Peter Case

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Nietzsche’s Birth Of Tragedy Reading Society and Discussion Group

The complications in any discussion of The Birth of Tragedy are overwhelming at this point.  I’ve been looking at the companion piece he wrote later, An Attempt At Self- Criticism.  Have you folks seen that?

He’s opposed the idea of the Christian with Dionysian. He thinks Christianity is anti-art, anti-life, the desire for a “sabbath of sabbaths.”  I agree that the Christian message has at its root a disgust with the ways of the world. But there’s more to it. It’s also about seeing all with the eyes of love.

As usual, what is desirable is not black and white thinking , but a mixing of the viewpoints.

Christianity versus Art!  Apollonian versus Dionysian! And a genius philosopher who went mad. But there is something to his probes into these phenomena and their effect on culture.

Ok lawyers have at it!



“Nieztsche never wore an umpire’s suit”

— (Highway 61 Revisited liner notes)



  1. Yes, Nietzsche – in the Birth of Tragedy and everywhere else that I’ve looked – is very complicated. The check-out girl at the Rite-Aid looked at my copy and asked me what it was about. I stumbled. And then said it was about the origins of Greek Tragedy and how that form was compromised by Socrates and his “cheerful” ilk in other fields such as science and religion.

    But that’s a facile explanation. Nietzsche cannot be neatly summarized which, for me, is what is so appealing about him. My remarks here are provisional and pseudonymous. A Nietzschean move, undoubtedly.

    The very title of the preface (or as Nietzsche wonders, is it a post-script? I’ll return to this) is problematic. An “attempt” at a self-criticism. Why an “attempt”? Perhaps because Nietzsche recognizes that there is no valid criticizing of the “self” as that very concept is one more in the metaphysical array that his work attempts to dissemble. Further, his perspectivism suggest that his newer interpretation concerning Greek Tragedy — Nietzsche claims that in the first go round he was overly timid and afraid to invoke “an individual language” of his own – is just that: one more interpretation with no greater claim to an absolute Truth than the earlier one. An “attempt” is all it can be.

    I have been reading Alexander Nehemas’ Nietzsche: Life as Literature. He argues (and I agree) that perspectivism doesn’t mean that all interpretations are equal. It’s easy to dismiss Nietzsche as a rank relativist or something like that. But Nietzsche recognizes that some interpretations are better than others. What it is meant by “better” is the harder question. More complete? Of course no interpretation could be completely complete! I am reminded of someone asking PC whether he had “all the facts” regarding Alan Freed. Part of the “cheerfulness” that Nietzsche abhors, in say Socrates, is the idea that a complete Truth exists and can accessed if we look hard enough for it. So perhaps what PC is suggesting about a “blended” view would actually resonate with Nietzsche – a view that encompasses different interpretations.

    In the “Attempt at a Self-Criticism” he takes on German music that he celebrated in the Birth of Tragedy. He attacks those (I believe he is referring to Wagner here) “who honor lack of clarity as a virtue for it has the double quality of a narcotic that both intoxicates and spreads a fog.” So no! Nietzsche does not stand for some sort of “anything goes” relativism that is often attributed to him. I am reminded of PC’s emphasis and interest in producing “vivid” work. Of course, rock’n’roll music arguably intoxicates and spreads a fog. And we sure love rock’n’roll. Smoke machines, anyone?

    Nehemas also reminded me that Nietzsche is a great exaggerator. Some of these oppositions he sets up perhaps should not be taken literally: Dionysian/Pessimism/Myth/Music/Poet vs. Christian/Cheerfulness/Science/Speech/Academic. In the “Attempt” he urges us (his “brothers”) to “stand on [our] heads.” The idea here is to turn upside down what you previously believed in order to see that your belief is contingent. Put differently, again borrowing from my reading of Nehemas, Nietzsche should be read rhetorically (hmmm, now who is the “enigmatic ironist”?) with particular attention to whatever style he employs.

    What’s this about laughter? “Laughter I have pronounced holy: you higher men, learn—to laugh!” It seems that Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity (not necessarily Christ) and Socrates is that rather than laugh at the void (read: pessimism’s object) they promise Heaven and Truth respectively. Did Jesus ever laugh? I know he wept. But did he laugh? Bill Morrissey has this great line in his song “The Man from Out of Town” ( where the drifter is drinking with a Catholic priest and says, “It was like he heard the sound of Jesus’ laugh, the way I heard that train.” Jesus’ laugh calls the priest in the same way the sound of the train calls the drifter. I’ve puzzled over that line ‘cause I don’t think of Jesus as joking around or “blissfully lightheaded” as Nietzsche might have it. I think of Him prohibiting the mere thought of my neighbor’s wife – Sabbath of Sabbaths, indeed! Of course, this laughter that Nietzsche encourages is probably not of a joking nature. As he says elsewhere: you better hope the void doesn’t laugh back!

    Post-modern point (and Nietzsche is arguably the father of post-modernism among a million other children he sired): Nietzsche playfully suggests that the “Attempt” is not a preface but a post-script. There’s no controlling the text by stating something before versus after. The text controls Nietzsche versus the other way around. He may wish to control one’s reading of the Birth of Tragedy with the wisdom of his “individual voice” that he was not in possession of at the time of its composition. But no matter this pre or postscript, we will have our own interpretation – limited by our own (con)text.

    Oh Christ! I’m rambling now. Maybe have been all along.

    Shall we move forward with our Birth of Tragedy reading group? Or would we be better served by going straight to Nietzsche’s individual voice? Anti-Christ, anyone?

    How now!

    David Ackles, Esq.

  2. Man, its a lot to get your head around. Nietzsche is an original thinker. He’s not a purveyor of received ideas, There are not a lot of jokes in the bible, but there may be a few. Is it black humor, the tale of Sodom & Gommorah? Jesus bending over to write in the dirt, when the mob wants to stone the adulteress? His first miracle, changing water to wine at a wedding party? Most of us drink the wine and change it into water, don’t we? I think there may be great humor in Jesus when he goes in to whip those moneychangers out of the temple. I know I’d be laughing my ass off afterwards if I did something like that. Feeding a hillside with one fish? I think of the fish in Mad Magazine’s Don Martin cartoons, a fish with a very haggard, resigned expression, with its tongue out and x’s for eyes.

    I’m rambling, but I gotta say, Nietzsche takes mans side in the argument over God. Like Dylan seems to be doing in Jokerman, or Melville is doing in Moby Dick. Melville called it his ‘wicked book’ but there’s something in this conversation about our situation that these people are laying out. Maybe it’s existentialism.

    Dylan in Don’t Look Back to the Time Reporter “I’m saying that you’re going to die, and you’re going to go off the earth, you’re gonna be dead. Man, it could be, you know, twenty years, it could be tomorrow, any time, so am I. I mean, we’re just gonna be gone. The world’s going to go on without us…All right now, you do your job in the face of that and how seriously you take yourself, you decide for yourself. Okay now I’ll decide for myself” etc from the interview that a lot of people I know today like to say “Dylan was mean to the poor reporter, he’s an asshole” but thats the thing Kerouac was obsessed with, and all of those writers, and Shakespeare in the Sonnets and throughout the plays, and everybody worth a damn, and thats what are we doing here? And where are we going? And who are YOU? And what do I care?

    And this is why Nietzsche is important today, even if theres only a handful of us, because THESE ARE THE ONLY QUESTIONS! And its a cop out to just receive your answer out of any book, you gotta walk that lonesome valley by yourself! FN can help teach you how to ask questions with pure NEGATIVE CAPABILITY. And that’s it. Eternal Recurrence? Wow, no wonder he went mad, but…if the Universe is infinite in time and space, we’ll all be here again at some point doing exactly this. It’s a mathematical certainty. I think…

    I may be rambling now! Was Jesus a simple man? I spoke with Hubert Selby Jr about my fears of damnation and he said “You’ve gotta to be careful reading the New Testament, to read what it really is saying.” My conclusion is, its not at all about morals. Like Blake said “If salvation was through morals, Socrates was the savior.” Jesus said salvation is through LOVE and FORGIVENESS, and to the degree we give those, we receive them. Is THAT a joke? Is this an ANTI-LIFE stance? Maybe not. Blake said that if you believe in the justice of eternal punishment for sins, you worship SATAN, otherwise known as THE ACCUSER. Pass that on to Falwell!

    So I enjoy a nice conversation about pessimism and cheerfulness, and how cheerfulness may be the sign of disease and exhaustion, but I dunno, I’m sure I don’t buy all that business about German this and that. But there is a dimensionality to it that sure as hell beats all of the ding-dong platitudes and binary logic we struggle in and with everyday in America 2017.

    I’m no lawyer, I cant argue it well. I really like what you said, David, about fog and rock and roll and vividness. And it reminds me of Blake’s value on clear strong lines in art. Which lands us in the Appolonian/Dionysian duality…I’ve been struggling with this since 1989: Plimsouls=Dionysian Folk music=Apollonian art. The value on the word, versus the losing of our personality in emotional catharsis. But the word can carry emotional catharsis of its own. And I bring a rock and roll element to the singer-songwriter thing which produces a dionysian loss of ego often times in performance. Which I think explains the difficulty I’ve had in certain “markets” where the dionysian is FEARED. And in other markets where the apollonian is perceived as too calmly analytical and observant, lets just ROCK. The marriage of blues (or rock ‘n’ roll, or ‘electric”) and poetry that Dylan performed, and many others, was the synthesis of AP and DI. And now, combined by interlopers without his fame, in a belated world, is relegated to the outer realms of the culture. But its probably the key to everything, the keystone that the builders rejected, right?

    So I’m into reading this and I’d like to spend a little more time here to discuss Satyrs and Socrates and Jesus, and maybe Burroughs while we’re at it, but then, move on to…what? I struggled with FN at nineteen in the basement of City Lights. You know I’m into Christ, and have had direct experience with the Holy Ghost. And like they say, once you’re in the mob, you never get out! But I see it differently than I used to, thats for sure.

    Anyhoo, ’nuff outta me ’til the next time…

    (Psalm 150:4 says “praise God with the tambourine and lyre.” Or does the psalmist mean “lyrics?” Either way sounds like some Blakean rock ‘n roll don’t it?)

    Eternity is Now
    Don’t get bent out of shape,

  3. …the early chapters of B of T have a very soothing effect on me. I feel as if the veil is parting and I’m being led to understand things I’ve always wanted to know. the definitions of the Apollonian and Dionysian, especially in the section where he says about the Dionysian, in the midst of an amazing rhapsody about the meaning of the DI revelers, “he is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art.” His enthusiasm really seems to land on the Dionysian side of things here.

    I wish I had understood this consciously when I was in the plimsouls LOL, and as I was writing my first story songs…but I guess I grasped it intuitively to a degree. Did you? I think we all decide on a very basic level where we land in this balance.

    Where does Dylan fit into this spectrum? (There is a spectrum don’t you think?) The Clash: Dionysian protest! Jackson Browne: Apollonian light?
    Elvis Costello: a Dionysian masquerading as an Apollonian. Or is it the other way around?

    I’m a Dionysian folk-singer, and a contradiction, maybe. But Nietzsche considers poetry to be Dionysian, so maybe not. I’m obviously confused by these issues, but fascinated, always feeling my way, and as I read B of T I feel like I’m finally being let in on a secret thats eluded me for years.

    I’m ready for Anti-Christ, or Beyond Good and Evil. Or how about Thus Spoke Z…? I don’t know the order to go in… anyhow…

  4. Yea, I’m not sure about mean/nice. Bob says in No Direction Home, in reference to being booed at Newport, that it didn’t bother him. That you can kill someone with kindness.

    He sure does have at that journalist, tho! I recall that he suggests a better approach would be for the magazine to print a picture of a bum … or a prostitute throwing up … or something like that. I remember when I first saw Don’t Look Back, I was taken in by that. Not so much anymore: a photograph is mediated too. There’s no window into Truth … if there’s truth at all.

    Joyce says that “a writer should not write about extraordinary events. That’s for journalists.” I’m not sure about that either. I mean, Ulysses is based, in large part, on Homer’s Odyssey. Can you get any more extraordinary than Odysseus? But I do think there’s something to what Joyce is getting at – namely, animating the mundane into something extraordinary. Shakespeare? I haven’t read as widely as you, I’m afraid. I went back to Hamlet while reading U where Joyce leans on this play quite a bit. Shakespeare mostly wrote about Kings and their Courts. Or did he? What’s going on in the margins – I’m thinking of the gravediggers in Hamlet – may be underrecognized and undervalued.

    But, this is the Birth of Tragedy reading group, dammit. And I’m delighted we’re sticking to it. I’m going real slow, tho. And, yes, finding it peculiarly more accessible now. I was worried that without having read Kant and Schopenhauer recently I might be at a loss. But no! Of course, I’ve only read the Preface to Wagner and the first “chapter.” Plenty of time to get totally lost if I’m not lost already.

    In our current predicament, I find Nietzsche’s words in the Preface inspiring: “I am convinced that art represents the highest task and the truly metaphysical activity of our time ….” This begs the question what a “truly metaphysical activity” is. We’ll see what he has to say but my guess is that he would contrast the product of art with the false metaphysics offered up by religion and philosophy among other pursuits. False in the sense that they offer up absolutes where there are only interpretations.

    Interesting too where he describes the Apollinian as dream-based. You mentioned Burroughs above and I thought of his response when questioned about an “afterlife”: “how do you know you are not already dead?”.

    So, shall we lift the veil of Maya and turn to the Dionysian? When we forgo the principum individuationis? The principle of individuation? What is there?: EVERYTHING AT ONCE. The Plimsouls, hah! Surely, Dionysian.

    But to be sure, I’m not convinced that one must be one or the other. And in the Preface to Wagner, FH states that the highest art (Attic tragedy … I have no idea what this is!) results when the Dionysian and the Apollinian couple vs. running parallel as they usually do.

    I haven’t consciously thought about this stuff when it comes to songwriting. If anything, I think of what Townes said about focusing on tone vs. content. Or put differently: make it up and figure out what it means later. Would tone (music/sound) someone coincide with the Dionysian while content (image or “sculpture” to use Nietzsche’s language) might coincide with the Appollinian. Where do the Clash fit into that! I will agree on Jackson Browne as Apollinian lightweight! Now that’s funny.

    As is the water/wine reversal. I would like to pick up the discussion of Jesus as we move further along. This notion of forgiveness and, maybe, even love, I wonder about. Nietzsche gets into this more in the Genealogy of Morals where the value of “selflessness” is exposed as an historical phenomena. Important point as per Alexander Nehemas: “Now Nietzsche’s view of the origin of our current values, even if it is correct, does not show that we should not identify goodness with altruism or utility. Nothing is objectionable simply because it has an objectionable origin. Had Nietzsche made this argument he would indeed, have been, as he sometimes seems to be, guilty of falling into the genetic fallacy, which amounts to confusing the origin of something with its nature or value.”

    Shit. Speaking of today, love and forgiveness seem pretty fucking relevant to me.

    Let’s move slowly if it’s okay with you. I intend to tackle one chapter a day and there’s twenty four more to go. Perhaps the reading will lead us on … tho, not to the Zarathustra. That one’s uneven … no clear lines … and may represent the Void laughing back.

    Not sure I can handle that particular laugh after the recent loss of two more heroes: Jimmy Lafave and Denis Johnson.


    1. I’m not qualified for a rigorous discussion of philosophy. I’ll do my best. My brother in law Fred says that people would be better off visiting a good philosopher than a shrink. I can see that now. I’ve disdained Philosophy. I used to look at Sartre’s Being and Nothingness at the Hamburg Public Library when I was a kid, it was a curiosity to me, but I don’t know much about it. And I tried at City Lights. But America is a land now with no coherent outlook on the world, no idea what its doing. Darwinian hedonism and self immolation? We need another way to see it.

      Maybe it was Sartre, or the Descartes I studied at the Buffalo Free School, but philosophy seemed like a slow, left brainish attempt to work out things that could be intuited must better and faster. But Nietzsche is different. He speaks to the issues I know and struggle with as an artist. I was having these conversations with myself (tho in a much more limited manner) for years. Maybe thats because someone I spoke with regularly in the 90’s had read him in depth, tho’ it rarely came up.

      If you’v read a lot of Kerouac, you know his multitude of references to Oswald Spengler, The Decline Of The West, with its concept of the fellaheen, which JK borrowed. Now, after just a little of the Birth of Tragedy, I see the huge debt Spengler had to Nietzsche. And Henry Miller, the precursor to the beats, he has his Nietzsche packed in there too.

      BTW, the fact not realized by the current audience of Don’t Look Back was how heroic that conversation was, that a musician talking to Time and expressing independence, and having a critical attitude towards the journalists superficial and absurd questions, was just UNHEARD OF before that. But is was so necessary! It was important to do that. He was doing the hard lifting of pulling the veneer of BS off the official explanations of things.”Even the president of the United Sates must have to stand naked” Nobody had said that before! That’s what he did in the songs, God On Our Side, etc, and thats what the interviews did, took on the official line. It was a BATTLE and it was seen as HEROIC by the audience that needed it, at the time me included. Somewhere along the line since then, time (and TIME) has reversed, and the cover stories are ascendent as never before. The world now is through the looking glass from 1965. Tho the war is on again on other grounds, fake news etc, its a different debate. “Everything is its opposite” John Lennon supposedly repeatedly said in the early 70’s (according to Nilsson) The ground for everything has shifted, its the post-post-modern period, the post-post human era. Burroughs “how do you know you’re not dead now?” indeed…

      Somewhere in there Dylan reversed field to get away. But as anonymous members of society (I feel that still applies to me) these issues are burning.

      BTW, #2, Shakespeare wrote about EVERYBODY top to bottom. And yeah, the most authentic voices are always the gravediggers, clowns, night porters, etc…and outlaws like Falstaff, or Hamlet for that matter…Shakespeare is the man, (or woman, he might’ve been a woman one of my students suggested) the most explosive dynamic mind in our language, and ts ALL in there. But its ALWAYS a 3-D picture, top to bottom (Bottom!) of society Freud, Beckett, Joyce, Nieztsche…they all envied him according to JK. Tolstoy railed about him in an essay, thought it was amoral. But if all you ever read were WS you could probably be pretty be pretty wise. BTW # 3, when I came west on that train I had a duffel bag with three books in it: a complete Shakes I’d shoplifted, the Jerusalem Bible, and Lord Jim. Too bad I didn’t understand ANY OF IT! You gotta keep trying.

      The Plimsouls LP was Everywhere At Once, and maybe that was the precursor to my conversion.

      And no, D & A you don’t have to be one or another, do you? Its much better not to be. And isn’t that FN’s definition of Greek Tragedy: the meeting of A & D?

      Okay, lets take it slow, slowly is best. I’m really enjoying the reading. Its like being initiated into ideas I felt were there but never knew. I have no training outside of songs and writing to relate to. yes writing them and figuring‘em out later…thats how its done when its done best.

      Another interesting essay that seems relevant is “The Irrational In Poetry” by Wallace Stevens. hH says the irrational enters as our own personality enters the writing. Thats a pretty great essay, maybe check it out in the light of this reading. He mentions Rimbaud in there. How could a teenager in 1870 France be so important? Amazing.

      And, yesI’d like to study the Genealogy of Morals too. OK. And Anti-christ I guess. But why not the laughter of the void, standing on our head? That may be where all of this leads. I’m not afraid, I Still belong To Jesus, as my song for Robert Randolph said. hey did you ever hear that? They made a mess of it LOL!

      Maybe I’ll get better at this as we go…

  5. “You went out on a limb to testify for me. You said I was with you.” – Brownsville Girl

    Not qualified? I doubt it.

    I mean I’m not qualified either. I’m trained as a liar … I mean, law … yer … blues.

    We are out on a limb here, PC. A lonely errand. Slow is not the tempo of this age. And neither is perplexed which is how Nietzsche leaves me much of the time. But I dig that. He’s more poet than philosopher … and poetry should perplex, right? If it’s any good. I’m really digging Nietzsche this time through because I feel better prepared to be confused! This most writerly of philosophers feels like just about the remedy for the post-post-human and modern era we find ourselves in. To be sure, his lack of typical philosophical precision (of aspiration thereto) opens him up to misinterpretation and misuse. Quotes of context can easily be manipulated to serve purposes that I for one abhor – the Third Reich comes to mind.

    What edition are you reading? I’ve got the Walter Kauffman © 1967. Coupled with The Case of Wagner. It may be helpful if we can reference the same pages.

    I was so knocked that just above here we talking about vividness and Shakespeare and Homer and then presto, as if we, the BOT reading group, were ping-ponging across the centuries, Nietzsche writes>>>

    “If we consider the incredibly precise and unerring plastic power of their eyes, together with their vivid frank delight in colors, we can hardly refrain from assuming even for their dreams (to the shame of those born later) a certain logic of line and contour, colors and groups, a certain pictorial sequence reminding us of their finest bas-reliefs whose perfection would certainly justify us, if a comparison were possible, in designating the dreaming Greeks as Homers and Homer as a dreaming Greek – in a deeper sense than that in which modern man, speaking of his dreams, ventures to compare himself with Shakespeare.” (38-39)

    Ok. I get the Dionysian: the lifting of the veil of Maya and rejection of the principle of individuation. Everything or, yes, Everywhere at Once. The ‘Souls! Or the Penelope episode in Ulysses: God fart.

    But I remain perplexed with how the Appollinian is connected to the dream world. What is FN on about here with his dreaming Greeks? And how were the Greeks in speaking of or culling from (to borrow a phrase from you, PC) their dreams somehow deeper than “modern man” (we’re of, course, post-modern or post-post-modern man) and his relation to Willie the Shake?

    Any ideas? I’m struggling, man!

    And how about where he says at the top of the 2nd chapter that both the Apollinian and Dionysian somehow burst forth from nature herself “without the mediation of the human artist”. Unmediated? Impossible, right? That’s what I think Nietzsche would have said later on anyway. But this could have something to do with what you wrote above about the artist as the the art vs. a performer. As a side note, this may also be related to what bothers me about music stands and ipads on stage. Shouldn’t we know our song well before we start singing? (Hard Rain) Of course, EC, Bruce, and Bob have their lyrics on stage. When Jimmy Lafave sang a song he inhabited it – he didn’t perform it.

    I’ll try to track down the Wallace Stevens essay.

    1. David, great comments here, I’l be getting back a little later in the day, I’m swamped, trying to get it together to go on the road again…its been a few months…the last statement, yes, we have to KNOW the songs,you got one job, right…KNOW the songs! More soon…

  6. I’m working on it Ackles. Read a bunch of it on the plane to Buffalo last week, took notes in a tiny pocket notebook, to base some commentary on. I got something about America as I read it: we are in an Olympian era now, its al about GODS, as in Mount Olympus, hence, our super hero obsession, in the movies, also in life, Kim Kardashian and Kanye, Trump…There were some lines in there about needing the gods to mediate and ameliorate the sufferig of life. Somehow we’ve gone back to that. And only a god can bring down a god. I have more to say, I’m only on Chapter 5. His comments about Shakespeare I can see no basis for, and he doesn’t explain. The dreams that inspire the sculpture I can see, it lets me see that work in a new, dreamlike light. he doesn’t explain, he just says and shows. Anyhow, more on all this soon…

  7. Cool, PC.

    I put it down for a second myself. I’m gonna go back to it now.

    I think the thing to do is glean as much as we can but keep pressing forward (slowly!) even if we’re “lost” or puzzled along the way. I believe the effect will be cumulative vs., say, mathematical. Kauffman claims BOT doesn’t even take off until the middle or so. BOT is pre-aphorism but, even so, it proceeds in a very different way than most philosophy. The chapters don’t build on one another in a “logical” fashion — here’s where I think Nietzsche’s reputation as the most “writerly” of philosophers is understood: he proceeds almost thematically.

    And, yes, let’s keep our eye on what Nietzsche has to say about the Greeks’ relationship to their gods (lower case) vs. modern man’s (upper case … sort of!).

    Say, could you remind me of the title of that book about dreams that you like? My Joyce group decided to reconvene in October … we’re taking on Finnegans Wake. Our leader (Professor Paul Saint-Amour) told me that Joyce said that readers of the Wake must become “ideal insomniacs”. We’ll see about that!

    We’ll let FH’s Shakespeare comment go. That was only an aside (well, the whole thing is an aside, arguably. Hah!). But the dream angle (as it relates to Apollinian art) seems central to BOT as he repeats it over and over.

    Looking forward to discussing further.

    Best, David

  8. Ok. Trying to get the Birth of Tragedy party started again. Celebrate good times. Come on!

    Chapter 6: a few thoughts.

    We’re never gonna get this. Nietzsche was deep into his Greek studies. “It becomes palpably clear that in the period between Homer and Pindar the orgiastic flute tones of Olympus must have been sounded ….” Man, I don’t even know who Pindar was … let alone the period between him and the dreaming Greek.

    But, still, Nietzsche says so many intriguing things that we must go on! “Our whole discussion insists that lyric poetry is dependent on the spirit of music just as music itself in its absolute sovereignty does not need the image and the concept, but merely endures them as accompaniments.”

    Whoa, nelly! A lot going on there and, certainly, the usual binary thinking: Music vs. Image/Sovereignty vs. Contingency and so on and so on (as Zizek would say! … you checked out that madman, PC?).

    Derrida would say that the text of BOT will reverse these hierarchies on its own. We’ll see about that.

    But let’s keep pressing on. With a light step. Not gonna bogged down this time.

  9. OK I’m in. Those orgiastic flutes are calling again…an interesting parallel is the conversation/attack Burroughs and Gysin had with?against Ginsberg (and I think one of the reasons JK took a dive from Paris when he did) regarding “death of the word” or the tyranny of the same…cut-ups etc… Ginsberg left deeply depressed as his whole thing was the word, and more so Jack. Anyhow, theres a parallel, the binary systems…I’m rambling but will read the chapters and respond soon.

  10. Ramble on, PC. I know I will. We gotta stay light footed to make our way through. Or as is sung in Raglan Road: “trip lightly along the ledge” … of a “deep ravine” … YIKES … what if the deep ravine/void laughs back … hah!

    No pressure here, tho. I know you’ve got a lot going on. I’m just eager to birth this tragedy before I gear up for the Wake (Finnegans) this Fall. Having the BOT reading group, however private, is a forum that motivates me.

    7. Hmmm. This may be where BOT really lifts off. Kaufmann claims it happens later but I really dig this section.

    Yes, there is a parallel to the WB/Gysin vs. Ginsberg/JK thing regarding the “death of the word”. To be sure, I believe that Burrough’s — and in this he was a true visionary — real issue was with GRAMMAR and it’s tyrannical, virus like quality. The cut-up was in part designed to overcome that tyranny.

    Speaking of JK: Nietzsche rejects (as you were, in part, in our emails earlier this week) the “Buddhistic negation of will” (a form of “death” I take it) in favor the satyr/Dionysian chorus about whom/which FN says “Art saves him, and through art — life.”

    What is it with this satyr image? The priapism?

    I must type at length (fuck Capote … typing is valuable too).

    “In this sense the Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge, and nausea inhibits action; for their action could not change anything in the eternal nature of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is out of joint. Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine, not that cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer who reflects too much and, as it were, from an excess of possibilities does not get around to action. Not reflection, no — true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth outweighs any motive for action, both in Hamlet and the Dionysian man.”

    This is why we’re reading Nietzsche. So much here.

    Not sure what he is referring to with Jack the Dreamer. But again there’s something connecting the Appolinian to dreams which, I think, are connected to the illusion he refers to here. Something false. Tho, to be sure, another binary is at work here that will be reversed or, better yet, the terms of the opposition will prove to be less than absolute.

    Another hierarchy (perhaps at work in the “death of the word” thing) is Speech vs. Writing.

    I picked up Harold Bloom’s “Hamlet Poem Unlimited”. Check this out: “The enigma in confronting Shakespeare’s plays is the question of Shakespeare himself. Where does he stand, implicitly, in relation to his own work?”

    Author vs. Text. Intention. Am I sitting on the very branch that I am sawing away at?

    I’m rambling for sure. And Bloom also says, elsewhere, that all readings are misreadings.

    Harold … not Leopold!

  11. 8. Well, indeed, the satyr is a “symbol of sexual omnipotence” … “asked and answered” as they say in my ignoble profession.

    Check out footnotes 5 and 6 in this session. I generally avoid translated works. What Nietzsche wrote in German, in certain instances, has no analogue in English. Stuff like this makes me think there enough great English literature not to bother with this additional complications.

    Maybe translation is part of the problem here (back to “vividness”, folks): “How is it that Homer’s descriptions are so much more vivid than those of any other poet. Because he visualizes so much more vividly.” Uhhhhh. That’s either a bad translation or Nietzsche is being lazy here.

    But then he hits us with this: “We talk so abstractly about poetry because all of us are usually bad poets.”

    There is an article in this week’s New Yorker by Louis Menand that is directly on point. Menand takes apart cultural critics (and, ironically, published poets themselves) who find no use in poetry. Menand too readily dismisses the “New Criticism” as he calls it which, he thinks, privileges form over content and, in his view, worries too much about the deficiencies of language but damned if Menand doesn’t land in the right place: great poetry (and all forms of art) INSPIRES.

    Anyway, Nietzsche loses me in this section with the transformation from the purely choral to the dramatic. And continues with the oppositions including nature vs. culture and wraps it all up with, again, the Appolinian dream/image jazz that I just can’t get my head around.


    1. Just read the New Yorker piece. Why do I bridle so at this talk of the value of poetry and the role of Cultural Criticism? It really depresses me, that is, all sides of this. I despise it when writers talk about ‘excelling the limits of what is possible” even if they are talking about Skip James. Thats a Greil-ism. Gobbledy-Gook. If you gotta ask what Diddy Wah Diddy means… forget about it. Menand lands in pretty fair territory but so what? Cultural critics that need to make Journey seem worthwhile are like dogs barking across the street. I’d rather listen to the dogs bark. You Can’t Always get What You Want was ersatz Dylan, an imitation of one of his “to live outside the law” reversals. No wonder its used at a Trump rally. Lets see them cheer “theres no success like failure” –see what I mean. If all that Trump poetry IS poetry I’ll kiss that guys ass. her confuses Form and Content…its all a camouflage act. Notley is poetry. Dylan is sometimes poetry. If you really rip Trump a new one, and it stays ripped, you are a poet. Witness “even the president of the United States sometimes must stand naked.” We’re still using that one. It was NEWS when it came out, now its a FACT. Thats poetry.

      Satyr a human, with a strong, totally animal body. Humans are gods from the waist up? Its kind of true isn’t it? Humans are the highest form of life we see in the universe. If you worship an invisible force you partake in Mystery. Blake made me aware of that. Poetry? Whatever you want to call it. Arguing about Poetry is for Squares. Nietzsche is no square, but he’s working it out. I guarantee you its not worth crossing the street to listen to Journey. Or any second rate stuff. Heavy metal? Nineties Cultural Critics wanted to convince us all about populist art and how great it all is. But most of it seems to be rubbish, poison, actually destructive if taken seriously, and a time waste if not. Expression I recognize as a general good…That book about hating poetry I get it, who doesn’t hate them some poetry. I kinda get that, it sets up difficult standards just by its name. Then in practice it makes a fool of itself. ” She never stumbles she’s got no place to fall” doesn’t have that problem. poetry needs no defense. Nor does Nietsche, but he is a mess isn’t he? Is it the translation? I doubt he used the same word twice in the sentence like that. He was a WRITER. So, translation can work but it better be good. Was that Kaufman who fucked that up? I’m bugged tonight, I gotta slide, figure out whats gnawing at me. I sure as hell aint gonna write a poem about it!

  12. You feel bugged? Isn’t that the mood of the moment? I can’t see a way around it.

    I couldn’t glean much from Section 9 other than Nietzsche’s admiration for Greek “cheerfulness”. Non-facile variety. Part of understanding the Birth of Tragedy, I think, is to constantly ask what Nietzsche admired in the Greeks that he found wanting in his own culture.

    “Cheerfulness” could be another bad translation. I am, indeed, reading the Kaufmann translation and all of the quotes I’ve typed are from there.

    NEWS to FACT, huh? I agree. But FACT to NEWS may be just as valid. The re-enchantment of what is known.

    Menand quotes this “advanced pop” critic re: Skip James: “Sometimes I think this song defines the limits of what is humanly possible. Sometimes I think it exceeds them.” That is definitely Marcusian and, yea, sorta smells like shit. Greil lost the treil (sic) a ways back … but he wrote some interesting stuff about Bruce and Elvis in the 80s and Lipstick Traces is a cool book: illuminates and animates its subject. Even if Johnny Rotten said it was a load. What does he know? Bob loved Invisible Republic. But what does he know? I like that Menand portrays Bob as the voice of sobriety: “I don’t believe in expecting too much of any one thing.” Amen!

    I don’t spend a lot of time with pop cultural criticism. Journey fucking blew in the 80s. And they still blow. If you liked them back then, you were misguided. It’s almost as if Michael Robbins and his ilk feel the need to justify their juvenile infatuations.

    My dad screwed up some shit but he did take me to see Bob in 1978 when I was 10. So I don’t have to worry about explaining Journey records in my cultural closet. Thanks, Pop!

    I read another story recently about revising the verdict on prog rock. Yes, in particular. Seemingly intelligent people get off on this stuff. Close to the Edge? I’m afraid not. Did Lester Bangs die for nothing?????

    There is room, I think, for a different sort of revision. I’ve got more important stuff to attend to but if someone could recompose the narrative to expose Nirvana and all the other crap that came out of Seattle I’d take a look. And REM and U2 as well. In other words, how about using theory to explain why garbage somehow gets canonized. Rock’n’Roll canon: no such thing.

    Back to bad poetry: are humans the highest form of life? Ginsberg told Gordon Ball not to call cops “pigs”. It’s bad poetry, he said. I’m not sure how favorably man compares to beast. Ginsberg also apparently was very strict about separating the dog bowls from the other dishes in the drying rack up in East Hill. So who knows?

    Anyway, I’m definitely rambling today. I really dig what you write about mystery. And that is definitely a component of the Dionysian. The dance to the lower-case god without specific referent.

    I gotta get to Blake. Worshipping an invisible force resonates for me.

    Mailer, incidentally, had an abiding interest in excrement. And a hatred for anything plastic. Yet, he loved LEGOs. Ahhhhhhh.

    1. Yes things are fucked up now, my cheerfulness is ebbing, but I was pretty cheerful last week and things weren’t too much better then, were they? Blake is about NOT worshipping an invisible force. Worshipping Mystery is slavery. He’s far out tho and is worth reading, and read that Erdman Prophets Against Empire whir you’re at it! Like what you say about rock canon, U2 REM, and a different form of revision, yeah, don’t hear that comment much. I dig it. Prog rock, please.

      A lotta writers dig the poop. Legos? No way!

      Human consciousness seems to be the highest form of consciousness. A problem with that statement betrays lawyerly and/or cognition issues lol. I’m not gonna argue it. I love the beasts, they’re wonderful, maybe they are godlike. men used to worship beasts, still do, I suppose. But, its not for me. Neither is human sacrifice. Outmoded?

      1. Greil has some points for sure, good ideas for books, terrible writing though. jeez! Did Bob endorse Invisible Republic? Ill have to see that. He says “Marcus, he’s a pig!” to Weberman on that phone call tape that went around (that we all eavesdropped on.)

        He lacks humor. So do U2 and REM. So does progrock! Sometimeds I think Trump is playing the whole thing for sick laffs. Sick gaffs for sick laffs. Telling the Boy Scouts, before his dirty story : You know life” Anyhow…I’m tripping, gotta do some reading, but I got SO much work to do too.

    2. Blake doesn’t deal in generalizations.You have to ask yourself “what is the highest consciousness YOU are aware of?

      The Divine Image (from Songs of Innocence)

      To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
      All pray in their distress;
      And to these virtues of delight
      Return their thankfulness.

      For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
      Is God, our father dear,
      And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
      Is Man, his child and care.

      For Mercy has a human heart,
      Pity a human face,
      And Love, the human form divine,
      And Peace, the human dress.

      Then every man, of every clime,
      That prays in his distress,
      Prays to the human form divine,
      Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

      And all must love the human form,
      In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
      Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
      There God is dwelling too.

      THE HUMAN ABSTRACT (From Songs of Experisnce)
      by William Blake

      Pity would be no more
      If we did not make somebody Poor;
      And Mercy no more could be
      If all were as happy as we.

      And mutual fear brings peace,
      Till the selfish loves increase:
      Then Cruelty knits a snare,
      And spreads his baits with care.

      He sits down with holy fears,
      And waters the grounds with tears;
      Then Humility takes its root
      Underneath his foot.

      Soon spreads the dismal shade
      Of Mystery over his head;
      And the Catterpiller and Fly
      Feed on the Mystery.

      And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
      Ruddy and sweet to eat;
      And the Raven his nest has made
      In its thickest shade.

      The Gods of the earth and sea
      Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree;
      But their search was all in vain:
      There grows one in the Human Brain.

    3. News to Fact, I meant: poetry, to accepted truth, ” even the president of the United States sometimes has to stand naked,” believe it or not, that was NEWS when it was pointed out, people used to roar applause at the line in Dylans concerts, now its taken for granted.

      Fact to News? Not sure what you mean… whats an example of that? Could be a poem about Trump for example, could nail a universal truth for the first time… sure…ok.

  13. Ok, sticking with that Chapter 6, wow, I keep re-reading it. I get the feeling from Nietzsche that I’m about to understand EVERYTHING, thats’ the seductive power of his thought for the likes of us, its like looking behind the scrim into the heart of things.

    For example, the sections on the lyrist. Which is not “lyricist” is it? But it seems like it is. And his analysis of “folk song.” I think I see very clearly for a few moments, but then I wonder if I truly recognize the terms. So I go back…

    I do think I begin to see what is meant by the Apollinian/dream idea you’ve been puzzling over. I think it can be understood by the difference in point of view of epic vs. lyric…the writer and reader of the epic sees the figures acting. In the lyric, its is from the point of view of an actor, therefore much closer to the emotions. The sculptor is therefore “dreaming” as they are seeing the faces etc of the others, but the Dionysian flutist (whatever) is playing from the center of emotion, and losing theirself in it.

    Archilocus introduced the folk song into Greek literature. Gotta catch up with that.

    I have more trouble with the “it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.”

    Says who? I just don’t get that. “Our consciousness of our own significance hardly differs from that which the soldiers painted on canvas have of the battle represented on it.”

    He speaks of “the true author.” Is that God? Sounds similar…hmmm.

    He say genuine song is the result of a mingled state of mind, between what he calls “willing” and perception.

    (interupted, I’ll be back)

  14. A lot to say about all this. But I’m constantly interrupted by the vicissitudes of daily life. What a fucking drag.

    But quickly>>>

    Fact to News is, indeed, the re-enchantment of what is known. Williams Carlos Williams comes to mind. Ray Carver. But, first and foremost, James Joyce. The animation of the quotidian. Ulysses being the ultimate example: no plot to speak of but somehow Joyce makes magical what is rank (pork kidney anyone?). Facts to News may not be the right way to say it. More like the quotidian to the incredible. Perhaps the key to our survival.

    You can’t get on my back, man, when I make a legalistic move (as I surely did with Ginzy and the pigs). I mean, in the opening of the BOT reading group, YOU said “Have at it, lawyers!”. Hah!

    Here’s another lawyerly one: I’m not sure I agree with your assertion that arguing about poetry is for squares. In fact, the best poems may argue for themselves. Hamlet, what say ye?

    What you wrote about the dream/image above is helpful. I’m still sorta lost but maybe closing in on “it.”

    Speaking of “it” when Nietzsche says: “it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.” this is, I think, part of his project to dismantle traditional metaphysics. In other words, there is no referent outside of what we create, envision, etc. No “it” out there. No world. This sort of move is where Nietzsche earns his title as the father (KILL THE FATHER!!!!) of Modern Philsophy … or, more precisely, Continental Philosophy including Wittgenstein, Foucault, and Derrida. Death of God follows here too.

    Pete: I’m just not ready for Blake yet. But I know I’ll get there someday. I suspect I need him more than I know. In the meantime, when I get a chance, I want to weigh in on Sections 10-12. Nietzsche, it seems, may be opposed to Blake in regards to worshipping a mystery. He, in fact, may consider this the opposite of Slavery.

    Nietzsche is so hard … so rich. I’m trying to press on. Sneak preview: He calls out Euripides for introducing the spectator onto the stage and, in turn, ruining Greek tragedy and its root in Dionysian art. And he calls Socrates a demon.

    We’ll get to the bottom of all this … even if we find ourselves permanent residents in the Netherworld.

    Now I’m bullshitting.

    Talk soon, David

    oh, one more thing, in Bloom’s Poem Unlimited about Hamlet, he ends up weighing in the the Nietzsche quote about Hamlet! There’s a thread here, man …

    1. yes, great, of course, I get that, Ginsberg called it something like “everyday visions of eternity.” Williams etc, yes this is where I’m always steering the classes I teach, magic ‘close to the nose.”

      Wan’t aware that I got on yr back about anything, oh yeah, you mean that gratuitous statement following G and Pigs…Gotta go back and look! Forgot all about it. Lawyers, sheesh!

      Arguing about whats poetry and what isn’t? Squaresville…you may as well argue about God, or life after death. It’s an inside job. “Argue for themselves,” yes thats it. Hamlet argues best when he’s alone on stage.

      Ok, its a no Blake zone, lol! WB is the other side of the flipping coin. And maybe very similar in a way, in his intention to rethink EVERYTHING. Blake is difficult too. The Four Zoas, what til you get into that one!

      I can dig the criticism of Socrates. Blake has a go at him too. “If Morality was Christianity, then Socrates was the Savior.” Which is actually having ago at Morality, isn’t it.

      I think we’re already permanent residents in the Netherworld, along with the other 7.4 billion on earth or what ever it is!

      Ok I’m pushing on, mate will catch up tho’ pretty busy here too, I’ll do my best or something like it. Yes Nietzsche give you the sensation of being let in on the goods…quite an artist.

      I have that Bloom Hamlet thing here. Hey check out Hamlet: Fold by Fold. pretty interesting…

  15. Hi Ackles…I realize you are forging ahead in the book, while I return to the end of Chapter 5 and early Chapter 6 every time I crack it. Up to 7 now. Its the discussion of music that gets me. Starting with his synopsis of Shopenhauer, then his answer to it, which I explained last week that I don’t understand.

    “Dionysian currents…the substratum and prerequisite of the folk song.” “the folk song the musical mirror of the world” “MELODY GENERATES THE POEM OUT OF ITSELF” Man, this part really is the crux of things for me…

    1. I’ve just switched over to the Clifton P Fadiman translation…which is helping clarify some things, maybe not as poetic, but good in tandem with Kaufman. Its a Dover edition, buck fifty at the used bookstore on 24street…

      1. And now moving forward into chapter 9, tho’, I must admit, 8 was a BITCH, and I have only the vaguest idea what he was on about there as he brought the Apollonian back in…

  16. A buck fifty for Nietzsche? Good deal.

    I just got the complete Blake for $2. But I’m shelving it until next summer. Got Finnegan’s wake, Updike’s Bech, more Mailer, and Nietzsche standing in my way right now. Of course, 45 might have destroyed the world by then.

    “This book goes terminal, goes deeply into the subconscious and plows through that period of time like a rake. Greil Marcus has done it again.” — Bob Dylan regarding GM’s “Old, Weird America”.

    Greil had an incredible streak with Mystery Train, Lipstick Traces (who cares what Johnny Rotten says about it!), his essays in the 80s, and the book on the Basement Tapes that Bob endorsed. Great ideas (tho not always realized) and great writing (tho not always coherent). I think he’s been chasing his tail for a while. But most do, right?

    I bet your intuition about your book is spot-on. I’m re-reading Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard. Thought of it with his recent passing. I think it may be his best work (tho, I am no connoisseur of playwriting. His plays don’t really do it for me. But then other than WS, no one’s do!). Essays, poems, photos. Ping ponging from childhood to the present and back. But all talking to one another. Sounds like you could be up to something like that. Post-modern, perhaps? What would be truly post-modern would be conceding that the text writes you vs. the other way around. Hah!

    I remember you saying that a record can be lost in the mastering. Well, I’d imagine that a book could be lost in the editing … and many have I’m sure.

    Of course, Gordon Lish certainly helped Carver turn facts into news. I’ve seen some of Carver’s stories before they were edited. No comparison to what they became after Lish pared them down.

    I would be honored and delighted if you wanted to show me what you had cooking with your book.

    I can’t say I recommend myself as an editor. That Talkin’ Rabbit song I wrote suggest that I need editor … not to mention a psychiatrist!

    It’s easy to imagine many of the pieces you’ve published on the PC blog ending up in the book. The only ones (or was it just one?) I don’t see fitting in are the ones about the music business. I’m thinking of the one that generated a response by Alan Freed’s son. Those are great stories, great reads but not remarkably “Peter Case” if you get my drift. Of course, this is probably what most people want to hear about: the lurid back story of the industry. But that’s the Oldest Story in the World, right?

    After reading the ISB piece, I was wondering if Bannister could be some sort of thread in the book. Have you written about his death? There’s a song on HWY62 that seems to have him mind. I dunno. I watched a documentary about Trudell last night and thought about Bannister. I didn’t even know him (other than on the PC blog) but there’s just something about him from what you’ve said. And that story of Trudell looking back at you guys on the Venice Boardwalk — wild.

    Ok, back to the man of the hour. 10.11.12:

    Nietzsche can be easily put to problematic purposes:

    “The [Dionysian] view of things already provides us with all the elements of a profound and pessimistic view of the world, together with the mystery doctrine of tragedy: the fundamental knowledge of oneness of everything existent, the conception of individuation as the primal cause of evil, and of art as the joyous hope that the spell of individuation may be broken in augury of restored oneness.” p74 Kaufmann.

    You can take this as a Buddhist move: lifting of the veil of Maya and so on and so on (as per Zizek).

    But, and I’m not saying this is what our man actually meant, this passage could be read to support rank nationalism vs. individual rights and/or democracy.

    One wonders these days about Democracy. Leonard Cohen said it was coming to the USA. Maybe it’s run its course. (Thank gawd it’s just you and me down here, PC!).

    Then, Nietzsche invokes “metempsychosis” in the next paragraph. This notion of transfiguration appears throughout Ulysses and Bob went into in Rolling Stone a few years back. I can’t get my head around that. Can you? Does Blake help here? Yea, I know this is supposed to be a no Blake zone! (my request).

    Nietzsche’s central complaint with Euripides is that he “brought the spectator onto the stage”. The spectator may equal the citizen of a Democracy. We will have to see what the issue is here and how Socrates is implicated.

    “Euripides prides himself on having portrayed the common, familiar, everyday life and activities of the people, about which all are qualified to pass judgment. If the entire populace now philosophized, managed land and goods, and conducted lawsuits with unheard of circumspection, he deserved credit, for this was the result of the wisdom he had inculcated in the people.” Elsewhere, Nietzsche speaks of “civic mediocrity.”

    There is an attack on our so-called democratic values here. Or at least their perversion by filthy lucre (getting back to Johnny Rotten). This passage resonates with what Mailer says about the Eisenhower era and the 50s in general. He saw in Kennedy a mythical man who could deliver the Country from this mediocrity, exhaustion, loss of creative energy. And we saw how that ended, right? In Dallas, Chicago, and a thousand other places too.

    Anyway, I’m surely rambling. I will continue to march further in. Gotta find out why Socrates is “an altogether newborn demon”. Whoa!

    Best, Dave

    1. The “guide to the music business” is intrinsic to the story. It’s the battle with the monster, the same as ever, confronting utter thievery, negativity, etc, brick walls, the frustration. I’m writing more of it…why isn’t that part of the story. It’s the people city business I gave so much of my energy to, and through. I dunno, not sure where yr coming from with a comment like that, oh well. I do like yr post modern comments “text writes you” but is that getting a little dated all of a sudden? Just an intuition. The inability to come up with a tidy package, that’s real. Publish it the exhaustion point? No consummate artist, just someone desperate to spin their tale, but it never stops spinning…my utter failure to write about…what? I gotta keep going. Yes Bannister. A sad story…It’s 430 here I gotta be up in a few hours. FN talk later, I’m pushing ahead!

  17. Maybe it’s because I was so blown away by Passport which doesn’t have anything to do with the music business. That part of your story is so unique and your voice in telling it is so fresh (could be that you were telling a teenager’s story!).

    I’m not suggesting that you don’t have a unique take on the biz. And, obviously, it’s a big part of your story.

    Maybe I’ve read too much about the business in books about Lou Reed, Alex Chilton, Muddy Waters (The Robert Gordon one), Gene Clark, Steve Jones, Arthur Alexander, and many others.

    But I could be the “newborn demon”. What do I know? Not much.

    I certainly don’t want to be discouraging, PC!

    Yes, let’s continue with the Birth … of Tragedy. There’s something great even about the title, right?


    1. Subject always effects the voice. Thats the literature theory of relativity
      But don’t worry about talking to me, it’s good, inspiring. I’m just more passive in the biz stories. I’m going for a ride, and when I act in these stories, it’s usually a mess.I feel it’s important to talk about getting fucked, it builds companionship.

    2. Yes great title. I’ve not read any of those books. I have a feeling my business stories are very different from other people’s. In a way they are not really business stories at all. No business is ever done is it? Ha, maybe that’s my secret!

  18. I loved the story about the show at the Starwood (am I getting that right?) where you experience a wave of anxiety, run to the liquor store, and, I think, end up strolling down the sidewalk listening to a boom box later in the night.

    I know the song is called, “I hear your voice” but it could have been called “I hear YOUR voice” if you know what I mean.

    You have a unique voice (and I’m not talking about the timbre of your singing voice … which is also unique!). Most of us do not.

    Nah, the text controlling the writer is not out of date in my not so humble opinion (Nietzsche says, in the Geneology of Morals, that humility was a “quality” associated with slaves in the master/slave relationship that was somehow converted to a virtue by Christianity among other forces. But we’ll have to get into that somewhere down the line). The leader of my Joyce group says that we are still becoming Derrida’s contemporary. I agree!

    On this note: subject matter (such as the music business) may affect the voice.

    Jeez. Lemme know if I should knock this off. I’m trying to be helpful in my own peculiar way.

    One thing I am sure of: most readers will be most interested in the music biz!

  19. 13. This one almost begins with gossip: Nietzsche claims that “Socrates used to help Euripides write his plays” and that Socrates would only attend performances of the latter’s work. He even uses the word “celebrities”. Bad translation?

    But then he gets down to tacks in attacking Socrates. Again, what he says can be easily misinterpreted or manipulated. (A point for future consideration. Maybe coherency is something to strive for!)

    FN’s rejection of Socrates is focused on the latter’s rejection of instinct and the “critical” voice of his “daimonion”. Nietzsche also takes on, as so many have, Socrates’s privileging of forms over existence — his “duty to correct existence” (versus the Dionysian embrace of the same).

    “While in all productive men it is instinct that is the creative-affirmative force, and consciousness acts critically and dissuasively, in Socrates it is instinct that becomes the critic, and consciousness that becomes the creator ….”

    Is that so? Bob says that his art teacher in the 70s taught him to do consciously what he previously did unconsciously. And Blood on the Tracks resulted. I’ll take that one over Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde. But I may be in the minority there!

    Off to the Philly is Charlottesville rally on Broad Street.

    Talk soon.

    David Inc.

    1. Yes quite disagree about 61 and Blondes…not instinct tho that’s important, but INTUITION.

      I’m way behind you now I’ve been out here working on an album for Heart Hunters and now doing shows. But I’ll get back into it and catch up! Ok…

      Peter and Case

  20. No rush! I’ll keep forging on. Get to it when you can.

    Intuition, you say? Have you heard of this guy Zizek? They call him the master of the counter-intuitive. Could be something to it. When people tell me that someone is very “intuitive”, I get suspicious. I mean, it’s more of a climb to go against one’s intuitions! I’m half-kidding here.

    Searching for a heart,

    Ackles, Attorney at Law.

  21. Well, I’ll be damned!

    Say, I discovered a band worse than U2: Radiohead. And I base that both on Intuition and Reason.

    14. Onward with the critique of Socrates. Nietzsche earns his stripes as the father of post-modernism in this section.>>>

    “[Plato] was nevertheless constrained by sheer artistic necessity to create an art form that was related to those forms of art which he repudiated.”

    Right! Can’t escape the text itself — form controlling content.

    Of course, Nietzsche continues with the binaries (privileging the first which he associates with the Dionysian over the second which he associates with Socrates): Agreeable/Useful & Music/Logic to name two. Again, I get the feeling that we’re running into serious translation problems here. Nietzsche surely meant something stronger than Kaufmann’s “agreeable” to contrast with the usefulness of the fable which is considered a repudiation of true (read: Dionysian) art.

    How about this one>>>>

    “Optimistic dialectic drives music out of tragedy with the scourge of its syllogisms; that is, destroys the essence of tragedy, which can be interpreted only as a manifestation and projection into images of Dionysian states, as the visible symbolizing of music, as the dream world of a Dionysian intoxication.”

    Again, I struggle understanding the dream world he refers to. Earlier the dream world was associated with the Apollinian. The first sentence makes me think of what Terry Allen supposedly told Lloyd Maines when Lloyd pointed out an unusual meter to one of Terry’s songs: “It’s music. Not a math equation.”

    Everything so far begs the questions: WHY does Nietzsche bemoan the move away from pre-Socratic Greek Tragedy? WHAT was lost?

    We’ll see. Or not.


  22. Regarding Allen and Maines: I’d probably want to listen to Lloyd on this one. Songwriting IS a math equation on one level. Ever see Dylan’s quote about “what I call the mathematics of the song?”

    Man thats some dense word work there. I’ve fallen off my study though, as the record I’ve been producing in Nashville became completely demanding of my attention. But I’m back home now, and will spend some effort trying to read and come to terms with FN again..

    1. “Now…well for one thing, the music, the
      rhyming and rhythm, what I call the
      mathematics of a song, are more second-
      -nature to me. I used to have to go after a
      song, seek it out. But now, instead of going
      to it I stay where I am and let everything
      disappear and the song rushes to me. Not
      just the music, the words, too.”
      –BD, 1965

  23. Nashville, huh? How’d that go?

    Welcome home!

    Yea, I’ve seen those Bob quotes and likewise remember him referring to R. Robertson’s playing as mathematical. But we’re Bloomfield guys, right?

    I also recall a passage in Chronicles where Bob hears a musician in a club in San Rafael … in the 80s, I think … and he somehow picks up on something involving numbers that leads him … where? … I can’t recall but I think it somehow is connected to him taking solos in live performance which really sunk so many of his shows from ’88 to whenever he finally put down the guitar for good (2001ish?). So if that’s what Bob gleaned from math, I, for one, wish he hadn’t!

    In any case, I believe his reference to mathematics is metaphorical: it refers to cracking to a code vs. equations, or more broadly, science.

    Which leads me to today’s Birth of Tragedy selection>>>>>

    15. Here Nietzsches continues to grapple with the fallout of the Socratic revolution and he carves out a clear boundary (perhaps too clear!) between science and art. pp.97-98>>>>

    “But science, spurred by its powerful illusion, speeds irresistibly towards its limits where its optimism, concealed in the essence of logic, suffers shipwreck. For the periphery of the circle of science has an infinite number of points; and while there is no telling how this circle could ever be surveyed completely, noble and gifted men nevertheless reach, e’er half their time and inevitably, such boundary points on the periphery from which one gazes into what defies illumination. When they see to their horror how logic coils up at these boundaries and finally bites its own tail — suddenly the new form of insight breaks through, tragic insight which, merely to be endured, needs art as protection and remedy.”

    I am very interested to see where Nietzsche goes with this notion of art as protection and remedy. I’m with him on the limits of science (or religion or any other method that attempts a total (i.e. non-contingent) explanation or understanding of the world). I am intrigued by the idea of art as providing protection and, possibly, a cure. This seems very relevant to where we find ourselves today.


    David Ackles, Attorney at Law

    1. Ok here are some of the sentences and phrases I’ve been struggling with. (from Chapter 9)

      1)To start with last, first: “Whatever exists is alike just and unjust, and in both cases equally justified.”

      We’ve discussed his concept of “justification” before, but I haven’t caught up with it yet.

      2) “the necessity for crime imposed on the titanically striving individual” Well, I guess I see that one…lived it, LOL!

      3) “the artist’s delight in unfolding the gayety of artistic creation bidding defiance to all calamity, is actually ashiny stellar and nebular image reflected in a black sea of sadness.” wow, thats why I write songs, right there. The parting of the veils, go, Nietzsche go!

  24. Nashville went great. The studio was great meaning I could make a great sounding record without having to eat a lotta bs. The studio is called “Welcome to 1979” and I think this may be my best production yet, as I learned ALOT. The group is Heart Hunters, who wrote some pretty groovy songs, catchy, intense too.

    The Bob math reference is about songwriting, just like Ray’s is. I get that, its very clear, the mathematical aspects of the song, metre and rhyme being two of them. He’s adept at that, and its worth being adept at.

    The thing about three that he picked up from Lonnie Johnson, well, everyone talked about it, no one seems to know, but it seems quite separate from the other idea.

    Mathmatics and music have a lot in common…I love Bloomfield on 61 but I see why Robbie is described as mathematical, and thats different too, probably, but could be related to his grasp of the song forms. He sure got it, to judge by his future work. Bloomfield fab but never seemed to have the song thing himself…

    BTW, I feel as if I’ve lost my desire/ability to write in a public voice. I’m writing, but not songs, poetry, stories…I’m drawn to this writing, but its gonna stay in the notebook. I think. Buts its more fun that songs, etc…so fuck it. And no justification at all!

    Meanwhile, Nietzsche seems non-mathmatical, do you agree? Spengler takes his ideas and incorporates math concepts (which I don’t understand at all!)

    I’m jumping back in.

    Christopher Ricks “Dylan’s Visions of Sin” is great, maybe the best book about the songs, tho’ I was initially turned off by SIN concept I get it, it gives the book a higher purpose. So, I recommend it.

    But back to FN: (silence)

    I’ll get it going again!

    I’m still fumbling with 9 as I pick it up again, and man there are some wild lines there…

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