I chose the Passing Stranger (East Village Poetry Walk) by Pejk Malinovski as my audio tour. I lived in the East Village for almost a decade and 9th Street has a special place in my memories. I was curious to learn more about the history and poetry scene of the East Village. As a palm-sized time machine weaving me in and out of the many memories of poets like Allen Ginsberg, W.H. Auden and Frank O’Hara, the layered audio of the narrator, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch paired with the street sounds, clear walking instructions and music created such an immersive experience. There were moments where you’re standing in front of an apartment building and you can imagine seeing Jack Kerouac on the fire escape or Ginsberg sending down his keys in a sock to come up. I even climbed up the stairs to poet Anne Waldman’s 33 St. Marks Place apartment building, which is now a piercing and tattoo parlor, to see if I could figure out where they put their time capsule (of a hit of acid, a Valium, a joint and a poem) that they left behind in the late 1960s. The music on this adventure was also good in setting the tone of the time period. You feel the hipness when the Velvet Underground music plays around Cooper Square and try to figure out where Andy Warhol stood to being in that lyric jazz piece of the 1950s Beat Generation. And then you can make a turn to the Latin groove of Avenue C where you start walking to your own beat.
Since we’re in the midst of gathering our own sounds for our short piece audio project, the approach of layering different perspectives of spoken word with music and abstract sounds as done in the East Village Poetry Walk is a technique to try and have fun with. My group partner and I are also playing with the idea of taking samples from songs that best express certain feelings that we want to convey, then possibly looping and fading them together to create our own remix. This leads to that dilemma of the readings this week: influence vs plagiarism and who’s intellectual property is it? I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan and I love those songs that sound too similar to his “influences/inspirations.” But it makes me think of the huge number of Dylan covers done by successful musicians who Dylan inspired. Some of these themes are also `so common and universal that there’s bound to be a couple people thinking of the same idea (like a broken heart or love lost), and it’s just a race to see who executes it first. You can also see this acts of imitation/flattery as a way for pieces to live longer and be introduced to younger generations.
It’s also interesting to see how “blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture,” as noted in Jonathan Lethem’s The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism. The whole idea of open source where people can built upon what others have built to add on to a foundation or create their own cog in the machine, sometimes collaboration with lots of different expertise can make a better product.
Back when I was living in the East Village, I was going through my own heartbreak when I saw Michel Gondry’s movie, Eternal Sunshine Of a Spotless Mind. Jon Brion’s music score of the movie really connected with me. It was melancholy but whimsical and uplifting. I was fortunate enough to see his one man show in Brooklyn the beginning of the summer and it was amazing to see him on stage laying/playing all the individual tracks together. Here’s a clip from one of his show in NY this past year of Brion covering Dylan.