Borges Meets Wordsworth

Again with the Borges.

An old friend of mine has been putting together the workings of a pretty stellar little music blog called Wordsworth. As the header explains, "Because They Are." Taking lyrics seriously, Orr and his writers-in-arms put up sharp readings of everything from Lil Wayne's "I'm hot, they fannin" to Coldplay's "Strawberry Swing". It's all good stuff and well worth a read.

All that said, I've been in the midst of Borges. I found an old copy of his Selected Non-Fictions at home, and I've been pulling from it at random. Reading Borges' account of the history of the Argentine tango, I thought of Wordsworth. As Borges sees it, the tango - as it was originally danced in the brothels of Bueno Aires - music as combat, as will, as not simply the lyrics of battle (arms and man, for example) but the battle made flesh.

All this leads Borges to write:
We read in one of Oscar Wilde's dialogues that music reveals a personal past which, until then, each of us was unaware of, moving us to lament misfortunes that we never suffered and wrongs we did not commit. For myself, I confess that I cannot hear "El Marne" or "Don Juan" without remembering in detail an apocryphal past, simultaneously stoic and orgiastic, in which I have challenged and fought, in the end to fall silently, in an obscure knife fight. Perhaps this is the tango's mission: to give Argentines the belief in a brave past, in having met the demands of honor and bravery.
I'm not sure that this is exactly what Orr and the fine folks of Wordsworth are up to, but I think you can make the argument that there's something in the experience of music - be it hip-hop or simple pop - that speaks to Borges' understanding of the tango. The notion that listening to music - ably introduced and prefaced - lets us partake of a larger past.

I'm not sure that Borges has anything to do with Wordsworth, nor am I sure that music speaks to a common public (though McCain's campaign keeps getting in trouble over music), but it's at least worth a passing thought.


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