This weekend I experienced the distinct pleasure of celebrating Independence Day at Quencher's Saloon with Fortunate Sons, a CCR cover band of the highest order. I last saw Fortunate Sons at the Cubby Bear, and they blew me away with their powerful pop, swamp, shuffle.
I spend most of my time thinking about music in terms of interpretations, deconstructions, etc. Most bands offer an interpretation of this concept or artistic movement, or a deconstruction of rock classics; A Place to Bury Strangers offers a first rate interpretation of Jesus and Mary Chain and 60s bubble gum pop while enacting a full scale aural attack through a distortion revival; Sleater-Kinney deconstructs classic rock on The Woods by offering rumbling drums and guitar and aggressively reclaiming feminist and feminine sexuality, resulting in one of the greatest rock records ever.
This is the basis of much of my thinking on rock and rock history: I view the genre as a comprehensive whole more and more, the more I listen to the roots of the genre and embrace the historical nuances that comprise the memory that informs our current rock artists.
What occurred to me while watching Fortunate Sons turns this entire basis for criticism on its head. A valid copy, an image of an exemplar, is a well-crafted artifact that is devoid of interpretation; or rather, interpretation and deconstruction cannot be the basis of a valid copy. Element by element, the valid copy grasps the principles of the exemplar, every salient aspect, every shadow, every hidden strand, every potential direction, trajectory of that exemplar.
It is in this copy, devoid of interpretation, that I saw rock and roll presented before my eyes. I saw righteous power pop, I saw intertwined rhythm and arpeggio, I saw loud and soft, I saw emotional abandon, and possessed rhythm. In each of their aspects, showcasing every corner of the original's repertoire, I saw CCR. Better yet, I understood that their differentiation from the original was informed by my memories, my knowledge of history, and my knowledge of music, and not necessarily in their playing. And isn't that the true differentiation of a copy from an exemplar? Where we know an original by its principles, we understand its copy through an entirely perceptual, sensual, affective, realm of memory and desire.
I have had time to reflect on a recent observation during the 4th of July weekend, celebrating our independence from England. It strikes me that our current ideology is completely opposed to the ideology of independence itself; whereas the ideology of Independence expressed by our founders was an extralegal ideology, expressed against a figurehead and state, our current celebration and enactment of independence is completely legalistic and procedural. What I find particularly strange about this development -- which occurred over centuries -- is that as we celebrate the independence of our founders, we fail to take their lessons to heart; that citizenship is a matter of deeds and not documentation, that freedom is proclaimed against and stolen from the powerful and not enforced by bureaus and departments. Against the extreme insecurities of our founders and their grand experiment, we stand as ethical frauds -- we are not valid copies to their exemplification of independence and freedom. We are forgeries. And until we realize the difference, our policies will remain extremely misguided and we will fail to execute the promise, beauty, and justice of the original declaration.
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