[Jandek] RE: jandek Digest, Vol 54, Issue 204

allan macinnis ammacinn at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 8 22:58:39 PDT 2006

Re: Outsider Music -

Actually, I also feel pretty disinclined to classify Jandek as "outsider 
music" anymore. The term itself is odd: I know a guy who performs in Canada 
under the name the Minimalist Jug Band who has made the point that the term 
"outsider music" is really condescending, implying something that is in 
itself not really art until someone selects it, makes it into art by virtue 
of a certain critical perspective. The artist is the urinal and the critic 
is Marcel Duchamp, putting it on display, if that makes sense... That said, 
I can understand the classification when it comes to Daniel Johnston or 
Wesley Willis... Increasingly it becomes clear that Jandek, however unusual 
his path, is in complete control of what he's doing, doing it intelligently 
and deliberately and with considerable self-awareness. And his music just 
doesn't seem that WEIRD anymore. In any event, the term doesn't fit.

The thing about Jandek and Daniel Johnston though, is that both were 
self-releasing (more or less) very unusual work when they both started out, 
and no one KNEW that much about them. Actually, based on the relative 
emotional (in)accessibility/ "weirdness" of their songs, I would have 
guessed, having nothing else to go on, back in the late 1980s or early '90s, 
that Jandek was the "further out there." I tended to overestimate his alien 
characteristics and identify more with Johnston (I was also surprised, 
watching the film, by the degree of Johnston's problems). That means 
somethin', but I'm not sure what -- something about how these sorts of 
categories sort of depend on the presuppositions of listeners...

Maybe Jandek was an outsider who became an insider? Or maybe the frame of 
reference itself repositioned itself around him, without him moving much at 
all? Maybe his own contribution to musical culture through his persistence 
created changes that set this process in motion -- he transformed popular 
musical culture significantly enough that it became more accepting of him, 
so that one day he woke up and he wasn't outside anymore, without ever 
having tried to come indoors?

I dunno.


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