Allen Ginsberg on Time and Sound – continues from here
AG: So what’s the point of all that? relating to poetics? I don’t know. It’s just that I’m hung up on it. I’m just completely hung up on this for the last month… Aristide Bruant, Marlene Dietrich, and Amelita Galli-Curci (which I’ll bring in next time) for just sound. Some distinctive flavor in their voices that has a complete imprint of humor, character, emotion, self-mastery of some kind, (or self-recognition), some kind of wisdom (sort of cynical wisdom) – what?..yes.. .a lot of vulnerability – Has anybody.. [to Students] how many here have heard Marlene Dietrich before? – and how many have not (has anybody not, of the younger generation here?) – yeah – well, it’s always worth hearing. So why is W.C. Fields –
W C. Fields and Marlene Dietrich, why are they.. why are they immortal – like William Butler Yeats and T.S Eliot – and William Carlos Williams? – Because their immortality depends on people being able to be able to hear them. still, on a tape, whereas with poetry, or with Williams and Eliot, or..Wordsworth, it’s on the paper, (so you don’t have to depend on a piece of electricity), it’s built into the formation of words on the page (or cuneiform, or whatever way you got it). So that the arrangement of the words on your page propose some kind of vocalization. Well, that.. has that same prune character/taste, cantaloupe taste, or whatever it is – Or is it just the thought that the poetry…that ancient poetry proposes?
I think it proposes some kind of sound too. The sound’s in your head, of some kind, even in translation. But if you hear Catullus read aloud, or Homer, or Shakespeare, almost anything in poetry, there is some echo of sound that sticks in the bones of the ear and has an echo (the words always have some kind of vocal echo) that give it a dimension of time, give it that sense of going in and out of time, and hearing time, and stopping time.
See, that was (Bob) Dylan‘ s theory, by the way, Dylan’s theory of singing, or poetry and singing are an art itself, (and particularly singing) is to get into such a state of command of the inspiration or (no, not command). to such a state of single-mindedness entering into his breath while singing that he stops time. And his ambition is to stop time – literally. – which he does! – which any great art does. You know, it stops everything for a second, when you look around and.. – or has anybody had that experience? does this make sense? stopping time? – I’m not exactly sure what he meant …it was part of a conversation about Renaldo and Clara in 1976 (or (19)78). and I was asking him what his aesthetic was and he said that he though that the ultimate effect of art was to… no that every artist wants to stop time – that he wants to stop time – and every artist wants to stop time. And I wasn’t quite sure what he meant actually, except that my experience of Dylan stopping time was hitting a note that was so long and so deep and so soulful melancholy-emotionally, in which you could see he was putting all of his being into one single breath that was coming out of him, so he was identical – he and his whole body were identical with his breath, so there was nothing outside of that note, and nothing outside of that long breath note song word, that everything, everything in his brain and body was collected into that one..one column of air coming out of him and the vibration of the sound. So all of his being and all of his intensity, all of his.. everything, you know, from his toes to his guts to his asshole to his mouth, was all one column of air coming out, with the feeling, whatever was involved, and all of his thoughts – so that he wasn’t singing that and thinking about something else). And in that way.. And then the hearer may be astounded by the intensity, and moved by the intensity, or amazed by the intensity, catching on to a glimpse of where Dylan was in the total intensity of his projection, and so both. hearer and artist together glimpsing one single intensity that feels like a moment of eternity, in a way, or… I guess, it feels like a moment of eternity because you feel that it’s familiar, you feel that you’ve heard it before, or you’ve been in that situation before, where everything has stopped, where everybody’s awareness is wakened up that something is happening and that it’s a call from one time or one body to another body, or to.. a.. a call through space, a call through the universe. So everybody perks up their ears to hear this one single call through the universe. and everybody wakes up that it’s possible to communicate to the universe, through space and through time. So everybody gets this sense of breaking out of the solitude, and loneliness, and isolation, and non-communication into an area… into a moment of universal communication, that’s the same at all times, and goes through all space. And so then, everybody gets the impression of an eternal time that’s the same always, that you can cut through the time to get to an eternal time, or, in this time it’s possible to make a gesture vocally, a vocal gesture, or some kind of gesture, that means the same thing at all times. It’s not that it disperses this time, it’s just that it enters completely into this time, the time we’re at (like breath enters right into this room, say, or into this place where we all are). We all hear it. It’s like you could have heard it before, and you might hear again. You know, you hear it out of Marlene Dietrich or, thirty years after, you hear it out of Aristide Bruant. You hear it again, I guess, out of (Bob) Dylan. So it stops time in the sense that it touches a… reminds everybody of time, really, I guess (or reminds everybody that they’re in time and that there’s the possibility of..of a universal communication of some sort). And I think that probably is the ambition of art, or the ambition of (the) poet. He put his finger on it when he said that his desire was to stop time. I was amazed he had that vast an ambition.
to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-seven minutes in and concludes at approximately fifty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in