Said the Guests: Jean Baudrillard
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Last week, Jean Baudrillard finally returned my email. Months ago I wrote to him, inviting him to contribute to our Said the Guests series, to take some moments and write about a couple favourite songs. It is not an exaggeration (though it is a metaphor) to say than in my first years at McGill University, Baudrillard's writings blew my mind. His work on culture, politics, language and technology had an enormous impact on critical theory in the latter half of the 20th c, and I wasn't the first kid to find himself mesmerised by these ideas.

Of course it's a busy life being an eminence grise of post-structuralism; I wasn't surprised that Mr Baudrillard did not at first return my unsolicited letter. (I still haven't heard back from McLuhan, Foucault, Deleuze or Guattari.) But imagine my delight last Sunday when my mail program went bing-bong and Jean Baudrillard's name appeared in the email byline. "I found myself with some temps libre :*)", he wrote. And so without further ado, in the man's own words...


These songs, each of which has a good tune and rhythm, are entirely unproblematic.

Non, c'est seulement une petite blague pour un petit blog.

Avril Lavigne - "Complicated"

In actual fact, the songs all call to mind the philosophical aphorism ex nihilio nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing). Of this phrase there can be a certain kind of understanding that amounts to not much more than a non-understanding, but constitutes, in fact, the only multi-dimensional interpretation of the maxim as it pertains to what we call the real. This is the non-understanding of Parmenides; a paradoxical cognizance, which appears untenable because it leads to "absurd" consequences, and is the opposite of the Understanding of Bertrand Russell, which obliterates the soundness of the proposition through obfuscatory clarity1. Now, I don't mean to bore you (or myself) with philosophical exercises - I raise this only as an attempt to explain how this song can exist and not exist at once. In truth, Avril Lavigne is nothing emergent from nothing, which is to say she is merely the simulacrum of a simulacrum, two orders shy of real2.

It is obvious enough that Lavigne's insouciant attitude, punk-inspired fashion choices, and nihilistic antics are meant to represent rebellion, yet are firmly entrenched in the vapid mainstream against which she proudly rebels. That she is a fraud is trivial, of course. What's more, when we listen to her song on a CD or mp3 player, or sitting in front of our computer, with headphones on, reading the writings of one Jean Baudrillard; we are not hearing her, or her rebellion, but a simulation of her simulation in which Lavigne, her song, and her pretend rebellion all cease to be manifest. At the same time precisely, however, all that ceases to be takes on a new kind of being, that of the hyperreality of what it fraudulently represents: rebellion. The listener/viewer is presented with the encoded simulations of "Complicated" (both auditory and visual) as "real" rebellion and, if credulous enough (as is often the case), understands it as such. Thus the song is adopted as the model of the phenomenon. Its rebellion is real; Lavigne is no fraud. From the Matrix emerges a new rebellion in place of the old.

(I find the last line of "Complicated" ("Honestly, promise me I'm never gonna find you fake it") - with its implication of prescribed "realness" - funny on SO MANY LEVELS.)

All of the above could be said of this, too.

Lead Belly - "(Good Night) Irene"

Throughout his life, John Lomax sought out the real music of America and found it as much as anywhere in the extensive songbook of Huddie Leadbetter. Leadbetter was as real as a sphere is equally tall in all directions: He was a lowlife; an unrepentant sinner and a murderer. He won more gunfights than he lost but was so often shot in the stomach that he earned the nickname "Lead Belly." He was a gentleman and a gentle man; he wouldn't hurt a fly. He was misunderstood and depressed and drank himself to death, though his tolerance for alcohol consumption was so impressive it earned him the nickname "Lead Belly." Lomax had him released from a prison in which he was never incarcerated for a murder he was guilty of but did not commit, so that he could compose songs (make them real), perform songs (make them real), and record songs (make them real); so that his own realness could persist and intensify in communications from well beyond the conclusion of the flimsiest, most ephemeral dimension of his existence.



Footnotes:

  1. Russell wants to show us that we mean by ex nihilio nihil fit not that there is something that has the property of non-existence that comes to be from nothing, but that it is not the case that there exists some y such that if there does not exist an x, then that y can come from that x. Bullshit!

  2. She is three orders shy of real!

[Jean Baudrillard died on March 6, 2007.]

(Previous guest-blogs: artist Danny Zabbal, artist Irina Troitskaya, artist Eleanor Meredith, artist Keith Greiman, artist Matthew Feyld, The Weakerthans, Parenthetical Girls, artist Daria Tessler, Clem Snide, Marcello Carlin, Beirut, Jonathan Lethem, Will Butler (Arcade Fire), Al Kratina, Eugene Mirman, artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Michael Nau (Page France), Devin Davis, Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Hello Saferide, Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.). There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at April 12, 2007 8:27 AM
Comments

(I find the last line of "Complicated" ("Honestly, promise me I'm never gonna find you fake it") - with its implication of prescribed "realness" - funny on SO MANY LEVELS.)

Baudrillard OTM.

Posted by G00blar at April 12, 2007 9:39 AM

That Leadbelly song is quite possibly one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Posted by Tuwa at April 12, 2007 10:14 AM

im super confused and/or super dumb and have misread yr post but how come jb could send you a reply last week when he died a month ago?

Posted by blah at April 12, 2007 11:52 AM

rip baudrillard. long live baudrillard

Posted by erojas at April 12, 2007 12:00 PM

Is that matrix line a reference to her band (who is, i believe, called 'the matrix'?)

This is a brilliant post. Is Baudrillard becoming Fluxblog?

Posted by jeff at April 12, 2007 12:19 PM

(crossing fingers) in hopes that Deleuze returns your letter

Posted by Doctor Jones at April 12, 2007 1:57 PM

That post made my brain numb in a fun, happy way. Especially the Lead Belly part. And the reply/death times.

Posted by Linka at April 12, 2007 3:20 PM

This was amazingly clever. It's like a term paper, a love letter, and spirit writing wrapped into one and set to music.

Posted by Elizabeth. at April 12, 2007 5:43 PM

Bravo, Sean! The week the Big B died I was amazed by the number of mp3 blogs that noted his passing, and not amazed (tho sorta disappointed) that none of them managed to say anything insightful about how he might have changed (or could change) the way we talk about music.

And crossing fingers D&G NEVER return your email. Please no.

Posted by Amy at April 12, 2007 7:47 PM

Perfect post for the song choice. Or, the perfect song choice for the post?

Either way, I can't wait to call someone a "simulacrum of a simulacrum."

Posted by John at April 12, 2007 9:15 PM

So.. why did Leadbelly earn the nickname again ?
Alcohol or bullets ?

Posted by armcurl at April 13, 2007 10:33 AM

I have always wanted to interpret Baudrillard's polemic in the way many interpret zizek today, as a intentional overstatement put forth with the goal of jolting minds into new perception... not necessarily as an essentialist declaration of what there is... Anyway, whether or not that was what he was going for (and my knowledge of B. is really thin) it disturbs me to no end the way he (and other similarly brilliant and tricky thinkers of the 20th C) is taken up for play, used to illustrate an attractively complex analysis with a hint of radical critique. His political history and the furvency with which he and his developed their lives around an attack of the capitalist status quo falls to the side and his tricky wordplay is taken up, to what ends?

I stand firmly in the positivity camp, where ex nihilio nihil fit means very little except metaphorically and anthropologically, but still i fully acknowledge the importance and power of such concepts and discourses. And in this place i am puzzled about the meaning and implications of Lavigne's hyperreality, her existence+nonexistence, or the new rebellion borne of her ascending simulacra? Like what does that *mean*? Considering most of us (i unabashedly assume) have a certain level of awareness and critiqe of marketing, false representation, our own ironic consumption of pop music. Does a beaudrillardian analysis still offer us anything new? Is it more than one of the many ways we ineffectually engage with simulacra (thereby reinforcing them)?

On the other side, that leadbelly part of the post was just great, i *loved* it. evoked a whiff of buddy bolden's aporias so tragically effused by ondaatje. thanks.

Posted by efff "taking it seriously for fun" ffa at April 13, 2007 3:06 PM

man oh man... genius. Thanks for that. It's just what I needed. Baudrillard also changed my world for better or worse.

Posted by ryansenseless at April 13, 2007 4:47 PM

The Baudrillard joke was okay, but just a little too long. On the other hand, that's true of the Lavigne song, too. If it were 2:48 instead of 4:04, it could be a perfect little pastiche; that last line really might speak to the Debord-Foucault-Rimbaud coffee klatsch I expect Baudrillard joined once able.

'Goodnight Irene' is one of the greatest songs ever recorded. There is no 'quite possibly' about it. Sometimes I have a great notion, too. Whew -- punk rock.

Posted by wcw at April 14, 2007 2:24 AM

Oh, this is just fantastic.

Posted by Mike B. at April 14, 2007 1:48 PM

Classic. Baudrillard lives. His musical taste makes me laugh. Avril Lavigne, hahahaa.

Posted by Ortho at April 19, 2007 10:52 PM

A postscript: With the exception of the introduction, the above post was written by Jordan, and certainly not by me. He wished to remain anonymous, but I do not want to take credit for someone else's work. Unlike some...

Posted by Sean at April 22, 2007 9:25 AM

oh it's a joke. um...ha?

man i don't miss academia...

Posted by kjc at April 30, 2007 9:57 AM

I totally wrote an essay about my trip to Disneyland with Jean Baudrillard and my zombie friend Carl. I'm not even kidding.

Posted by Benny at May 21, 2007 10:29 PM

In case you weren't kidding, Michel Foucalt died in 1984.

Posted by Michael Quirk at March 8, 2008 10:55 PM

Post a comment







(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by .
PAST AUTHORS
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners
search


Archives
elsewhere
our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Dau.pe
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Herohill
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Molars
Daytrotter
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Musicophilia
Anagramatron
Nicola Meighan
Fluxblog
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
LPWTF?
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
ftrain
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Marathonpacks
Song, by Toad
In Focus
AMASS BLOG
Inventory
Waxy
WTF [podcast]
Masalacism
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
Goldkicks
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
eat:
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
lawrence
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
ripples
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

shop:
phonopolis
drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

shows:
casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe


(maga)zines
Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
McSweeney's
State
The Skinny

community
ILX