Working to Design: The Self-Perpetuating Ideology of Rock or ... ‘The New Bob Dylan’

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John Scannell


This premise of this article is that music and the writing process have no inherent kinship, and that the often ill-conceived merger of these activities as the “music writing” process, is generally destined for failure. That is because writing about music subsumes its affective power into a foreign modality; it is captured and rendered into the printed word, made to signify, made to represent something, where that something is generally resolved within the presuppositions of the writers’ often-limited referential framework. At the heart of the matter is that writing about music often does not attempt to capture the affective processes that inspired creation in the first place, and in this respect, the paper argues that it may be more appropriate for the music writer/journalist to respond in kind, or as Deleuze and Guattari might say, that the music writing process should pursue a ‘becoming-music’ itself. For rather than subjecting music to the realm of representation, or subsuming its creative power within the realm of opinion and cliché, the writer should instead be concerned with harnessing and re-channelling those forces of sensation or affect that gave rise to it in the first place, and which might, in turn, inspire a literary creativity that is commensurate to the power of the music at hand.

Article Details

Terpsichorean Architecture: Writing about Music Special Issue January 2011 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

John Scannell, Macquarie University

John Scannell is Lecturer in the Department of Media, Music, Communcation and Cultural Studies in Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. His book on James Brown's transformation of time in popular music will be published by Equinox in 2011.