Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Theory Pop

Looking at one of my CDs today, a Thelonious Monk jazz CD titled Solo Monk, recorded in 1964-5 and reissued last year, I noticed the fine print on the back for the first time:
During the past decade or so "Deconstructionism" has emerged from college Philosophy and Literature departments, gaining particular currency in connection with the popular arts. These days it's not unusual to encounter a think piece theorizing that TV's Dark Angel is, deep down, a deconstruction of The Seventh Seal or some such absurdity. But when it came to true deconstructive invention, Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-1982), as was so often the case, got there first.
I'm always excited to see the use and abuse of theory outside of the academy. And this is an especially noteworthy example. The author manages to trash "dumb" cultural studies without trashing Deconstruction in the process -- the problem seems to be its leaving the academy, not its very existence -- while at the same time elevating the practitioner of a once "popular" form of music to the status of a theorist.

Deconstruction is both antagonist and protagonist here.

Interestingly, this is also the case in many books from the late 80s and early 90s about Derrida, De Man et. al., which want to redeem the good and punish the bad. Even Michael Ryan's Marxism and Deconstruction partakes of that rhetorical strategy.

Does this mean that the poor soul who wrote this copy was mired in graduate school a decade ago? There's a decent chance.

I suppose Orrin Keepnews, credited with the could have written the blurb, but it's hard to imagine someone that elderly and distinguished referencing Dark Angel.

The intriguing part is that somebody at Columbia/Legacy believed a nearly illegible back-cover blurb referencing Deconstruction would help to sell a forty-year-old jazz album.

Or have the shrinking markets for theory and jazz finally converged on the perilous shores of Atlantis?
Tags: media, theory

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