Preface

I CANT HOLD Eric Clapton entirely responsible for this book, but neither is he entirely without blame. Beging a musical scholar with a great love for Dylan’s music, I’ve taken his statement quoted in the first chapter – that Dylan’s music ‘doesn’t make sense musically to the scholar’ – as a personal challenge.

The articles have been written over the past ten years, and they vary considerably both in style, in depth, in contents, and in quality. Most of them have been published on my website, www.dylanchords.com, either as independent articles or as introductory remarks to specific songs or albums. Some also come from my blog which has given name to this collection. Some are new in this collection.

In the first part, YOUVE BEEN WITH THE PROFESSORS, I’ve gathered the heavier, more analytical articles which treat more general aspects of Dylan’s music making, in relation to aesthetics, to music history, to musicology, and to aspects of culture at large. Analysing Dylan Songs was the outcome of an initial attempt of defining a field of study. It was partly conceived as a sample chapter for a book that I had plans of writing together with Mike Daley. That book never happened, but re-reading it now, the chapter wasn’t so bad. ‘Beauty May Only Turn to Rust’ was written for Judas! and is an analysis of Dylan’s concept of beauty (yes, he has one!). The Momentum of Standstill started out as a reflection over Dylan’s use of time on Time Out Of Mind, triggered, I think, by some early commentator who was surprised to find that ‘Standing in the Doorway’ lasted as long as it does. It grew from there, however, and in its present state is a wider study of Dylan’s experiments with time and the blues. Finally, ‘Going through all these things twice’ is more about ritual and ritual theory than about Dylan. It takes the ritualistic elements of the concert culture around Dylan as a point of departure for a discussion of ritual in general. It has been published in Genre and Ritual ed. by ěstrem, Bruun, Petersen, and Fleischer (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005).

The second part, HARMONY AND UNDERSTANDING, is the outcome of my belief that analysis of chord structures (or, to appease the non-structuralists: patterns) may be a valid path to understand what is going on in Dylan’s songs and performances. ‘What I learned from Lonnie’ is my take at an explanation of what Dylan means with his reference to a system of mathematical music which he allegedly has learned from Lonnie Johnson some time in the mid-sixties. A word of caution: That I’ve written about it, doesn’t mean that I think there is an explanation, but I do believe there is some sense behind it, and this is my attempt at bringing out some of that sense. This is put to practical use in an analysis of Three Tambourine Men.

Just Like a Woman, Dear Landlord, and In the Garden are all subjected to a similar kind of analysis. If these chapters appear quite dry and tedious on paper, it is the unavoidable consequence of the violent abuse that writing about music necessarily is. My apologies for that. The tediousness may be alleviated by reading them while actually listening to the songs.

The third part, ALBUMS AND SONGS, contains discussions of single albums or songs. This covers the whole span from short reflections on prominent stylistic traits in some album, to the full-scale analysis of ‘Love and Theft’, ‘ “A Day Above Ground is a Good Day” ’.

The last part, I’LL SEE HIM IN ANYTHING, concerns Dylan’s live appearance(s). It contains my ‘farewell’ to Dylan. As this collection should prove, that farewell wasn’t as seriously meant as it was taken by some.

I’ve been called a ‘pompous windbag mixed with deep knowledge’. I got the feeling that it was intended as an insult, but it is a description I can live with and even like. I consider questions about culture, music, society, identity, and communication important enough to deserve to be treated with some pompousness and gravity, especially in these dire times with Bushes and Blairs around every corner, when national culture is used as a means of oppression and not for edification and liberation. If I can use some of my ‘deep knowledge’ to rock someone’s confidence in ‘eternal values’ geniuses, and icons, I don’t mind being a windbag. There may even be an answer blowin’ in there. Or a question, which is better still.

All the music examples in the book have been typeset with Lilypond (www.lilypond.org).

The book is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. This means that you are free – and encouraged – to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work, and to make derivative works as long as you attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor, and don’t use it for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.

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