


lyn:


7-10 December 1977


(Brook-


Institute for Studies in American Music, Department of


Music, School


of Performing Arts Brooklyn College of The


City University of New York, 1980)


2
Books,


5Charl


Mingus, Beneath the Underdog


1971), p.


(New York:


Penguin


BH, p.


6Kennington and Read,


110.


Although they fail to


identify this critic,
the book jacket of EJ,


others, whose blurbs are recorded on


have also Draised it.


Leonard Feather









27Alan P. Merriam and Fradley H.


Garner,


"Jazz--The Word,"


Ethnomusicology,
quently cited as


(1968), 385-86.


"Jazz."


This article is subse-


Its authors record:


the oldest referen


to the word jazz seems to be that


advanced by Chapman who


[in 1958]


is reported to have


"turned up a poster


some 100 year


s old,


with the word Jazz


on it.


Other than this, we hav


Austin's statement that


"the term 'jazz'


in its relation to music dates from about


s time


(post


Civil War),


" while


Clay Smith notes:


azz'


was born and christened in the low dance halls


of our far west of three decades ago,
it about 1900.


28Leonard Feather,


' which would place


The Book of Jazz: From Then Till Now


(New York:


Dell Publishing Co., 1957), p


. 17.















CHAPTER


OBBLIGATO:


Ornament


GOTTA


WRITE


confabulation


SING


intersti


THE



ces


BLUES


structure.


A poem by Dylan


Thoma


sax


phone


solo


by Charles


Parker,


a painting
as ends in
structure.


Jack


son


themselv


Pollock--


ese


are


Confabulation


pure confabulations


come


to determine


--Kenneth


Rexroth


"perpetual


makes


jazz


confli


hot.


between


The best


clarity


performers


ana grace I
continually


what


anti


cipate


or delay


the phrase


beginnings


endings.


They


their


measure


performan


, with


ces,


treat


grace


the beat


. Thi


syncopation,


indeed,
is what


plea


ses


hep-cats


--John


Cage


variations


were


real


matter,


theme.


--Dorothy


Baker


Nothing is
invention.


so easy


improvisation,


running


--Henry


James


We beli


eve


improvised
(months, y


that
(hour


ears,


thing
minut


s valuable


seconds


the extent


that


extensively


prepared


centuries


--F.


Marinetti1


Agrements


Schuller


treatise


early


3azz


begins


with


pronounce-








impressionistic terms."


They are,


in the language of musi-


cology agr ments.

A collective term introduced into the French musical

vocabulary of the 17th century and "finally adopted into all


European music," agrements refers to a group of


"signs or


abbreviations" for signifying musical


music of the West,


ornaments.


the codification of agr ment


In the art


marks the


systematization and ultimate standardization of


improvised


ornamentation


("the practice .


. of embellishing musical


works through additions to or variations of their essential


rhythm, melody, or harmony").


station


Although their correct interpre-


"constitutes a considerable problem in performing


music of


the 17th and 18th century,"


and although the term


itself may seem to suggest "the existence of unadorned compo-

sitions representing the pure intentions of their composers,"

the musical figures that agr6ments represent were indispensable


features of many musical works,


and 18th centuries."


"particularly in the 17th


They are divided into the following


categories:


"(1)


appoggiatura


(also double appoggiatura);


trill;


turn;


(4) mordent;


Nachschlag;


arpeggio;


(7) vibrato"


("Ornamentation"


and "Agr4ments," HCDM).


Other than noting that "the majority of books have concen-


treated on the legendary of


edly tangential


jazz," that is, on a matter suppos-


to real issues, Schuller does not elaborate









jazz music.


This task,


however,


needs to be done.


To start


with, someone could systematize the pre-musicological discourse


jazz,


theorize the connotative values it assigns to the


music.


As of yet,


though,


no one has produced the semic


(that is,


the connotative


codes that structure representations


jazz.


Nevertheless,


although the literature treating jazz can


claim no equivalent of Barthes's A Lover's Discourse or Mythol-


ogies, no meta-musicological


text schematizing codes of musico-


logical and ethnomusicological discourse, we could initiate

such a study by observing that jazz--like its written repre-


sentation--is consistently apprehended as a more or


less


spontaneous process whereby one elaborates or palimpsestically


"plays over" that which is conceived as already composed.


This


process


(which even in its conception is already a represen-


station of


jazz)


is always assigned a name.


For example,


this chapter and, especially,


in the section on Ellison's


Invisible Man,


designate it


the obbligato figure.


Denis


Hollier,


in his reexamination of Sartre, links


it with vari-


action:


"changes made in a tune through the addition of orna-


ments which nevertheless allow the basi


to be maintained."2


melody and movement


It could also be referred to as the figure


of ornamentation or


grace


(a "term used by early English


musicians for any musical orn4


ament, whether written out i








But most frequently,


(i.e.,


the process of making jazz)


is called "improvisation,"


a term that,


in addition to denoting


a spontaneous or extemporized composition,


suggests a previ-


ously established text


(e.g., a musical phrase,


the chord


changes to a


song, a rhythm or riff,


or, perhaps,


in the


case of "fre

of freedom)


e


jazz" the concept, actually the prescription,


that is recalled when extended or recomposed in


another piece.


Marjorie Perloff,


in her study of


the textual


strategies of the Futurists (a

and having deep affinities for,


movement coterminous with,

the Jazz Age), calls it "an


art that depends not on revision in the interests of making

the parts cohere in a unified formal structure, but on a

prior readiness, a performative stance that leaves room for


accident and surprise"


(FM, 102).


Her comments summarize a


statement by Gerald L.


study of


Bruns that can be easily applied to a


jazz:


to improve


is to begin without second thought,


under the rules there i


no turning back.


. Improv-


isation is the performance of a composition at the moment


its composition.


One preserves such a moment by


refusing to revise its results.


that proceeds independently of reflection;


. it is discourse


it does not


stop to check on itself.


erated.3

In a word, im


text


It i


iprovisation defamiliar


(in Shklovsky's phrase,


of an object


s deliberate but undelib-


izes: both an "original"


it transfers "the usual perception


into the sphere of a new perception")


and the very









An especially vivid illustration of


this final point


found in William Zinsser's biography of Willie Ruff and Dwike


Mitchell,


the first


jazz musicians to go to China


(1981).


In it, according to the author


s own account,


"You have a


story that is essentially,


extraordinarily dramatic--two


black men in China,

a totally oral trad


one of whom is explaining jazz,


lition based on improvising,


which is


to the oldest


literate and literal society in the world."

Zinsser, after describing improvisation, "t


According to


he lifeblood of


jazz," "something created during the process of delivery,"

to a group of faculty and students at The Shanghai Conservatory


of Music, Ruff


(playing French horn)


joined his partner's


piano in an improvisation on a


prisingly,


simple blues theme.


the audience was nonplussed.


Not sur-


They had never heard


anything lik


this before.


Their


language did not even have


a word for improvisation.


Following the performance there


was a call for questions.


An old professor


stood up.


"When you created


'Shanghai


Blues


' just now," he said,


"did you have a form for it,


or a logical plan?"


just


started tapping my foot," Ruff replied,


tapping


his foot to reconstruct th


moment.


"And then I


started


to play the first thought that came into my mind with


the horn.


And Mitchell heard it


And he answered.


"But how can you ever play it again?" the old professor
said.
"We never can," Ruff replied.


"That is beyond our imagination,


" the professor said


"Our students
hundred times,


here play a pi


to get


ece


a hundred times,


it exactly right.


You play


or two
some-









one gives turns on the narrative position one takes up


refuse


to take up).


On the one hand,


the presuppositions


on which the Chinese base the creation and performance of


music have


just been contested, but,


at least at the close


of the narrative,


they, and especially their makers, seem


hardly shaken.


On the other hand,


the presuppositions of


jazz have also been contested; the value of


improvisation


has been attacked.


Ruff does not answer


(or,


rather,


if he


did,


his answer is not given).


In any event,


we are left


with two observations.


First,


improvisation has meaning


only within certain contexts.


It is a sign operative in


textual effect of


certain semioti


systems.


To be abrupt,


Zinsser is wrong.


Jazz is not "a totally oral


tradition,"


for in such an imaginary zone,


improvisation would have abso-


lutely no meaning.


would simply be Music.


(draw a large "X"


Pierre Boule


over this pronoun)


z puts it this way:


is necessary to deny all


invention that takes place in the


framework of writing.


. Finally,


improvisation is not


possible"


(in Noise,


145).


Second,


improvisation can be


read


a reflection of Western ideology.


The old professor,


to press a little on his comment,


sees


improvisation


con-


gruent with what has been repeatedly called "a throw-away


society."


Barthes warns,


"I distrust spontaneity,


which is


directly dependent on habits and stereotypes."6









of mass culture--as "a veneer of


individual


'effects'" pasted


on the standardized form of popular song.


He writes,


In serious


one, is
work is,


music


each musical element, even the simplest


"itself," and the mor


the less possibility their


among the details


In hit music,


highly organized the


is of substitution


however,


the structure


underlying the piece is abstract,
of the specific course of the music


existing independent


plicated in popular music never function


but only


. For the com-
s as "itself"


as a disguise or embellishment behind which


the scheme can always


be perceived.


jazz the amateur


listener


is capable of


replacing complicated rhythmical


or harmonic formulas by the schematic ones which they


represent and which they still suggest,


turous they appear.


however adven-


The ear deals with the difficulties


of hit music by achieving slight substitutions derived


from the knowledge of the patterns.


The listener,


when


faced with the complicated, actually hears only the
simple which it represents and perceives, the complicated
only as a parodistic distortion of the simple. (p. 22)


Adorno disparages the emphasis


azz


fans place on "the music


improvisational features," maintaining that such features--

"mere frills"--mask "the fundamental characteristic of popular


music:


standardization"8


According to him,


that which normally


passes for improvisation is "the more or less feeble rehashing


of basic formulas";


real improvisation,


when it does occur


"in oppositional groups which perhaps even today still indulge


in such things out of sheer pleasure,"


is impoverished by


its dependence on popular song form (i.e., a "standard")


the chord progression of the twelve-bar blues, b

musical structures are products of mass culture,


becausee both


stan-


dardized


automobiles mass produced by Ford.


Thus, we


see


. .









Although it can be dismissed as wrongheaded


(his knowledge


jazz seems to have stalled somewhere around the time of his


essay


on popular music or,


if one prefers a


jazz landmark,


somewhere around the time of Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall


Concert), declared a facile,


reduction ad absurdum argument


equally applicable to the "serious" music he lauded, or typi-


field


itself an embellishment of the single note, anti-


mass culture theme he harped on all


of his life, Adorno


characterization of


jazz does employ a favored trope of


jazz


writing.


Indeed,


his argument hones in on and attacks,


the music itself


(although that is probably intended), but


an image


supporters and detractors alike enlist to conceptu-


alize or give voice to the mu

the following passage from a


For example, notice how


jazz appreciation textbook works


off exactly the same image Adorno employs:

Early jazz musicians often began improvising simply by


embellishing the melodies of pop tunes.


embellishment


Eventually,


became as good as and more important to


a performance than the tunes themselves.


formances,


In some per-


that remained was the original tune's


spirit and chord progressions.


What is today called


improvising was referred to by early jazz musicians as


messinn' around," embellishing,


Convention dictates that,


"jassing," "jazzing up."9


if we would have our discourse


count


speech or writing about


jazz,


we must speak of embel-


lishment,


variation,


grace not


improvisation, ad-libbing,


or ornamentation


: images that have come to stand


metonymicallyy







77

Returning to Adorno's argument, we may observe that it


will be taken


truth--as a blow against


azz


and,


by exten-


sion,


a blow against mass culture--precisely to the extent


that


of a


scores


jazz


a blow against a trope organizing our conception


to the extent that it discredits--negates


or problematizes--the verbal construct improvisation by con-


vincing the reader that "real improvisation"


rarely occurs


or that it is,


in fact, mere embellishment).


The point is,


the target of Adorno's virulence may be jazz or mass culture,

but his rhetorical strategy involves an attack on a privileged

metaphor which he rightly assumes this culture will identify


with the object of his scorn.


For his argument to function,


he must create the effect of attacking


jazz


(imagined


either a referent or signified)


and,


by invoking--actually accepting


then, contesting or devaluing--an image identified with


jazz: one which he,


the ever-ready iconoclast,


hopes


(and


rightly knows)


will be taken


an icon of


jazz.


At this


juncture,


we would do well to ask a question.


What must a written p


piece


look like before it will be accepted


as dealing with what Schuller refers to as "music itself"?


Or stated differently,


in order to make the claim hold--that


one writes about


jazz,


essence,


stripped of all


impedi-


menta--how must one write?


Before this question can be ade-


quately engaged,


however -


S -- r


one must speculate on another aues-


.e.,


_









highly schematic and ultimately incomplete,


will reinforce


and elaborate what we have already seen.


For a given acoustic pattern to be taken


has to be perceived


jazz,


an individual performance--a musical


equivalent of parole--deriving from and contributing to a


fundamental structure--a musical equivalent of langue.


More-


over,


the fundamental structure which allows and determines


a particular performance is,


to adopt and paraphrase Saussure,


both a social product of the ability to make sounds


(with


voices and musical


instruments)


and a group of necessary


conventions


(e.g.,


improvisation), collectively labeled jazz,


that have been adopted by a social body to permit individuals


to exercise that ability.10


For example,


sounds may arise


naturally


objects--animate and inanimate--vibrate in air


and receive vibrations); music,

is a social product.11 But bot


according to most theorists,


:h designations, sound and


music,


imply a social context where the opposition


sound/silence and music/noise are maintained.


cultures--and, specifically,


Simply put,


institutions--determine what


counts as sound, music,


or jazz, and as Attali


notes,


conventions which dictate the production, distribution, and


reception of music are ideologically motivated.


Designating,


defining or merely recognizing, a group of


sounds


noise or


music is not a neutral


or innocent act;


it is a gesture of









distributed that music


(Noise,


This is why Adorno can


declare:


"To dislike a song is no longer an expression of


subjective taste but rather a rebellion against the wisdom


of a public utility"


("Pop Music,6"


43-44).


In listening, as


in watching a movie or reading a book,


one is situated by


ideology.


Thus,


the two questions I asked above--"What must a


written piece look like before it will be accepted as dealing


with music itself?"


and "What features must patterns of sound


manifest before they will be counted as jazz?"--are inextric-


ably intertwined.


The study of


jazz itself


is part of the


political system that determines what will be construed--


included and excluded--as


jazz itself.


When one listens to


jazz or writes about


it--recognizing one pattern of sound as


"jazz," excluding another--deeming one text as representing

music itself, excluding, another--one necessarily takes part

in a system of determinations that constrain the production


and perception of


jazz in this episteme.


So then,


the tropes


which represent


jazz match up with our perception of


jazz--


"the music itself"


--for good reason.


In this section I have argued that jazz is always repre-


sented


as a set of "unwritten"


agrements which are disseminated


orally


(by word of mouth)


and electronically


(by means of


radio and recordingss. and that the aoal of musicologv is to









agrdments and opposing,


what Perlman and Greenblatt call,


"commonly-held assumption among people whose acquaintance with


jazz is casual


informal


that the music is made up out of


nothing,


invented out of thin air."12


In short,


I have argued


that, although my


language inevitably continues to treat


as such,


jazz music is less a locatabi


thing than a oscil-


lasting set of auditory signs, and,


similarly,


that written


representations of


jazz may be regarded as


(defined as


sites


where certain privileged signs are set over and against other


signs.


Improvisation,


then,


is best conceptualized as a


textual practice--a figure of debate or contestation--raised,


most notably, by the


sign


jazz.


In their essay "Miles Davis Meets Noam Chomsky," Perlman

and Greenblatt explain the jazz solo through an analogy that


likens improvisation to "linguistic performance."


description,


Their


which recalls Parry, Lord, and Havelock's explana-


tions of Homer's mnemonics, summarizes my discussion of a


major enabling trope of


jazz by,


once again,


illustrating


the convention of conceptualizing jazz as spontaneous ornamen-


station.


It underscores the necessity of mapping music onto


language (mapping one semiotic

the effect of intelligibility)


system onto another generates

and the explanatory power


that results from such a mapping,


that is,


when,


through an


enabling trone, one translates iazz into lancuaae.









figures,


or "licks"


(played, of


course, on the correct


scale- and chord-tones)


that give a


jazz solo its dis-


tinctive


jazz sound,


in the same way that speaking English


implies the use of the available word stock of the lan-


guage,


including bona fide loan words and recognizable


neologisms.


The basic lexicon of


z licks is not


large--there are perhaps two or three dozen that most


players rely on--but,


since any


lick can be played over


any chord, beginning with any


scale/chord-tone and


repeated indefinitely up and down the entire range of


the instrument,


the number of


ities becomes enormous.


(pp.


improvisational possibil-
175-76)


This passage also makes a couple of final points.


It reminds


us that a reliance upon formulas--agrments (whether in


music or writing)


does not necessarily exclude complexity.


But more than that,


it suggests,


in it


s argument for the


value of


improvisation


(no one is writing articles arguing


for the value of composition or the complexity of classical


music), tha

once again,


it the image which brings


the site of


jazz into discourse is,


ideological contestation and struggle.


Improvisation, embellishment,


ornamentation, and ad-


libbing--terms in a series of binary oppositions--are thinkable


only in a paradigm (or

lished a concept "text.


episteme


through a construct)


In our culture


they mark that which i


that which is artfully


that has estab-


(perhaps in our


s auxiliary and ephemeral,


(artificially)


tacked on to the real


item:


the original text.


Most importantly,


these terms are


already in place--they are pregnant with meaning--when


jazz


arises


(diachronically,


in history, or synchronically,









already situated when it arrived.


Or as the Horacio Oliveira,


the narrator of Hopscotch, puts it:


Bessie'


s singing, Coleman Hawkins


s cooing,


weren't


they illusions, or something


other
a monk'
day?


even worse,


the illusion of


illusions, a dizzy chain going backwards,


ey


looking at himself


back to


in the water on that first


Jazz linked up with what Nietzsche called "a mobile army of

metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms"; which is to say,

those who represented it enlisted already available signifiers


of connotation which they,


in turn, mobilized for their own


ends.13


Historically,


the opponents of


jazz declared that


it equaled embellishment,


ornamentation, and ad-libbing


(i.e.,


-[jazz


= agreements) ,


the ultimate elevation of style over


substance, and,


hence,


if accepted as a legitimate way of


creating music,

upside down (or


it would turn the values of the music world


be a sure indication that the entire world


had already capitulated to the madness which jazz only repre-


sented)

truth,


To make sure that their arguments were taken as


these critics invested rhetorically in the already


established negative connotations of the signifiers of


jazz.


On the other hand,


those sympathetic to


z devised two


lines of approach.


First,


they interpreted j


azz


radical


music


invert


modern, avant garde,


(or they read it


or proletarian)


inverting)


and used it to


the very opposition


which the foes of


iazz hooed to maintain.


They reversed the


.*









primitive over the civilized


(i.e.,


+[jazz


= agreements) .


But what if supporters of


music


azz


were unwilling to wield this


as a weapon in the fight against oppression


(of whatever


sort)?


For instance,


what


if their financial


resources


were


not sufficient to allow them to estrange themselves from


positions of power, or what if


such an estrangement would


effectively


silence them?


Then they still had another option.


They could maintain that


jazz might have originated


embel-


lishment,


real


ornamentation, and ad-libbing, but that good or


jazz could never be reduced to a series of agr6ments


(i.e.,


jazz


agreements;


improvisation


embellishment).


Jazz,


if one listened closely enough,


was good music by any


standard


(which meant it was good by standards argued for by


the opponents of


azz


The important issue,


then, was not whether jazz would be


represented by means of a metaphor which I,


out of convenience,


labeled the figure of agr ments.


As we have seen,


jazz arrived


(and, synchronically, arises)


already understood


as ornamen-


station.


It was situated in the midst of a paradigm--a system


of representations--that distinguished unadorned things from


embellished things


(one can imagine that the embellishment


would have little or no meaning to a West African griot of


eighteenth century or to a Greek of Homer's day).


Its meta-


ohors were auicklv naturalized and normalized because. in









of the tropes that brought

as true or authoritative (


jazz into discourse would be taken


something that obviously changed


in time and from place to place).


Of course,


no particular side won.


think for two


reasons.


First,


as Gramsci notes, hegemony is a "moving


equilibrium. "14


To establish a particular interpretation of


a trope as authoritative, a group had to win,


sustain a reading,


reproduce, and


in order to accomplish this it had to


suppress aberrant readings actually made possible by its own


hermeneutic.


These aberrant readings,


byproducts of hegem-


ony, not of opposition


(for that is another matter), con-


stantly returned to destabilize meaning.


Second, and most


obviously,


jazz lost its popular appeal


(although it has not


ceased trying to win it back).


The battle continued, but


its front changed.


Obbligato


Should one seek to deconstruct the binary opposition


"composition/improvisation," which is to say,


if one decided


to demonstrate that the terms "composition" and "improvisation"


are,


Derrida might say, always already untenable--both


terms made constructs by an impossible operation where one


seeks to contain the oooosed term.


in the sense of stoooina









cuts to the hear

of the issue of


(but,


then again,


improvisation,


perhaps only to the rind)


for although


jazz cannot be


reduced to this figure


(even critics will admit that an


improvisation is more than a series of obbligati),


the obbli-


gato i


is built.


one of the basi


Interestingly,


tropes from which

this undecidable,


jazz derived and

double-edged word


has two,


opposed meanings.


The HCDM defines it thus:


Obbligato [It.].
an instrument (v


Obligatory,


riolino obbligato)


usually with referen


or part that must not


be omitted; the opposite is ad libitum.
through misunderstanding or carelessness,


Unfortunately,
the term has


come to mean a mere accompanying part that may be omitted


if necessary.


As a result,


one must decide in each


individual case whether obbligato means "obbligato" or


"ad libitum"; usually it means the former
and the latter in more recent pieces. (m


in early music
ly emphasis)


Clearly, at least from the HCDM's point of view, someone or

something, either "through misunderstanding or carelessness"


(How was thi


determined?


Were these the only choices?),


has behaved improperly towards what we could call the obbligato


as obbligato.


And that mysterious someone or something's


messinn'


around" or "jazzing up" made the obbligato as obbli-


gato "come to mean" something else.


Let us name the product


of thi


s illicit relationship,


the result of this unfortunate


scandal, obbligato as ad libitum, and let us raise a series

of questions which will not be answered, at least not directly

through the means of declaration.

By what process does one differentiate the obligatory from









improvised obbligato displace a melody,

more than a subordinate voice? When dc


become something


'es an obbligato--by


Schuller 's definition,


"an embellishment of a melody"


(EJ,


380)--become the sine qua non?


When does the arbitrary become


obligatory?


The obligatory arbitrary?


Should we designate


the obbligato as ad libitum as a product--perhaps an


"unintended"


result--of


obbligato as obbligato?


What


(il)logic


moves the obbligato as obbligato to become a simulacrum of


itself, obbligato as ad libitum?


How can one distinguish an


obbligato from its double?


If "one must decide in each


individual case whether obbligato means


'obbligato'


libitum,'" then how was the generic, albeit liberal,


law of


'usually it means


' determined?


Why has obbligato as


obbligato been opposed to, and privileged over


(eg., privileged


over,


even in my nomenclature), obbligato as ad libitum?


What does Music have against obbligato as ad libitum?


Of course,


the paraerotic phrase,


"come to mean," which


links obbligato as obbligato to obbligato as ad libitum cannot


help but prompt an association with jazz,


commonly known, once functioned


for jazz, as is


a euphemism for copulation.


Merriam and Garner,


for example,


in their well documented but


inconclusive,


etymological


essay


on the word jazz,


note this


and indicate


"a possible line of research"


connecting "jazz"


with "iasm."


Jasm,


they write,


"may be connected with the









'gravy,


'cream sauce.


' In the North,


it is commonly used


to mean


'semen'"


("Jazz," 385-86).


Now,


it could be easily maintained that I am taking things


too far


(perhaps,


adolescents say, even going "all


way"), that this kind of free association can be done with

any word. But that is precisely the issue here: How far can


one go?


What can and cannot be said about,


done with,


words?


Indeed,


Susan Stewart observes


in Nonsense,


the problem


of ornament is the problem of defining boundary


one might say,


the obbligato figure--which signifi


mise en question of ornamentation--dares us to explore the

limits of what Julia Kristeva and others following her have


called significance.


Naturally,


since we are tracing the


tropes of


discourse of


zzography,


azz


following the explicit model of


, we are obliged to take up this dare.


turn to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.



Obbligato Played with a Borrowed Horn:


Ellison's "Invisible Man" and Derrida


"Dissemination"


Inevitably,


the question one faces in writing about


this: where to begin?

actually "a tissue of


"Dissemination," Derrida


'quotations'"


essay--


--on Philippe Sollers's


Numbers,


names this problem


le ddclenchement


(the trigger)







88

question is what can be said of Ralph Ellison's Invisible

Man?


Several conditions would keep me from saying anything,


keep me skirting the issue.


In order to point them out,


repeatedly appropriate text from Derrida's Dissemination


is my borrowed horn),


even though thi


operation--as a


jazz


music


cian might say,


this "copping of


licks"


also caught


up in the very problem I am examining.


desired,


Indeed,


if the reader


he or she could read my comments as obbligati


blown


between lines Derrida has written.

First, and most obviously, What can be said when the


author


is absent?


cannot, except as a kind of


joke or as


a gesture calculated to keep up pretenses, declare,


Ellison said thus and


unless I


create him afresh,


his text unless,


ultimately,


"Ralph


He cannot authorize my reading

and order cannot be brought to

I affect a discernment "between


the imitator and the imitated"


(Diss,


191).


Only then can I


manufacture a thesis: maintain that Ellison works off


trope of the obbligato, or that he raises but does not resolve


the problem of


identity


(textual,


racial,


individual)


essence or


SOC


ial construction in his novel.


But what about the text?


Couldn't I say something like,


"Although Invisibi


Man


(1952


admits the possibility,


perhaps


even the inevitability.


that in thi


s culture the black man


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