PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This report is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

Where Words End Brian Morton

Music is the most sophisticated software package we've so far devised. It processes reality (which of course includes language) very much faster than navel-gazing language can, and because of that music - particularly that contains words - is both normative and dangerously subversive. In his confidently sloganizing Noise, the French theoretician Jacques Attali suggests that the musician is always both a reproducer and a prophet, simultaneously subservient to and ahead of the social and economic nexus, less articulate than but also slightly ahead of language's ability to organize and quantify.

It is no accident that it is usually singers who fix and identify moments of maximum social concentration and change. In recent times, where the phenomenon has been considerably transformed and reinforced by mechanical reproduction, one thinks of Presley, of Bob Dylan, of Roger Daltrey's voice with The Who, and, as the autumn arts media have been insisting, of a red-haired spindle of a youth with a white face and green teeth called Johnny Rotten. A general amnesty has been declared on the phenomenon known as punk. Jon Savage's England's Dreaming (Faber, £17.50) tells us slightly more than we might ever need to know about the Sex Pistols, but it also introduces - sometimes by the back door - a whole range of perceptions about why the singer, who traditionally belongs at the bottom of the social heap, simultaneously occupies such a pivotal position in society.

Savage, who has read Attali (somewhat selectively), suggests that ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image