March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

One wonders how exactly a period so dynamic – NY in the late 70s, native ground of pop modernism – could have produced something so genuinely dreamy as Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. (This is assuming, of course, that the sleepy, blurred & erotic have something to do with crisis, with an era’s sense of its own decadence: Schiele, Klimt, A Rebours.) It still has a lot to do with the sublimity of disco of course, that pure pleasure product of late capitalism’s machine-infrastructure. But it sounds a bit different after re-watching, as I have the last few weeks, The Singing Detective: the zoot suits, the stage set-up that recalls the Count Basie band; the wisps of song bouncing around Marlow’s addled brain that are both comforting fragment of temps perdu & troubling anatomy of desire. Peter Shapiro’s excellent ‘secret history of disco’ The Beat Goes On notes that disco first emerged in the context of the major visible economic crisis of social democracy – the total collapse of New York City’s local government infrastructure – a fact that both Style Wars & later Paris is Burning continue to testify to (the two gay Latino boys, stick thin, who speak straight into the camera towards the end). A distinction then between those artworks that are a ‘product of their era’, dominated by & strictly ‘reflective of’ their conditions (in the late 19th/early 20th century, let’s say Saint-Saens, or Gautier), & those artworks that master the possibilities, the languages & affects that their moment makes possible, that actualise the sedimented history in their materials & form (Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Strindberg’s Dream Play). Like Dr. Buzzard, to whom I sleep.


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