[Jandek] Spencer Graham, A Chankin, Pitchforkmedia & being bored by Jandek

jesus kenievel knievelperu at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 10 03:13:13 PDT 2007

Spencer -

I completely disagree with your analysis of Jandek's work.
I think that you are investing a great deal of unwarranted meaning into his 
Why not take it at face value?
I am interested to know how you are able to determine Jandek's intentions, 
and why they matter?

I don't think that there's anything to "get" when it comes to Jandek's 
You know why?
Because that's what he said, (see the Kathy Vine interview).

>From: Spencer Graham <soccerdude219 at yahoo.com>
>To: Jandek <jandek at mylist.net>
>Subject: Re: [Jandek] Spencer Graham, A Chankin,Pitchforkmedia & being 
>bored by Jandek
>Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2007 12:26:53 -0700 (PDT)
>Gavin, I'm glad you understood what I was saying the second time around 
>(apparently I can communicate pretty well when I'm not being hyperbolic 
>smartass), and yeah, that's exactly what I meant. A lot of what Jandek does 
>is not "likeable". There's a big difference between "man, I can totally dig 
>what that man is layin' down" and "I enjoyed that performance". Jandek, to 
>me, is all about the first. He wants you to dig it, and that isn't always a 
>positive experience, but it is almost always a profound artistic 
>connection- if you're willing to let it all in, to embrace the negatives 
>and the positives, the total universe of his artistic statement.
>   The critiques I made of Jandek's live playing and his lack of chops 
>speak to the fact that he isn't always entertaining. That doesn't mean he 
>isn't making great music or put on a spellbinding live show, but I think if 
>you ignore the tedium and tune out the grating, obnoxious, ear-splitting 
>intensity of it, the mangling, confidence-destorying power of it, not to 
>mention forgive him all too easily for his occasional musical incoherence, 
>you're missing one of the biggest elements of the art he's making. Maybe 
>that's how some people cope with his music, by only focusing on the more 
>conceptual parts, but to me that's like watching a horror movie for the 
>first time knowing where all the scary parts are already and being ready 
>for them- you might not get scared, and you might still appreciate how it 
>might be scary if you'd been surprised, but you're not really experiencing 
>the film the way the artist wants you to..
>   I think (and this isn't necesarily what I think of anyone taking part in 
>this discussion, because I don't know any of you well enough) that some 
>people treat atonal avant-garde music like hot sauce- the more you can 
>stand, the stronger you are, and like hot sauce fanatics, who eventually 
>develop a tolerance and start putting hot sauce on everything, avant garde 
>fans become comfortable with dissonance, and call igorant the people who 
>can't handle the burn- but is that really what the artist wants? Comfort 
>and enjoyment are just about the LAST things Jandek ever seems concerned 
>with. If you've gotten used to Jandek, and you can sit through one of his 
>shows without feeling uncomfortable, I suggest you listen to some Top 40 
>radio until he seems adequately frightening again. You should never fully 
>acquire that taste.
>   I don't think Jandek wants the listener to be "in" on his art. He wants 
>you to feel distant. He wants you to understand it, and mentally interact 
>with it, of course, but he wants you to look, not touch. This is clear 
>enough from his method of doing business, if not from the music itself. He 
>wants you to use the music to reflect on yourself and your exprience, not 
>on him and his. He wants to know how it makes YOU feel, because he sure as 
>hell already knows how it makes him feel. To me, this is the reason he's 
>never revealed his biographical details all it would do is put him in the 
>way of his art, and it's also the reason why someone who's become so 
>heavily entrenched in his music, and thus his artistic personality and 
>style, actually loses their ability to appreciate all of its elements, 
>especially the ones that become less intense with time- the detuning, the 
>wailing, the choppy rhythms and sudden turns. You shouldn't forgive him for 
>that stuff because he doesn't want
>  you to forgive him. If he did he would have taken some more guitar 
>   The fact is, he's talking about pain, so how can you have any 
>appropriate reaction to his music except pain, even if you totally dig it? 
>Mind you, it's a profound kind of pain, the kind you learn about life from, 
>not just the pain of someone who can't stand "bad guitar playing". But to 
>tune out that bad playing by excusing it as part of his artistic conceit, 
>to forget it's supposed to be wrong, and that it's supposed to provoke 
>discomfort- that's missing the point just as much as someone who, after 
>hearing Jandek once, shuts it off horrified and asks why he doesn't tune 
>his guitar.
>   I'll quote some lyrics that seem to echo this stuff:
>   What You Are (Track 11, New Town)
>Sittin’ here thinkin’ about
>What I got to do
>Sittin’ here tryin’ to think
>Where do my talents lie
>   Yes I’m sittin’ here thinkin’
>What am I supposed to be
>What does it mean that I’m livin’
>What will it mean when I die
>   And how about you there
>Do you know what you are?
>No matter who you are there
>You must get the point
>I came to ask you
>Just who you think you are
>   There you have it, first he talks about his quandry, which is the human 
>quandry, and asks if your feel the same, or if you've found a better 
>answer. His music isn't just about him, it's about you. If you're focusing 
>on his answer to the question, and you're not reacting you're only getting 
>half of his message. When he says "you must get the point", he's not saying 
>"I assume you're getting this"- listen to his tone and accentation- he's 
>saying "You have no choice but to get the point, this is a matter of life 
>and death, for me and for you".
>   And he's serious, man.
>   -Spence
>Gavin <gavin at arkhonia.co.uk> wrote:
>   A Chankin wrote that
> > Recently, there has been interesting comment on the Jandek concerts.
>in response (in part) to Danen's comments about the Pitchfork Richmond
>review. I usually agree with most everything Danen posts on the list,
>in part because he's a good writer and an astute thinker, analyst and
>critic, and in part because one can't help but think him to be 'in the
>know' because of his contact with Corwood relating to 'Niagra Blues'
>(remember that? Anybody read it? That's something I'd love to see
>discussed here). But I think his erudite and informed Pitchfork
>riposte does possibly miss a point that Mr. Chankin tries to
>(indirectly) address on his blog in response to
> > Spencer's controversial opinions on the matter
>Spencer is controversial here (and he always is - we kind of agreed to
>disagree about the "Butts For Jandek" thing a few months back), and he
>always seems to pop up (alternating with Frank Hardy) as either an
>irritant or a catalyst in the midst of some debate or other, and I've
>often found myself seething or despairing over his comments...but, for
>someone who admits that
> > I'm 20 years old, I've been listening to/studying music seriously
> > for only four years- god forbid I still think breaking the rules is
> > cool/interesting and worth discussing
>he makes one really important point that is shared by the Pitchfork
>writer, but that I feel that Danen maybe misses, that
> > if he heard more Jandek and more shows he'd have thought
> > differently, but I think sometimes an early impression from a less
> > experienced fan can reveal something worthwhile that might not occur
> > to someone as entrenched in Jandek's music as others are. And that
> > was what I found interesting about the article, that even though
> > Jandek's music is great it can sometimes get really tedious. But
> > that's the nature of the beast- he probably wants that effect,
> > because depression IS tedium.
>I thought the Pitchfork piece was actually pretty good, and made the
>point that Spencer echoes here, that its author didn't know much about
>Jandek, had heard little, went at it with a (relatively) open mind,
>and came away kind of unimpressed, and rather bored by the whole
>thing. I gave it to me wife to read, and it concurred (in part) with
>her own experiences, as she came to the Jandek Bristol show with me
>(in fact she drove me down there AND back specifically, a 4 hour
>journey both ways, and in the same day), and she's no fan of Jandek,
>although she knows what it means to me. She managed the first half,
>but sat out the second, although she could hear it from outside the
>door; her concern was not that is was intolerable, but more that she
>was 'zoning out' through the first half, despite the sheer brutality
>of the music, and that it could very easily have put her to sleep, and
>the drive back may have killed us all had she not had some way of
>keeping herself alert. So she stayed outside and chatted with a couple
>of guys who had come specially to see the performance, but couldn't
>take any more, and equally felt that another hour and a quarter would
>maybe be just too much, and between them she puzzled out the nature of
>a Jandek performance, while me and my friend Danny were inside lapping
>up the brutal assault as the hardcore fans that we are (my account is
>here should anyone want to reread it:
>Spencer says
> > when you're deal with music that spurs uninterrupted negative
> > emotion, or really any consistent, unchanging feeling, boredom can
> > set in
> > I think you're supposed to get a headache from a Jandek show/album
> > (or at least the "rock" ones, as the Cell and such are very
> > different moods). BUT that doesn't make it anymore difficult to deal
> > with, just as his musical awkwardness doesn't seem any less jarring
> > even if it's intended.
>and I think this is pretty much on the money, and something that
>Jandek fandom maybe misses through familiarity, a willingness to
>accept what is presented on face value, and maybe too great a
>tolerance for 'noise music' generally: that there is a challenge and a
>confrontational intent, but the challenge and the confrontation may be
>as much the endurance factor (these shows are looong!), and for the
>performers as well as the audience, and maybe 'getting it' straight
>away and accepting it, and by extension 'loving it', is possibly the
>last thing a listener is supposed to do...I don't know. My wife was
>chatting with these boys, and one of them went back in to the second
>show, determined to 'get it', despite the fact that he couldn't take
>any more of it - he took the challenge, and came out just before the
>end to say that, once he stopped *thinking* about it, to "just let it
>wash over you", it started to make some kind of 'intuitive' sense (I'm
>paraphrasing wildly here as I was elsewhere)...
> > when you enter Jandek's world, it's jarring- it's like choosing to
> > have a bad trip, and that can be cathartic, but it's hellish all the
> > same.
>Maybe it isn't supposed to be 'enjoyable'...maybe it's supposed to
>represent a state of mind, maybe 'be' that state of mind for the time
>the performance takes place, for the performer and the audience, and
>that 'Jandek' is this place for that time, and if the theme is
>depression then it's depressing ("I thought I’d give you/A little bit
>of depression/There’s no way out"), and if it's boredom or
>pointlessness it's boring or pointless, and if it's a kind of muted
>wondering ("what do I have?"), it's an extended circular reverie that
>sounds like it feels...
> > I still don't think I could stand a whole show.
>I've seen Jandek three times, and every time it's seemed like a long
>time, and it's felt...disconcerting, for a bunch of possibly
>inarticulable reasons. But still exhilarating, cos I sort of knew what
>to expect. But if I could feel what I originally felt when I first got
>into Jandek, where sometimes, late at night and in the dark, it seemed
>like the whole world was being pulled out from under me, and, had the
>concerts been taking place then and I'd attended one I might have maybe
>lost my mind...
>Just thinking out loud - Spencer, shoot me down in flames if I've
>quoted you out of context or misrepresented your ideas.
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