The Wonderful and Frightening Worlds of Mark E. Smith and Steve Aylett

By Spencer Cawein Pate

When Bill Ectric first emailed to ask me if I was interested in contributing an essay to a Steve Aylett nonfiction tribute anthology / festschrift he was editing, I knew immediately that I would a) enthusiastically accept his offer, since Aylett is one of my favorite writers, and b) write about the influence of The Fall–a mutual favorite band–on Aylett’s work.

Now that Bill’s excellent Steve Aylett: A Critical Anthology (which is co-edited by D. Harlan Wilson, and which includes pieces from such literary luminaries as Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock) has just been published, I’m proud to present the opening two paragraphs of my essay, “The Wonderful and Frightening Worlds of Mark E. Smith and Steve Aylett.” Anyone interested in satire, cult fiction, and cult music should check out the book! (Tony Lee and John Oakes’ contributions are particularly good, too.)

The Wonderful and Frightening Worlds of Mark E. Smith and Steve Aylett

“The difference between you and us is that we have brains”

–From “Intro” [Totale’s Turns] by The Fall

When we first encounter a writer as original as Steve Aylett, or as original as the character Jeff Lint in Aylett’s eponymous novel, it seems as though we cannot help but attempt to territorialize that writer’s imagination, to annex it to what we already know and understand. For example, when Lint‘s laziest reviewers noticed the novel’s superficial parallels and allusions to the life of Philip K. Dick, they automatically assumed it was intended as a roman à clef and proceeded to criticize it on this basis…notwithstanding Aylett’s assertions to the contrary in several interviews. (To be fair, the book may have been marketed misleadingly in this regard.)

But while Jeff Lint was not intended to be a thinly-disguised Philip K. Dick, I do think Aylett may have had other models and analogues in mind—namely, Mark E. Smith (or as fans call him, MES), the lead singer, lyricist, and sole constant member of that British post-punk institution, The Fall. I certainly do not mean to suggest that Lint was implicitly based upon MES’s colorful life, only to assert that his contrarian persona and distinctive approach to cultural criticism have strongly informed the satirical work of Steve Aylett and, by extension, that of Jeff Lint. My intention in writing this essay is thus not to find and catalogue every instance in Aylett’s fiction where he alludes to The Fall (although as an avowed fan, Aylett places many such references throughout his oeuvre), but rather to delineate and compare the satirical currents in MES and Aylett’s idiosyncratic bodies of work.

The world of art needs people like Mark E. Smith and Steve Aylett (or, for that matter, like Jeff Lint) to keep it honest, to save it from complacency. While their idiosyncratic worlds may initially seem frightening to the uninitiated, their audience knows that they are also wonderful. I think I can speak for all of Aylett’s fans when I say that we are profoundly grateful for the presence of his books in our lives. At its best, satire is as constructive of imaginative possibilities as it is destructive of established orders; it teaches us how we can “step sideways” from the world, as Mark E. Smith once put it. Underneath the grotesquerie, satire can represent the fraught, beleaguered defense of what is best in us: reason and creativity and humor, friendship and kindness and love: the ideals and practices that constitute sanity itself.

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Another Book by Paul Murray

By Spencer Cawein Pate

Ever since I read the first two novels by the wonderful Irish writer Paul Murray in 2011 (about which I previously wrote a brief essay), I’ve been eagerly awaiting his next book. Thankfully, The Mark and the Void finally arrived on American shores in fall 2015, and I read it over winter break.

While Skippy Dies remains my favorite of Murray’s novels, The Mark and the Void might be his most ambitious and sophisticated work to date (even if the comedy occasionally verges on the overly broad), in that it’s one of a select few novels that not only engages with the complexities and contradictions of late capitalism, but also reflects that struggle to represent that which we cannot access or understand on the level of literary form. (The only comparable novel I can recall is William Gaddis’ 1975 masterpiece J R, to which The Mark and the Void is a worthy successor.) The metafictional frame story (concerning a frustrated, penurious, and none-too-bright novelist, also named Paul, who is shadowing Claude Martingale–a Frenchman who works at an Irish investment bank during the meltdown of 2008, closely paralleling the actual history of Ireland during this period–purportedly as part of the research process for his next book, but in reality as an attempted criminal plot to figure out how to rob the bank, which in turn devolves into a number of other harebrained business schemes) is more than just a clever but meaningless postmodern conceit. Rather, it serves as a running commentary on the representational difficulty with which artists are faced when they attempt to find the human drama in bureaucratic structures, an environment that effaces the historical and geographic specificity of both character and setting: non-people in non-places. And as with fiction, the capitalist ideology of investment banking has a curiously undefined ontological status; while it lacks embodied existence or the fullness of being per se, it nevertheless possesses uncannily persistent material effects / affects upon the real world, which we might call the “force of the fake.”

The madcap narrative resists easy summation, spiraling into digressions about the anthropology and political economy of debt and social class, the nature of the global financial crisis and its social costs, the cultural and sexual politics of banking, the absurdities of contemporary literature and publishing, the desire for authentic connection in the loneliness of the internet age, and post-structural philosophy and abstract art, but ultimately the book’s title–which ostensibly refers to a valuable painting that drives part of the plot–is best understood as a pun: it’s about the ethical void at the heart of capitalism and the marks who are duped into falling for its con games. Like the nonfiction books on the financial crisis by Matt Taibbi and Michael Lewis (or the film based on Lewis’ The Big Short), it manages to educate and entertain the reader simultaneously, puncturing the myths of late capitalism. But because of Murray’s great facility with character and dialogue, The Mark and the Void is both uproariously funny (although often in a bleak and all-too-plausible fashion) and deeply serious and empathetic as it plays with the dichotomies between fiction and life, haves and have-nots. Its slingshot ending is as unexpected and delightful as anything I’ve read in a long time.

If there is a flaw with the book, it lies in the fact that the fruits of Murray’s research sometimes seem a little too obvious and on-the-nose in the text. I read it almost back-to-back with David Graeber’s latest collection of essays on bureaucracy, stupidity, and violence, The Utopia of Rules–the implicit dialogue between the two works greatly enhanced the experience!–and it was immediately apparent to me that Murray had seriously studied Graeber’s previous monograph, Debt (which interviews with Murray later borne out). For this reviewer, there were too many expository passages on the subject of money, credit, and debt that were not as well-integrated into the narrative as they could have been, as with, say, the many digressions of Skippy Dies. (Of course, readers who are not already familiar with Graeber’s work may not find this to be the case at all.) Other bits recall the themes and concepts explored by thinkers like Marc Auge, Jean Baudrillard, Franco Berardi, Guy Debord, Gilles Deleuze, Fredric Jameson, Marcel Mauss, and Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, but these allusions are mostly accomplished with stylistic elegance and a lightness of touch. Murray nevertheless deserves commendation for engaging so thoughtfully and thoroughly with ideas from modern anthropology, philosophy, and political economy, and as a result, The Mark and the Void feels directly and uniquely relevant to the present situation. Indeed, we might call it the first great post-Occupy Movement novel! On the level of both content and form, Paul Murray is dragging the classic social novel into the harsh light of twenty-first century realities.

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Recommended Music 2015

By Spencer Cawein Pate

[see also: 20092010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016]

1. Three Exercises–Devin DiSanto & Nick Hoffman

  • From Here to Ear–Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
  • f(x)–Carter Tutti Void
  • Kahraba–EEK
  • Elaenia–Floating Points
  • Morning / Evening–Four Tet
  • Have You in My Wilderness–Julia Holter
  • St. Louis Friday, Brussels Saturday, Houston Thursday, & Los Angeles SaturdayJandek
  • Cardinal–Philip Jeck
  • Amorphous Spores–Takahiro Kawaguchi & Utah Kawasaki
  • Schwarze Riesenfalter–Graham Lambkin & Michael Pisaro
  • Edition 1–King Midas Sound & Fennesz
  • Parazoan Mapping–Eric La Casa & Taku Unami
  • Fantasy Empire–Lightning Bolt
  • Four Forms–Rie Nakajima
  • Vertigo–The Necks
  • Kannon–Sunn O)))
  • No. 3–Christina Vantzou
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An Interview with Devin DiSanto and Nick Hoffman

By Spencer Cawein Pate

Devin DiSanto and Nick Hoffman’s Three Exercises–released by one of my very favorite record labels, Erstwhile–is one of the most beguiling albums I’ve listened to in 2015. An auditory trace or palimpsest of an artistic happening (involving ping pong balls, cardboard boxes, duct tape, basketballs, and children’s board games, processed by stochastic electronics and obliquely commented on by spectators) that was recorded in an elementary school gymnasium, Three Exercises is both strikingly innovative in the field of electroacoustic music and skewed and oddly endearing as a portrait of artistic collaboration and performance. I decided to interview Devin and Nick to learn more about how they crafted this totally unique album.

SCP: First of all, I was wondering why you chose to record this album in a school gym as opposed to any other kind of public space. Was it merely out of necessity / availability, or was there a deeper resonance there? I ask because I found parts of the album to have a nostalgic cast to them; something about the sounds and acoustics immediately evoked the experience of being a child in elementary school, through a Proustian kind of involuntary memory.

NH: A large, resonant space that is usually associated with bad acoustics–it was Devin’s suggestion, and I accepted the challenge.

DD: I wanted to record in a distinct space that would work well thematically with the different projects, testing, and games that we would be doing. I normally don’t like recording in really reverberant spaces, but it seemed like a worthwhile challenge to make it work.

SCP: What were the circumstances that led to you two collaborating? How easy or difficult was it to meld your different sensibilities? Erstwhile’s Jon Abbey is known for selecting and introducing pairs of musicians in order to produce novel duo improv situations, but I wasn’t sure if either of you had met or worked together before.

NH: We had never met or worked together before; it was Jon’s idea. Fortunately, we had a lot of time beforehand to talk about it and plan things out, so when we actually met it wasn’t difficult to start working. I think we’re both somewhat resistant to free improvisation, so it was necessary to have some kind of plan ahead of time.

DD: I’d been aware of Nick’s music and his label, Pilgrim Talk, for quite a while. He’s released, and been a part of several interesting conceptually based recordings that I really like (Noise without Tears, Cockroach Boy). I figured he would be a good person to work with and would be open to trying new things.

SCP: Was the Fluxus art movement, with its emphasis on indeterminacy, spontaneity, performativity, participation, and DIY ethics / aesthetics (including the use of very mundane and banal materials), an influence on how you conceived of this recording, or on your work in general? In particular, I found myself thinking of Allan Kaprow’s writings on “concrete art” and descriptions I’ve read of his “happenings.”

NH: I first encountered Fluxus at an impressionable age, so I’ve probably internalized some of those ideals (and yes, of course, preposterous DIY ethics that can only be doomed to failure). Even if some of it looks silly now, there’s something really endearing and sweet about the whole thing. I’m still a big fan of Yoko Ono; her book, Grapefruit, is a personal favorite. Many of the qualities you mention are present on Three Exercises.

DD: Fluxus definitely had an impact on me at a certain point, especially works by Giuseppe Chiari (La Strada) and Mieko Shiomi (Spacial Poem No.7). Now it is more of a general influence among others in the area of experimental music / interdisciplinary art. It wasn’t really a direct influence on the making of the recording or something that Nick and I discussed while making it. For me, the use of banal / everyday materials and actions doesn’t come from any specific reference or influence, as it is a fairly common theme running through different films, music and art that I’m interested in. For performances and recordings I often gravitate toward using office supplies, and shipping, industrial and packing materials both for the visual and sonic qualities as well as the functional aspects. I do enjoy Kaprow’s writings though, especially the two Education of the Un-Artist pieces. That spirit has probably rubbed off quite a bit.

SCP: I’m interested in whether you were inspired by some of the recent developments in improvised music, such as the noisy, chaotic systems of the South Korean improv scene or perhaps the very quiet performances and environmental sounds of the Wandelweiser group. Was this the case?

NH: There is a lot of great music coming out of Seoul, and it’s probably fair to say that the musicians involved with the Balloon & Needle and Manual labels influenced me. Devin and I both performed at Dotolim this year, and the scene there is still improbably vibrant and interesting. Wandelweiser is, I think, the opposite of what I’m doing. If the Wandelweiser composers take silence as a starting point, I take noise as a starting point.

DD: I studied with Michael Pisaro when I briefly attended CalArts so that certainly helped shape the way I approach making sound. I enjoy the music from both of these areas, but the primary influence for me, and common link between the Wandelweiser composers and the musicians in Seoul, is the approach, or attitude toward recording associated with them (e.g., Becoming Typewriter, Un Lieu Pour Être Deux). Allowing a space, and the events that take place within / around it to be a presence that is as significant as the performers in the room and the actions they are carrying out, is an intriguing idea, and one that I’ve tried to explore further. What I’m interested in most in relation to this idea is the sound of a situation, and presenting events that occur within the realm of possibility that helps define and characterize that space. The theme and context of the performance, and the different materials involved hopefully frames and provides a character to this sense of potential. Treating sound in a way that reflects this idea is important to me, and was something that I was sensitive to when putting the recording together.

SCP: I also thought that Three Exercises made for an interesting companion piece to some other recent releases on Erstwhile: Graham Lambkin and Keith Rowe’s Making A (not to mention Lambkin’s trilogy in collaboration with Jason Lescalleet) and Eric La Casa and Taku Unami’s Parazoan Mapping, all of which deal with the auditory traces of everyday events and objects. Three Exercises comes packaged with photos hinting at the processes of its production, and of course the album comments on its own creation through the observations of your chosen interlocutors. But the actual “games” you’re playing remain somewhat opaque. At times I felt baffled and wished I could watch a video of what was going on, but ultimately I’m grateful that the focus was placed on the sounds rather than their sources. Did you want to force the listener to use his or her imagination by leaving so many elements mysterious and anonymous, or would you care to elaborate on your methods?

NH: Prior to recording, we talked a lot about transparency. A lot of so-called experimental music cloaks itself in this kind of phony mysticism or ends up being crushed by its own sense of preciousness. We really wanted to avoid that and just say, “here’s what we’re doing.” So, the observers / writers are there telling the listener exactly what’s going on–it’s essentially a real-time commentary on the music. It was pretty awkward while it was happening–two people taking notes into tape recorders, just sitting there watching us–but their recordings ended up sounding great. Regarding methods: my role on this album is similar to that of an accompanist. You could compare it to the role of an organist during a church service.

DD: I wanted to make a recording that would allow someone to listen to it in multiple ways or from different perspectives, as though it were a music composition, a field recording, a news broadcast, or a mixture of these and maybe more. I wanted to find a balance between a listening experience that is indexical, or oriented around cause and effect in terms of understanding a sound as the result of a specific action with a visual reference, and one that results from the entirety of a sonic environment with its sound-transmitting and modifying elements. I think if a listener is made aware of the conditions of the event taking place, the objects and materials involved, and the space in which they are being used, then deciphering what is occurring hopefully becomes secondary or equal to listening solely to the sonic elements.

SCP: Moreover, are the rules or tasks you set up significant in and of themselves, or are they merely means to an end? In other words, does the resulting album (with its post-production) have primacy as an objet d’art over the absent center of its live, sensory performance, or is it merely an audio vérité document of the multimedia ritual “happening,” which now belongs to the past and is consigned only to the memory of its participants?

NH: It is not a document in any meaningful sense of the word. Although no effects were added and the post-production work is relatively minimal, what you hear on the album is radically different from what happened in the space. From the outset, I wanted it to be very clear that we were creating an audio recording (that would ultimately end up on a CD), and that essentially we would be creating acousmatic music. To answer your first question: the sound is the only thing that matters to me.

DD: For me the tasks / rules and the functions they serve are significant because they were used to structure the recording and provide a context for the sounds being created. The incidental sounds of these activities are also the types of sounds that interest me the most. I think it’s possible for a fairly dedicated listener to piece together the different activities that took place, though I really don’t think it’s necessary. I read a review recently that put it together pretty closely. Overall I agree with Nick. The end result is not documentation of what took place. It is a sound recording that is a reduced and reassembled version and is something entirely different.

SCP: The album contains some very surprising shifts in volume dynamics and scale. How were the sounds you generated modified and recorded in real time, as the liner notes refer to “stochastic electronics”?

NH: Most of my sounds were synthesized in real-time by a computer–in general I avoid using pre-recorded samples. A lot of the electronic sounds you hear are being generated by stochastic oscillators which were programmed in accordance with Iannis Xenakis’ concept of dynamic stochastic synthesis. In short, this means that the output is not completely predictable, but based instead on various mathematical probabilities. The computer was connected to a PA system in the gym with the output played back at high volume. This had the effect of “warming up” the computer tones. Certain other sounds are reacting–via amplitude tracking–to acoustic sounds within the gym itself. It was kind of a nightmare setting it up.

SCP: Do you find that there are political dimensions to your practice of collaboration and participation in improvisation? It seems that there is a radical, egalitarian democracy inherent in how you make and treat sounds as well–they are set free to speak for themselves. It’s very punk, in a way.

NH: That might be an illusion. I’m not shy about eliminating sounds I don’t like (and there are many!). Again, the events were planned out pretty carefully, so yes sounds were allowed to occur more or less naturally, but only within the parameters we had determined in advance. In addition, there are many edits on Three Exercises. I guess there will always be politics in a collaborative situation. A duo is perfect in that it implies a 50/50 balance.

DD: I’m not much of an improviser so I don’t have much insight into that dynamic. Nick has much more experience in that area. In terms of our collaboration, Nick is a really flexible musician and was great to work with. We were able to talk quite a bit and exchange / refine ideas before we met to make the recording.

SCP: Lastly, Three Exercises is so refreshing for its humor, playfulness, and lack of pretension; it confuses the categories of composer and performer, professional and amateur, field recording and composition, sound and noise. What was the subjective experience of making it like?

NH: It was fun. A lot of recording sessions feel rushed for various reasons: someone is only in town for the afternoon, the studio is expensive, people want to get drunk, etc. This wasn’t like that at all. We had two full days in the gym so we were able to try different things out, make adjustments, and then just record until we got it right. It felt really luxurious.

DD: It was a great experience. I had fun playing basketball when we weren’t recording.

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Math Pedagogy in Plato’s Republic

By Spencer Cawein Pate

This summer, I enrolled in a doctoral seminar centered on the standardization and corporatization of the curriculum in public schools. Our professor, Dr. Tom Poetter, had an ambitious goal for the class: to collectively write and produce a book on the course subject, drawing upon our own experiences and curriculum theorist William Pinar’s concept of currere, within a short and intense span of four weeks.

The book that resulted, Was Someone Mean to You Today?: The Impact of Standardization, Corporatization, and High-Stakes Testing on Students, Teachers, Communities, Schools, and Democracy, has just been published by Van-Griner. It’s an unusual and interesting volume: instead of each contributor authoring a separate chapter, we worked as teams to co-author chapters by weaving together previously-submitted essays and reflections on a common theme. I was in charge of the chapter on rhetoric, which contains three pieces of mine in addition to the chapter’s conclusion: a substantial exploration of the Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalytic foundations of currere, a strategic discussion of George Lakoff’s idea of linguistic reframing vs. Corey Robin’s advocacy for a “politics of freedom,” and finally a personal narrative about perennialist values in the math classroom. I would like to present a special expanded version of this last piece here, as I think it’s my most succinct and elegant statement of my educational philosophy and practice:

In the fall of 2014, I took a philosophy course centered on Plato’s Republic. Several books of the Republic concern the question of education in the author’s ideal society, and as a former middle school math teacher, I was delighted by how Plato places mathematics at the center of his educational philosophy. Plato, of course, would be an educational perennialist, concerned with passing down timeless / universal / transcendent truths to a new generation. Mathematics and geometry, which in Plato’s view are the very definition of archetypal forms (527b5: “it is knowledge of what always is, not of something that comes to be and passes away”), are ideal for this pedagogy, so long as they remain refined and abstract, divorced from any kind of measurement: “for the sake of knowledge rather than trade” (525d1-2). He goes on to argue the following:

“Then it would be appropriate, Glaucon, to prescribe this subject in our legislation and to persuade those who are going to take part in the greatest things in the city to go in for calculation and take it up, not as laymen do, but staying with it until they reach the point at which they see the nature of the numbers by means of understanding itself; not like tradesmen and retailers, caring about it for the sake of buying and selling, but for the sake of war and for ease in turning the soul itself around from becoming to truth and being. […] It gives the soul a strong lead upward and compels it to discuss the numbers themselves, never permitting anyone to propose for discussion numbers attached to visible or tangible bodies.” (525b11-d7)

Furthermore, the process of learning mathematics models the faculties or virtues of reason and logic that Plato attributes to the philosopher-kings of his ideal city: “More than anything else, then, we must require the inhabitants of your beautiful city not to neglect geometry in any way, since even its byproducts are not insignificant. […] And in addition, when it comes to being better able to pick up any subject, we surely know there is a world of difference between someone with a grasp of geometry and someone without one” (527c1-8). It exercises the mind in the same way physical training strengthens the body: 

“Now, have you ever noticed that those who are naturally quick at calculation are also naturally quick in all subjects, so to speak, and that those who are slow, if they are educated and exercised in it, even if they are benefited in no other way, nonetheless improve and become generally sharper than they were? […] Moreover, I do not think you will easily find many subjects that are harder to learn or practice than it. For all these reasons, then, the subject is not to be neglected. On the contrary, the very best natures must be educated in it.” (526b4-c5)

When I taught math, I would sometimes find myself being asked the inevitable questions by my students: “Why do we have to learn this? When am I going to use this in the real world?” The answers that math teachers typically default to are: “You will use math in your future job.” or “You need to learn math so you can get a good job in the future.” I find both of these answers to be unsatisfying and inaccurate; while many jobs (and everyday life itself, particularly in matters of finance) do involve more math than we often think, some jobs do not, and those that do will not necessarily involve all of the areas of mathematics that are commonly taught (because of specialization). And of course, when one answers with reference to jobs, students will immediately challenge you to specifically describe how the math they’re currently learning will be useful and relevant to a particular career, which is not always easily done.

Moreover, I especially dislike the corporatization and subordination of math education to the technical ends of capital, of being able to “compete in the global economy.” The use-value of mathematics infinitely exceeds its exchange-value; indeed, the study of mathematics doesn’t have to have a reason or a purpose: I believe that the contemplation of math, much like the contemplation of art, is its own reward.  So when students asked me those above questions, I tried to sidestep this trap by reframing what the questions presuppose. I would answer as follows:

“We should study and appreciate math for several reasons:

“1. Because math is beautiful and fascinating in its own right.

“2. Because math teaches us to reason, to think critically and logically, and in doing so, it makes us better and more literate citizens who can participate in a democratic society.

“3. Because math helps us to investigate and solve real-world problems and phenomena.

“4. Because math is connected to every other subject imaginable: science, history, economics, even art and music.”

And only after I listed those four reasons would I cite the fifth–to get a good and enjoyable job someday.

I would like to think that this is a rationale for mathematics education of which Plato would have basically approved. While doubtlessly he would not agree with my progressive pedagogical inclinations, my educational values are perennialist, like his own. Those eternal verities act as a bulwark against the corporatization of mathematics education (often under the guise of STEM), and they can help us to reframe what is considered normative or commonsensical in schooling. We teach and learn math not to serve the interests of capital, but rather for both public and private good.

Finally, I should note that seventh graders generally don’t find my answer any more satisfying than the default one. But we should expect this–after all, they’re still just middle schoolers. However, I believe that an intellectually honest if unconvincing answer is superior to a fundamentally dishonest and ethically suspect answer that is even less convincing. Who knows? Maybe I’ve planted seeds that, in the fullness of time, will flower and bear fruit. I would love to think that when my former students are, say, studying calculus and / or physics in high school or college, some will have an epiphanic moment of realization and exclaim: “Mr. Pate was right–mathematics really is beautiful!”

If you’re interested in reading more on-the-ground reportage and analysis of the disastrous effects of high-stakes testing on public schools–written by actual classroom teachers, informal educators, and college professors and administrators–be sure to check out the book! I’ll end with my reflection on the process of crafting the book:

This currere project reminded me of a quote from the final section of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”: “these fragments I have shored against my ruins.”  It seems contradictory that only gathering and marshaling fragments can stave off encroaching ruination, but in the wake of the corporatization of education, perhaps fragments–of history, of theory, of discourse–are all that remain. Fragments are something we can build with, in the empty spaces between the rubble and debris that capital has left behind. The currere method produced short, sharp fragments of subjectivity (which we called “bits”), that were then worked into longer and more rigorous academic treatments. The treatments were in turn woven and braided into narratives, the narratives into chapters, and the chapters into the book you have just read. But rather than subordinating all of these disparate melodies to a single harmony, the currere process allowed us to babble with a polyphony of voices, a kind of sinuous and riverine music with themes submerging into and surfacing from the flow of the text. For all the messiness of our journey as a course, something spontaneous and surprising and novel emerged. As Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

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A Madison Cawein Sesquicentennial

By Spencer Cawein Pate

Today, March 23, 2015, is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Madison Julius Cawein. To celebrate–and to enact a little more “poetic justice”–my dad had these beautiful stamps made with Madison’s image:

Madison Cawein stamps

Here is a close-up of the image of Madison at work:

Madison Cawein Sesquicentennial

Finally, we also purchased a flower arrangement for Madison’s grave in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. Two pictures follow below:

Madison Cawein flowers 1

Madison Cawein flowers 2

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Recommended Music 2014

By Spencer Cawein Pate

[see also: 20092010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016]

1. The Lowland Hundred–The Lowland Hundred

  • Africa Express Presents Terry Riley’s In C Mali–Africa Express
  • “Falling Asleep / Orpheus Avenue”–The Clientele
  • Nothing Important–Richard Dawson
  • Bécs–Fennesz
  • Hidden Cities–Horse Lords
  • Inherent Vice–Jonny Greenwood
  • Houston Saturday, Ghost Passing, & Houston Saturday 2011Jandek
  • Under the Skin–Mica Levi
  • Terrestrials–Sunn O))) & Ulver
  • Detour–Toshiya Tsunoda & Manfred Werder
  • No. 2–Christina Vantzou
  • SousedScott Walker & Sunn O)))
  • Out of Range–Jana Winderen
  • AtomosA Winged Victory for the Sullen
  • Tomorrow’s Modern BoxesThom Yorke
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