Hip Sensibility in an Age of Mass Counterculture
Hip Sensibility in an Age of Mass Counterculture
Abstract and Keywords
Chapter 4 considers the hip sensibility as it enjoyed its breakout success in the 1960s. While chapter 2 considers the early Cold War style of hip intellectualism—ironic, skeptical, literary, disaffiliative, and colored by the era's general dislike of the mass—chapter 4 describes how it changed within a mass counterculture. While the earlier generation sought a complicated reconciliation of meaning and sensory presence, the later one sought a purer presence in which meaning might dissolve altogether. This succession of moods within the hip sensibility registers on three exemplary pieces of music, each separated from the others by about a decade: Charlie Parker's “Ornithology,” Ken Nordine's “Sound Museum,” and Bob Dylan's “Ballad of a Thin Man.”
You ask me what's a square
I’ll tell you what's a square
He has a certain air
A square is unaware that he's a square
That's a square.1
—Milt Gabler and John Benson Brooks
Without an anti-environment, all environments are invisible. The role of the artist is to create anti-environments as a means of perception and adjustment.2
Right On, Mr. Horowitz
In Stanford University's Archive for Recorded Sound, I once found a pile of discarded paper envelopes of the sort used to hold LP records in place inside their cardboard sleeves. Many of them had been used to advertise a record company's other releases, and some of the advertisements for CBS records took the form of an ersatz newspaper column called “The Inner Sleeve.” One, whose bulbous graphical style and labored rockcrit prose placed it in the early-to-mid-1970s, featured a sidebar piece on Vladimir Horowitz, then a CBS artist:
Vladimir Horowitz is hung up on Chopin. Listen to the way he gets into the mood of the music, highlights the nuances. No one could get as much out of a composer's creativity if he didn’t understand every note, every chord. And also have the talent to play it. Horowitz has his own thoughts on what it was that Chopin was saying. He spells them out at some length in notes on the album. For excerpts of what it is that gets to him read the following…. 3
(p.110) What follows are program notes in the platitudinous style usual to Horowitz's public utterances on music. The last of Horowitz's comments, for Chopin's Polonaise in A Flat Major (“it is indeed a Polonaise for all seasons and all oppressed lands, a Polonaise for the millions of men and women who still hold dear the human spirit”) is end-punctuated by the editor's enthusiastic “Right on!” as if Horowitz were talking about Kent State or Attica. What is most striking about this bit of ephemera is that at some point it seemed like a good idea to the management of CBS Records that Vladimir Horowitz, of all people, be marketed in a vaguely countercultural way, with now-dated youth slang being used to give the maestro's ruminations a flavor of hip defiance and rebellion. A decade earlier this way of picturing Horowitz would have looked like a joke, but now it had come to seem natural to claim hip cachet for everything under the sun.
This is one tiny example of the vast cultural shift whose story Thomas Frank tells in his study of postwar business culture, The Conquest of Cool. It is usually assumed that advertisers co-opted hip style; Frank's contribution is to show that it is just as true to say that advertising drove hip style. In an appendix to The Conquest of Cool, Frank finds an ingenious way to quantify the increasing concentration of ambient hipness in American life by tracking how often elements of hip style appear in American magazine advertising between 1955 and 1972. Frank's list of stylistic elements is a simple but dead-on collection of hip markers, not only in advertising but across hip culture generally: minimalist graphics with sans-serif typefaces; self-reflexivity and irreverence toward the product; implications of mass-culture critique; specifically countercultural imagery; and the language of “ ‘escape,’ defiance, resisting crowds, rebellion, or nonconformity.”4 Frank's graphs show hipness simmering for the first few years of the 1960s and exploding from 1965 onward. In their own reductive way, these graphs track the changing look and feel of American culture.
We take for granted the stance of cultural opposition whose fortunes Frank traces, and it takes some imagination to grasp how alien and hard to explain it was to most people in the early years of the Cold War. One way to register the omnipresence of hipness in contemporary life is to feel its absence when we look into the near past. To page through the 1950s magazines and newspapers that Frank used in his study is to visit the Land Before Hipness—an America that resembles the one in which we live, though a little off, tonally, maybe just a bit too normal, blithely unaware of the cultural tsunami about to hit.5 Before 1957, it was unclear what kind of thing hipness might be, and however picturesque and appealing (or threatening) its isolated manifestations were, it had not yet seeped into everyday vernacular experience. There were jazz clubs and a couple of legendary New York hangouts such as the White Horse Tavern and the San Remo Bar, but there were none of the hipster bars, restaurants, and boutiques common to gentrifying city neighborhoods nowadays. There were no free alterna-weeklies to guide hip consumers or filter local art and politics through a (p.111) lens of hip snark; for that matter, there was no hip snark, Mad magazine aside, or at least nothing nearly so pervasive as the attitude of sarcastic, pop-savvy knowingness that shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy have lately made inevitable in blog comment threads and Facebook status updates.
Before the mid-1960s, the traces of hip culture in American popular discourse were like the raisins in a pudding. After 1957, the year of Kerouac's breakout success with On the Road, there were suddenly a lot more raisins. The Village Voice and a few little magazines such as Evergreen Review and Kulchur began to float a sustained discourse of hipness. At the same time, hipsters became picturesque features of news stories, novelty records, TV detective shows, exploitation movies, and pulp novels, and tourists flocked to bohemian communities in San Francisco and Greenwich Village to take pictures of the urban primitives living in the midst of American modernity.6 But after 1965, the raisins were the pudding. In the mid-1960s hipness abruptly moved from the margins to the center of American life. It was no longer the colorful affectation of artists, loafers, delinquents, and kids, but a lifestyle that anyone might choose. The underground press, rock magazines such as Creem, Crawdaddy!, and Rolling Stone, radical political publications such as Ramparts and Liberation, countercultural films, hippie sci-fi novels, a steady stream of articles in mainstream newspapers and magazines trying to understand “what the young are trying to tell us”—to say nothing of hip clinics, hip schools, hip churches, and every kind of hip business—all burst forth in astonishing profusion. The “Inner Sleeve” Horowitz ad bears witness to how the hip sensibility began to dominate in places formerly alien to it and the degree to which hipness had gained a sustained, institutional presence in American life. The mid-1960s witnessed the birth of that now-familiar oxymoron, the mass counterculture.
And yet the hip sensibility above all defines the individual in opposition to the mass. Hip culture's problematic of cooptation and the Heisenbergian relation of hip style to mass awareness assume this opposition. Understanding how the hip sensibility changed in the 1960s means understanding how it came to terms with the contradictions inherent in its development. These contradictions were reconciled (temporarily) through a new notion of consciousness. The countercultural idea had always placed special emphasis on consciousness; after all, its founding mythology was the hipster's awareness of unfreedom and the distance between this awareness and everyone else's. As Diane di Prima wrote, “consciousness itself was a good. And anything that took us outside—that gave us the dimensions of the box we were caught in, an aerial view, as it were—showed us the exact arrangement of the maze we were walking, was a blessing.”7 In the later 1960s, though, the focus shifted from individual to collective consciousness. The idea that a shift in mass youth consciousness could precipitate revolution—an escape from the maze—not in some distant and hoped-for future time but right now, suggested how tensions between hip sensibility and a new era of mass (p.112) counterculture could be resolved. What remained consistent from the 1940s through the 1960s was a schema of asymmetrical consciousness: in the game ideology I discussed in Chapter 2, the hipster sees through the square but not vice versa; one side takes the higher ground. What changed, though, was a vaster sense of agency. In the late 1960s, it no longer seemed enough for hip individuals to remake their own little worlds; suddenly, it seemed possible that a global, collective hip consciousness could remake the world entirely. This change is reflected in how the square's encounters with hipness were framed in imaginative representation. In the 1940s and 1950s, he is baffled and bested by the hip individuals he meets on his jaunts underground; in the populist 1960s variant of the hip sensibility, the square is confronted by the youthful avatars of an enlightened mass consciousness.
New ideologies played out in new aesthetics. The hip culture of the 1960s may have grown out of the 1950s, but it was voluntaristic rather than disaffiliative, populist rather than individualist, and temperamentally opposed to the self-conscious intellectualism of the early Cold War's modernist dialect of hipness. 1960 counterculture had inherited one of the meanings of somewhere from an earlier hip culture—somewhere as “presence culture,” the world of intense experience disclosed in the moment and unadulterated by secondary reflection and representation.8 But although 1950s intellectuals were ambivalent about pure presence and concerned above all with the problem of mediating it into literature, 1960s culture radicalized presence and developed new art forms to encompass its widened scope. Writing about one of the 1960s’ characteristic cultural forms—the “fluxkits” of the avant-garde Fluxus group—Hannah Higgins considers how this kind of art is oriented to unmediated presence and a holistic fusion of art and its audience:
. . . the stuff in the Fluxkit makes an experience for the handler that is the sensation contained in it; the Fluxkit is not about sensation. The operative word about, like the word of, insists on the distance between object and user: “That is a painting about pain” or “of a pipe.” In the Fluxkits, actual stuff is present—“That is a pom-pom”; it is not about a pom-pom unless a particular user proceeds down that path of association. Removing of and about represents two challenges to entrenched patterns of thought: first, if a piece is not about things but actually is them, then the signifying chain often applied to visual art in semiotic analyses needs to be modified to make physical or actual experiences central to the process of signification; second, and more important for my purposes, these works problematize the Western metaphysics since Plato and Aristotle, which insists on dividing primary experience (the feel or scent of the pom-pom) from secondary experience (mental concepts about it).9
(p.113) This orientation toward primary experience—holism, immediacy, presence, participation, and embodied sensation—overlapped with the broader radical culture in the 1960s. The rock counterculture added a dash of millenarian populism to this stew of notions to create a cultural mood we think of as “the sixties”—a pseudo-periodizing term that is really a convenient shorthand for a vast tectonic shift in American taste and ideology.
The effects of this shift were manifest not only in the aesthetics but also in the institutional fortunes of jazz and rock. Rock siphoned off jazz's traditional audience of hip youth at an alarming rate; as Eric Hobsbawm wrote, “the young, without whom jazz cannot exist—hardly any jazz fan has been converted after the age of twenty—abandoned it, and with spectacular suddenness.”10 To be sure, jazz musicians could still find work in large cities, and recording companies still produced jazz records. But by the mid-1980s it was clear that jazz's continued health as an art form was dependent on the support of charitable foundations and nonprofit arts organizations.11 Young jazz musicians now had to write grant proposals and compete with string quartets and puppet theaters. In the last thirty years, jazz musicians could choose to live lives as bohemian as their predecessors, but jazz as a profession became simply another arts endeavor. In 1962, Philip Larkin could write that jazz had replaced painting as “la vie de bohème in the popular imagination,” painting having become rather more respectable: “To desert business or government for the traditional arts nowadays is merely to exchange one kind of establishment for another.”12 But ten years later, tales of la vie de bohème would not feature protagonists overthrowing convention to become jazz musicians. If it is true that at midcentury painters had become almost as respectable as professors, in more recent times the same could be said of jazz. In the 1960s, jazz came to occupy a different space in the hip imaginary as the ideas with which it was bound up in its postwar development—modernism and the critique of mass culture in particular—took on new meanings.
The cleft between earlier and later phases of hip culture occurred in the mid-1960s, and the period during which hip culture moves from the periphery to the center of the nation's consciousness ran for about a decade into the mid-1970s. There ought to be a name for the historical actor responsible for this shift, and it is imprecise to call it “the counterculture,” for the spread of the hip sensibility was made possible only by an alliance of hip subcultures and political youth movements. I prefer to call this historical actor “the Movement,” complete with the ostentatious capitalization its advocates favored at the height of its arc. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were many movements, but only one Movement: there were libertarian, anarchist, Maoist, Marxist-Leninist, feminist, American Indian, Chicano, Black nationalist, gay, hippy, ecologist, high-school, collegiate, proletarian, pacifist, and militant movements, but against their factionalizing tendencies they sought a common denominator in youth and their opposition to the Vietnam War. As a Movement, they formed a loose (p.114) and unstable coalition distinguished by its utopian ambitions, its dreams of revolution, and its tendency to marry political activism to a specifically cultural critique of political and social life.
The agent of the countercultural idea's eventual success in public life was not the New Left, exactly—the more purely political elements of the New Left never overcame their objections to the counterculture's specifically cultural style of resistance.13 Political leftists, caught up in the co-optation thesis, endlessly debated the wisdom of allying themselves with countercultural leftists. Even the most radical rock groups, such as the MC5, could get signed by a major record company and take their “underground” to the stage, and this fact led to the entirely justified suspicion that cultural styles of rebellion were as much outgrowths of capitalist society as protests against it. One anonymous polemicist wrote that
while the “hip” bourgeoisie chants Hare Krishna, Imperialism napalms kids in Vietnam and shoots black teenagers in the back for “suspicious behavior.” Let the hippies and teenyboppers put up barricades in the streets, burn the banks, and wage guerrilla war on the police, and then, maybe, they will have the right to talk about “liberation.”14
For their part, the culture radicals could be just as suspicious of political organizers trying to co-opt their scene.15 Ed Sanders's quasi-pornographic Beat/anarchist samizdat Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts memorably took aim at the orthodox Left: “authoritarian assholes, bureaucratic bumfucks, Marxist mothers, we’re going to have a revolution in spite of you triplicated, mimeoed, left-of-center Jesuits, so help me Kropotkin!”16
At the same time, it is also not quite right to say that the counterculture effected the movement of hip sensibility from the margins to the center of American life by itself. What did the trick was an alliance between cultural and political Lefts:
a grand geodesic dome fitted together from pieces of Marx, Freud, Zen, Artaud, Kesey, Lenin, Leary, Ginsberg, Che, Gandhi, Marcuse, Laing, Fidel and Lao Tzu, strung with the black banners of anarchy to which the sayings of Chairman Mao have been neatly embroidered, and with a 40-watt rock amplifier strapped to the top—a gaudy, mindblowing spectacle and an impossible intellectual synthesis.17
Despite their mutual suspicion, the cultural and political Lefts influenced one another. Hippies went to marches and read Mao; political organizers smoked pot and quoted Dylan. By the end of the 1960s, both sides were theorizing a revolution just around the corner, with each Movement groupuscule mixing notions of (p.115) political and cultural agency in various proportions. Like hipness itself, the Movement was a loose, syncretic entity, and for all its addiction to manifestos and multipoint programs, it rejected straightforward definitions.
Among the arrow collar underground and to some extent the Beats, hipness had been attractive precisely because it was not really a political idea. In the 1940s and 1950s, hip intellectuals could have their cake and eat it, maintaining their critical vocation and marking their distance from the American mainstream without having to submit to party discipline. In his novel Who Walk in Darkness (1952), Chandler Brossard sounds like his Partisan Review elders as he contemptuously dismisses Washington Square folkies as communists “singing Stalinized American ballads to a guitar.”18 Greenwich Village hipsters and folkies tended to keep their distance from one another; members of the latter group shared a nostalgia for the Popular Front ethos of the organized social movement, and as Ned Polsky noted, “each of the three words ‘organized social movement’ sounds obscene to the beat's ears.”19 Polsky did not even call his interview subjects anarchists, since they did not want to promote any kind of -ism. Many of the early articles on the Beats disapproved of their attitude of total resignation; as one writer for the Village Voice noted, “almost all articles about the Beat implicitly ask you to make up your mind; stop shilly-shallying and do something. Which is the hallmark of the political activist, and frequently these are the people who are writing about this minority.”20 In the 1950s, activists and hipsters were not the same. In the 1960s, they very often were.
It is on this point that hipness in the 1960s most vividly and obviously differs from hipness in the 1950s. For the Movement, the boundary between culture and politics was never clear. The slogan “All power to the imagination!” which appeared on Movement pamphlets and fliers at almost the same time it appeared in the streets of Paris in May 1968, is a statement of the fusion between political and aesthetic horizons.21 And as Hobsbawm noted, this was perhaps the crucial difference between the newer and older Lefts: “Older observers…used to keeping music and revolution apart in principle and to judging each by its own criteria, were apt to be perplexed by the apocalyptic rhetoric which could surround rock at the peak of the global youth rebellion.”22 In the writings of John Sinclair, the founder of the White Panther Party and a tireless organizer of the Midwest countercultural scene, revolution was explicitly theorized as an organic fusion of political, economic, and cultural realms.23 Sinclair arrived at an anarcho-Marxism in which culture is a force equal to rather than dependent on the political economy. This understanding of the connections between culture and politics—music and the revolution—was fundamental to the philosophy of the White Panther Party, and was rendered in the form of a logo representing a pipe, a guitar, and a rifle (Fig. 4.1), which Sinclair interpreted in this way: (p.116)
In this drawing the two cross-sticks represent a rifle (on the left) and a guitar (on the right), with a peace pipe full of the righteous sacrament [marijuana] crossing them and bringing those two elements together. We can’t have the guitar without the gun or we won’t survive, we can’t have the gun without the guitar or else we’d just be more of the same old shit we are trying to do away with; and without the sacrament that gives us our vision neither the guitar nor the gun would amount to anything worthwhile.24
Few Movement factions conceived themselves in quite the same way as the White Panthers, but many shared the idea of the cultural realm as a space equal to and perhaps coterminous with the political. The “Berkeley Liberation Program,” a manifesto that arose from the clash between Berkeley radicals and police over People's Park in the summer of 1969, outlines a thirteen-point program whose tone veers between revolutionary communism (point 1: “We will make Telegraph Avenue and the south campus a strategic free territory for revolution”) and counterculture utopianism (point 2: “We will create our revolutionary culture everywhere”), a call for a “soulful socialism” wrapped up with the contradictory slogan, “all power to the imagination, all power to the people.” This document, a compromise between different radical constituencies, allegorizes its ideological pluralism with a quotation from Mao and the heraldry of marijuana surmounted by a corona of Mao heads (see Fig. 4.2).25
(p.117) If we could permit ourselves to believe in the notion of a zeitgeist, this flier would surely embody it. It could have existed in its context—seriously offered, and in some quarters seriously believed, as a blueprint of the revolution—only at this particular cultural moment, at the very end of the 1960s. Ten years earlier, the Beats would have approved its idea of a pot-laced “soulful socialism” but been puzzled by its flavor of revolutionary third-world Marxism and indifferent to its call for mass action. Ten years later, this flier would be the sad relic of a future that never arrived. But at the moment it was printed, it seemed nothing more or less than what the times called for. (p.118)
There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.26
But as Hunter Thomson wrote in this famous passage, it would not last: “with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”27 Sinclair's manifesto, the Berkeley Liberation Program, and the other documents of this high-utopian historical moment were carried on the crest of that wave.
The square is a figure of song and story, an image in the world's collective library of memory. He is one half of an unbreakable dyad in the contemporary imagination, the hipster and the square, figures whose reciprocal roles define a schema of perception that has had an incalculable influence on American culture throughout the past half-century and more. Norman Mailer's “The White Negro” frames a contest between the “frontiersman in the Wild West of American night life” and the “square cell, trapped in the totalitarian tissues of American society.”28 The terms of that contest are laid out in “The Hip and the Square,” a list that appeared in Advertisements for Myself. If some of the list's oppositions are particular to Mailer's own tastes, others have held their place in the popular imagination for sixty-odd years: wild/practical; instinct/logic; Negro/white; spontaneous/orderly; perverse/pious; nihilistic/authoritarian; body/mind. (Also, Thelonious Monk/Dave Brubeck.)29 These abstract distinctions coalesce into the perpetually recycled image of an uptight white guy who lives in a bare anonymous suburban tract cluttered with the shiny, candy-colored junk of an empty materialistic civilization. He spends his day at a boring job, chasing promotions without stopping to question whether money and status is a worthy end. He ends each day numbed in the blue glow of the TV, distractedly eating dinner off a little metal tray. He has learned to love the authorities that control him—his boss, his church, his political party, his wife, his friends and neighbors—and now wants nothing more than to control others. He is a joiner and backslapper who hardly spends a moment alone but is alienated from the men whose company he compulsively seeks. Indeed, he is alienated from himself. Whatever he thinks and feels is only a simulacrum of personality left after his authentic consciousness has been scooped out and replaced. What it has been replaced with is something manufactured by (p.119) an objective, impersonal system he did not make and does not even perceive. Such a man does not understand the emptiness of his life; he does not see the ugliness of the things with which he surrounds himself; he does not know his own family; he does not know himself; he does not even know that he does not know. He has absorbed the American ethic of conformity, authority, and consumerism so thoroughly that he can no longer function without being told what to do, what to like, and what to believe. The system is happy to tell him.
While the square is away at work, his wife tends the home. Like her husband, she has internalized an ideology that requires her to accept an artificial and tightly circumscribed role. She is a great believer in “togetherness,” which she has read about in her magazines. She waits on her husband and tends to her children without asking whether she might not be wasting her life living for others as a virtual domestic slave. Maybe she suspects that something is amiss, that on some level she is not really as happy as the good wives whose rigid smiles reproach her from every advertisement. She consoles herself with shopping binges and rebels against her captivity by keeping a watchful eye on the neighbors and punishing transgressions of neighborhood standards with her malicious, gossiping tongue. Some vital part of her has died: the repression of her instincts, the channeling of her creativity and love into meaningless acquisition and enforced togetherness, finds expression in sexual and emotional frigidity. “She appears as a creature of legend, the snow queen—tall, beautiful, appallingly splendid, all cleanliness and whiteness, living in her empty, silent, frigid palace,” wrote Elizabeth Hardwick.30 The image of the inauthentic American woman, like that of the square, is more archetype than realistic anthropology, as Hardwick notes. In 1951 the American “snow queen” was already a trope of European representations of America, “a folk belief, a native wonder of the world, exported along with the cowboys and gangsters to other countries.” Central to this image was the idea of a woman entombed in a “solar emptiness warmed occasionally by the dim sounds of the soap opera,” where, “bored and idle, she may play bridge in the afternoon.” For all her social routines, the American snow queen is always alone. The bridge game “is only a pantomime, a wordless ballet simulating sociability, for she has no true friendship or communication with other women”—or even with her own family.
An analysis of the square and his snow queen wife can only remain on a level unavailable to them, because the essence of their condition is their obliviousness to it. Were they to understand it, they would not be the same sort of people. The dominant trait of “Mr. Jones” in Bob Dylan's “Ballad of a Thin Man”—the ur-square of Movement myth—is a limited awareness that we, the audience, do not share. The song lyrics do not take his part; the narrator's voice establishes him as a mere object of spectacle, unable to see in himself what we see clearly in him. As Greil Marcus writes, “you’re set up to imagine him as whoever you’re (p.120) not.”31 Insofar as Mr. Jones exists as a character within a narrative, his only marked attribute is that he does not understand what is clear to the narrator, whose voice sketches a series of bizarre encounters, each one capped by the jeering refrain, “Because something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”32 In every strophe of the song, Mr. Jones is in over his head: try as he might, he does not and cannot understand the one-eyed midgets, sword-swallowers, and geeks that confront him. Dylan's Delphic lyrics provoked endless interpretation by those who saw him as a Movement oracle, and Dylan, always one to guard his mysteries carefully, never gave anything away. But it is clear that however one interprets this song, its images dramatize how Mr. Jones inhabits a plane of consciousness that does not intersect with those around him. If we decide the song is about drugs, we might imagine that everyone but Mr. Jones is turned on.33 Huey Newton thought the song was about racism: Mr. Jones is the white racist who has been treating black people as if they were freaks provided for his amusement but now realizes that all along he was the freak.34 Nat Hentoff thought the song was about the “generation gap” and argued that the young are privileged with a holistic understanding denied their elders.35 From this point of view, Mr. Jones has encountered the “New Consciousness” that has begun to sprout like a genetic mutation among the members of the young generation, and he no more understands it than a pig can read a newspaper. Whichever interpretation one chooses, each furnishes its own way of making the same distinction between an observer's level of consciousness and another, lower one, which is observed.36
The 1960s feels like the rightful home of a perspectival stance in which one stands outside a frame of reference shared by “the Establishment,” “the System,” or “the Man.” As a trope of cultural representation, though, its roots run both back to the 1940s and forward to the present day. One of the main incidents of the novel Who Walk in Darkness (1952) involves a well-heeled advertising agent who falls in with a circle of underground men at a Greenwich Village bar. The advertising agent is the type of square for whom a trip to the Village is a sort of urban safari, an opportunity to indulge in exotic, forbidden pleasures. This kind of character was not simply an invention of Brossard's. Young men from good colleges would travel from their jobs Uptown to mingle with the artistic types and the liberated girls who were supposed to have read Wilhelm Reich. One letter writer to the Village Voice (signed “Yale ’54”) describes visiting the Village
in the manner in which sailors come into a foreign town: for an evening of excitement and color, a romp among the natives (and native women), and then off, back to duty, back to the ship and the sea and home, perhaps never to return, or even think again, of the (I must admit) languorous, exotic port left behind.37
(p.121) Brossard's depiction of how the square is humbled by his new hip “friends” offers the satisfaction of revenge. The square is left grinning foolishly as the literary wit of the Village natives lays his pretensions bare. Max, the Jewish hipster modeled on Milton Klonsky, makes a series of correct guesses about the way the square lives, each one an indictment of the man's middlebrow, climbing ways, thrown into high relief by the real intellectual attainments of the “underground men” he has unwisely chosen as his companions. The square reads The New Yorker, they read avant-garde little magazines; he listens to WQXR (a classical music station), they listen to bop. He goes to modern art galleries, sees French films, and looks forward to going to Paris, mostly in hopes that some of its intellectual glamor might rub off on him. He is willing to pay for intellectual distinction, which is why he is buying everybody drinks. But he's square, aware enough to know he is being made a fool of, but not aware enough to get inside the banter of put-ons and put-downs that might as well be a foreign language to him. All he can do is register each new expression—“I get that one. It's a jive expression. Right?”—as a tourist might hunt down an idiomatic expression in a guide book.38 Anatole Broyard, who as “Henry Porter” in Brossard's roman à clef joins in tormenting the square, elsewhere defined hipness as being “superiorly aware.”39 Hip consciousness not only sees, it sees through; the square only sees things as they appear.
The hip talk that eludes Brossard's advertising agent is a kind of signifying, a double language that challenges interlocutors to remain cognitively limber enough to jump into the meanings between words instead of being caught flatfooted on top of them. Irony is the rhetorical mode by which the asymmetry between hip and square consciousness is instantiated in conversation. In Chapter 2 I suggested that irony is (in Kenneth Burke's words) a “perspective of perspectives”—that is, the awareness of perspective as perspective.40 Ironic consciousness opens up an interpretive double vision. Every utterance comes to signify one thing within the perspective intended and another within a bracketing metaperspective.
Ironic distance from a square utterance might simply arise from a speaker's attitude or tone of voice. If someone mocks political cant by speaking of, say, “Biblical values” with flat pseudo-seriousness (imagine someone like Aubrey Plaza's character from the TV series Parks and Recreation), her listeners are aware both of the perspective ordinarily communicated by the phrase itself and the perspective within which it appears as the ritual utterance of politicians and their followers. But ironic distance is also carved out by the rhetorical forms of hip communication, which drive the necessary wedge between perspective and (p.122) perspective-of-perspectives through the abstraction of a referent. The “hip handshake” described in Chapter 2—the substitution of a finger for a hand in greeting—is a metonymic abstraction of an unironic gesture. Confronted with the reductive hip greeting, one sees both its referent (the full hand extended) and an abstraction (the raised finger) within which the contours of the original may be discerned. The referent remains in mind, but the abstraction undermines its authority. The hipster is at a second remove from language—in it but not of it, as Jack Kerouac said of the hipster's relationship to his environment.41 It is the hipster's complex relationship to language and meaning, his awareness of the interplay between referent and its abstraction, that challenges the square's mental flexibility. This is the challenge Brossard's advertising agent fails. Anatole Broyard called this ritual humiliation “capping the squares.” As an “ironical pedagogue” and “self-appointed exegete,” the hipster demonstrates multilevel meaning to his square interlocutors and so establishes his mastery over them.42 And this ironic doubleness of perspective is coded in the forms of hip culture—for example in Charlie Parker's solo on “Ornithology” (see Fig. 4.3), a record that Broyard might well have consulted in writing his “Portrait of the Hipster.”43
“Ornithology“ is a justly famous solo. The mid-century French jazz critic André Hodeir praised this solo's elegance and “classical purity of construction,” and with good reason.44 The improvisation achieves equilibrium between the centripetal force of periodic repetition and the centrifugal force of asymmetry and surprise. Note, for example, the assonance between the ending of the first phrase (m. 3) and the second (m. 7), a formal symmetry from which springs the next, longer phrase (mm. 9–13). The first two phrases glide to a cadence in their third measure, followed by a measure's rest, and the third phrase begins much as the earlier ones do—but then this symmetry is broken when the C that pops into measure 12 opens out into a cadential extension (mm. 12–13), and this phrase spills into the next measure. But it is what happens in the next phrase
It is also worth noting the rhythmic shifting that goes on in this passage. A lyrical strain—the notes in measures 16–20 marked with asterisks—coalesces out of the onrushing arpeggios and neighbor motions. But the appearance of rhythmic diminution in measure 16 tugs this lyrical strain away from the strong parts of the measure (with the exception of the down beat F natural in measure 19, which provides a fleeting anchor that the ensuing rhythmic complications pull against). The feel of this passage is definite and sharp-edged, with each note so well chosen it might be the product of minute retrospective calculation, and yet none of it feels four-square. Parker wages a two-front war on four-squareness, with an inner direction for his improvisation that wrong-foots the listener attuned to the tune's formal divisions, and with his rhythmic shifts within the line. (Actually, there is another front, which Hodeir notes: the avoidance of sounding the tonic of a given chord in strong parts of the measure.) This solo has a sense of being in its song structure without quite being of it. It signals awareness of its song structure, of course—the intricate games improvisers play have no meaning without reference to it—but the tendency of the bebop improvisation is to pull away from its orbit, to take an alternate path, to tell a different story: to go out. The pleasure it gives the listener is one of mental friction between (p.124) what is heard in the moment and what remains as a mental background. That background—chord changes and the phrase shapes they define—is the referent to which bebop stands in an abstracted relationship. The outlines of the referent are recognized in the abstraction, and it is the tension between the two—the friction between what is heard in the moment and what is held in the mind—that constitutes its irony. Bebop, Broyard wrote, is the point reached in jazz at which the relationship between performance and its referent is most strained:
Surprise, “second-removism,” and extended virtuosity were the chief characteristics of the bebopper's style. He often achieved surprise by using a tried and true tactic of his favorite comic strip heroes:
The “enemy” is waiting in a room with a drawn gun. The hero kicks open the door and bursts in—not upright, in the line of fire—but cleverly lying on the floor, from which position he triumphantly blasts away, while the enemy still aims, ineffectually, at his own expectation.
Borrowing this stratagem, the bebop soloist often entered at an unexpected altitude, came in on an unexpected note, thereby catching the listener off guard and conquering him before he recovered from his surprise.…That which you heard in bebop was always something else, not the thing you expected; it was always negatively derived, abstraction from, not to.46
The square who doesn’t dig bebop is like Broyard's enemy gunman, who can aim only at his own expectations. Digging bebop's moments of surprise means that the listener assimilates them into his horizon of expectations, in such a way that those expectations themselves become relative, foregrounded as mere conventions, ripe for subversion. When Parker's solo in “Ornithology” begins to follow its own inner course and assert its own “perspective” against that of the phrase form, we are treated to two perspectives simultaneously, Parker's and the song's. The two perspectives diverge, and for a moment the listener is privileged with a musical double vision, an awareness of the multiplicity of perspective. The jazz musician steps into the cracks between those moments of time that congeal out of perceptual habit—and if they are hip, the listeners will follow.47 The bop phrase, like the hip gesture, is at a second remove to an established language. The bebopper is aware of language for itself; it is no longer the ground beneath his feet, but a thing he can pick up and observe.
This play of abstraction and referent, the substitution of the unfamiliar for the expected, is a fundamental aspect of musical expression—indeed, all artistic expression. But hipness, like the midcentury modernism that nourished it, brought such substitutions to the center of its aesthetic practices. And what was new in hip culture was the particular social significance attached to the abstraction (p.125) of generic norms. Something like Parker's solo in “Ornithology” could imply a trip out of the consensus consciousness enforced by the industrial machinery of mass culture and into a space of liberation in which the self could be fashioned anew. As Diane di Prima wrote, the hip were looking for whatever took them outside.
The geometry of outside and inside is another way of mapping somewhere and nowhere. Inside is the unestranged view, the square view; when we go outside, we see the system that manufactured the square view. In the 1960s, McLuhan would make this distinction in terms of “environment” and “anti-environment.” Hip intellectuals valued jazz in part because it made this trajectory so much a part of its musical substance. Ross Russell, the record producer who recorded and released “Ornithology,” mused that the jazz musician (of which Parker was the ideal embodiment) has “always been here and gone. That is he is always on the move physically or musically. He is gone also in the old argot hip sense of gone—levitated, out of this world.”48 The verbal idioms of jazz musicians and their fans are full of inside-outside metaphors. Jazz musicians talk of going out (out of the changes, out of the consensus style) or “playing outside.” Russell's friend Louis Gottlieb considered Lester Young's skill at moving in and out of a song's metrical structure to have been his most distinctive stylistic feature; pointing to the metrical shifting in the bridge of “I Never Knew” (a moment of rhythmic/motivic displacement similar to that in “Ornithology”), he wrote “should any philologist of the twenty-first century seek a definition of the expression ‘gone!’ or ‘gone again!’ this bridge would do quite well.”49 Fans used similar expressions to describe their own experiences of transcendence, as one critic explained:
The power of musicians of skill to transport is verbalized in send me and “He sends me off the sleep.” Over the years caressing effects have been vocalized in ‘bye, bye baby” lullabies, and millions have lifted in day dreams to Seventh Heaven. Dancers, threading on air, drift and dream, whirl and swirl in the clouds to nine. It is little wonder that swing devotees, on the basis of such experience, and on the general observations of music as “heavenly” and “melody of the spheres,” proclaimed they were sent—propelled by that centrifugal force out of the world. In the 1940s far out and away out became integral to bop and cool. Reinforced by Peggy Lee's 1950 swinging “Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World (Because That's Where Everyone Is),” a psychological set for space travel developed years before attainment.50
In the last part of this chapter, we will consider some of the ways music can get outside. The basic orientation of somewhere and nowhere, inside and outside, remains consistent in the music considered in this chapter—Parker's (p.126) “Ornithology,” Ken Nordine's “Sound Museum,” and Dylan's “Ballad of a Thin Man”—but the changes wrought in the hip sensibility as it passes through times and social situations are expressed in the different ways the music finds to signify that orientation.
Confusingly, hipster argot in the 1950s found another meaning for inside. Gone, far out, out of this world could also be in there. In one sense, inside was exactly where the jazz fan wanted to be. Jazz, the art form in which a hip sensibility was first cultivated, has always seen itself, and been seen by others, as an insider's art. The mythology of jazz idealizes its dedicated listeners as members of “a nearly closed society of voyagers” drifting from one late-night club to another.51 Furthermore, social distinction was coded in jazz's musical substance, in its widening of the gap between the referent and its abstraction, or (put differently) in raising the distance and tension between inside and outside, environment and anti-environment. For jazz musicians at midcentury, hipness had something to do with heightening this tension, and, for listeners, in following what the musicians were doing. The increasingly complex improvised lines and chordal substitutions of bebop placed a new strain on listeners’ power to detect traces of the standard on which a given performance might be based, and contrafacts such as “Ornithology” (built on the changes to “How High the Moon”) demanded that they listen for the relationship between an improvisation and a tune that had not even been stated. In Thomas Pynchon's short story “Entropy,” a group of hipsters takes this process of abstraction to its logical endpoint. Musing on the thought that one is supposed to think, not hear, the chords in the Mulligan-Baker “pianoless” quartet, they decide to think everything else as well, playing music by “going through the motions of a group having a session, only without instruments.”52
In his eponymous 1956 Atlantic recording, Lennie Tristano found new ways to increase the tension between referent and abstraction, raising the stakes in the listener's game. He did this with an arsenal of compositional and technological operations, some of which are enumerated in a letter from John Mehegan, a jazz pianist and teacher, to the editors of Down Beat:
First, to clear up any mystery concerning this record: Line Up is All of Me in A flat; East 32nd Street I was not able to identify; however, I would guess it to be a standard major tune played on the harmonic minor scale, which is a favorite device with Lennie.
What was done on Line Up and East 32nd Street is as follows: Peter Ind and Jeff Morton were taped at normal, playing a rhythm section (p.127) accompaniment of these tunes. Lennie then played a line with his right hand in the bass section of the piano at a slower tempo and in a lower key (probably a perfect 5th down). This tape was then speeded up until it matched the tape containing the rhythmic accompaniment.
There seems to be some confusion in some circles as to whether anything was tampered with, and if so, what. There is plenty of tampering here, but it is not with the tapes containing the rhythmic accompaniment—they are normal. The tampering has occurred on the piano tapes; they have been increased, I would say, some 200 vibrations a second….
The point is that Lennie no longer enjoys an avant-garde position in the art form. The west coast movement and recent trends apparent here in the east have little or nothing to do with the philosophy or the music of Lennie Tristano. Actually, jazz has bypassed Lennie and is ranging far and wide with a healthy vigor which has nothing to do with quiz tunes or multiple tapes.53
This letter bears witness to the one-upmanship that has filled jazz magazine letter pages from the beginning. Mehegan's letter is a show of mastery in which he demonstrates his ability to solve Tristano's “quiz tunes” by revealing not only the identities of the tunes but how the album's source tapes were manipulated. Indeed, though the flourish of hi-fi erudition in the third paragraph claims scientific authority, Mehegan ends up claiming the even higher authority of jazz history. Tristano is no longer in the avant-garde, Mehegan writes; history has passed him by. There is here a whiff of the second-hand Hegelianism common to the rhetorical habits of modernism. History is like a train, pulling out of the station at an appointed time with those smart enough to hop on, leaving the rest staring at their schedules.
Mehegan's letter may have been slighting and competitive, but Tristano was competing too, playing from the other side of the board. Mehegan was right to call “Line Up” a quiz-tune: it is a piece of music that challenges listeners to follow a path from their own prior notion of “All of Me” to Tristano's elaborately abstracted instance of it. Where bebop musicians explored the conceptual dissonance between mental horizon and the moment by equipping standards with new tunes and chromatic substitutions on changes, Tristano goes further, stretching the bond between “All of Me” and his version of it to its breaking point with multitracking and tape manipulation. In doing so, he challenges his listeners to a competitive game of connoisseurship that serves to mark the hip from the square. Mehegan is hip to it all—hip to the tunes, hip to the game—and says as much.
Miles Davis played a similar version of the same game by refusing to announce the names of tunes, and listeners who didn’t want to play along found themselves (p.128) scorned as squares. When one letter writer complained in the pages of Down Beat, another responded, “why don’t those fellows pay more attention to what the musician is playing and forget about titles? If you are familiar with the man's work, he needn’t announce the title of a tune. If you aren’t hip, well, that's your red wagon.”54 Charlie Parker's inner circle of fans played another game around the bootleg recordings that Dean Benedetti made of Parker's live appearances. Benedetti recorded Parker's solos and then switched off his equipment when other musicians took over. Ross Russell noted that Benedetti's rough editing stripped Parker's solos of contextual clues and added pleasurable complications to “the difficult guessing game aimed at getting the correct answer to the chord sequence of the composition being played.”55 Assuming that Russell is right in saying that one had to have been part of Bird's immediate circle even to hear Benedetti's bootlegs (at least before 1958, when some of them were released on the Bird on 52nd Street LP), this was a game for which social as well as musical distinction was the prize.56 To be among those for whom “auditioning the Benedetti spools became an indoor sport” was to be the hippest of the hip.57 As Sarah Thornton and others have noted, hipness is a way of marking distinction and bestowing power—the power to define the terms by which people are included and excluded from an inner sanctum. Games of hip connoisseurship articulate hip subcultures into something like a series of concentric rings: the musicians are at the bulls-eye; the square record-buying public, whose relationship to jazz is entirely mediated, is at the outer ring; and the hipsters are fighting to get as close to the bulls-eye as they can. Russell represented this social structure in The Sound, particularly in an episode that thinly fictionalizes Benedetti's hoarding of Parker's live performances. When someone suggests that Royo (a stand-in for Benedetti) release his bootlegs of Red (Parker) through a record company, Royo refuses, because his standing in the social circle around Red depends on his exclusive control of them. Having Red's unissued recordings is the closest anyone in his group of hipster hangers-on can get to being Red himself:
“No friggin’ record company!” Royo exclaimed angrily. “I don’t dig them people at all, and Red don’t either. Red don’t put nothin’ down when he cuts a commercial record, not his real soul. And these spools ain’t for no squares, they’re just for us to hear, for the people that really dig, you know!”
And so the spools spun on, drawing the faithful to 117 Grover Whalen Square in increasing numbers. The hipsters rode the shrieking A train, or came from out of town by jalopy or bus, mounted the loose treads, up the stairs strewn with the butts of tailor-mades, or occasionally an emptied wallet flung down in discard by some heist artist. The word had been passed. That stand in Motor City had topped everything (p.129) else: the first week, cool, fat, solid; but after that, clear out of this world, gone, the wildest! Donizetti cut to ribbons. Verdi bopped. Man, if you hadn’t heard those spools of Royo Dehn's you were not with it at all, were as square as John Home from Rome, really nowhere. And Royo basked in his finest hour, in the cold frowzy-curtained apartment.58
Not everyone thought these hip games were good for jazz, which even in the 1950s struggled to be taken seriously by the wider circle of American culture that hipsters were trying to exclude.59 A month before Mehegan's letter appeared, Tristano declared himself unnerved by how far this kind of game-playing had gone:
One of the surprising things prevalent in music today [is] the element of competition. It's true of musicians and non-musicians. They can’t just listen to the music. They have to compete with it. If it's not in terms of speed—whether they can play as fast as the record—then it's in terms of finding out what the tune is. It's ridiculous. You can’t hear music if you’re not able to sit back and listen a few times, just listen.60
But this is a bit disingenuous, because musicians shared this game with their listeners, and both sides were necessary for it to be played out. The ethic of exclusion, of trials and secret knowledge—in short, an ethic of elitism—is not simply a delusion projected by the fans onto their favorite musicians. It is an ethic cultivated by the musicians as well.
A number of studies from the 1950s, most notably Howard Becker's “The Professional Dance Musician and His Audience,” offered various sociological explanations for jazz musicians’ elitism.61 Social behavior is not exclusively the consequence of social forces, though, but may also be a function of attitudes that owe their existence to more immaterial reasons of aesthetics and sensibility. The hip sensibility is a larger entity within which jazz is an originating, constituent, but by no means definitive element; it is the Cold War hip sensibility that is elitist, not just jazz. The “sick joke,” for example, is another component of the 1950s hip sensibility, and it shares some of the same formal and aesthetic elements with jazz. As a general phenomenon, “sick humor” is a strain of what Stephen Kercher calls “bawdy, anti-sentimental, aggressively masculine parody and satire” that flourished after the war in Mad magazine, Jules Feiffer's Village Voice cartoons, and the standup comedy of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl.62 Their new style of humor took stage against the background social phenomenon of the sick joke—a form of humor that consisted in the detonation of a gruesome image within a minimal schoolyard form.63 (One example, in the vein of 1950s psychiatric humor: Q: Mommy, mommy, what's the Oedipus complex? A: Shut up and kiss me.) Jonathan Miller, writing in Partisan Review about the “sick (p.130) white negro”—that is, the sick joker as hipster—argued that the sick joke is a trial the hipster stages to test an interlocutor's nerve.64 The sick joke is “a ritual contest of wits” that establishes the social pecking order of the hipster, who is able to affirm liberal sentiments even as he brutally subverts them, and the square, who either misses the irony or else is left muttering in shocked tones that some things are simply not to be joked about. Benjamin DeMott also viewed sick humor as an instrument of social hierarchy, but one that works the same way as the banter that flies about over the head of Brossard's advertising agent.65 The “sick” conversational mode is one in which every statement is pitched simultaneously at the level of flat literality and on an ironic level that undermines literal meaning. Demott's and Miller's competing understandings of the sick joke have in common the idea that it is a test, either of stomach or cognitive flexibility, that separates the hip from the square. Either way, it is a mechanism of elite socialization.
I have argued that the hip perspective is marked by its assumption of a metaperspective unavailable to the square interlocutor. This was as true in the 1960s and 1970s as it was in the 1950s. Elitism seems to be inevitable in hip cultures; the perspectival quality of hipness—the way it draws its strength from the positioning of its vantage point outside a common frame of reference—is indispensible. There has never been a truly non-elitist hipness, but though early Cold War hip culture made a point of its elitism, the later hip culture of the 1960s and 1970s was marked by a paradoxical co-existence of its underlying elitism and a new populist ideology. The Movement glossed over this contradiction through the rhetoric of mass political action, though, and framed its own mass movement in terms of a generation gap. As it turns out, the generation gap was something of a Movement myth, but it was a useful one.66 Capping a square would not be the act of an individual marking distance between himself and someone generically square—that is, someone lacking in hip insight but whose age, class, gender, and race were incidental to his squareness. Rather, it would be a member of the young generation capping a member of the older generation. Conflicts of this sort could also be couched in race or gender terms, but youth was a category that cut across all others and lent the Movement a vision of coherence it otherwise lacked. Square capping would be the deed of someone acting as the avatar of a mass movement against an outsider conceived likewise as the representative of a class. Like the “sick humor” of the 1940s and 1950s, the “put-on” humor of the 1960s and 1970s reflects something of its era's nuances of social positioning. It was a kind of conversational jujitsu: hip rebels could wield their inferior social position as a weapon and turn the weight of Establishment social authority against itself. Jacob Brackman identified two characteristic modes of put-on:
(1) Relentless agreement: the perpetrator beats his victim to every low cliché the latter might possibly mouth.
(p.131) (2) Actualization of the stereotype: the perpetrator personifies every cliché about his group, realizes his adversary's every negative expectation. He becomes a grotesque rendition of his presumed identity, faking heated emotion.67
Brackman gives examples of each mode being wielded by a rebellious youth against a well-intentioned square adult in a conversation about (and across) the generation gap:
(1) “Ah, I don’t know…Kids today—they’re always running. But who knows where they’re going? Crazy clothes, loud music—if you wanna call it music—fast cars, drinking, smoking, drugs. The next thing you know, they’ll be going out with girls.”
(2) “Why don’t you go play with your mutual funds or something? Why don’t you get off my back? I just want to bug out on your nowhere scene, nowhere man. Excuse me, I gotta go dig some groovy sounds and sniff a pot of airplane glue. Lemme peel out on my boss Harley; that mother takes off like a big-assed bird.”68
Although the social situation ends up with the hip interlocutor using this rhetorical jujitsu to flip his opponent, the implication is not that the winner of the contest belongs to an elect of superior minds, but to a mass of superior minds. His superiority is not his possession as an individual, but the function of a new consciousness that is practically a genetic quirk, a trait running through an entire generation and radically separating it from what has come before. As Leslie Fiedler pointed out, there was a way of writing about the “New Consciousness” of the 1960s that treated hip awareness in an almost science-fictional way, as a mutation that erupts from within the children of a whole society, giving them strange new gifts that frighten and alienate their elders.69 It was a way of asserting superiority of consciousness without implying an elite.
But this subtlety was as yet undreamed-of in the 1940s and 1950s. It was not needed: hip intellectuals such as Brossard and Broyard did not want to claim membership in a mass movement, and it never occurred to artists such as Parker and Tristano that they might lead one. The warrant of their authority was not youth but the sovereignty of the individual intellect. The intellect was a weapon of unmasking that let the lone critical outsider see through the fatuity of mass culture.70 And this, perhaps, is the crux of how the hip sensibility underwent historical change from the 1930s through the 1960s. The early Cold War hip sensibility had much in common with the culture it outwardly opposed, particularly the era's near obsession with the ills of mass culture and mass society. The Movement sensibility, on the other hand, retained the habits of mass-culture (p.132) critique (scorn for the “phony” and the “plastic,” for example) while adapting to its new place in mass culture.71
Mass Culture Critique
When hipsters pictured the square as a dupe unknowingly embedded in a vast system for structuring and controlling consciousness, they were working a variation on a more general picture of the mass man and mass culture that prevailed at midcentury. As we saw in Chapter 2, Brossard and Broyard were among the first to set out on the intellectual project of finding likenesses between the hip styles of their urban environment and various items from European traditions of arts and ideas. Chief among the latter was the critique of mass culture and mass society, which especially occupied the New York Intellectuals clustered around literary/political little magazines such as Dissent and Partisan Review. Irving Howe's 1959 Partisan Review essay “Mass Society and Post-Modern Fiction” is exemplary of this discourse:
By the mass society we mean a relatively comfortable, half welfare and half garrison state in which the population grows passive, indifferent and atomized; in which traditional loyalties, ties and associations become lax or dissolve entirely; in which coherent publics based on definite interests and opinions gradually fall apart; and in which man becomes a consumer, himself mass-produced like the products, diversions and values that he absorbs.72
This is the image of social modernity that forms the backdrop for the picture of the square. To the academic reader, it is probably most familiar as the Frankfurt School's notion of the “culture industry,” whose currency in popular music studies is partly owed to its fit with the hip sensibility. (Herbert Marcuse's popularity among student radicals in the 1960s marked an early point in the process by which a vernacular mood of rebellion has merged with academic critical theory.73) In Howe's thumbnail sketch of mass society, the consumer has replaced the citizen, and indeed has become a kind of standardized product. The false paradise of the consumerist “affluent society” has replaced the citizen's community webbed with ties of voluntary association and grounded in informed and articulated opinion. Accumulating meretricious consumer products has substituted for pursuing individual interests and realizing individual potentialities. And as the massified populace sinks into its overfed torpor, it cedes its power to the militarized and corporatized state. Culture becomes the primary target of this kind of critique, for it is culture that effects this shift from citizen to consumer, public to mass, individuality to conformism, self-awareness to false (p.133) consciousness. Mass culture is a narcotic that makes the mass docile and ready for manipulation.
However disillusioned they may have been with the Marxism of their youth, midcentury intellectuals tended to retain the Marxist premise that capital is an ever-metastasizing dynamic, progressively replicating its logic within every sphere of human existence. They saw modernist high art, the most uncompromising affirmation of the autonomous individual intellect, as a bulwark against capital and its rationalizations of human expression. And so they believed that high culture and capitalism were in constant conflict, and that high culture was always in danger of being negated by a parasitical mass culture formed in imitation of it. Mass culture theory offered Cold War intellectuals a kind of agnostic Marxism, a way to pursue a Marxist style of critique without having to associate themselves with communists. (The next generation of intellectuals would not be as fastidious about the company they kept.)74
Mass culture critique was one thing Partisan Review intellectuals, hip literati, and those immersed in the jazz life had in common. Books and jazz alike represented a high art that resisted a degraded mass culture and the mass society that spawned it. It was not enough to listen to jazz indiscriminately; it was important to know that Thelonious Monk was hipper (or, in the terms of modernist historicism, more “necessary”) than Dave Brubeck, just as it was important to know that Franz Kafka mattered more than Herman Wouk, and it was important to know why. And in jazz and literary little magazines the “why” was couched in the high-art terms of technical innovation within a tradition. The critical discourse of jazz rehearsed the familiar temporal paradox of modernism, in which the true artwork takes its place in a historical tradition only as it expresses its evanescent historical moment, and it does so only by discovering techniques that obsolesce previous ones and are fated to become obsolete in their turn.75 The little magazine Jazz Review, attempting to do for jazz what Partisan Review did for literature, argued for its subjects’ place in jazz history by means of notated transcriptions and styles of analysis derived from Eurological traditions of composition.76 Jazz Review was more highbrow than most jazz publications and ran for just three years, but it epitomized the modernist critical mood that pervaded jazz magazines, books, liner notes, and broadcasts at midcentury.77 This discourse was united in its contempt for mass taste and its self-definition by contrast with mass culture; its plentiful quarrels over who remained freest of mass influence took place on the familiar ground of co-optation.
For the Movement, the question was how a mass counterculture could avoid acting like mass culture more generally. Put another way, counterculture intellectuals had to figure out how they could hold on to the terms of hip critique while exempting themselves from it. One answer lay in the Movement's utopian idea of revolution—a singularity in the intellectual history of hipness, never anticipated in the early Cold War and never reprised since. In the midcentury view, mass (p.134) society was degraded through the action of mass culture. For the utopians of the 1960s, mass culture could be redemptive if mass society was likewise redeemed. The vision of youth as a new class bound together by hip consciousness permitted a belief in a new society that could remake itself in light of that consciousness.
Countercultural utopianism differed from competing Marxist notions of utopia by insisting that it could be willed into existence here and now. For Theodor Adorno, whose writings on the “culture industry” mark a dystopic intensification of mass culture critique, utopia is radically impossible, but its actual attainment is less important than the space of critique opened when its shadowy image is projected into the administered world.78 But Movement conceptions of utopia were marked by a sense of its nearness, of the imminence of sudden, total, and irreversible change. The concept of “revolution here and now” distanced the late-1960s New Left from other readings of Marx. As Leszek Kolakowski noted, the New Left maintained that “the concept of a society's ‘ripeness’ for revolution is a bourgeois deceit.”79 Those in the Movement who favored a cultural rather than political conception of revolutionary action argued that the adjustments to the economic realm Marx thought would come as a consequence of revolution had already secretly happened. They were living in a “post-scarcity” economy that would free people to live however they chose, without jobs, competition, or private property, and without any of the social ills endemic to capitalism.80 Only the sclerotic outer forms of the old capitalist system remained, and these would crumble away once the mass could see through them. What makes this formulation different from orthodox Marxism is its cross-fertilization with the hip sensibility. If Marxism makes overcoming false consciousness the precondition of revolutionary action, here hip consciousness becomes revolutionary action in itself. The post-scarcity argument concluded that every newly enlightened soul would walk away from the old system, until none were left to prop it up. Thus revolution would arise spontaneously, and people would live by plucking the low-hanging fruit of a post-scarcity economy that was hiding in plain sight. The Revolution is already here: you just have to see it. In 1969 Yoko Ono and John Lennon posted signs on bulletin boards and in newspapers around the world reading “WAR IS OVER! (if you want it).” This was a call for Americans to make a choice against supporting the Vietnam War, though phrased in a way unique to its time, suggesting that the war might end simply through an act of consciousness, when we experience its ending.81 The notion that imagination and reality might come together, that wishing might make it so after all, is a kind of magical thinking, and as we will see at the end of this book magic began to play a serious role in the hip culture of the 1960s. And music, too, was deeply involved in this intellectual history. The shift in thought about mass culture and society from the 1950s through the 1960s saw a complementary aesthetic shift, and rock was uncoupled from the modernism in which jazz had been embedded.
The Decline of Midcentury Modernism and the Birth of Postmodernism
(p.135) In midcentury hip culture, the cause of advanced art possessed something like a moral force: the progress of art stood for the progress of man. Julian Beck, the director of Greenwich Village's avant-garde Living Theater, admitted that like other forward-looking artists in the Village at midcentury he once felt proud of New York's great modernist buildings: “at last, we believed, the principles of art were regaining dominion in architecture after a century of domination by the taste of the philistines.”82 “You’ve got to be modernistic” was an imperative (echoing the title of a 1920s James P. Johnson composition) borne out in such period curiosities as a 1947 Down Beat cover story on six arrangers of the “new school,” “shining knights of discord and atonality” who pose stiffly around works by Henry Moore and Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art (Fig. 4.4).83 The first issue of Neurotica was decorated with illustrations styled after Salvador Dalí's soft forms (Fig. 4.5); the same sort of imagery also graced the cover of the stridently “out” Innovations by Boyd Raeburn (Fig. 4.6) and the Warner Brothers’ cartoon short “Dough for the Do-Do” (1949), whose Dalí-esque “wackyland” jumps to a jazz beat.84
This was the look of swinging modernity in the late 1940s. In Blues People (1963), LeRoi Jones would poke fun at Raeburn's “imitation ‘surrealistic’ covers, with explanations of the ‘symbols’ on the back of the jackets,” but Jones's mockery extended only to the middlebrow aping of modernist style and not to
The cultural differences between the 1950s and 1960s were understood by the players involved to be a confrontation between a self-conscious modernism and an equally self-conscious post- (or even anti-) modernism. The modernism exemplified equally by Partisan Review and Jazz Review championed advanced art against mass culture and an ethic of aesthetic and intellectual autonomy against the demands of mass politics. To the Movement, such priorities came to seem elitist, pleasure-denying, and politically quiescent. American midcentury modernism seemed of a piece with the early Cold War's strain of authoritarian scientism; like atomic physics, it appeared to be the product of uptight white men in lab coats, crew cuts, and horn-rimmed glasses. In Movement thought, modernism epitomized the Western, technocratic style of reason that exalted mind over body, male over female, power over pleasure, bureaucratized meaning over tactile experience. Architectural modernism especially seemed to embody the arrogance of a system indifferent to the lives it encloses. After his early infatuation with New York's modernist edifices, Beck came to see in the “inflexible, rampant, the tall straight rigid buildings” the “straight proud men, the ramrod spines, not bent by labor, the polite voices, everything designed to cut the heart out.”89 In music, too, modernism wore out its welcome. Morton Feldman's 1963 review of one of Gunther Schuller's concerts sounds an early note of what would become a chorus of mockery: Feldman riffs on a fantasy motif of a bourgeois family outing to the countryside; Schuller (with his “third stream nonsense”) is imagined as their pastry chef.90 This review, appearing as it does in Kulchur, a little magazine that connected the Beats to the universe of oppositional culture in the 1960s, marks the point where midcentury modernism comes to seem conventional, inhibited, pompous, bourgeois—in a word, square.91 Four short years later, this kind of criticism would take on a militant edge. “Bourgeois culture is the enemy as is the bourgeois system itself,” Ben Morea writes in 1967; “not only Rembrandts and Goethes but the modernists also will find themselves on the scrapheap of western culture.”92
Hilton Kramer, an art critic and conservative defender of midcentury high modernism, later remarked that “it wasn’t the works of James Joyce or Thomas Mann or Ernest Hemingway or Gertrude Stein which were carried in the rucksacks of the antiwar marchers, and it wasn’t to the music of Stravinsky or Schoenberg that they marched.”93 This was something on which Kramer and his ideological opponents could agree. Thomas Albright, another art critic who wrote for Rolling Stone in its early days, argued that the modernist hip culture at midcentury, unlike the later counterculture, substituted an old bohemian (p.138) worship of art for the values it had torn down. Consequently, Beat writing and jazz were imperfectly separated from the establishment they ostensibly opposed; Albright suggests that such “traditional artistic concepts as exclusiveness, monumentalism and immortality lingered in sometimes weird ways.”94 Improvisation in music and in Kerouac's “spontaneous bop prosody” freed art from hard distinctions between creation and act, and yet the innovations of jazz and Beat poetry were drawn from European models. Jazz musicians brought music into the streets but still craved the respect of the institutions they had left behind. In contrast, Albright writes, the new counterculture does not have these elitist, Western hang-ups. Everyone is an artist, whether “he draws, paints flowers on his car or plays guitar.” If even these media are too traditional, then maybe he just does his thing, “like wearing bells, or being beautiful.”95 Ronald Sukenick, describing the shift of aesthetic values from the 1950s to the 1960s avant-gardes, paraphrases this line of thought:
Down with the “painterly” qualities in art, with the aesthetic purity of artists. Down with the “tyranny of jazz,” in Danny Fields's phrase, as the standard for pop music, and up with extramusical values like noise, volume, performance, dance, politics, sex. No more neat, well-made narrative in film and fiction. Out with sentimental notions about sex.96
The times called for new art forms, like the Happening or the Fluxus event score, that might do justice to radical presence. But one could do away with the very idea of an art form and still maintain the basic orientation of 1960s aesthetics: art does not represent, it is. If your art is wearing bells and being beautiful, you are engaged in a creative act, but what you create is not about anything. You are just wearing bells and being beautiful.
There was never a complete consensus on what kinds of music, aside from the post-Cage avant-garde, might best embody the new post- (or anti-) modernist aesthetic. It is easy to forget that the Berkeley Barb, one of the most radical and uncompromising of the underground newspapers, had a good classical music section. Not all of the leading creative figures associated with the counterculture were rock fans: Philip K. Dick preferred classical music, while R. Crumb listened to American roots music and early jazz. Though he later managed the MC5, John Sinclair began his writing career as a jazz critic, and in the same way that John Clellon Holmes acquired a taste for bebop some twenty years earlier, he adopted rock when he decided it uniquely embodied the sociocultural zeitgeist.97
In this he was taking a cue from the swelling majority of counterculture intellectuals and rock fans. The dominant narrative of rock in the late 1960s held that the young shared a consciousness radically different from that of their parents, and rock gave voice to it. This consciousness was, above all, radically oriented to (p.139) the present moment. In an early and important essay, Greil Marcus contrasts how Berkeley professors understood a student uprising (Marx's line about the great events of history happening twice, as tragedy and then as farce) and how young people understood it (Dylan's “Memphis Blues Again”). Marcus writes that “one seeks an academic and intellectual conclusion, a truth that will last the ages; the other tries to establish and confirm the present moment, and in doing so, to save one from it.”98 The old world of art and ideas inherited from Europe was not adequate to the experience of the new generation. Preoccupied with monuments and permanence, with authoritative scriptable meanings that could be handed down through a tradition, it did nothing to honor the ineffable sensation of this moment. Rock suggested a new kind of intellectualism, conceived along entirely different principles.
But did Movement aesthetics suggest a true alternative to modernism, or was it only an attempt to imagine a cultural space outside of modernism from a position within it?99 Thinkers have offered a number of theses on rock's modernism: rock is the late expression of a century-and-a-half-long dynamic of cultural antinomianism; rock is a new reaction to the old sources of modernist rage and alienation; rock strikes the blow for liberation that modernism had promised but failed to deliver.100 But if rock is normatively modern in some unself-conscious way (and the jury is still out on that), at the very least it did not participate in anything like the self-consciously modernist project of midcentury jazz. Jazz-critical writing was historicist, arguing for or against a given recording with appeals to the necessity of its historical development. If Movement intellectuals thought of rock historically, they did so in different terms, as something manifesting the next step in the development of consciousness, not as the next step in the stylistic development of an artistic tradition. It was modernism's orientation to both teleology and tradition that the Movement opposed, ignored, or recontextualized into its own mosaic of cultural associations. Rock sometimes recycled modernist icons—Bob Dylan's echo of James Joyce in his stream-of-consciousness lyrics or Frank Zappa's Stravinskyisms in Uncle Meat—but only as elements of a larger collection of musical and cultural references. Under such circumstances, Joyce and Stravinsky no longer functioned as a cultural dominant; the art tradition for which they stood as emblems was consigned to being just another voice in a worldwide babel. This condition was allegorized by the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which Karlheinz Stockhausen rubs shoulders with W. C. Fields, Bob Dylan, and Aleister Crowley. In the era of recordable tape, Evan Ziporyn writes, “all music is available to all people, all the time”; Stockhausen made use of this fact in Telemusik (1966), “a musique concrète piece for which the source material is traditional music from dozens of cultures, all of whom, the composer asserts, ‘wanted to participate in Telemusik…not “my” music, but music of the whole world, of all countries and all races.’ ”101 Midcentury modernism lost its privilege in this universal agora; (p.140) perhaps the simplest good understanding of postmodernism is that it is the historical moment when all cultural dominants are relativized in this way.
As Theodore Gracyk has noted, by around 1965 “rock” came to mean not only rock and roll, a style of music rooted in country and R&B, but a principle of organizing all possible recorded sounds into a rock and roll framework.102 Even more, though, rock came to mean an aesthetic and a culture that could absorb all cultural influences into itself and thereby embody a new consciousness. Chester Anderson, a science-fiction writer and Beat-turned-hippie intellectual, wrote in the San Francisco Oracle that “rock is an intensely synthesizing art, an art of amazing relationships (collage is rock & roll) able to absorb (maybe) all of society into itself as an organizing force, transmuting and reintegrating what it absorbs.”103 Seen this way, rock was an example of what McLuhan called “mosaic” awareness.
Starting with The Gutenberg Galaxy, McLuhan designed his own books to be mosaics: shunning linear exposition, he created a collage of epigrammatic and often obscure jottings (“probes”), each of which was a kind of thought-experiment intended to stimulate further reflection on the part of the reader. A probe might be intended to be taken straight, or it might just be an experiment; to a hostile critic, McLuhan once responded, “you don’t like that idea? I’ve got others.”104 McLuhan did not intend a lossless transmission of ideas from his mind to those of his readers but wanted instead to create open spaces in his texts that readers would fill themselves. He called this participatory style “cool”; by contrast, “hot” texts repel interaction. Cool means the seminar, not the lecture; the jam session, not the concert. Cool texts have no fixed point of view: the vanishing-point perspective that implies a single viewer, McLuhan theorized, was a product of Renaissance and print-era consciousness. The latter perspective was isolated and individualistic, analytical rather than tactile. It did not grasp a scene whole but sliced it into distinct and specialized pieces, the better to apply its labeling, quantifying, and classifying habits of mind. Linear perspective took things in one at a time; mosaic perspective grasped gestalts instantaneously and simultaneously. McLuhan's main goal was to understand how media shape our perspective, and he theorized that electronic media were changing the “sense ratios” of the generation that had grown up with television, the ultimate cool medium. As the media landscape “cooled down,” it bred a generation of people who were able to take in their environment all at once, to synthesize radically disparate pieces of cultural information, to soak themselves in torrents of media information and not drown. To counterculture intellectuals such as Anderson, this new kind of person needed a new kind of art, and rock had evolved to meet the demands of their new consciousness.
McLuhan was the most important influence on countercultural intellectuals in the late 1960s; as Anderson noted, he gave shape to their intuitions. “Synthesis and synaesthesia; non-typographic, non-linear, basically mosaic and (p.141) mythical modes of perception; involvement of the whole sensorium; roles instead of jobs; participation in depth; extended awareness; preoccupation with textures, with tactility, with multisensory experiences—put ’em all together & you have a weekend on Haight Street.”105 Now, I do not wish to suggest that McLuhan's theories really explain rock just as 1960s intellectuals thought they did.106 Cultural theory is often best read as if it were a kind of speculative fiction, and McLuhan was at least honest enough to encourage people to read him this way. This does not deny McLuhan's often valuable insights, which can be surprisingly apt for things that did not yet exist when McLuhan was writing. However, McLuhan owed his freakish popularity to the resonance between his ideas and the hip sensibility in the 1960s, and he paid for it with the sudden and near-total eclipse of his reputation as erstwhile Movement people found other cultural theorists, like Michel Foucault, who better captured the post-1960s mood.107
Like Foucault, McLuhan was an early theorist of the postmodern, and his oppositions between the cultures of typographic and electronic media map onto the modern-postmodern antimonies of work-text, purpose-play, design-chance, form-antiform, hierarchy-anarchy, mastery-silence, art object–performance, distance-participation.108 Albright tacitly relies on these oppositions to draw distinctions between the 1960s counterculture and an earlier jazz modernism, and Anderson develops a kindred set of oppositions (mind-body, linear-mosaic, individual-collective) to write about rock. He writes that rock appeals to the intelligence “with no interference from the intellect,” which is to say, to an intelligence seated in the body rather than the mind.109 Anderson considers the body as the site of new consciousness by speculating on the possibilities of a future rock aesthetics in which bodily sensation might become an element of composition, with rock musicians learning to “play a listener's body like a soft guitar.”110 To Anderson, such ideas are incomprehensible to “typeheads”—those stuck on the other side of the generational divide and trapped in the old, linear, literate way of thinking. Television had begun to transform consciousness by teaching American youth a mosaic style of integrative perception; rock made this transformation total, opening a generational rift between those whose minds were fused in tribal collectivity and those who remained locked in their individualism. Rock seeded American society with a mass asymmetry of consciousness. If the Movement theorized hip consciousness as the mechanism for revolution, then rock was the mechanism for that hip consciousness, calling into being a new social order in which individuals merge into a collective and higher mind. The new social forms of the rock band and commune foreshadow a worldwide social revolution demanding “group participation, total experience, complete involvement.”111
When the later counterculture honored jazz as its spiritual ancestor, it stressed heat, intensity, community, and bodily transport, not its dialectic of (p.142) referent and abstraction. In this respect, the 1960s Movement owes much more to the Beats, who saw in jazz a way of distancing themselves from the 1950s aesthetic of irony and paradox, not embracing it. Lawrence Lipton's celebration of the West Coast Beat scene, The Holy Barbarians (1958), is typical in its conception of jazz as the main element of a Dionysian ritual that unblocks mental inhibitions. Squares, fascinated by jazz but fearing anything wired so directly into the body, seek relief from their sexual neuroses in psychoanalysis, which will explain everything to them in the rational terms to which their comprehension is limited. (Norman Mailer said much the same thing in his print debate with Ned Polsky over “The White Negro.”112) Lipton looks at jazz as a form of protest and an alternative, bodily way of knowing, just as the activist intellectuals of the 1960s looked at rock:
[The Beats] see [jazz] pitting its spontaneous, improvised, happy-sad, angry-loving, ecstatic on-the-spot creativity against the sterile antiseptic delivery room workmanship of the concert hall that squares take for musical culture. And they whisper—coolly, quietly but intensely, “Say it, Satch!” “Tell ’em, Gerry!” “Blow a great big hole in the walls they have thrown up to keep man from man.” They know that what the Bird is putting down in those one-two punches on the horn is shock treatment with love as fierce as anger and better than insulin or metrazol.113
As silly as this might now seem—his Beats sound like characters in a John Waters movie—Lipton's understanding of jazz was reasonably representative of the literary Beat movement.114 Allen Ginsberg's occasional early jottings on jazz reveal something of the same conception of it as exotica music of the swinging underworld. “Dope vice & bop go together. Ask anyone in the know,” Ginsberg quotes Walter Winchell in a 1952 notebook entry; by way of a gloss, he adds, “there is something ugly going on in my soul again. This last month—preoccupation with queerness, dope, vice & pop, apocalypse of subterraneans, dispersal of attention to practical affairs, call of Amazon voyage.”115 Jazz musicians and fans could not entirely deny the association of dope and vice with bebop, but all the same they resented literary hipsters for whom jazz was the “call of Amazon voyage” just as Brossard's circle resented the Uptowners on their urban safaris. Jazz critics rejected Beat adulation as the uncool intrusion of a tag-along band of poseurs, but in academic discourse the Beat interpretation has prevailed.116 General studies of the 1950s’ new antinomian culture typically have little to say about jazz except to affirm the solidarity between musicians and Beats, invoke the alienation and anger of the African American musician, and associate the quick, nervous energy of bebop with the intensities of action painting and Beat poetry.117
(p.143) However, it is risky to assume that jazz musicians ever shared the same sense of rebellion as the Beats and hipsters who thronged their performances. As Scott DeVeaux writes, “the usual attempt to cast [jazz musicians] as self-conscious revolutionaries or anarchistic hipsters fails to take into account the unique privilege and distinctive ethos of their profession.”118 Bebop musicians may have shared a fear of the police billy club with the hipsters, DeVeaux notes, but what animated the daily practice of their art was something else: a sense of competitiveness, a respect for craft, and a hunger for the learning required to make the technical progress by which they judged one another. Lipton might have heard “shock treatment with love as fierce as anger” in Parker's music, but Parker's fellow musicians—and the fans who wanted to cultivate a musician's professional sensitivity to nuances of improvisational style—heard harmonic, rhythmic, and developmental innovations that built on the accomplishment of older figures and that contributed to the development of the art form. You can hear one of Parker's collaborators in the studio cheering him on at the exact moment he has gone out in his solo on “Ornithology”—a “yeah!” sounding in the rest at measure 20. And jazz listeners, hearing the “yeah!” emerge from the grooves of a newly bought 78 rpm record in 1946, might have felt themselves urged on as well to hear a moment of surpassing excellence the way these musicians once heard it in a Hollywood studio, following Parker on his trip out, feeling perspective pull away from the hardened lines of song form and alight on another shape that has somehow emerged within them, and glimpsing new possibilities of meaning in the doubled musical image. Elizabeth Von Vogt, the sister of John Clellon Holmes, recalls listening to “Ornithology” with her brother around 1948–49, at first baffled by its fluid abstractions and then listening harder as John cued the record back to the beginning. “He hummed loud with the coda—Bird and Miles, and John humming ‘How High the Moon’ along with them. They angled into and out of each other, meeting at the right places—the melodies echoing sweetly and ending on the same note—and the world came together. It began.”119
It is natural for a historian to care more about Charlie Parker's own aesthetics than later misinterpretations of it, and it is likewise tempting to privilege the bebop musician's kind of hipness over Beat and Movement sensibilities. Charlie Parker came first, after all, and the later White Negroes who flocked to the banner of hip were only taking on a role that he and other black musicians had first modeled for them. But as Ralph Ellison pointed out, Parker in his turn modeled himself on other roles—roles with long and tangled histories of their own.120 There is no firm bedrock of a true, originating, and all-begetting hipness: it is (p.144) representations, not turtles, all the way down. I have already noted that hipness was never more than the sum of its representations; for Michael Szalay, hip is “an imitative fantasy for which there is, finally, no definitive locus or referent.”121 In hip culture, origin is not essence. There is no essence to hipness beyond its history, and that history is an impossibly tangled series of transactions among jazz, rock, folk, hip-hop, classical (etc.) musicians, as well as artists, fans, novelists, filmmakers, comedians, literary intellectuals, academics, activists, coolhunters, and everyone else in whom hip culture has cultivated a sense of humor that laughs at self-repression, a sense of justice that quickens to the spectacle of rebellion, and an assumption that the culture we consume says something about our politics.
The arrangement of hip images over time is not set by the random drift of fashion.122 Zoot-suited hepcat, bebop musician, arrow-collar underground man, square, snow queen, Beat, beatnik, rock troubadour, or (in John Sinclair's case) “minister of information” for a tribe of rock revolutionaries—the gaudy procession of characters arranges itself into a narrative shape, in which older notions of hip are pushed aside by their riotous offspring. Yet this anthropomorphized story is too crude, because the young did not simply succeed the old. At all points in the development of hip culture, old and new interact in unpredictable and complex ways. Kenneth Burke asks us to imagine a dialectical history, in which strains mingle over time, like voices in a motet, at varying strengths and in myriad combinations:
But where one considers different historical characters from the standpoint of a total development, one could encourage each character to comment upon the others without thereby sacrificing a perspective upon the lot. This could be got particularly, I think, if historical characters themselves (i.e. periods or cultures treated as “individual persons”) were considered never to begin or end, but rather to change in intensity or poignancy. History, in this sense, would be a dialectic of characters in which, for instance, we should never expect to see “feudalism” overthrown by “capitalism” and “capitalism” succeeded by some manner of national or international or non-national or neo-national or post-national socialism—but rather should note elements of all such positions (or “voices”) existing always, but attaining greater clarity of expression or imperiousness of proportion of one period than another.123
In this spirit, I end the chapter by triangulating Parker's “Ornithology” (1946) with Ken Nordine's “Sound Museum” (1957) and Bob Dylan's “Ballad of a Thin Man” (1965)—three pieces linked by sensibility and differentiated by the contingencies introduced in the period of roughly a decade that lies between each pair.
(p.145) “Sound Museum” is the longest track on Word Jazz, an album of verbal skits and prose poems spoken by Ken Nordine, a Chicago radio announcer, and accompanied by the personnel of the Chico Hamilton Quintet performing Fred Katz's jazz compositions.124 The conceit of “Sound Museum” is that Nordine is introducing us to the works of art on display in a “very abstract museum in which they show sound paintings.” The “sound paintings” are musique concrète interludes by Nordine's friend Jim Cunningham, some of which are aggressively noisy, while others sound like ambient music from forty years later. The Sound Museum could be a metaphor for hip culture itself—an archive of images, made of sound or imagined in sound or somehow borrowing from sound its magic potency. Nordine's Word Jazz bears an ironic or signifying relationship to utterance that might recall Cab Calloway's performance as a quiz show MC in the 1940s or foreshadow Bob Dylan's put-ons and provocations.125 Everything Nordine says is in quotation marks; his Word Jazz is not an utterance in an idiom so much as an utterance of idioms, a metalepsis. In “Sound Museum,” Nordine introduces one “sound painting” after the other in the tones of a museum docent, with Katz's background music changing for every introduction. At one point Nordine wrong-foots the listener when he announces (in sinister tones, with an underscore of spooky groans from Katz's cello) that he has taken the listener to a black door, warns that he cannot open it for long (“I think you’ll understand why”), and, when he “opens” it, discloses eleven seconds of silence. (“See what I mean?” he asks in a knowing basso profundo.) Like the hip discourse of which “Ornithology” is a musical trace, “Sound Museum” head-fakes the listener by warping established conceptual categories.
“Sound Museum” is tightly woven into the cultural history of 1950s hipness I have outlined. As “word jazz,” it belongs to a midcentury project to place words and jazz in the same space, and, more generally, to continue the project begun by such hip intellectuals as Mailer, Brossard, and Lipton to draw verbal meanings out of a wordless existential stance they found in jazz. In his docent persona, Nordine introduces another sound painting “that is indicative of the neurotic feeling of our time,” and after showing it he concludes, in embarrassment:
I—I [stammering] think you see my point, uh, now the artist that did this fortunately is, uh, under sedatives at the moment and, uh, we expect that his later work will be much calmer and quieter, and [trails off]…[in a brighter tone] but we do like to give these young neurotic artists a chance. And so I’m glad that the museum has been big about the whole thing, as it were.
He fumbles about for a way out of an embarrassing truth he has admitted, somewhat despite himself, and in his discomfort spackles clichés (“I’m glad that the museum has been big about the whole thing, as it were”) into a pleasant façade. (p.146) His tone of voice and banal words, however, betray a darker underlying truth, such truths being the usual fruit of the hip sensibility's dualistic hermeneutics. When he speaks of giving “these young neurotic artists a chance,” with an unctuous dip in inflection at the end, he wields the patronizing tone of the technocratic liberal who wants to encourage artists’ self-expression, even if it means he will have to lock them up for their own good. And this suggestion of therapeutic tyranny is a perfect example of midcentury “sick humor” in its whimsical callousness, its suggestion of what Marcuse would soon call “repressive tolerance,” and its vein of psychotherapeutic humor.
Word Jazz lies at the nexus of hip culture and midcentury modernism. Fred Katz's liner-note recollection of his first meeting with Nordine (“I dig this cat!”) offers a roll call of high-culture names designed to place their album within the traditions of midcentury vernacular modernism: “A few hours and 37 cups of coffee later we were still discussing ‘Word Jazz,’ Spinoza, Buddha, Charlie Parker, Freud and ‘Word Jazz’ again.”126 And the musical style of Katz's compositions also places this album in this cultural register. The track begins with a duet between Katz's pizzicato cello and Buddy Collette on flute. In this passage, the cello's unswung ostinato lines, with an internal pattern of stresses meant to pull against the flute's 4/4 line, splay wide over the cello's range, suggesting the knees-and-elbows angularity of early bebop tunes like Parker's “Scrapple from the Apple.” Only this music is in the modernist style of midcentury progressive jazz, built from triads, fourths, and fifths mortised together at odd intervals apart. The flute, when it comes in, suggests a different, white-note tonality that, along with its rhythmic disjunction from the cello, articulates a musical texture of nonintersecting strata oddly joined, like forms in a cubist painting (Fig. 4.7).
If they noticed it at all, jazz critics dismissed Nordine's Word Jazz as the result of a record company's opportunism or the work of a jazz pretender with ambitions above his station.127 And although Nordine has acquired a cult following among latter-day hipsters, many jazz fans would still find it perverse to mention “Sound Museum” and “Ornithology” in the same breath. And to use “Sound Museum” and “Ornithology” to lead off a discussion of “Ballad of a Thin Man” might seem even stranger, not least because of basic ontological differences between the genres of music they represent.
When one builds an analysis on a transcription of a jazz improvisation, as I have for “Ornithology,” the reader naturally understands that much of what
And Bangs was not calling rock “idiotically simple” as if that were a bad thing. What makes rock valuable is not what might make it smart; rock's aesthetic richness has nothing to do with midcentury intellectual notions of cognitive challenges met and mastered. As Chester Anderson wrote, rock represented an intellectualism of the body and not the mind. Rock's complexity embodied a complexity of experience unprocessed and delivered raw. What Dave Hickey calls “the delicacy of rock-and-roll” is the sound that results when contingency and stress fuzz the simple outlines of the song into an “infinitely complicated, fractal filigree of delicate distinctions.”130 The rock audience understands that it is the stress of performance, of life, or, as Hickey writes, of “contingent community” that fractures a song's plain sonic surface. In the 1960s, rock's challenges were supposed to be existential rather than intellectual; they had to do with how you lived your life, not how you represented it. This meant that the privileged vector of rock's aesthetics was voice, the direct embodied trace of life's contingencies.131 What rock conveyed was the voice amplified and broadcast, and the word released from the captivity of print and made flesh, as it had been in the preliterate and tribal era, which the Movement (following McLuhan) believed was returning in the postliterate electronic age. “We are primitives of an unknown culture,” they claimed.132 Rock songs were not simply messages made of words, but messages of the Word. Mere words are entities whose meanings are replicable across a multitude of print contexts; the Word is the meaning that flows from the individual human larynx articulating words in a unique context.133 As Simon Frith points out, the relationship of words to music in rock is not simply the setting of words to appropriate music, but the fusion of words and vocal gestures into musical signs that alloy both indissolubly: (p.148)
Song words work as speech and speech acts, bearing meaning not just semantically, but also as structures of sound that are direct signs of emotion and marks of character. Singers use non-verbal as well as verbal devices to make their points—emphases, sighs, hesitations, changes of tone; lyrics involve pleas, sneers and commands as well as statements and messages and stories (which is why some singers, such as the Beatles and Bob Dylan in Europe in the sixties, can have profound significance for listeners who do not understand a word they are singing).134
When, at the beginning of “Ballad of a Thin Man,” Dylan sings “you walk into the room,” the contour of Dylan's “room,” the sour nasal vowel bowed into a little arch, means this particular room, the room the square walks into, in this particular utterance of this story that this singer is telling you, right now, and telling millions of others like you at the same time. The meaning of this utterance is not given by its musical contour, which is at once too minimal to be worth notating and too complicated to notate adequately, nor simply by the word “room,” but the alloy of word and vocal gesture that makes a sign unique to the performative occasion captured on record. When Dylan tells the square, “you try so hard but you just don’t understand,” all the weight of Dylan's mediated presence is loaded onto that word, and try is no longer the word “try.” Listening to it again and again, speaking from the grooves of the record, we keep cueing back to the beginning, the word becomes the Word, splitting open and blooming into its ineffable singularity: “try so hard,” with a catch of laughter in the throat; “tra-hay,” the word “try” split by the laugh; “tra-hay” now sounding like two notes; “tra-hay so hahd” now sounding almost like an arpeggiation through the measure's chord. I can say “try” any way I want in any context it fits, but Dylan's “try” is a unique sign that means, try—from the bottomless depths of squareness—to understand the freaks you meet; try, though all your attempts are doomed by the limits of your understanding; try, though the futility of your actions makes you ridiculous; try, though you will never even know why you fail, because you don’t know what you don’t know. All that in a single word, try, sung just so.
Dylan's phrase making was unerringly resonant. In the underground press, words and lines from his songs punctuated arguments and turned into headlines the way biblical phrases had in the political speeches of the previous century. Todd Gitlin wrote that he and his friends “would fish Dylan's torrent of images, confirming our own revolts and hungers,” their traded quotations hypostatizing the meaning of Dylan's sung phrases.135 When Dylan laughs his way through try, it is the laugh heard around the world, the worldwide youth tribe's judgment of the square. Dylan's music allegorized the Movement idea of community: listeners understood Dylan as a voice added to the worldwide chorus, simultaneously and instantaneously heard. The record, a “machined fusion of literacy (p.149) and orality,” fixes the oral meaning that blooms anew within words and makes it replicable, just as printing replicates writing.136 The record permits the industrial reproduction and diffusion of tribal orality as a new social imaginary. Eric Havelock, like McLuhan, was fascinated by the thought that, with radio, “a single voice addressing a single audience on a single occasion could at least theoretically address the entire population of the earth.”137 A worldwide population dispersed in space could be unified at a single point in time; simultaneously, instantaneously, the young of the world could hear or utter the Word and join a global village. When protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention chanted “the whole world is watching” to the TV cameras, it meant that Chicago's police violence was indicted in the eyes of the world, but it also meant something about the protestors themselves.138 They could feel themselves in the eyes of the world, playing a role in a drama where the world was almost literally a stage and the audience both intimately present and unimaginably huge. In the new tribal world, the voices of rock stars, political leaders, and countercultural gurus bounce from one youth enclave to another, setting up a “world-wide electronically amplified network of the young,” as Timothy Leary conceived it, a worldwide jam session of ideas and experience:
Mario Savio starts a beat in Berkeley. Jerry Rubin brings it up the river to Chicago. Mark Rudd moves it along at Columbia. Hey listen to Red Rudi in Berlin. Now Cohn-Bendit moves on to do a set in Paris. The Shakespearean put-on at San Francisco State. The BEATLES sing it for the ROLLING STONES. The terrestrial conspiracy of [DNA]. The plot of earth. The love-freedom network.139
Throughout the postwar 1940s and 1950s, jazz had appealed to young intellectuals whose sensibility was formed within American midcentury modernism: they could understand bebop's dialogue with listeners in modernist terms, as a conversation between individuals whose alienation from mass culture was worn as a badge of honor, and as a cognitive challenge that could be met only within that state of alienation. In the 1960s, rock became the focus of the countercultural imagination for nearly opposite reasons: its appeal lay in its claim to speak for a worldwide youth brigade, joining hands across race and class to take action against an unjust world.140 In an age of mass counterculture, the hip individual is part of a collective, a vanguard of worldwide change. John Benson Brooks didn’t think much of Dylan as a musician (“Bob Dylan, a plebian poet and bullshitting existentialist. He can’t play harmonica, guitar, or sing worth a damn but he is a current symptom & famous freak”) but was shrewd enough to understand that musicianship as such was not the whole point. The real point was “The sound of a voice in continuity of entrances/exits/ in simultaneity of concatenation…the motion of voices with respect to each other.”141 The social image to (p.150) which Dylan's music gave form was of worldwide commitment and collective experience contained metonymically in the lone singer raising his voice against hegemony.
This was a powerful and seductive image, and though it grew from the same structures of thought and sentiment that “Ornithology” and “Sound Museum” did, Dylan and his audience drew radically different aesthetic conclusions from them. Each of these three pieces proceeded from the stance of asymmetrical consciousness; each assumed the schema of mass culture and tacitly assigned itself a role within it; each applies a kind of perspectival irony on the figure of the square. Of course, the musician's default definition of the square is anyone who doesn’t dig his record, and so in each case the music challenges the listener to dig, to follow it on its trip out. The trip out—the irony—in “Ornithology” lies in its musical syntax, in the centrifugal motion of improvisation pulling against the centripetal force of song structure and, more distantly, a shared sense of tradition. In “Sound Museum,” Nordine challenges the cognitive flexibility of his listeners with conceptual gags drawn from a repertory of notions peculiar to his wordy, high-modern historical moment. What is outside is the conceit of the sound museum, and each musique concrète “sound painting” is its own little moon shot of sonic weirdness within an estranging, Barthelme-like conceptual framework. And in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” outside is the hip mass consciousness embodied in Dylan's mediated performative presence and uncoiling from the elliptical loops of verbal wit, the very utterance of which outlines a new relationship to shared meaning. Each piece is ideologically, aesthetically, and historically separated from the others, and yet they cannot really be understood without understanding their common sensibility, which above all seeks to make inside visible and revoke the power that comes of its invisibility. The hip sensibility is at once irreducible multiple and historically coherent, its aspects of plurality and unity dynamically engaged with one another in every piece of hip culture.
(1.) Milt Gabler and John Benson Brooks, “What's a Square?” from Avant Slant (One Plus 1 = II?): A Twelve Tone Collage, LP, Decca DL 75018, 1968.
(2.) Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business (New York: Ballantine, 1970), 192.
(3.) “The Inner Sleeve,” a promotional publication of CBS records, ed. Mort Goode, possibly attached to CBS C 2908. For Horowitz, a sidebar titled “Pure Brilliance!”
(4.) Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 238.
(5.) For more on the representational conventions of the too-normal, see Phil Ford, “Music at the Edge of the Construct,” Journal of Musicology 26, no. 2 (Summer 2009), 240–73. The (p.252) television series Mad Men puts the structural absence of hipness at the center of its drama. The show's depiction of America in the early 1960s depends on our knowledge of how quickly the certainties of an America Before Hipness would soon disappear—a knowledge that the show's characters necessarily do not share.
(6.) A fine dissertation traces the phenomenon of beat tourism: Clinton Robert Starr, “The Beat Generation and Urban Countercultures in the United States During the Late 1950s and Early 1960s” (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas, 2005).
(7.) Diane di Prima, Recollections of My Life as a Woman (New York: Viking, 2001), 202.
(8.) The term “presence culture,” along with its opposite, “meaning culture,” is from Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht, The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).
(9.) Hannah Higgins, Fluxus Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 36.
(10.) Eric Hobsbawm, “Jazz Since 1960,” in Uncommon People (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998), 281.
(11.) Billy Taylor, “Jazz in the Contemporary Marketplace: Professional and Third-Sector Strategies for the Balance of the Century,” in New Perspectives on Jazz (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990), 89–98.
(12.) Philip Larkin, “Jazz as a Way of Life,” in All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961–68 (London: Faber and Faber, 1970), 62.
(13.) The literature on the American New Left is huge. The classic study of the Students for a Democratic Society, the flagship organization of the student New Left, is Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973). There have been excellent studies that place the SDS in the context of liberal Christianity, the burgeoning New Right, the counterculture, and society at large. See Douglas Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); and David Farber, Chicago ’68 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). The best general histories of the New Left are probably Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1987; repr. 1993), and James Miller, Democracy Is in the Streets (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987).
(14.) Industrial Workers of the World, “Resurgent Youth Movement,” pamphlet, Mar. 12, 1967, box 34, New Left Collection, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University. The tension between the New Left and countercultural ends of the Movement spectrum can be traced through successive issues of Ramparts, one of the most important publications of the New Left. See, for example, Joan Holden and R. G. Davis, “Living,” Ramparts 8, no. 2 (August 1969), 63; Joan Holden, “The Wild West Rock Show: Shooting Up a Rock Bonanza,” Ramparts 8, no. 6 (December 1969), 70–76; Ed Leimbacher, “The Crash of the Jefferson Airplane,” Ramparts 8, no. 7 (January 1970), 14–16.
(15.) See, for example, Rolling Stone's front-page polemic against the Yippies and their attempt to recruit rock musicians to their 1968 action in Chicago. Jann Wenner, “Musicians Reject Political Exploiters,” Rolling Stone, May 11, 1968, 1, 22.
(16.) Nelson Barr, “A Bouquet of Fuck Yous,” Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts 5, no. 4 (1963), unpaginated. A good overview of this topic is Doug Rossinow, “The Revolution Is About Our Lives: The New Left's Counterculture,” in Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, eds. Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle (New York: Routledge, 2002), 99–124.
(17.) Laurence Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries: The Rise of the Underground Press (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 13. See also Terry H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
(18.) Chandler Brossard, Who Walk in Darkness (New York: New Directions, 1952), 54.
(19.) Ned Polsky, “The Village Beat Scene: Summer 1960,” in Hustlers, Beats, and Others (Chicago: Aldine, 1967), 163. Dave Van Ronk recalled that “the real Beats liked cool jazz, beebop, and hard drugs, and the folkniks would sit around on the floor and sing songs of the oppressed masses.” Robbie Woliver, Bringing it All Back Home: Twenty-Five Years of American Music at Folk City (New York: Pantheon, 1986), 11–12. See also Ronald Sukenick, Down (p.253) and In: Life in the Underground (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1987), 13. The contrasting cultural politics of bebop and folk music are illustrated in a print exchange between the Village Voice's jazz critic and a folk musician named Piute Pete. Robert Reisner, “Folk Jazz, U.S.A.” Village Voice, Apr. 3, 1957, 8; Piute Pete, letter to the editors, Village Voice, Apr. 17, 1957, 4. As always, there were those who bridged the gaps between adjacent social and artistic circles; among these Ronald Cohen lists John Cohen, the Clancy brothers, Mary Travers, Harry Smith, Izzy Young, and David Amram. Ronald Cohen, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940–1970 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), 108. And throughout the 1950s, John Benson Brooks devoted himself to creating a fusion of jazz and folk music; see Chapter 6. Brooks's album Folk Jazz USA (Vik LX-1083, 1956) and Fred Katz's Folk Songs for Far-Out Folks (Warner Brothers 1277, 1959) both attempt this fusion.
(20.) Suzanne Kiplinger, “This Hip-Historian Knows a Man's Pad Is His Castle,” Village Voice, June 24, 1959, 7. Examples of this criticism from the conservative (or at least “consensus liberal”) point of view are legion; two examples from the Left are David McReynolds, “Youth ‘Disaffiliated’ from a Phony World,” Village Voice, Mar. 11, 1959, 5; and Nicholas Brownrigg's response to LeRoi Jones's writing on Cuba, “Cuba Libre,” Evergreen Review 17 (1961), 126–27.
(21.) For a study of music in the French student protests of May 1968, see Eric Drott, Music and the Elusive Revolution: Cultural Politics and Political Culture in France, 1968–1981 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
(22.) Hobsbawm, “Jazz Since 1960,” 284–85.
(23.) A good introduction to Sinclair may be found in Jeff A. Hale, “The White Panthers’ ‘Total Assault on the Culture,’ ” in Imagine Nation, 125–56.
(24.) John Sinclair, “We Are a People,” in Guitar Army: Street Writings/Prison Writings (New York: Douglas Book, 1972), 223. This theory was arrived at only after tortuous wrangling among the central committee of the White Panther Party, some of which is captured in an unpublished audiotape, “White Panther Party Meeting and Criticism,” unit 1, no. 1, Box 30, John and Leni Sinclair Papers 1957–2003, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
(25.) Tom Hayden, Stew Albert, Judy Clavir, et al., “Berkeley Liberation Program,” leaflet, box 63, folder “Leaflets 1969,” Hardin B. Jones Archive, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University. The Berkeley Liberation Program was first issued in the Berkeley Barb, May 30, 1969, shortly after the People's Park demonstrations in Berkeley. The ideological significance of this imagery is similar to that of the anarchist, socialist, and countercultural signs fitted together into the “Yippie flag” that Abbie Hoffman presumptuously called the “generally agreed upon flag of our nation.” The flag was designed as a red five-pointed star and marijuana leaf on a black background. Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book (New York: Pirate Editions, Grove Press, 1971), 37.
(26.) Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (New York: Random House, 1976), 68.
(28.) Norman Mailer, “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,” in Advertisements for Myself (New York: Putnam, 1959), 339.
(29.) Norman Mailer, “The Hip and the Square,” in Advertisements for Myself, 424–25.
(30.) Elizabeth Hardwick, “The American Woman as Snow-Queen: Our Self-Contemptuous Acceptance of Europe's Myth,” Commentary 12, no. 6 (December 1951), 546–50.
(31.) Greil Marcus, The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes (New York: Picador, 2001), 8.
(32.) Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man,” on Highway 61 Revisited, LP, Columbia CS 9189, 1965.
(33.) John Sinclair modified this interpretation and suggested that Mr. Jones represents someone addicted to “death drugs” (heroin and amphetamines) and mistakenly thinking that he or she is hip. John Sinclair, Guitar Army, 306.
(34.) Bobby Seale recounts the story of Newton's passionate exegesis of this song in Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (New York: Random House, (p.254) 1970), 183–87. The extraordinary Dylan biopic I’m Not There contains a brief scene drawn from this account.
(35.) Nat Hentoff, “Something's Happening and You Don’t Know What It Is Do You, Mr. Jones?” Evergreen Review 10, no. 4 (1966), 54.
(36.) Pauline Kael felt that this dual consciousness was the source of Dylan's sense of humor: “The Bob Dylan [his fans] responded to was a put-on artist. He was derisive, and even sneering, but in the Sixties that was felt to be a way of freaking out those who weren’t worthy of being talked to straight. Implicit in the put-on was the idea that the Establishment was so fundamentally dishonest that dialogue with any of its representatives (roughly, anyone who wore a tie) was debased from the start. And Dylan was a Counterculture hero partly because of the speed and humor of his repartee.” Pauline Kael, “The Calvary Gig,” New Yorker, Feb. 13, 1978, 107–11. Compare this with Jacob Brackman's discussion of put-on humor later in this chapter.
(37.) Yale ’54 [pseud.], letter to “Saloon Society,” Village Voice, Mar. 11, 1959, 12. Jules Feiffer commented on this kind of quasi-anthropological (and sexual) tourism, as he did on almost every other aspect of Village life and its culture. See Jules Feiffer, “Sick, Sick, Sick,” cartoon, Village Voice, Jan. 21, 1959, 4.
(38.) Brossard, Who Walk in Darkness, 65.
(39.) Jay Landesman, Rebel Without Applause (Sag Harbor, NY: Permanent Press, 1987), 86. Broyard's role in Brossard's novel is discussed in Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “White Like Me,” New Yorker, June 17, 1996, 60.
(40.) Kenneth Burke, “Four Master Tropes,” in A Grammar of Motives (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1945), 503–15.
(41.) John Clellon Holmes, “The Name of the Game,” in Passionate Opinions: The Cultural Essays (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988), 54–55.
(42.) Anatole Broyard, “Portrait of the Hipster,” Partisan Review 15, no. 6 (1948), 724.
(43.) Charlie Parker, “Ornithology,” Dial 1002, 1946, 78 rpm recording, reissued on disc 1 of Charlie Parker, The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes, CD, Savoy SVY 17149, 2002.
(44.) André Hodeir, Towards Jazz, trans. Noel Burch (New York: Grove Press, 1962), 181.
(45.) Jay-Z, Decoded (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2011), 12. This kind of friction between flow and beat is a formal or aesthetic point hip-hop and bebop have in common; for an analysis of Blackalicious's “Paragraph President” along similar lines, see Philip Ford, “American Popular Music in the Cold War: The Hip Aesthetic and the Countercultural Idea” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 2003), 307–9.
(46.) Broyard, “Portrait of the Hipster,” 724. Emphasis in the original.
(47.) An episode from Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man muses on this complex perceptual operation: the protagonist describes listening to Louis Armstrong after smoking a reefer and sensing time differently, becoming aware not only of the succession of perceptual moments as they appear to him but of the spaces between them. Stoned, “you slip into the breaks and look around.” Ellison, Invisible Man (New York: Random House, 1952; New York: Vintage, 1995), 8.
(48.) Ross Russell, “Bird and Sartre” manuscript (n.d.), Ross Russell Papers, folder 3, box 13, Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
(49.) Louis Gottlieb, “Why So Sad, Pres?” in The Lester Young Reader, ed. Lewis Porter (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 215–16. Gottlieb, like Fred Katz, was a minor figure who appears everywhere in hip culture. Gottlieb had a Ph.D. in musicology from Berkeley, edited the little magazine Jazz: A Quarterly of American Music, was a comedian and folksinger with the Limeliters, and was the moving spirit behind the Digger commune Morningstar.
(50.) Peter Tamony, “Bessie: Vocumentary,” Jazz: A Quarterly Review of American Music (Fall 1959), 284.
(51.) Philip H. Ennis, The Seventh Stream: The Emergence of Rocknroll in American Popular Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, University Press of New England, 1992), 86.
(52.) Thomas Pynchon, “Entropy,” in Slow Learner (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984), 94–95.
(53.) John Mehegan, letter to the editors, Down Beat, June 13, 1956, 4.
(p.255) (54.) Erle Irons, letter to the editors, Down Beat, Jan. 7, 1960, 8.
(55.) Ross Russell, “The Benedetti Tapes,” typescript, folder 6, box 13 (“Yardbird in Lotusland”), Ross Russell Papers, Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This article has been published in French as Ross Russell, “Yardbird in Lotusland: Les Souvenirs de Ross Russell sur Charlie Parker,” Jazz Hot 255 (November 1969), 22–25. I have used Russell's original typescript as the source for my quotations.
(56.) Charlie Parker, Bird on 52nd Street, LP, Jazz Workshop JWS-501, 1958.
(57.) Russell, “Benedetti Tapes,” 13–14.
(58.) Ross Russell, The Sound (New York: Dutton, 1961), 165.
(59.) Nat Hentoff was particularly vocal about finding a place for jazz in mainstream intellectual life: see Nat Hentoff, “Jazz and the Intellectuals: Somebody Goofed,” Chicago Review 9, no. 3 (1955), 110–21; Hentoff, “Whose Art Form? Jazz at Midcentury,” in Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz by Twelve of the World's Foremost Jazz Critics and Scholars, ed. Nat Hentoff and Albert J. McCarthy (New York: Rinehart, 1959).
(60.) Nat Hentoff, “Lennie Tristano: Multitaping Doesn’t Make Me a Phony,” Down Beat, May 16, 1956, 11.
(61.) William Bruce Cameron, “Sociological Notes on the Jam Session,” Social Forces 33, no. 1 (December 1954), 177–82; Alan P. Merriam and Raymond W. Mack, “The Jazz Community,” Social Forces 38, no. 3 (1960), 211–22; and Howard Becker, “The Professional Dance Musician and His Audience,” American Journal of Sociology 57, no. 2 (1951), 136–44. This last article was republished, in slightly different form, as Howard Becker, “The Culture of a Deviant Group: The Dance Musician,” in Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New York: Free Press, 1963), 79–100.
(62.) Stephen Kercher, Revel with a Cause: Liberal Satire in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 78.
(63.) The topic of sick humor and “sickniks” (sick-joking hipsters) was a journalistic fad of the late 1950s and early 1960s—the same years as the parallel fad for Beatnik stories. See “The Sickniks,” Time, July 13, 1959, 42; Robert Ruark, “Lets Nix the Sickniks,” Saturday Evening Post, June 29–July 6, 1963, 338–39; “Bloody Mary, Anyone?” Time, Oct. 21, 1957, 27; Gerald Walker, “Sick Jokes,” Esquire, December 1957, 151–53; and Gilbert Millstein, “The New Sick and/or Well Comic,” New York Times Magazine, Aug. 7, 1960, 36.
(64.) Jonathan Miller, “The Sick White Negro,” Partisan Review 30, no. 1 (1963), 151.
(65.) Benjamin DeMott, “The New Irony: Sickniks and Others,” American Scholar 31 (Winter 1961–62), 108–19. See also Donald Phelps, “The Muck School,” Kulchur 1, no. 1 (Spring 1960), 11–17.
(66.) Individual exceptions notwithstanding, there is a good deal of sociological evidence that suggests Movement participants were not rebelling against their parents’ politics. Many of them were “red-diaper babies” who sought to honor their parent's radicalism by reinventing it. Rebecca Klatch points out that this is equally true of the young activists in the 1960s New Right: “Rather than a rejection of the older generation, the involvement of the majority of activists of both the left and the right represents an extension of parental beliefs.” Klatch, A Generation Divided, 43. See also Richard Flacks, “The Liberated Generation: An Exploration of the Roots of Student Protest,” Journal of Social Issues 23, no. 3 (1967), 52–75; Steven H. Lewis and Robert E. Kraut, “Correlates of Student Political Activism and Ideology,” Journal of Social Issues 28, no. 4 (1972), 131–49; and James Donovan and Morton Shaevitz, “Student Political Activists: A Typology,” Youth and Society 4, no. 4 (June 1973), 379–411. More generally, the model of generational conflict has proved inadequate to explain the differences in attitude between young people as a whole (not only the radicals) and their parents. See Kent Jennings and Richard Niemi, “Continuity and Change in Political Orientations: A Longitudinal Study of Two Generations,” American Political Science Review 69 (1975), 1316–55.
(67.) Jacob Brackman, The Put-On: Modern Fooling and Modern Mistrust (Chicago: Regnery, 1971), 90.
(69.) Leslie A. Fiedler, “The New Mutants,” Partisan Review 32, no. 4 (1965), 505–25. For an example of this sort of writing from a slightly later time, see Kaiser Aluminum News 27, (p.256) no. 1 (May 1969), a graphically sophisticated publication devoted to analyzing the dawning awareness of the “children of change.” In this context, it is worth noting science fiction's influence on the 1960s counterculture; see especially Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), whose notion of a “homo gestalt”—a mutation that fuses a generation of young people into a collective higher consciousness—was particularly influential.
(70.) Jean Shepherd's monologues provide particularly clear examples of this. See especially Jean Shepherd, “The Night People vs. Creeping Meatballism,” Mad 32 (March–April 1957).
(71.) Those within the 1960s counterculture often contrasted the new rock to older forms of American popular music in such terms; for example, “white American music, in finally discarding its phony tin-pan alley plastic-sugar trip, has exposed the poverty of sensitivity that characterizes this culture.” “Indo-Rock,” P.O. Frisco, Sep. 3, 1966, 8.
(72.) Irving Howe, “Mass Society and Post-Modern Fiction,” Partisan Review 26, no. 3 (1959), 426.
(73.) Marcuse's writing at times showed the influence of the counterculture: “Liberation from the Affluent Society” in To Free a Generation! The Dialectics of Liberation, ed. David Cooper (London: Penguin, 1968) was his contribution to a symposium whose participants included R. D. Laing, Gregory Bateson, Paul Goodman, and Stokely Carmichael. A range of New Left opinion on Marcuse can be sampled in Critical Interruptions: New Left Perspectives on Herbert Marcuse, ed. Paul Breines (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970).
(74.) Although the New Left was originally conceived in reaction to the doctrinaire Marxism of the Popular Front Left, when talk of revolution spread in the late 1960s “no other coherent, integrative, and explicit philosophy of revolution” could be found, and orthodox Marxism made a comeback. Carl Oglesby, “Notes on a Decade Ready for the Dustbin,” Liberation (August–September 1969), 6.
(75.) Even those who did not quite like or understand the new music could sense that bebop demanded understanding as an urgent expression of its times. A cartoon parody of the new bebop hipsters in a 1948 issue of Down Beat makes a joke out of the modernist critical language that works this trope: a rube listens with slack-jawed credulity at a bebopper's put-on, a torrent of modernist clichés (“What's bebop?? Why, man, it's the inevitable! It's a classic protest against the chaos, the desolation, the abject melancholia of our times,” etc.) J. Lee Anderson, “What's Bebop?” cartoon, Down Beat, Apr. 21, 1948, 3. The outstanding discussion of modernism's temporal paradoxes is Matei Calinescu, The Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1987).
(76.) The best-known example of this kind of writing is Gunther Schuller, “Sonny Rollins and the Challenge of Thematic Improvisation,” Jazz Review 1, no. 1 (November 1958), 6–9, 21–22; Sidney Finkelstein, “Inner and Outer Jazz” Jazz Review 2, no. 8 (September 1959), 19–22 considers jazz in terms of Béla Bartók's distinction between parlando-rubato and tempo giusto; George Russell and Martin Williams muse on the parallels between Arnold Schoenberg's break with tonality and Ornette Coleman's free jazz in “Ornette Coleman and Tonality,” Jazz Review 3, no. 5 (June 1960), 7–10; John Benson Brooks (see Chapter 6) contributed a typically gnomic and theoretically dense piece on George Russell's Lydian chromatic concept in Jazz Review 3, no. 2 (February 1960), 38; and these are only four of many possible examples.
(77.) An example of the latter is the television series Jazz Scene U.S.A., in which the hip patter of host Oscar Brown Jr. (notable, among other things, for the genuinely funny hipster spoof “But I Was Cool”) periodically stiffens around Leonard Feather's and John Tynan's didactic scripts. For a study of the role that Jazz Review and similar publications played in jazz's critical discourse, see John Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).
(78.) The most crystalline and epigrammatic expression of this thought may be found in Theodor Adorno, “Finale,” in Minima Moralia, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso, 1978), 247.
(p.257) (79.) Leszek Kolakowski, The Breakdown, vol. 3 of Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origin, Growth, and Dissolution, trans. P. S. Falla (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 489.
(80.) This analysis, though implied or assumed in a wide variety of late-1960s Movement writings, appears to have crystallized within the New York anarchist group Up Against The Wall Motherfucker. See especially “Up Against the Wall Mother Fucker,” in Ron Hahne, Ben Morea, et al., Black Mask and Up Against the Wall/Motherfucker: The Incomplete Works of Ron Hahne, Ben Morea and the Black Mask Group (London: Unpopular Books and Sabotage Editions, 1993), 97–107. A more systematic exposition of these ideas may be found in Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (Berkeley, CA: Ramparts Press, 1971). Again, there is a fine line between science fiction and social theory: see Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren (New York: Bantam, 1975), in which the anarchic labyrinth city of Bellona offers a thrilling and dangerous post-scarcity landscape to those brave or crazy enough to make it their home.
(81.) Jon Weiner, Come Together: John Lennon in His Time (New York: Random House, 1984), 107–9.
(82.) Julian Beck, “The Seven Lamps of Architecture,” in The Life of the Theater (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1972), essay no. 71 (unpaginated).
(83.) Bill Gottlieb, “Six Arrangers Examine Modern Art,” Down Beat, Mar. 26, 1947, 2.
(84.) Dough for the Do-Do is a remake of Porky in Wackyland (1938), which likewise associated modernist imagery with jazz but in an earlier idiom.
(85.) LeRoi Jones, Blues People: Negro Music in White America (New York: Morrow, 1963), 207.
(86.) Ed Bland's film The Cry of Jazz (1959) makes a similarly Adornian argument: the social limitations placed on African Americans are intimately linked to jazz's musical organization (the chorus form and the changes), while resistance against limitation, “the Negro's eternal recreation of the present,” is likewise manifest in improvisation, swing, and sound. See also Ed Bland, “On ‘The Cry of Jazz,’ ” Film Culture 21 (Summer 1960), 28–32.
(87.) Jones, Blues People, 200.
(88.) He may have had a point. Some early rock writing suggested that rock released white youth from its dependency on black music; Ralph Gleason, for one, gloated that white people no longer needed black music to be hip. Ralph Gleason, “Like a Rolling Stone,” American Scholar 36, no. 4 (Autumn 1967), 555–63. Jones, writing as Amiri Baraka, outlined this critique in his one-act play “Rockgroup,” a grotesque parody of the Beatles (renamed “The Crackers”). Amiri Baraka, “Rockgroup,” The Cricket 1 (1969), 41–43.
(89.) Beck, “Seven Lamps of Architecture.”
(90.) Morton Feldman, “Mr. Schuller's History Lesson,” review of Twentieth Century Innovations: Prime Movers, by Gunther Schuller, Kulchur 3, no. 9 (1963), 88. A rather more sympathetic (and fascinatingly detailed) document of this concert is Martin Williams, “Rehearsal Diary,” Evergreen Review 31 (October–November 1963), 115–27.
(91.) The literary journal Tri-Quarterly published a special issue on little magazines that contains a great deal of information on the interlocking hip literary circles that created Kulchur and other similar publications; see especially Lita Hornick, “Kulchur: A Memoir,” Tri-Quarterly 43 (Fall 1978), 281–97; and Gilbert Sorrentino, “Neon, Kulchur, etc.,” Tri-Quarterly 43 (Fall 1978), 299–316.
(92.) Ben Morea, “Culture and Revolution,” Black Mask no. 8 (October/November 1967), reprinted in Black Mask and Up Against the Wall/Motherfucker, 50. Avant-garde composer Henry Flynt held a similar view; see Ben Piekut, “Demolish Serious Culture! Henry Flynt Meets the New York Avant-Garde,” in Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant Garde and Its Limits (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 65–101.
(93.) Hilton Kramer, “Modernism and Its Enemies,” New Criterion 4, no. 7 (March 1986), 7.
(94.) Thomas Albright, “Visuals,” Rolling Stone, Apr. 27, 1968, 14.
(96.) Ronald Sukenick, Down and In, 221.
(97.) Sinclair's changing opinions can be gauged from reading through successive issues of the underground newspapers that published his columns: Fifth Estate, Guerilla, and the Ann Arbor Sun. In 1966 he still championed Archie Shepp and Sun Ra over rock. In one column by another music critic, Rob Tyner of the MC5 responded to Sinclair in one-upping, (p.258) asymmetrical-consciousness terms: Franklin Bach, “Bach on Rock,” Fifth Estate Oct. 16–31, 1966, p. 12. Sinclair later pinned his hopes for rock revolution on the MC5; the story of Sinclair's relationship with the MC5 is told in David A. Carson, Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock’n’Roll (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005).
(98.) Greil Marcus, “Who Put the Bomp in the Bomp De-bomp De-bomp”? in Rock and Roll Will Stand (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 8.
(99.) This question remains unanswered in broader debates about postmodernism's relationship to its modernism more generally. The literature on this topic is large. Perhaps the best is Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991). Other influential studies include Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, trans. Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987); Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986); and Calinescu, The Five Faces of Modernity. An illuminating primary document of the moment that “postmodernism” began appearing in musicological discussion is the debate between Gary Tomlinson and Lawrence Kramer, which circled around issues of how residues of modernism could be found in apparently postmodernist music scholarship: Gary Tomlinson, “Musical Pasts and Postmodern Musicologies: A Response to Lawrence Kramer,” Current Musicology 53 (1993), 18–24; Lawrence Kramer, “Music Criticism and the Postmodernist Turn: In Contrary Motion with Gary Tomlinson,” Current Musicology 53 (1993), 25–35; and Gary Tomlinson, response to Lawrence Kramer, Current Musicology 53 (1993), 36–40. A good anthology on music and postmodernism is Joseph Auner and Judith Lochhead, eds., Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought (London: Routledge, 2002).
(100.) Daniel Bell's writing on 1960s aesthetics defined the first of these positions; intellectual rock critics like Richard Meltzer and Greil Marcus have tended toward the latter ones. See Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 1976; repr. 1996), 120–45; Richard Meltzer, The Aesthetics of Rock (New York: Something Else Press, 1970); Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989). Bernard Gendron offers a solid overview of how critics positioned the Beatles within the discourse of modernism; see Bernard Gendron, Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 161–224.
(101.) Evan Ziporyn, “Who Listens If You Care,” New Observations 86 (1991), 25–28; reprinted in Oliver Strunk, ed., The Twentieth Century, vol. 7 of Source Readings in Music History, ed. Robert P. Morgan (New York: Norton, 1998), 43. This was an insight with wide application. Glenn Gould was interested in how the world archive of recordings spanned not only space but time; modern performers, challenged by a vastly expanded repertory, were in a position to incorporate the insights afforded by a number of musical eras into a mosaic kind of performance practice (though Gould did not quite put it this way). Glenn Gould, “The Prospects of Recording,” High Fidelity 16, no. 4 (April 1966), 46–63, reprinted in The Glenn Gould Reader, ed. Tim Page (Toronto: Lester, Orpyn and Dennys, 1984).
(102.) Theodore Gracyk, Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996).
(103.) Chester Anderson, “Notes for the New Geology,” San Francisco Oracle 6 (February 1967), 2.
(104.) Louis Forsdale, “Marshall McLuhan and the Rules of the Game,” in Marshall McLuhan: The Man and His Message, ed. George Sanderson and Frank MacDonald (Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1989), 170.
(105.) Anderson, “Notes for the New Geology,” 23. One small example of McLuhan's pervasive influence will have to stand in for a comprehensive account, which demands a book of its own. In 1967, McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore created a radically mosaic précis of his ideas, in which words and images shared a fluid space unbound by the traditional design grammar of the printed book. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (New York: Bantam, 1967). This book inspired an entire subgenre of books that sought to capture something of the dynamic flux (p.259) of the electronic media environment. Examples include Jerry Rubin, Do It: Scenarios of the Revolution (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970); Abbie Hoffman, Woodstock Nation: A Talk-Rock Album (New York: Vintage, 1969); R. Buckminster Fuller, I Seem to Be a Verb (New York: Bantam, 1970). Inevitably, there were also books that sought to capture the mosaic quality of rock in the mosaic form of the McLuhanesque experimental book: John Sinclair, Guitar Army; and Jamake Hightower, Rock and Other Four Letter Words: Music of the Electric Generation (New York: Bantam, 1968). An excellent study of this phenomenon is Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Adam Michaels, The Electric Information Age Book: McLuhan/Agel/Fiore and the Experimental Paperback (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012).
(106.) McLuhan's notions of secondary orality, even in Walter Ong and Eric Havelock's more respectable formulations, are far from uncontroversial. Jonathan Sterne suggests that Ong and McLuhan, both of whom were staunchly Catholic, privileged auditory over visual perception for religious reasons: both imagined a community of faith renewed through the intimacies of sound. Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 15–16. Stephen Feld has argued that orality does not determine consciousness; Steven Feld, “Orality and Consciousness,” in The Oral and the Literate in Music, ed. Yosihiko Tokumaru and Osamu Yamaguti (Tokyo: Academia Music, 1986), 18–28. McLuhan's notions of “eye dominance” or “ear dominance” have long persisted in sound studies but are felt to be less and less useful: see Veit Erlmann, “But What of the Ethnographic Ear? Anthropology, Sound, and the Senses,” in Hearing Cultures, ed. Veit Erlmann (Oxford: Berg, 2004), 1–20.
(107.) The story of how French critical theory grew out of an academic-countercultural milieu is ably told in François Cusset, French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States, trans. Jeff Fort (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2008).
(108.) This is a simplified and condensed version of Ihab Hassan's table of oppositions in the widely read postscript to The Dismemberment of Orpheus, 2nd ed. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 267–68.
(109.) Anderson, “Notes for the New Geology,” 2.
(112.) Norman Mailer, “Reflections on Hip,” correspondence between Mailer Ned Polsky, in Advertisements for Myself, 369–71.
(113.) Lawrence Lipton, The Holy Barbarians (New York: Julian Messner, 1959), 213.
(114.) Seymour Krim thought that, except for the “tooting of his own uncool horn,” Lipton was true to the Beat outlook; if anything, Krim faults the book for failing to convey the urgency of Beat rebellion. Seymour Krim, review of “The Holy Barbarians,” by Lawrence Lipton, Evergreen Review 3, no. 9 (1960), 208–9. According to Ginsberg, though, Kerouac hated the book's quasi-Marxist notion of hip rebellion: Sukenick, Down and In, 114.
(115.) Allen Ginsberg, unpublished notebook 50-01 (c. 1950–1952), box 4, series 2, Allen Ginsberg Papers, Stanford University Special Collections, 129.
(116.) See, for example, Orrin Keepnews, review of The Horn, by John Clellon Holmes, Jazz Review 1, no 1 (1958), 42–43. Some poets made similar complaints; Kenneth Rexroth, one of the first to read his poems to jazz, complained that the Beats saw jazz only as “savage jungle drums and horns blowing up a storm around the flickering fire while the missionary soup comes to a boil.” Kenneth Rexroth, “Revolt: True and False,” Nation, Apr. 26, 1958, 378.
(117.) Morris Dickstein, Leopards in the Temple: The Transformation of American Fiction, 1945–1970 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 86–87; W. T. Lhamon, Jr., Deliberate Speed: The Origins of a Cultural Style in the American 1950s (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990); Daniel Belgrad, The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); and Lewis MacAdams, Birth of the Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant-Garde (New York: Free Press, 2001).
(p.260) (118.) Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 26.
(119.) Elizabeth Von Vogt, 681 Lexington Avenue: A Beat Education in New York City 1947–1954 (Wooster, OH: Ten O’Clock Press, 2008), 22.
(120.) Ellison argues that no performer can escape entertainment's imperative to self-creation: “Whatever his style, the performing artist remains an entertainer, even as Heifetz, Rubinstein or young Glenn Gould.” Ralph Ellison, “On Bird, Bird-Watching and Jazz,” The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison, ed. John F. Callahan (New York: Modern Library, 2003), 260. I discuss this idea at greater length in “Ellington the Entertainer: Prophetic History on Film,” in Ellington Studies, ed. John Howland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
(121.) Michael Szalay, Hip Figures: A Literary History of the Democratic Party (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 8.
(122.) For an example of the view of hipness as mere fashion, see Barry Ulanov, “Morality and Maturity” part 2, Metronome (June 1953), 20.
(123.) Kenneth Burke, “Four Master Tropes,” A Grammar of Motives (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1945), 513.
(124.) Ken Nordine, Fred Katz, and Jim Cunningham, Word Jazz, LP, Dot DLP 3075, 1957.
(125.) The best single document of Dylan's mastery of the art of the put-on is D. A. Pennebaker's documentary Don’t Look Back (1967), and particularly the painful and protracted scene in which Dylan deploys his well-honed rhetoric of asymmetrical consciousness to eviscerate a “science student” (Terry Ellis).
(126.) Fred Katz, liner notes for Word Jazz.
(127.) Bob Rolontz, “Whatever Became of Jazz and Poetry?,” Jazz Review 2, no. 2 (February 1959), 27; Don Gold, review of a live Word Jazz performance with Ken Nordine, Bob Gibson, and Dick Campbell, Down Beat, 31 October 1957, 37–38.
(128.) See Kevin Holm-Hudson, ed., Progressive Rock Reconsidered (New York: Routledge, 2002); Edward Macan, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Paul Stump, The Music's All That Matters: A History of Progressive Rock (London: Quartet Books, 1997); individual essays in Expression in Pop-Rock Music, ed. Walter Everett (New York: Garland, 2000); and Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis, eds. John Covach and Graeme M. Boone (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
(129.) Lester Bangs, “Of Pop and Pies and Fun,” Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, ed. Greil Marcus (New York: Knopf, 1987), 43.
(130.) Dave Hickey, “The Delicacy of Rock-and-Roll,” in Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997), 101.
(131.) See Richard Middleton, “Rock Singing,” in The Cambridge Companion to Singing, ed. John Potter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 28–41.
(132.) Gary Snyder at the 1967 Human Be-In, quoted in Allen J. Matusow, The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), 276.
(133.) I use the capitalized Word to distinguish the concept of the embodied word of oral communication from the typographic word. This distinction is suggested in Leo Treitler's interpretation of the first Book of John: “In the beginning was the Word…And the Word was with God…And the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh.” Treitler notes that “the beginning of any meditation on the conception behind these mysterious phrases must be the recognition that they reflect the thought of an oral culture, a culture in which the word can only be embodied, i.e. through sound, where, therefore it must be far more natural to think of an identity between the word and a human being, than in our culture, where the word can be fixed on the page or computer monitor and possessed by making a Xerox copy of it or covering it with a yellow marker.” Leo Treitler, “Orality and Literacy in the Music of the European Middle Ages,” in The Oral and the Literate in Music, 38.
(134.) Simon Frith, “Why Do Songs Have Words?” in Music for Pleasure: Essays in the Sociology of Pop (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988), 120.
(135.) Gitlin, The Sixties, 201.
(p.261) (136.) Douglas Kahn, “Introduction: Histories of Sound Once Removed,” in Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde, ed. Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 5.
(137.) Eric Havelock, “Radio and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric,” in The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986), 31.
(138.) The classic study of the Chicago protests is David Farber, Chicago ’68 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), a work that does justice to the idea of participation peculiar to Movement politics.
(139.) Timothy Leary, “How Merry Jerry's Yip Stopped the War,” Berkeley Barb, May 31–June 6, 1968, 17.
(140.) As Eric Hobsbawm notes, one of the truly remarkable things about the new countercultural style of the 1960s was its self-conscious internationalism. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914–1991 (New York: Pantheon, 1994), 326–27.
(141.) John Benson Brooks, notebook entry Feb. 17, 1967, John Benson Brooks Collection, Institute of Jazz Studies Archive, Rutgers University at Newark.