what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby redrabid on Tue Aug 03, 2010 6:23 pm

That's easy. We are.
We, who listened to his music, bought his records and applauded at his concerts and who made him a rich man.
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby oldblue on Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:30 pm

he who puts it out there takes the chance of being judged. it's just the way things are.

as for living metaphors:

In (his) “Beautiful Losers,” for instance, the sort of vision evoked by psychedelics, or bred by the madness toward which their users aspire, is rendered in a kind of prose appropriate to that vision — a prose hallucination and even, it seems to me, hallucinogenic, a style by which it is possible to be actually turned on. (372)

This style manifested itself quite strikingly in Bob Dylan’s version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on Bringing It All Back Home. If, on one level, the song could be understood as “an ode to a dope dealer” and embody “a traditional romantic vision,” (Gitlin 200) it became something much more on another more metaphorical level.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

If one were to “analyze” the song in the traditional exegetical manner, what emerged would be a picture of “Dylan lilt(ing) of absolute liberty in an infinite present time severed from the past; this was the transcendentalist fantasy of the wholly, abstractly free individual, finally released from the pains and distortions of society’s traps, liberated to the embrace of nature and the wonder of essential thoughts, in an America capable of starting the world again.” (Gitlin 200-201)

But if one were to experience the performance of the song itself, he or she would feel the ambiance of the work which “is unmistakably that of early dawn, the hour of the wolf, when all hangs in an eerie balance, as at the end of a long and difficult LSD trip.” (Lee 135-136) The listener then becomes a partner with the singer on “a mystical journey through “the foggy ruins of time.” (Lee 135-136) The song, magically, had become the (drug) experience itself for both listener and performer.
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." — George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby Ensign on Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:02 am

I bought his records, applauded at his concerts (when I was so moved) and helped to make him a rich man, etc., etc. Heck, I'm a musician and a (sometimes) songwriter, and I am not qualified to rate Dylan's relative level of greatness. And neither are you, most likely.
You either like the music he makes or you don't. Analyzing it is mostly so much mental masturbation; what is to be gained, anyway, so why waste the time?

"he who puts it out there takes the chance of being judged. it's just the way things are."

So what? That doesn't make it right or good or worthwhile.
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby Ensign on Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:15 am

I am trying to draw the distinction between having the right to make judgements and having the qualifications to make them.

Again, from Zappa:
"But as for the sucker who will write the review
If his mind is prehensile
He'll put down his pencil
And have himself a squat
On the Cosmic Utensil"
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby oldblue on Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:39 pm

Ensign wrote:I am trying to draw the distinction between having the right to make judgements and having the qualifications to make them.

Again, from Zappa:
"But as for the sucker who will write the review
If his mind is prehensile
He'll put down his pencil
And have himself a squat
On the Cosmic Utensil"


everyone has the right; some people are just better at it
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." — George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby redrabid on Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:01 pm

The act of buying those records is already a judgement in itself, don't you think? As for my qualifications to judge (in the case of Zappa): I own almost everything he ever released (and as we all know that's a lot of records) and I am very able to judge which records are excellent, which OK and which records are downright lousy. I don't need a critic or a professor in musicology to do that. Any standard by which to judge the arts is debatable anyway. But I think that Zappa had the conviction that only he could judge his achievements properly. And now I am going to play "Absolutly Free". A masterpiece.
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby Ensign on Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:52 pm

"Any standard by which to judge the arts is debatable anyway."

And that is the point.

Yes, it involves judgements when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. But it doesn't say anything in particular about the quality of the item other than you personally think it's worth the money to own it. I've bought albums for the lyrics, the cover art, the type of instrumentation used, etc. etc.

When I was young I used to engage in arguments like, "Who is the better guitar player, Clapton or Santana?". But in the end, it was became apparent that we were comparing apples to oranges. And what's the point, anyway? Ability to play more notes per second? And, of course, that is quantifiable. What about stuff that is NOT even quantifiable, like tone, or feel?

With music, if you like the sound of something, or if it makes you feel a certain way, you may be tempted to own a copy. That doesn't make it "better" than some other music you decide not to buy, or something that someone else buys. So making assertions about which artist is "greater", or in the case of this discussion, which period of an artist's career is "greater" seems like a waste of time.

And then.... there's the consideration of the TIME factor. Something that seems lovely when you first hear it may not stand the test of time, because times change and so do we.
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby Susan Butcher on Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:50 pm

Couldn't have put it better, Ensign. How can there be any absolute judgement of the quality of a piece of music when isn't even an agreement about what music is for?
"I ain't got the blues no more I said"
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby oldblue on Wed Aug 04, 2010 10:23 pm

again, i don't think there's adequate understanding of the question i posed.

i was speaking of ultimate in the sense of: "basic; fundamental; representing a limit beyond which further progress, as in investigation or analysis, is impossible." so we are not talking about favorite songs, best periods or who he is better or worse than or not or why you like him or what his lyrics are about but rather what, in the final analysis, will bob's greatness be perceived as (and why).

neither is it about the relativity of standards. it asks you to just state your opinion and back it up.

my belief remains the same that he was at his greatest as an artist when he became a human metaphor (when he became the thing itself). this just happened to have occurred between 1964-66. what caused it? acid? speed? a unique nervous system? a deal with the devil at the crossroads? who knows? it's kind of like keeping einstein's brain and sectioning it up to study it.

why do we do such things as think about artists in this way? i guess because we were given the ability to think.

so pretend you are looking back at bob from far in the future when our ability to understand him has caught up with his art, why would you know who he was
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." — George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby redrabid on Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:56 am

That standards are debatable, judgement of music arbitrary and our appriciation of it highly personal doesn't mean that questions like that of OldBlue are pointless. OB asks us to give our opinion and to back it up. On a forum like this it is a great way to get to know people. Especially because of that personal aspect of the love for music people show a lot of themselves in the discussions. I like that. I like people. I like to know what makes them tick. And OB forces us to think, he doesn't accept easy answers. So it is also a way to get to know yourself. But good thinking and a critical look at yourself are not very popular here, I've noticed. But some of us enjoy just that exercise in thinking.
What music is for? I don't think that music has a purpose in itself. The ability to make music and to appreciate it could be an unintended by-product of human evolution. Obviously we humans fell in love with it, maybe because of its transcending qualities, music can rapture us, take us away out of our daily troubles. We can put it to use in endless ways of course.
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby Susan Butcher on Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:30 am

OK, I'll stick to the question and not bring quality judgements into it at all. One answer is he had a large number of fans who saw him a kind of messiah. After all, doesn't "Zimmerman" mean "carpenter"?
"I ain't got the blues no more I said"
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby oldblue on Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:43 am

Susan Butcher wrote:OK, I'll stick to the question and not bring quality judgements into it at all. One answer is he had a large number of fans who saw him a kind of messiah. After all, doesn't "Zimmerman" mean "carpenter"?


let me get this straight. bob dylan's ultimate greatness is the fact that he had a bunch of krispee fans?

now here was a carpenter

Grandpa Was A Carpenter
John Prine


Grandpa wore his suit to dinner
Nearly every day
No particular reason
He just dressed that way
Brown necktie and a matching vest
And both his wingtip shoes
He built a closet on our back porch
And put a penny in a burned out fuse.

Chorus:
Grandpa was a carpenter
He built houses stores and banks
Chain smoked camel cigarettes
And hammered nails in planks
He was level on the level
And shaved even every door
And voted for eisenhower
'cause lincoln won the war.

Well, he used to sing me "blood on the saddle"
And rock me on his knee
And let me listen to radio
Before we got t.v.
Well, he'd drive to church on sunday
And take me with him too!
Stained glass in every window
Hearing aids in every pew.

Repeat chorus:

Now my grandma was a teacher
Went to school in bowling green
Traded in a milking cow
For a singer sewing machine
She called her husband "mister"
And walked real tall and proud
And used to buy me comic books
After grandpa died.

Repeat chorus:
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." — George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby Ensign on Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:40 pm

I am still trying to figure out how to deal with the question.

I guess my answer would be, Dylan's ultimate greatness was that he caught a lot of peoples' attention, and he made some of them think.
Of course, caveats would include knowing what happens in the rest of Dylan's career, which hasn't happened yet, and through what filters would we be looking all those years in the future?

As far a being a "human metaphor" - a metaphor for what?
And "when he became the thing itself" - what thing?

I thought he is just a man who wrote songs and played them. Is he more than that? If the answer is yes, do you think he would agree?
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby okeedoe on Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:51 pm

You simulate profound thinking and wisdom by propounding a weightily questions which almost anyone could ask.Can you satisfy us for once with an enlightening answer to your own question? Or do you want others to do the job for you?
You just want to learn by playing smart .


Was Morrison a shaman? Crap. My ass is a bigger shaman than he ever was.
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Re: what do you see as bob dylan's ultimate greatness

Postby oldblue on Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:17 pm

i thought i went through all this in a previous post but here goes again

let's begin with alchemy because at heart this is is a very alchemical thing:

While alchemy is involved with turning the common into something spectacular (most familiarly base metals into gold, a substance that was held to be the purest known at the time), there are other dimensions to it as well. In true alchemy, the desire for gold had nothing whatever to do with the desire for riches. Alchemists were not interested in amassing fortunes per se. The ability to make gold was a sign they had reached a state of inward perfection and discovered the secret workings of the universe — that they had become enlightened beings. There would be a one-to-one correspondence between their souls and gold. Along with this process of transmutation, the medieval alchemists also sought the elixir of immortality that would accomplish the transportation of consciousness into a state beyond time.

they sought to become (living) metaphors for gold.

now as far as dylan is concerned:

In the psychedelic “style,” this quest engendered not form because there was “no doctrine of forms in [their] philosophy” (Brown 293) and no attempt “to substitute method for insight”; there would be no distance between artist and song, song and audience, or audience and artist. Critic Leslie Fiedler, in speaking of the work of poet and musician Leonard Cohen, offered a defining description of this style:

In (his) “Beautiful Losers,” for instance, the sort of vision evoked by psychedelics, or bred by the madness toward which their users aspire, is rendered in a kind of prose appropriate to that vision — a prose hallucination and even, it seems to me, hallucinogenic, a style by which it is possible to be actually turned on. (372)

This style manifested itself quite strikingly in Bob Dylan’s version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on Bringing It All Back Home. If, on one level, the song could be understood as “an ode to a dope dealer” and embody “a traditional romantic vision,” (Gitlin 200) it became something much more on another more metaphorical level.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

If one were to “analyze” the song in the traditional exegetical manner, what emerged would be a picture of “Dylan lilt(ing) of absolute liberty in an infinite present time severed from the past; this was the transcendentalist fantasy of the wholly, abstractly free individual, finally released from the pains and distortions of society’s traps, liberated to the embrace of nature and the wonder of essential thoughts, in an America capable of starting the world again.” (Gitlin 200-201)

But if one were to experience the performance of the song itself, he or she would feel the ambiance of the work which “is unmistakably that of early dawn, the hour of the wolf, when all hangs in an eerie balance, as at the end of a long and difficult LSD trip.” (Lee 135-136) The listener then becomes a partner with the singer on “a mystical journey through “the foggy ruins of time.” (Lee 135-136) The song, magically, had become the (drug) experience itself for both listener and performer.

Dylan also was able to achieve something similar in his live performances during 1966. His delivery of “She Belongs to Me” at the Manchester Free Trade Hall exactly suits the entrancement he is describing and experiencing. The listener is there with him, feeling what he is feeling as he looks on in rapt awe and wonderment as the woman in the song wreaks her particular brand of havoc and pain upon all those who adore her. “And everything about his singing is then complemented in turn by the long, drawn-out harmonica passage that ends the song.” (Motion)

Kooper, who played on the sessions for Blonde on Blonde, proclaimed that the song “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” was “the definitive version of what 4 am sounds like. It may very well be because we recorded it at that hour — but many tracks have been transported to tape in the earliest of am’s and yet none actually proclaims its birthtime as saliently as this track does.”

so he sought to become a living metaphor for what he was singing about. he sought to become the thing itself he was singing about.

pm me if you want more and we'll see what we can do.
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." — George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)
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