JUNE/JULY 2005

A SECRET HISTORY OF
POPULAR LABYRINTHITIS

SEVEN MUSICAL MOEBIUS STRIPS

J. Timberlake • P. McCartney • J. Taylor • E. John • B. Bragg • J. Cocker

The ear is a labyrinth. Imagine a sound getting lost in there, meeting up with itself after a series of wrong turns, doubling back to avoid a monster with an ax. What would such a sound… sound like? (In college my roommate listened to a group called Maze.)

Blame it on a wardrobe malfunction. Though I missed the infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, I read about it the next day, over someone’s shoulder on the subway. The lyric “I’ll have you naked by the end of this song” seemed terrifying—not just the threat of Justin Timberlake peeling off the listener’s skivvies, but the regenerative nature of the threat within the duration of the music. The singer points to the limit of the artwork in question and says: You will be naked there. The world inside the song suddenly revealed itself as a nightmare of abandoned clothing and scary authorial confidence.

Now other terrors came to mind, musical Möbius strips. Some were chestnuts, others more recent favorites. Who doesn’t love the Beatles’ “I Will”? Yet now I was fixated on its endgame: “And when at last I find you / This song will fill the air.” Which song, Paul? This one? So then—if I’m hearing it right now—does that mean you’ve… found me? That you’re standing right behind me and—gaaaah! (Don’t do that!)

The moment of composition is no longer evident. The song does not exist as a discrete, safely reproducible aesthetic object. The present tense reasserts itself each time. It’s not the art that hides art, but the art that says look at me. It is what you might call postmodern.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Ed Park

Ed Park edits The Believer.

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