Friday, October 21

Cuttings 26 - No Direction Home

Spent 4 hours watching the Scorsese documentary on Dylan.......wooooooooow.
Its very amazing, i feel really inspired!
I took some notes..

-First of all just the way he performs (fantastic footage..) - especially on the later tours when he seems pretty much bored and angry at it all - that frustration seems to express itself through the way he sings - the way he slurs words, changes rhythms, lyrics, purposefully 'lazily' going out of time or not quite hittin the notes - amusing himself, enjoying the power to play, never crowd-pleasing - it makes the performance intriguing. I sometimes find it hard to tell whether he is absolutely engrossed in a song or not concentratig on it at all..

-He is constantly moving around, and this becomes especially aparent in contrast to clips of some other performers - Odetta, Joan Baez - whose stillness is striking. Dylan has some sort of restless energy which is very present in his performances - also the way in the which he changes arrangements and lyrics and makes new decisions for each night of the tour, never content.

-Greenwhich village - 'It was never clear who was the audience and who was the singer' - the whole scene was full of artists. On the one hand, hte whole influence of the folk music (and country and blues and..) on Dylan is key, he was like a sponge, and the culture he exposed himself to helped define his songwriting and performances. On the other hand, someone describes how in the Village there was a 'freedom from tradition', a new and experimental vibe. This maybe helps explain why Dylan's song were somehow old and new at the same time - full of musical history and a totally new sound. This could be one reason why the songs effect people so universally.

-The question of identity is big one in the documentary. There is of course a lot about Woody Guthrie, about how Dylan immitated and assimilated him in the beginning of his career, singing his songs, absorbing the way he sang, chanelling him. He was very good at picking things up, recreating, and then making them his own. I think it was Dave Van Ronk who explains how Dylan 'was able to adopt a kind of theatre - actually the first time I met him he was really 'acting' - and that was good cause you can go anywhere when you are somebody else.' And the performance was obviously a big attraction for Dylan - 'I wrote the songs to perform the songs.' Someone says of him: 'he changed voice, he changed imagine; he wasn't a definitive person.'

So we have this on the one hand.

-But then at the same time, however much Dylan adopted personas, was a 'performer', there is a lot of talk about how he respected singers who were doing '"for real". He talks about his 'Song to Woody': 'I needed to write it...because I needed to sing it... because I needed to say it...' - Pete Seager explains that a songwriter must 'make up a song about something real, accepting that it might never make any money or be heard by anyone' - having something real to say was key.. Singer/Songwriters were rated by whether or not they had 'something to say'. The singer from the Staple Singers said about Dylan's writing, [golden quote for making links in my research!!!]: 'Where was it coming from? What he was writing was inspirational. Its the same as gospel. He was writing truth.' -> Is there a difference between being truthful - (which in some respects Dylan certinaly wasn't - in the interviews he is determined to purposfully confuse and not give anything away) - and writing 'truth'? - (which I think is what made his work 'so successfully 'tap into the collective unconscience'). Maybe the split here is between the writing and the performances?

-Dylan talks of his own songwriting: 'All these people will be writing about what my songs are about, I don't know what its about, I don't know where it comes from..' 'Words have their meaning; then they change their meaning - they mean someting else now than they did then'. What is most striking is that Dylan was an artist first. The public, with their desire for interpretation and meaning, did not interest him. And this shows itself in performances too, when he just did whatever he wanted to do, as though the audience wasn't even there. Respect to that..