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Columns > Taylor Hill

Published: 2007/10/26
by Taylor Hill

Four Thoughts for October

When it comes to the archetypes of shadows and light and rock and roll – of mystery and voyeurism and shrouded faces and celebratory leaping, the master of today is Danny Clinch. I did an in-depth interview with Mr. Clinch that will run in November along with some exclusive shots you’ll only find here at the site (Radiohead at Bonnaroo anyone?). Clinch has photographed everyone from Tupac to tween Foo Fighters fans, and done so brilliantly. The essence of photography is telling a story in symbol and in moments that can be deduced from the picture. Please go to his website and see them. We’ll see you in November with this interview, which will be my first collaboration with Randy Ray.
After hatin’ for a couple of years, I’ve gotten into Wilco with a vengeance, and listened to them constantly because they cut to the heart of the matter: how to deal with our inevitable death and the silence of God and what to do in the meantime in terms of love, children, frustration, aging, dancing, and, most important, rock and roll. They also have a good sense of humor for such serious chaps. a ghost is born has become one of my favorite albums of all time. They have a respect for tradition, hooks, etc. but they are never afraid to pair up incongruous elements to form a type of song unlike any ever written. Avant-garde country rock, anyone? They’re the only group on the planet who can rhyme canyon with Manhattan and sing simultaneously of the American West and the great island that is the fulcrum of lost and found American dreams.
I’m going to New Orleans this weekend – Voodoo, Antoine’s – jazz brunch before Zac de la Rocha foments 100,000 people in the epicenter of Bush neglect. I’m taking the camera. There will be at least one feature on it. I’m covering wider NOLA and I’ll try to see the Lower 9th Ward while I am there and get the pictures up for y’all. The last great European city in America is still alive and wonderful if you have a little change in your pocket and haven’t had your life ruined by the disaster.
Back to Wilco, and describing what they write about – I’m going to use this as an excuse to post words from William Faulkner’s Nobel Address – the greatest words ever spoken about writing – you can substitute the word ‘musician’ for poet – or consider the musicians poets themselves:
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice nee d not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

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