Jandek on Corwood

Finally found a chance to watch Jandek on Corwood last night. As it’s done so well by the movie’s dozen or so talking heads, I won’t gloss the whole wonderful enigmatic phenomenon at great length myself, but here are a few thoughts…

Listening closely again for the first time in years, I suddenly saw that whatever else it is, Jandek’s work is not deliberately obtuse anti-music. It may be untutored, untuned, even unhinged, but it’s still ultimately, undeniably, music. And the purity and perfection of the vision thrives precisely to the degree that it is exactly no one else’s idea of “beautiful” and “important” music.

This in turn made it even clearer to me how prophetic the whole project is. How brave and almost frighteningly odd it must have seemed — surely even to him, on some level — to be doing what he was doing, in the particular way he did it, at the particular time he was doing it.

Yet scratch a prophet and you’ll find a jester. With all the emphasis on darkness, alienation, and mystery, we tend to forget the sheer comedy of it all, that often the only appropriate reaction to the utter strangeness of the idiom is laughter, and that our increasingly wild goose chases for context all add up to the cult’s omnipresent anxiety: Is he putting us on?

We rush to lionize the “ahead of its time”, we’re profligate with terms like “DIY” and “low-fi” and sui generis. But here, my friends, is the sine qua non. And of course the Internet, both the technology itself and the culture it’s bred, has almost thoroughly erased the possibility of anyone following his path.

Despite all that, alas, I’ve been ambivalent about the recent live shows. Do I have more to gain than lose?

–CL