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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Sunday, September 30, 2018

My first Spanish lit course

I know we read Machado.  I remember the poem "Daba el reloj las doce" and "En las ascuas de un crepúsculo morado." The instructor was named Robert Scari, and was from Argentina. We read Historia de una escalera, by Buero Vallejo, and Requiem por un campesino español. I think also El gesticulador, by Usigli.

The second class was more advanced, and was devoted to the modern Spanish novel.  The instructor was Reed Anderson. We read Unamuno, Niebla, El árbol de la ciencia, something by Fernández Santos whose title will come to me in a second, La cabeza del cordero, by Ayala.  The word "algarabía" appeared on the first page of Baroja's novel, and I had looked it up. The professor asked me what it meant and I was able to say.

This was 40 years ago.  I do not have an extraordinary memory, it is just that my education was cumulative, so that I related later things I read to this foundation.

The first book I bought in Spain was a copy of Miguel Hernández in bookstore in San Sebastián. I still have this book, an anthology of his love poetry edited by Leopolodo de Luis.  I don't know how I knew to buy it, but I figured it out somehow.  


I improvised this beginning tag to song I'd already composed. I improvised the chords and melody at the same time with the tape rolling. The intro is much better than the song but I don't know what it is. I'd have to transcribe it again for myself.

Ut pictura poesis

I was working on my course description and jogging. The running felt very labored; the street was crowed with joggers going in both directions. So when I woke up I naturally continued to work on my description.  I was wheezing a bit so that maybe explains the running part.


It will be called "Interartistic Approaches..."

There will be four segments.

Ekphrasis and its discontents. (Horace, Lessing... W.J.T Mitchell... María Victoria Atencia; Margot Persin).

Visual poetry. (Emblem poetry; Apollinaire; concrete poetry; Ullán)

Poetry in performance, but without singing.  (Kuhnheim, Bernstein...).

Musical adaptations; words and music in culto and vernacular traditions. (John Hollander)

This is not a Lorca seminar, for once, but it really is.  Ha Ha.  How could anything I do not be a Lorca seminar? It will allow me to talk about some ideas I've talked about before, like the difference between visuality in poetry and poetry that talks about a painting.

By the way, people have been misquoting that Horace tag for centuries. What it is is not an assertion that poetry and pictures are the same, but that they are the same in certain respects.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Travel Poem

I can't write when I travel

my observations seem banal to me

what anyone else might observe

or else simply mistaken or distorted

I can't write the Fulbright travelogue, the tourist poem

I am a poor tourist, I like residing more than visiting

I do like traveling, the odd distortions of time and place

and beauties produced by disorientation

"the strange hours we keep to see them"

as William Carlos Williams put it

so jet lag is actually a good thing!

but I don't like trying to have experiences other people expect me to have

or writing down my reactions to what I see

my, those Alps are steep!

so I can't write anything about bleak and beautiful Cuba

Patagonia where I have never been

I like traveling to give a talk or meet people

interested in my ideas about things

I like being away and coming back

trying to talk to people in the language of the place

and reading novels in languages I don't fully comprehend on the plane back

Dream of Intellectual Dialogue

There was a complex game of intellectual dialogue, the participants were people at the university in different department, male and female. The content of what anyone said was not important, or not memorable in any way upon awakening, only the texture of the dialogue. Gradually, the rules of the game disappeared, and it just became an extended conversation. There was no "setting," no spatial configuration, just the ideas themselves and the personalities of those expressing them.


I read a book by Deryck Cooke called The Language of Music, recommended by a commenter to this blog. [Thanks!] It was published in 1958 and Cooke was a musicologist working for the BBC and specializing in Mahler and Wagner.

Cooke sees the language of music mostly as an emotionally expressive one, and shows how certain sequences of notes of a scale are used over and over by composers to express the same emotion. 1,3, 5, 6, 5 in a major scale expresses innocent joy... Things like that.  It is surprisingly convincing. Within  the system of Western tonal music, we do hear these melodic snippets in this way, and he is able to name them with precision. Each interval also has a valence that is more or less determinate.

It is well written, and the musical example are easy to follow. You can just pluck them out on a keyboard because they are just snippets of melody, in most cases. It can be read by anyone who can read music at an elementary level. He also can answer questions like how composers are able to create original ideas out of these nuclei of melodic meaning. (Mostly through rhythmic variations.)

(Of course, I would have to go through it again and play each example rather than skimming through and audiating a few in my head.)

This anticipates the new musicology's preoccupation with meaning, but avoids the idea that this meaning is propositional. It is all pretty much a mode of expressing emotions, so it is harder to attach sexual or gender-based or sociopolitical content to musical meanings.  If the "content" of music is emotion, then we can name it in words, insofar as we can name emotions in the first place, but we can't detach it from its forms. The emotions are taken to be those experienced by the composer and then expressed, communicated to the listener.  I have to confess that I bought into this idea as I was reading. It is sufficiently nuanced in its applications. There were a few times when he anticipates the melodramatic style of musical analysis, but you feel that he knows what he is doing and won't push the material beyond where it wants to go.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Business Plan: A Love Poem

People jog in tee-shirts, but men's dress shirts are made of a thinner material

they cling less to the body, hang looser

are easier to remove by unbuttoning

when soaked with sweat

I am thinking of the short-sleeved dress shirts worn by the Mormon missionaries

in warmer climates, not of long-sleeved shirts

of course nobody would go running in a white dress shirt like that

but I propose, my love, that you and I design, manufacture, and market a shirt

of light synthetic or blended material, like that used for other sportswear

modifying the hang of a dress shirt, but for athletic use

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Man Without Qualities

In this movie I arrive anonymously at a small town

hoping to be unnoticed

this is unlikely because I am the main character in the movie

my love interest is the waitress at the diner

her smile when our eyes meet telegraphs that to the audience

her sidekick is another woman, slightly older and heavier

with a brighter shade of lipstick, as though to compensate

for not being as conventionally attractive

in real life I would prefer her

but those are not the rules of this film

the music tells you how to feel at every turn

tense, wistful, buoyant, triumphant

not us, the characters in the film, but you, the audience

for we can not hear it inside the movie

I'm sure you've seen my movie, or one very like it

the plot is much what you'd expect

I am quietly confident, haunted by a murky past

but without distinguishing features

the camera follows me around

so the viewer identifies with me, because I am no one in particular

or with the waitress, as the case might be

the comfort here, for the audience, is in the tension and release

the familiarity of the form

the way this film, that I have dreamed of today on my walk downtown,

is similar to many others, not in the ways it is distinctive

Another thought on the melodramatic style

The function of the melodramatic style in musicology is this: it makes "pure" music into "program" music by attaching semantic content to musical syntax. We know that music in this particular system of tonality is a series of tensions and releases. So a delayed release or prolonged tension can be interpreted as a prolongation of sexual desire, etc...  We can construct a narrative out of how the particular way tension and release can be allegorized in any given instance. We even have characters: the musical themes themselves are like literary characters, etc...  Susan McClary is quite explicit about this. This is a way of attaching particular social meanings to forms instead of leaving them as purely formal. We re-semanticize music by attributing specific social or sexual values to formal operations like a dominant resolving into a tonic.

(Rhetorically, the straw man is a theory of pure music: the idea that music has no meaning at all. Nobody really believes that, though.  What is at stake is what kind of meaning it has, and how and why it acquires these meanings and for whom, and who gets to decide using what criteria.)  

So far, so good. The question remains is why this narrative has to be cast in melodramatic terms, why it has take the form of hyperbolic statements rather than being more matter-of-fact in tone. All this flirting with disaster and breathtaking reversals of fortune. The necessity for this is possibly this: a less emotional treatment would be too dry and formalist; the stakes would be too low and the end results less "dramatic" and compelling. So the rhetorical figure of hyperbole bears the weight of the persuasive power.  It also has the element of fun to it: it makes an entertaining narrative out of a series of syntactical operations! We feel something significant is happening.

But it is also the source of skepticism, in that hyperbole invites deflation.

Explaining your project

I explained my project twice yesterday, to my work buddy, Thomas, and and hour later to a writer for the news service that produces a daily set of stories about my university. I'm giving a talk in our faculty seminar in two weeks too. It is a useful thing to do, because you will inevitably tailor the explanation to the audience. In other words, you have an implicit pitch in your mind, but you will deliver it differently depending on your sense of an audience. I  Or you should. If you are talking to a different person then you will generate different ideas, based on their reactions. That is better than just memorizing a pitch and using the same words for every audience.  

So some the factors are

How much the person knows about your field, about your previous research.

How long you want to talk, how much detail, etc... Do you want to hammer home a main idea or give an extended outline of the separate parts?

How you think the audience perceives you. Do you have to win them over,  or do they already think you are interesting?  Are you preaching to the choir or do you expect resistance?

How do you want to be perceived? As an "expert," a gadfly?  Do you want to come off as humble or not so humble? How will you handle your defensiveness if challenged?

Do you want to gloss over the potential problems in your approach, or confess them openly so that someone can help you with them?

What are you looking for? Approval or confirmation? Clarification?  A job? Help in some concrete area?  A nice and informative news story about you in "KU today"?

Johann Sebastian Bach, Sonata II BWV 1003, Fuga

This has nothing to do with my project, but I thought you might enjoy it.

Non Narrative

This dream was very long but had no narrative structure or anything particularly memorable or narratable. It was mostly texture, with some anxiety motifs like disapproval of others, or a scene in which I was stepping out of the shower into a room full of people. I seemed more concerned about getting water on the floor than about being seen naked. In another scene I stepped outside of a house holding a Dixie cup, and was told that this was not done in this particular season. If I think more about it I can remember more episodes: going to a movie we had to pass through a room full of strange sci fi or espionage equipment of some kind. Through the whole night I seemed to staying at someone's house and trying to fit in some how, learn what the rules were.

Annals of forced comparisons and awkward transitions

The problem I see here is that the blues is "tonal" too.  All music is tonal except for "atonal" music. I guess some is based on scales and modes that aren't exactly the 18th century common practice, but come on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The melodramatic style in musicology

Here is what I mean by the melodramatic style.  We know that analysis of harmony in and of itself is dry, and that music has a syntax but not a semantics of determinate meanings. We attribute emotions to syntactic or structural changes. So we have "catastrophe," "disaster," the "San Andreas fault." We have a "cruel cadence," "traumatic," "breathtaking," etc...  All the language is over the top.  And this is not an isolated example, but an entire style in musicology.

So the semantics of music is mostly a series of emotions. I think we can agree that music works on our emotions. So this method of tracing a series of chords and attributing a emotional weight to them does not seem wholly out of line. What seems exaggerated is, well, the exaggeration, and then the odd specificity of the overall narrative, the surety with which it is put forward. How do know whether something is a disaster and not a joke, for example? Who gets to decide? How do we know that anyone else will hear music in the same way?  The emotional language is doing all the rhetorical work here. Without that, we would just have a dry recital of what chord follows what other chord.  If the emotional language were toned down a bit, then the description wouldn't be all that compelling, would it?  It is emotionally compelling if we believe it, but if we are at all skeptical, then the melodrama makes it less convincing.

An exercise might be to have 10 musicologists in 10 rooms listen to this and invent their own narratives of what is happening here. Then compare those 10 reactions to 10 listeners who do not know how to analyze music like this.


As a short cut today I came up with a very simple formula:  "the meaning of music consists of the meaning we attribute to it." So it is meaning for someone.  And it is an act of attribution: someone decides how to name and define that meaning. If it means something, sincerely, for me, and I say what it is, then I am right. If a bunch of people react the same way to something, then they are right, whether they share common conventions of listening or for other reasons.

A lot of musical meanings seems simply tautological. What does slowness mean, for example? Or bounciness? We could represent "arbitrariness" by playing random notes. Or "incoherence" by starting a theme and not finishing it. "Banality" might be a too-simple theme played over and over, etc...  Understanding music is simply following along with it and finding whatever meanings we find there. I resent being strong-armed by a melodramatic narrative that may not correspond to how I would hear something if left to my own devices.    

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


I realized that there was this book, El flamenco a la luz de García Lorca, that I had not heard of. I experienced a moment of panic: what if this book did what I wanted to do? When I opened it up, I realized that my fears were unfounded. It is the typical book that talks about Lorca and flamenco in all the old ways and with a lot of the flamencology baggage that doesn't interest me.

The more I read the more I am convinced that I can do it better. I read a chapter on the blues in a book by a famous musicologist and said, nyah, I can do it better, simply because I don't think black people's bodies are more connected to their minds than white peoples. If I were writing about the blues I'd include jazz, for one thing.

I can just do it better. I'm not trying to be arrogant, it's just that my basic standard for myself is at a certain level. For me, it is a basic level of intellectual rigor.

A tic

I need to keep track of things nervously, like the number of hits I get on the blog. The numbers themselves are not important, it is more of a nervous habit of checking back, and I could easily substitute checking some other number, like the temperature outside. It is purely nervous, and has no function aside from that self-soothing. I also like to know what time it is, even when I don't have any time constraints. 

So I guess the productive thing to do with his non-productive habit is to limit it to a few things instead of doing it with 5 or 6, and realize that it has no real purpose. 

Cultural Work

I had a visceral reaction when I first started to hear people use the phrase "do cultural work," where the cultural work is a synonym some sort of immediate political pay off. As in the question: "What cultural work does Madonna's music do?" It takes something from what is already "culture" and makes its cultural work into something not even cultural, but simply political in a kind of one-dimensional way.

Themes in Dreams

In my recent dreams these motifs have predominated:

I admire the creative expression of a musician or dancer, often a black guy.

I seek approval, often unsuccessfully or dubiously, of someone for my own efforts, in music or dance or poetry. Usually this is a woman but these are not sexual dreams per se.

I am attempting to solve a problem in this regard. Whether to gain skill and confidence or legitimation / approval for my efforts. These dreams are hard work.

Bookself Poem

In this dream I am in a restaurant with some people. I am supposed to write a poem on the spot so I look at an empty bookshelf that happens to be there and decide to compose my poem in Spanish:

Oh estante, me inspiras una literatura infinita

vacío, me llenas de poemas sin fin

[Oh bookshelf, you inspire in me an infinite literature

empty, you fill me with poems without cease]

A woman is indignant because my poem isn't good enough. I remain unruffled, not because I agree my poem is all that bad, but just because it's not the kind of thing to worry about. It's just a few lines I threw off, off the top of my head.

Monday, September 24, 2018


In this dream Wayne P., (whom I had seen in the day in real life) tricked me into picking up part of his art work,  a mousetrap that then snapped onto my hand. I pummeled his shoulder with my fists, but then felt bad since I realized the snapping traps were part of the intended effect of the work. I continued to process this feeling for several more hours of dreaming.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Drummer: A Dream

I was at a concert hall of some kind on a college campus and peaked in a window or curtain to see a drummer playing extremely fast, but very musically, mostly on the ride cymbal. He was soloing or warming up, and there were odd "cuts" in his playing, as though I were watching a film of him playing rather than a live performance. He looked a bit like Jack DeJohnette, but with a beard and a bit skinnier. I rushed over a few feet to the box office to buy a ticket to the event where he would be playing. A male friend of mine whom I had just told about the drummer got his ticket first, and I asked for a ticket to the Kenny Burrell show. The ticket agent looked vaguely similar to the drummer and said, do you mean Kenny Burr? I wasn't sure but I said I just wanted the same show my friend was going to. In the dream he was my best friend, or a very close friend, though I could not identify him when I woke up.

The ticket agent cut up my credit card and I asked him why. He said he suspected fraud when the card was denied. I gave him my debit card instead, but I couldn't see the show because I woke up while still trying to buy the ticket. (The cat was attacking my feet.) So I guess the show was what I saw before I tried to buy the ticket.

Since I was the dreamer, that drum music was coming from me...  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Ornette Coleman Quintet Live October 1958 at the Hillcrest Club, Los Ang...


I was invited to give of the keynote addresses for an international conference on Lorca in Madrid in February. Apparently it's international because of me, one other US scholar from Indiana University, and one professor from Italy.  Everyone else works at a Spanish university.  

I am asked to talk about Lorca studies in the US, something I know a bit about.  

My first idea: our perspective is international. We are often very conscious of Lorca in the US and of the fact we aren't Spaniards and are interpreting Lorca for other Americans. Translation figures large in our enterprise (Honig, Maurer, {Mayhew}). Lorca studies has never been a mainly Spanish enterprise anyway, and even many of the Spanish scholars have been working on Lorca within US institutions.

Second idea: a larger context: Lorca in the English speaking world, including other parts like Canada and the British Isles, is a figure who looms large after the Civil War.

Third idea: we are attuned to Lorca's ongoing reception as well as to documentary and bibliographical work.  

That should be enough for an hour, once I fill in all the examples. I will de-emphasize my own contributions, of course, but sneak some of them in indirectly.    


I've decided to like George Crumb.  I always thought it was too bad that the most Lorquian composer wasn't more to my personal taste, but that's kind of on me, right? It fall on me to have bigger ears. The same with Enrique Morente. He isn't my favorite, but he's the most Lorquian in his dedication.


There is nothing wrong with a lot of the previous work on Lorca and music. What I am arguing is for the insights that come with looking at it all at once, rather than piecemeal and without knowing about the more or less complete picture. You can be "wrong" about something just by not knowing how it fits into the the larger picture. For example, you might think something is exceptional when it is typical, or vice-versa. Almost everyday of research I discover I have been wrong about something, or under / over estimated the significance of something. This is what makes it exciting.

When I say that other scholars have been asking the wrong questions, that is not exactly right. They aren't asking the questions I think they should have asked.


I listened to some Bob Dylan today. A cd that was here at the house where I am  house / cat / chicken sitting this week. Not bad. The first cd I heard had a lot of his most familiar hits like "Blowing in the Wind" and "Like a Rolling Stone." Though of course I had heard these songs, I have never sat down to listen to Dylan for a longer stretch.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What if books on jazz were written by people who hated jazz.  You might get something like this:

Whereas most musicians struggle to attract followers and proselytize with their songs, the RGC artists seem bent on turning people away, singing lyrics that are often obscure even to native Spanish speakers. Whereas people generally enjoy the experience of swaying to a rhythm and clapping to a beat, the Andalusian 12-beat phrase effectively discouraged such audience participation. Whereas people often appreciate the experience of being drawn into a song, feeling its development towards a conclusion, RGC songs were off-putting performances that end abruptly and left listeners to fend for themselves. Whereas listeners generally enjoy the experience of identifying with the emotions expressed by the singers, the exaggerated emotionality of RGC performances was often more of a turn-off than a turn-on. And the rough and raw sounds presented by many cantaores did little to reverse this situation. In short, flamenco music as illustrated by the RGC performances is, with just a few exceptions, musically inhospitable.  (Washabaugh 24)


1% doesn't sound like a lot, but think of it as 2 pages of a 200 page book. Any day you can write that, or even half of that, calls for celebration. 

Think that scholars write 1-3 books in their careers and are fine with that. Say the tenure book, the full professor book, and one after that. Some write more, some stop at 2.  

So to get one of these books done, you need 200 days of rather productive writing, which means writing a page. This should be doable. 

So this means the trick is not writing 1% or .5% of your book on any particular day.  That is easy enough. What has to happen is have enough days like that so that you reach 100. 

The half of a percent theory

It goes like this:  a book manuscript of 50,000 words. One percent of that is 500.

So .5% is going to be 250 words. You can write that in an hour or two.  So you need 200 days to accomplish this, assuming you aren't going to be writing more than 3 hours on any day you devote to the project.  In three years you have 1,095 days to write, so you need to be working on actually writing the book about 20% of your days. You should be able to write a book in three years.

This is allowing for the fact that the writing might only happen every 5 days, that some of the time is not writing but research, etc... and that you will get lazy at some point, or simply that ideas take time to develop.

[Update: my pages are about 300+ words in Baskerville 12 point type, double spaced. So I have to write slightly less than a page for the half a percent.

Stupid Bachelor Breakfast Tips

I have a new blog, called Stupid Bachelor Breakfast Tips. I've been meaning to do this for a while.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


I am envisioning this:

Intro and preface: 10,000 words

Chapter on Lorca's own musicality, etc...:  10,000

Chapter on classical music...  12,000

Chapter on vernacular idioms.... 12,000

conclusion:  5,000

So let's say 50,000 words.  Each chapter is fairly long but it has many subdivisions.  It will be seamless in its flow even with many "seams." It will be idea driven rather than mostly descriptive.  The main ideas so far are cultural hybridity and cultural hierarchies, between high, middle, and low. I'm especially interested in the under theorized middle brow.

It is good to envision things, imagine them as already existent.  Say there is a lot you will build the house on. The lot exists, but the house is only an idea, so far. We have the advantage over the architect in that we can already build the house simply by writing things down. I can close my eyes and see the book. Maybe the cover would look like this:

The Musical Afterlife of
Federico García Lorca

Jonathan Mayhew

I would open up the book and see the table of contents, with the page numbers there. I turn to the first page and start reading. If I imagine what words are there, then I can write them down and the book will become a reality for me. It is merely an idea, but all books have to start with being an idea in someone's head.  

German Test: A Dream

We were going to have a test on a poem we had read in German. Although I knew the poem in German quite well, I realized that I could not actually formulate a complete sentence in German in a German test.

Nervous habits

I have a nervous habit

of mixing song with drink

self-defense with auto mechanics

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Musicology: A Dream

Some people in the musicology department that my friend, X, had died 8 years earlier in an auto accident.  I knew this wasn't true because I saw him last Spring. They were insistent. 

I went to the chairman's department. His shirt, a paisley pattern in green, matched the wallpaper exactly. I asked if that meant he had to wear the same shirt every day for that effect, and he said no, the wallpaper was "rented."

Friday, September 14, 2018


Why is Lola Flores cursi and other versions of Lorca not cursi?  Why is declamation more so than singing, most of the time (mutatis mutandis)?

It seems paradoxical that spoken word should be so prone to this treatment while musical versions are not. Declamation only moves in one direction (toward cursilería) or remains dry and dispassionate, but vocal music has an infinite variation in tone and emotion. Is it because actors are so bad?  (But poets themselves can we bad too).  

Lola Flores - Requiem por Federico http://Camaroneros.Tk



Poem on a Misremembered Line of Frank O'Hara

At the bottom of my heart is some kind of bugle

or cymbal with surprisingly dark resonance

the cymbal brews me a cup of an herbal concoction

now I am in the room where the tea is being brewed

its aromas mingling with the textures of upholstery

instead of this echo chamber being in my heart, I am in it

the room is in a world, the real world in fact

I could go outside, greet the textures of the day

I am in this room now, my heart inside me

and at the bottom of my heart some kind of bugle again

this is what I think of stepping into the shower

remembering O'Hara's bugle but forgetting why he put it there

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Something is coming together in my mind.  Flamenco is not popular music. Vocally, it is described from outside as "inhospitable," not prone to popularization. Flamenco guitar is considered pleasurable, almost as background music. Baile is the most touristic aspect, and the toque (guitar playing) is used as accompaniment to the dance.

But the cante has never been popular, unless transformed into other genres of music like the copla. The harsh-sounding voices, the melisma, the difficulty of comprehending the lyrics, or, for the non-Spanish speaker, their utter impenetrability. Hence it seems that cante is the terrain of the purists, because most non-flamenco type people do not even like it in the first place.  

The cante has always been literary in some sense, too. In the sense of attracting literary interest to its lyrics, which have a deep connection to traditional Spanish lyric poetry in the folkloric tradition.

So a vernacular setting of Lorca is not necessarily a popularizing one. Let's call this the "unpopular vernacular." This is a third space opening up, similar to the vernacularizing classical tradition.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Dream

I dreamt that the dance teacher was angry at me because I had forgotten to come to class. I was told this by another woman, who ordered me a red wine in a cafe were sitting in, even though it was morning. Later I was in the class, sitting in a front row in a lecture hall.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

Literary Value

My project is making me think about what we mean by literary value. First, the very existence of the project depends on the value that people put on Lorca's work. We wouldn't have a book about musical settings of a poet... whom nobody had set to music. In musical settings, the value of the literary text is preserved, in that we value the song for the poem, as it pre-existed the song. We don't forget the author, despite fantasies about Lorca being sung by people who have never heard of Lorca.   

Then there is the tradition of looking for the value of traditional songs in their lyrics alone, of anthologizing flamenco or other folkloric lyrics, or ballads, without any mention of their music at all. Stripping away the music makes them "literature" in a way. They are not really "literature," but "orature," but the literary tradition is what places value them. The elite canon includes popular lyrics that have the aesthetic qualities it happens to value, with the added ideological baggage of being "popular" and hence anti-elitist in spirit. I find myself thinking in this way too, so it must be a "thing." 

This kind of thinking in no way challenges the value of the canon itself or the prestige of the "literary."  You might have an anthology with scattered poems from the anonymous tradition but still have your canonical authors.      


Dozens, or maybe hundreds of people, over the years, had to know that Ronell had a history of abusive behavior. Administrators, colleagues and former colleagues, students, and their friends and other people they told about her. It was open knowledge, essentially, and her own defenders had to know it too. Not even the defenders of her really deny the overall pattern; they just say that we should find a more palatable name for it, like "transference." Or they make the argument that students want to be treated in this way, are consenting adults or brought it on themselves. The defenders participate in the cult of personality that is the originating problem.  

The worst of the defenses try to argue that it is actually good that she is an abuser, someone who doesn't follow the rules. Would we want a world in which nobody took risks? they ask. Or they say that that's what queer people do.  Well, no. I've had a lesbian and a gay chair of my department, and neither of them created that kind of atmosphere.  

Sunday, September 9, 2018

An Illusion

I used to think that if I weren't so disorganized, lazy, depressed and/or anxious, etc... then I could have published a few more books, maybe seven instead of the five I have.  This is an illusion, clearly, because projects need time to develop (not just the speed at which you can work, but the internal tempo of how long it takes you to really achieve the maturity you need for certain projects.)  The pace of publication is irrelevant unless you are on a promotion clock, which I haven't been since 1994. Why should it matter if I publish 6 or 10 books in my career, or whether the books are spaced out every nine years or every six? It matters most to me, of course, not to anyone else. I want to know I still have it at this point, ten years before retirement. I want to be the guy that's still learning new tricks, not the person repeating the same thing over and over. I think I can say I am.

So could I have published a little more than I have? Sure, but the end result would not be all that different.


An athletic black man and his 11-year-old son had an act: the father was blindfolded and was attacking the son in long fluid movements, which the son easily avoided through ducking, falling to the ground, or stepping to the side. Though blindfolded, his strikes were accurate; he could tell exactly where his son was. There was no violence involved, since both were very skilled, and the father could stop his fist before striking his son, even without seeing him.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


I could feel ridiculous about certain things, like taking a dance class or voice lessons. It is feeling of how this would look to others. In a way it's rather dumb to even think this way. So in a way the fear of the ridiculous is simply a way of not trying out new things.

Yet the fear of being ridiculous could also save you from things that are in fact ridiculous. Someone comparing me in print to Jesus or Socrates would be risible, I would think. I would think of that person not as a friend or supporter, but as a cruelly misguided frenemy who wants to expose me to endless shame.

Same too for those who make the defense that queer people are supposed to be weird, so cut Ronnel some slack. If you really listen to that argument, then it would make such people virtually unhirable.

Friday, September 7, 2018

You can't make this shit up. It sounds like parody but it is not:  

By living their thinking twenty-four hours a day, that is to say, by actually caring, and not merely inhabiting a “position,” or a job, doggedly honest types, a Socrates, a Diogenes, a Jesus, a Bruno, a Nietzsche, a Reich, a Derrida, or a Ronell show that they disdain, or more infuriatingly, deplore, the concerns of the entrenched majority, and they inevitably incur their resentment. When they suggestively invoke her “star status” as if it has come about through the machinations of a malign cabal, or worse, that she has somehow sought it out, perhaps even in lieu of the incessant efforts that actually account for it, when, as far as I can judge, she sets no great store by it, I can only hear the indignation that dogged or even killed too many of the forebears that all the while held out to them a precious gift. Star or not, she well understands and never evades the fact that she is also vulnerable, insecure, fragile, sometimes unbalanced, and, perhaps astonishingly, dangerously ingenuous.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

11 signs that you will be a great dancer

Ignore for the moment the fact that this about dance. These 11 signs could also tell you that you will be a good scholar.  Just substitute what you want to be good at for "dance" and you will be fine.

1) Delayed gratification.

2) You can't stop thinking about [dancing]; or whatever you want to put in this slot.

3) You are obsessed about getting better.

4) You always have a target.

5) You finish what you start.

6) You do what you say you are doing to do.

7) You know how to use negative and positive feedback to your advantage.

8) You are consistent.

9) You are a great observer.

10) You have a great work ethic.

11) You are always looking for a way of doing things differently.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


"And Chu’s complaints about life under Ronell pale in comparison to the treatment suffered by a young intern (Anne Hathaway) under the despotic rule of a famous fashion magazine editor (Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada."

So you are comparing this situation to a movie?  I'm sad to say this is by a Hispanist.  Until now, most of this garbage has been coming from other fields.


My next seminar will have to be on "interartistic approaches to literature." Half on music and other forms of performing art, including declamation, and the other on visual arts. We could read Jill K's book on poetry declamation in Latin America.

My eyes kind of glaze over with studies of ecphrasis and poems based on paintings, but other people seem to like that approach.


I played Carmen Linares's version of "El viaje definitivo" to my class yesterday. It is a very great poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez, and I admire Linares's singing quite a bit, and this album of Juan Ramón songs is one I listen to a lot with real pleasure.

This being said, the poem is all about restrained emotion, right.? ".... and I will go, and the birds will stay here, singing..."  It's about a quiet acceptance of the impermanence of life with the knowledge that life itself will continue fine without me.  The poem is emotive, but in implicit kind of way, since everything I leave behind will continue despite my absence. I won't really be missed much, but it's ok.

There is no restrained emotion in flamenco. The minute Carmen starts with "ay .. ay" and the melisma, the emotion is there as the most prominent element in the performance. It would be hard to see how it could be otherwise.

So I am contrasting the poem as I hear it my head, not sung or declaimed theatrically, but spoken in a nuanced but restrained way, and a vocal performance of it that needs to emote because of the very genre of music in which it is sung. (Think of another genre that promotes "coolness" or emotional restraint over this kind of dramatic performance.). I am interpreting the poem and then finding discrepancies between my interpretation and a musical performance.

But I still like the performance fine.

El Viaje Definitivo

A cool chord

I found a cool chord in Mompou.  It is a diminished triad with a major seventh and a ninth on top. So it has three minor thirds in all, with a major fourth between the flatted fifth and the major ninth.   Transposed to the key of C it would be

C / Eb / Gb / B / D

I'm going to have to borrow this chord for a composition of my own. I don't know what it really is, but he uses it in two different keys at the conclusion of two successive phrases.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Franco and transition jokes

How is it to live in Spain?  --We can't complain... that is... we can't complain.

Why did they coronate the king in a submarine?  --Deep down he's not so bad.

We lived better against Franco.  [Vivimos major contra Franco; variation on "Vivimos mejor con Franco.].

A little boy is muttering to himself on the street, "Franco is a monkey, Franco is a monkey..."  He is stopped by the police, and offers as an excuse, that there are many people named Franco.  The Guardia Civil says, "Yes, but only one of them is a monkey."  

Franco's wife wakes up horny and tells him, "let's fuck," so he gets up and signs five death sentences.


Paco Ibáñez to me sounds tuneless, ponderous and solemn, [as Leslie says in a comment to a previous post], over-earnest, musically simplistic, sentimental. This style has not aged well at all. Neruda and Alberti liked how he sang their poems, so there's that. And J.A. Goytisolo too. I appreciate that this had an anti-Franco impetus...  

Not hypocritical

Zizek and Butler seem incapable of thinking with any intellectual honesty at all. They are at the Donald Trump level of thought, both dishonest in a transparent way and not particularly bright-sounding.   

Another hypothesis is that they are not hypocritical at all: they do sincerely believe that powerful people should be able to harass with impunity. There is no hypocrisy in the defenders of Ronell. They are not people who believe that harassment is wrong in the first place. Their support for their colleague is not ironic in the least. Butler knew she should apologize, not because she thought she was wrong, but because she knows what the official MLA line is supposed to be. Her apology was hypocritical, not her original letter in support of Ronell.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Zizek on Ronell: With friends like these. who needs enemies?

"Yes, she can be “bitchy,” as they say, but she can also be very engaged and helpful. To see this, one just has to read letters from her to him and from him to her, insofar as they are available. The figure of Avital that emerges from them is somebody demanding, bullying, controlling, sharp witted, nuanced, perceptive, but at the same time caring and helping, and above all pretty insecure, almost desperately clinging to formal assurances while being aware they are not sincerely meant (in the style of “even if you don’t mean it, just pretend…”). This is definitely not a controlling master sadistically enjoying her power."


Work Buddy

I'm look for someone with whom I could exchange ideas with on a regular basis.  Not an editor of my work, but someone that I could talk to once every two weeks about how my project is going by Skype. In exchange, I would be your research buddy too.  We would take half an hour about yours, and half an hour about mine, or alternate weeks.

I just find it too isolating to just work on this amazingly rich material and not talk to anyone about it, aside from very brief elevator pitches I make from time to time in a social context.

Let me know if you want to be my research mirror.  Write me at jmayhew@ku.edu. It has to be someone writing a book of serious scholarship and working every week on it. I don't care what your book is about, as long as it's not STEM. I don't need specific expertise in your field, nor you in mine. The idea is that you should be able to talk about your ideas to a non-specialist in an understandable way.

It might not work out, but it's worth a shot. If you contact me and I feel you're not the right person, don't take it hard. Even if you're the right person, it still might not work.

For you: a chance to work with me one on one. For me, the chance to learn from you, whoever you are. I think that I could learn from anyone, so don't worry if you are at a different career stage.

I'd also be interested if you have ever had that kind of relationship. I really haven't, even with a former spouse in the profession. I read her stuff, but mixing a personal relation in that way doesn't really work well.