Interview of Baker B. by Willie [omit last name] (Charleston, SC December 2000)
BEGINNING OF SIDE TWO.
Willie: Okay, we’re back with Baker B. discussing his fictional work “Jordan’s Rule.” So Baker, we’re at the point where you want to discuss the genesis of this work.
Baker. Quite right. Well, let me get my bearings (takes another sip of coffee). Our emails, the bulk of which came in the Spring & Summer of this year–there’s no need to go into the details of these emails, but in rereading these recently, in attempting to complete the final post of “Jordan’s Rule,” the 10th post anyway, I detected a soft spot in the correspondence where a peak of inversions seemed to be taking place.
Willie: What do you mean by inversions?
Baker: Let’s say that our interests–your interests seem to be pulling one way, as recorded in these email dialogues, and mine almost the opposite way. What I perceived–and I wrote this opinion to you in another email at the same time that, for some reason, was not sent correctly and didn’t get to you…
Baker: …was that we appeared to be on two sides of a wave, like opposite points on a sine wave almost. It was just something I saw at that time. I think particularly of a discussion we had concerning the Jordan short experiments you were beginning at that time.
Willie: Can you explain these…I’ll fill in if I perceive a hole.
Baker: Sure, I’ll try. In a tape I sent you, I included almost all of the Jordan shorts videotape, a copy of the tape that is. You chose to use these shorts in synchronizing experiments of your own, specifically with the music of The Tragically Hip, which is an REM-style Canadian band I guess you could call it.
Willie: *They* wouldn’t like to be called that, but the description fits somewhat so let’s go on.
Baker: Anyway, you’re very involved with this band, and obviously jumped at the chance to create synchronicities with their music, esp. since their Men@Work album had just been released.
Willie: In June of 2000 correct.
Baker: The particular song which seemed to you to speak about the Jordan material most was “Tiger the Lion,” the second song off this work, specifically some lines the band quotes from the writing of experimental composer John Cage, who had recently died as I understand it. And these lines, paraphrasing, discuss how the art of our time doesn’t seem to mesh with life, and that we should simply wake to our lives to find true art. Is this correct?
Willie: Again, more or less. Proceed.
Baker: I guess you saw an application of this to what you perceived as the chaotic images in Jordan’s animations, which appeared without rhyme or reason to you I guess you could say. If I’m reading this correct, the random images struck you as the purposeless play–I forgot to
mention that in the Hip lyrics, that modern art, according to Cage, is a purposeless play which is disconnected with life. At least this is what Hip *could* be construed as having said.
Baker: As Jordan is what you could call modern art, which seemed to have no purpose, I guess the refrains echoing that you should “simply wake to your life” are a criticism of sorts re Jordan’s fantasy. Reality and fantasy remain separate, as Cage’s art and life remain separate. Jordan’s animations are a dream–needed to be awaken from. I guess it is a critical comment about me in a way, since I was so involved with Jordan’s animation, put them at the top of my art–they *ruled* in other words. In looking back on it, I’d say that the whole of my “Jordan’s Rule” is a reaction to this slightly veiled–I don’t want to call it attack, but pointed opinion? It’s hard to judge exactly what it is.
Willie: Go on.
Baker: At the time, I don’t think I exactly got what you were trying to say. I should add here that the process for creating the synchronicity between “Tiger the Lion” and the Jordan animation you chose to synch it to–the first of your Jordan-Hip experiments–was that the two simply timed out about the same–you picked the song because it had about the same timing as the animation short.
Baker: The Jordan short is, by the way, “Gymnopedies,” the second short on the corresponding Jordan videotape, with a total of about 10 short animations total on the tape.
Willie: So how did this lead into “Jordan’s Rule?” I guess the obvious thing was that you were defending Jordan from my perceived attacks, which weren’t really intended as attacks but you took them in that way, as you’re stating now.
Baker: I see them more as attacks *now,* in retrospect. At the time I was trying to disentangle what I thought was your logic in creating this overlap. I also know that some of it probably is an attempt at winning me over to the Hip; this can be determined from your other efforts at doing the same, discussing them in emails, and so on.
Willie: Yeah, that played a part, obviously. I thought in combining them with the Jordan shorts that you’d pay them more attention, that in juxtaposing something that you value with something I value, that it would make the thing I like stand out more. This is the main reason I created these, if memory serves. The part about the John Cage inspired lyrics going with what I perceived as Jordan’s purposeless play was simply a way to get into the project, which ran several more songs, about 4 if I remember correctly. But the juxtaposings were just thrown together–the equal timing thing as you pointed out. There was not a lot of thought put into any of the project. But go on.
Baker: Yeah, I understand that part. Or most of it. Now to the actual genesis of “Jordan’s Rule.” I must admit, though, I was just a little, a little (indicts a little space between fingers) put off by the fact that you blocked out Jordan’s chosen music, Erik Satie, when you created the “Tiger the Lion” overlay of “Gymnopedies.” I wasn’t put off–that’s too strong of a phrase–I was confused as to your motives.
Willie: I’ve told you my motives. And I told you then if I remember correctly. They’re not that complicated.
Baker: Well, let me just jump to the door. Let’s say that these inversions, the inversions between our ideas at that time…
Willie: Let me just say that I didn’t see these inversions…
Baker:…Okay, granted, but from *my* perspective, and as I’ve reinforced it through examining our emails just recently, these inversions built a sort of wall between us, or, perhaps better, made us *aware* of this wall. Another way to see it is the wave analogy gone into earlier, and that we exist–our creativities exist–on opposite sides of a wave. What “Jordan’s Rule” is an attempt to do is to bridge the two sides of the wave, to create a synthesis, or at least to clarify the differences.
Willie: This wall that you perceived–could it be that I was simply forcing my ideas on you too fast? This was what I picked up at a certain point. I remember you using the term wall in saying that you couldn’t get into the Hip, that it wasn’t your style of music, and lets, quote unquote, just put up a wall there. This seems to be coming from *your* direction. I didn’t say anything about putting up a wall from my direction.
Baker: My perception, though, is that you had, in a way, overrun Jordan’s animations, conquered it almost, by overlaying your own favorite on top of what Jordan chose for his animation. Let’s leave it at that, disentangle or disconnect ourselves from this abstract idea, and go on.
Willie: Okay, I disagree with that but let’s move on.
Baker: At a certain point, this wall which represents our inversions, our inability to connect with each other because we were spinning, so to speak, in opposite directions, or were at right angles with each other, seem to provide a door within itself, or a door appeared in the wall that seemed to lead to the next creative thing, beyond the inversion, which were simply canceled out energies and not fruitful themselves. This door had been prepared by my “Booker T. Archive”–I had projected a post called “The Door” for several months in the final tier of the BTA, although I didn’t know what form it would take. I must add that this represents the end of the BTA, this door I mean, and, as it turned out, the beginning of “Jordan’s Rule.”
Willie: Describe this perceived door then.
Baker: The door, as I see it now, is some kind of pointilistic black hole, an energy warp, which revolves around itself continually, giving out no light. I’m waxing poetic here, forgive me, but I’m trying to rationalize, or illuminate, something that, of itself, doesn’t desire illumination it seems. From the *other* side, “Jordan’s Rule,” I can talk more assuredly.
Willie: Let me help you out here then. I believe you described this door, or this black hole, as a game of rock-paper-scissors, an interesting concept I thought when you first mentioned it but one that went, admittedly, way over my head. Now it turns out you don’t know what it means yourself. Am I picking up on this correctly?
Baker: Well, let me put it this way, and thanks for reminding me of that analogy. Let’s say that you used the Hip as paper, covering the rock, Satie, in terms of the music, chosen music, for Jordan’s short “Gymnopedies.” Rock covers paper, thus eliminating it or de-energizing it. The irony, or *synchronicity* as I guess you could call it, was that you used a quote, or several quotes, by John Cage, as sung by the Tragically Hip, to cover Satie. The purposeless play, what you perceived as Jordan’s animations, without rhyme or reason as far as patternings go, is solved by waking to our lives. Life over art. My argument is that wasn’t what John Cage was exactly talking about, and the irony is that Satie was greatly championed by Cage as an example of music of the past that better emulated the truth of life by being based more upon time than structure, allowing the music to breathe and accept life instead of blocking it out, as, say, Beethoven would. This is in Cage’s own opinion–Satie was a more true musician because he based his music on both sound and silence, while Beethoven’s was based on sound, a sound structure–without the ability to accept life because it was solid, a solid structure. Satie’s structure was porous, in contrast. So, bottom line, a dichotomy seemed to be implied by this overlay of Satie with Hip, because Satie embodies, according to Cage, the life affirming aspects of music that almost all other musicians, at the time of Cage’s quote and I think this was around the 40s or 50s if I’m correct–didn’t have. Satie *did* wake to his life through his music, and allowed it to enter the creative process. You used the Tragically Hip to cover a music, Satie’s, that was one of the very few examples, and perhaps the best example at the time Cage composed the statements that they used as lyrics, of life *affirming* art, music in this case. A dichotomy is created, which I found very interesting– and it created for me, after I had gone through this perceived door, a door in the inversions, a large assortment of connected ideas just on the other side of the door.
Willie: Okay, I admit I’m totally confused. I don’t see how this has to do with us, with me and you and our perceived inversions which I don’t see in the first place.
Baker: Well, to complete the game of rock, paper, scissors perhaps, Cage would represent the scissors. If Hip is the paper which you use to cover the rock–Satie–then Cage is the scissors which are beaten or shaped by the rock. Satie inspired Cage to change his own music to life affirming and not art affirming, beyond the art for art’s sake kind of idea. Through Satie, Cage saw his own music as being influenced by this structural past, and he didn’t like it. Satie sent a resonation through Cage’s music, separating the wheat from the chafe. Anyway Cage’s music was profoundly affected and changed by Satie, and this led to the Cage quotes that Hip used in their music. So, I guess to complete this analogy, Cage would be the scissors that would cut the paper, making it impossible to cover the rock, Satie. Cage would disagree, I think, in making Satie the object of an attack about art and life, the separation of art from life. Satie would represent the *total opposite* for Cage, and thus I think he would be the scissors that cut the paper. This is the actual beginning of “Jordan’s Rule,” when the cycle turns back on itself and Cage cuts the paper. Symbolically this would be dividing Tiger and Lion at the hip. If we see the paper as the title “Tiger the Lion,” or the title of the song written on the paper–which I see as black for some reason, Cage cutting the paper in two would separate the two words from each other, “Tiger and Lion,” which would create the beginning of “Jordan’s Rule.”
Willie: May I say, with all respect Baker, that’s one of the most convoluted things I’ve ever heard in my life! How you got that from me merely playing a song to a piece of animation I don’t know. Now I understand why I don’t understand “Jordan’s Rules” as a whole. It is built upon sand…no, I won’t say that. Did I say that? What I meant, in all due respect, really this time, is that it’s all flying over my head. I was just joking about the sand. But it *seems* that it doesn’t make sense. Surely you see that in your all knowing wisdom.
Baker: Perhaps it will become more clear if we discuss “Jordan’s Rule” within the context of this hypothetical game, the paper, rock and scissors. Let me say that although I see Cage cutting the paper, separating Tiger and Lion, that this cutting, in effect does not take place, or it takes place in a split second that instantly vanishes. The whole of “Jordan’s Rule,” in this way, is unreal, a dream. Cage cannot logically cut the paper that is to be placed over Satie, for this would, in effect, make the initial action that set off the chain of actions in our rock, paper, scissors game unreal. But, at the same time, it seems to negate the idea that the paper was ever placed over the rock in the first place. The whole scene seems to be one of stasis, with the paper hovering expectantly over the rock which is, in turn, dropping, but not having crushed the scissors, which is, in turn, ready to cut the paper. The whole chain of events closes in on itself to create a giant zero, where, to ordinary perceptions, absolutely nothing takes place. Thus the black hole effect, and perhaps the door effect I spoke of. I have a hard time getting around this concept myself, but its just something that I noticed, and I think, has a good deal of importance, especially to our understanding of each other. See it as a message, delivered by unknown hands, to resolve a conflict. An unexpected message, containing a profoundly simply, but still hard to understand meaning. A mea>
Willie: (deep breath) Okay, I don’t think we need to speak about this further. Maybe clarification will come when you tell how this began the actual *writing* part of “Jordan’s Rule.” The first post takes place at a concert. If I remember correctly, John Cage is on this stage, with a tiger and a lion with him–he’s playing the piano if I’m remembering correctly. And in the audience is you, or your character, baker that is, and he is talking to Darwin. Okay, explain please.
Baker: The paper-rock-scissors game I was explaining manifests directly in this first post. You have John Cage on stage, and what he is playing is a piece called “Vexations” by Erik Satie. “Vexations” is perhaps the epitome of what Cage valued in Satie’s music, the ability to let life into art. The piece, which I believe Cage discovered himself, is, in itself, a 3 minute piece composed of about 30 simple chords. The unique thing about the piece is that Satie instructed, on the music sheets Cage found, that it be played *840* times in succession. While some took this as a joke on part of the fun loving Satie, or what they perceived to be his humorous side–or buffoonish side even, viewing it in a derogatory sense–Cage took the instructions quite seriously. Already being familiar with other pieces of Satie, among which included “Furniture Music,” or the original ambience music or elevator music, Satie…or Cage, I’m sorry, perhaps better understood what Satie was aiming at. Cage believed Satie was aiming for the elimination of art or music, and the revealment, in this zeroing out if you will, of life itself that, in essence, can be seen to lie all around music, or what we take as music. Music or art is an island in life, or it can be seen in that way. This is what Cage saw I think. Around the late 40s, when, among other discoveries, Cage found the “Vexations” piece and its enigmatic instructions of playing, he was just beginning to see this, and Satie helped wedge the door open for him. So, on stage in the first post of “Jordan’s Rule” you have Cage near the beginning of Vexations,” on repetition 9 of 840 as the writing begins. And on stage with him you have the Tiger and Lion–the Hungry Tiger and Cowardly Lion of Oz –joined at the hip. This obviously represents the music of the Hip, or the song “Tiger the Lion” from the Hip. In effect, the playing of “Vexations” by Cage will gradually have the effect of separating Tiger from Lion at the Hip–this is the act of cutting the paper–Cage cutting the Hip paper we mentioned before. Because “Vexations” reaffirms life over art by repetition, ridiculous repetition, where it, in effect, negates itself. And this is tied into a very important piece by John Cage himself called “4’33″” which is a somewhat more open form of negation. I can explain this piece as well, but it may be too confusing here.
Willie: Go ahead. This is very interesting, although very complicated. I had no idea honestly.
Baker: It gets a little more complicated even in its utter simplicity. The piece I’m leaving out is that all this action in the 1st post takes place in Black Mountain, North Carolina. It’s not mentioned in “Jordan’s Rules” per se but it’s implied that’s where the action is taking place.
Willie: You’ve mentioned Black Mountain in some of your emails, and how Cage put on a Satie commemorative concert there. I assume this has something to do with removing the paper from the rock again.
Baker: Correct. Before Cage’s Satie tribute concert, the composer, Satie that is, was languishing in the musical backwater of the modern world. Cage’s concert almost singlehandedly, as I understand, resurrected the French composer’s oeuvre as pertinent to the post-war musical era. He fit into the idea of art-as-life that Cage was just beginning to realize himself through his own music.
Willie: Okay, we haven’t covered the time piece Cage created.
Baker: “4’33″” yes. Well it is notorious, one of the most famous musical pieces of the 20th Century, and it was composed, or was directly seeded, we can say, by another contact of Cage’s at Black Mountain, occurring, actually, a few summers after the Satie concert. This was Cage’s reaction to Robert Rauschenberg’s so-called white paintings, Rauschenberg being a very famous artist in his own right, or becoming a famous artist anyway. The white paintings were just that–paintings, or canvases, covered totally in white paint. Nothing more. It was the zero effect in art, reducing it to nothing, and allowing life, as it were, to creep back in. If art is reduced to zero, what you begin to notice, by default, is the life surrounding the art. Life collapses into the art, filling it up…the shadows of real things across the white canvas; the images of life, for example the studio floor and walls; and the canvas holder, around the blank painting. Inspired by this, Cage created the same thing in art. The piano piece “4’33″” is simply a pianist sitting at a piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, without playing a single note. As you can imagine this caused quite an uproar in musical circles, most of which was very unfavorable. It was called non-art; a joke; nothing. But what Cage did was reduce music to the zero point and allowed life back in. Cage said that he thought of this piece when beginning any of the musical works he created afterwards. It was his most important work, as he described it. It was a zero point of not only Cage’s work, but of the music world at large. Cage sitting at the piano at the beginning of “Jordan’s Rule” would automatically evoke this work to the knowing reader, but in reality it is substituted by the similar “Vexations” which is also a negation in a very real way. Are you with me on this point.
Willie: Alright, we have the zeroing out of art at the beginning of “Jordan’s Rule.” Cage at the piano, playing, in effect nothing, letting life become art and visa versa. And this has what to do with the tiger and lion beneath him? They are joined…at the hip. This is the paper and Cage is the scissors. What causes this cutting of the paper, the division of Tiger and Lion?
Baker: Perhaps this is what you don’t want to see. You don’t see any reason for Tiger the Lion *not* to be superimposed upon Satie’s music in Jordan’s short because you can’t see the third force at work, the scissors, or John Cage. Cage is the key here. And Cage is very important to the film/album synchronicity field I feel, which we are, perhaps, the two major proponents of. The healing of our division is hinged upon knowing why Cage cuts the paper, making your act, in effect, negated. Art does affirm life in this way, without the need to alter Jordan’s animation. The title “Jordan’s Rule” reaffirms that Jordan’s work stands well on its on, better on its on, because Satie was chosen by Jordan for those life affirming energies that you deny, through your interpretation of the Hip lyrics, that he has. “Jordan’s Rule” is a prying apart of Hip from Jordan, by separating the two elements, Lion and Tiger, of Hip. Cage cuts these apart, but Cage is resonating from Satie, the life affirming resonation and seeing that life surrounds art and interpenetrates it. The zeroing out effect again. Simply by being on stage and playing “Vexations,” reaffirming Satie and his importance to life-as-art movement, separates Tiger and Lion and makes the covering of Satie a nonnecessity. This is what “Jordan’s Rule” is all about Willie.
Willie: Well I’m saturated by all this, unable to take it all in admittedly. Perhaps we should simply return to the structure of “Jordan’s Rule” itself. The third story, this Hitchcock-twins story. I believe it has the blue background in the posts themselves, is that correct?
Willie: I find them somehow disconnected to the two other stories. Can you justify their inclusion into “Jordan’s Rule” at this point?
Baker: The Hitchcock stories are justified if you see that the Cage concert takes place in Black Mountain, North Carolina, with the playing of “Vexations” there. This is artistic liberty, but I don’t want to go into that just now–just throwing that out for interested parties. The Hitchcock posts, in effect, are taking place upon the same ground, in the same valley, that baker and Darwin enter after they leave the concert. I might add here that “Vexations” and its 840 repetitions, frame the whole of “Jordan’s Rule.” One can say it begins at the first playing and ends at the 840th. I will also add that the analogy of Cage cutting the paper, the Hip paper, comes about through three corruptions. These corruptions effectively divide the paper first in two, then four parts, then, finally, eight parts. These corruptions are represented, in “Jordan’s Rule,” by the four Tobacco Road schools of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that is; North Carolina State, in Raleigh; then Wake Forest; then Duke. Mention is made to each of these schools, or symbols for these schools, during the journey of baker and Darwin from the Cage concert into the valley, ending inside the Moon where the fourth corruption, Duke, is encountered. These corruptions are encountered in the order that I’ve listed them. They are the same as the Circle of Floyd corruptions mentioned in “The Booker T. Archive.” They are the structure upon which I hinged the entire “Jordan’s Rule” upon, the slow cutting of the paper which, miraculously, at the end, cancels itself out when the paper is cut from 4 pieces to eight pieces which then turn back into one, as if the action never had taken place.
Willie: Baker, I must admit I’m getting a little tired. Perhaps the caffeine has taken your brain beyond mine but I’m just not soaking this in any more. Tell you what–give me some notes and I’ll study them and then we can talk again tomorrow night. Perhaps we should just take in some sites tomorrow, talk about comedy, view some comedy. Get away from gravity if you see what I mean. This stuff is deep, and I’m fearing another entrance into the deep side of the pool, which may be insanity or not, depending on your viewpoint. This is not saying anything about *your* sanity mind you, just how it can be taken. Let’s analyze it tomorrow and decide whether we can proceed further with the interview. It’s not that I’m not interested, I didn’t expect this quagmire of ideas inside the glossy outer surface. I mean what is the point of this created labyrinth? Where does it end; do you get out? That’s the type of questions running through my mind at this point. The whole purpose of the structure.
Baker: It may be that we can’t get to that point. The ideas may be endless!
Willie: That’s what I’m afeared of. The bottomless hole. Or pool I guess.
Baker: Well, that’s in the story too.
Willie: Of course it is. I guess this is goodnight then for now. Are you game for a little stronger drink now. I’ve got the next Space Ghost tape (waves it teasingly in front of Baker’s eyes).
Baker: Now *that’s* the deepest stuff I’ve ever seen! So deep in can only be laughed at. Continuously. That’s why it gets funnier every time you see it. It just gets deeper and deeper.
Willie: One thing I will say Baker. I’m beginning to understand you better. When I drove away from Kentucky to go back to Georgia I don’t think I saw as much as I am now.
Baker: It’s simply a choice of whether you want to jump into the pool or just stand on the shore and watch it or back away from it in horror I guess. Your choice completely, and one I can’t really control.
Willie: No, I guess not. Well, I guess that’s the end.
END OF SIDE TWO.
BEGINNING OF SIDE THREE.