moments before the wind.

May 22, 2006

the silly things that you say

Filed under: authenticity, music — alimarcus @ 8:29 am

I heard a cover of Van Morisson's "Into the Mystic" the other day on a country radio station. It was awful. No, it was beyond awful. Not only did it fall flat to the ground but then it stomped all over itself in a sad display of failure. It got me thinking again about cover songs.

In two spearate posts a few months ago I wrote about treating music with respect. In the post called  water from another time I talked about how the Coen brothers "treat the music with more respect [than biopics like Walk the Line], because they do not employ the uber-cheesy impressions in an attempt to be sincere." Then a few days later in motownphilly back again I lamented greatest hit albums for their sheer ignorance of an artists original vision. "I encourage you to give more attention to the primary source," I wrote.

The catch is that I, like many (the many who are reading this blog, perhaps), am haunted by Greil Marcus. About covers, I once heard him exclaim, "you can't play the stuff with respect!" In the context of his talk, it became a kind of motto for me, replaying in my head over and over. Apparently there've been some lapses in the looping, particularly around the dates of the abovementioned posts. But really I think that what we're dealing with is a binary.

There are two kinds of respect. One kind is the kind that boxes people in, caged by their preconceptions. The other is a kind of freedom. Clearly, as with all binaries, these are two opposites of the same coin, and when it's flipped we can't be sure where it will fall. I would say most people confront both at different times. That Marcus cautioned us against jailing ourselves and thus missing out on the experience of life, to put it in grander terms. This Marcus would like to add that a life sprung from inspiration ain't no small thing.

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