I was never particularly in love with the Beach Boys. However, I’ve been listening a lot to a musician very strongly influenced by them. This musician, “named” Panda Bear, reworks familiar BB sound—Brian Wilsonesque vocals are distorted and extended into 12-minute songs that change tunes midway. I love covers, reworkings, renditions like this. I like to see how little or how much remains of an original. Stepping up on an existing structure is a creative, and sometimes necessary way to get to another structure.
I’m worried about the future of covers. Apparently there’s a secret treaty or law or something afoot to fine or imprison or ban online copyright violators. Pro-copyright legislation like this mutates into internalized plagiarism phobia. A couple of years ago, Tina Darragh mailed out a piece, Opposable Dumbs: A Project Report, asking people to plagiarize it. I thought this would be a great activity for a class I was teaching. But the students balked like cows at an electric fence. I had to cajole them, swearing that Tina really, really, really wanted her text plagiarized—look, she even says so!—and the long arms of the law wasn’t going to come after them with pitchforks and taser guns and revoked Internet privileges. But there was no reasoning with them—they had the blank stares of fear. Now, ironically, one of the students is teaching the same class I did, with the same theme and almost the same wording. So the lesson was learned, seed planted, etc., after all. (Should I sue?)
Covers bring to mind static, especially as an acoustic sea out of which recognizable tunes emerge and submerge. I think of static as the simultaneous reproduction of an almost infinite number of sound molecules. I love Elliot Sharp’s In the Land of the Yahoos, not so much for the distortion, but for when a tune comes into brief focus out of it. I’m not so aware of poets who are experimenting with this static/lyric balance (and please comment if you have suggestions!). Anselm Berrigan has been posting Douglas Oliver’s letters that discuss starting point sound. I’m interested in when that starting point is static, as almost a compositional gray. Maybe Kenneth Goldsmith’s work could be considered static, without the emergent/contrasting tunes?
I was thinking about static when I wrote a poem titled “glitch.” The starting point of the poem, though, wasn’t sound—it was instead a conception of the Bradbury Building in L.A. The “I” in the poem is cloned—reflective, but mirror-opposites. I like to see what pops philosophically and maybe even sonically when two opposites exist at the same time in a line. The clone was a failure, a glitch, as static is also an agglomeration of ongoing glitches. But the Bradbury Building, initiated by a Oujia board message, is one of a kind. So speaking of opposites, I’m also interested in structures that are not “copies” or even covers, discrete, impossible to replicate, duplicate, multiply, distribute. I’m trying to fathom a book that is not a copy of a book, yet that more than one person can read. It’s a question of distribution maybe. How can one access an artwork or poem that is only and one?