“Rock Around the Clock” (Bill Haley & His Comets)

When I.G. Blanchard and the Reverend Jessie H. Jones penned the most popular American labor song of the nineteenth century, “Eight Hours” (1878), they imagined a hard-working man as having “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,” and eight hours to “feel the sunshine” and “smell the flow’rs.” But this successful demand for limitations on the length of the working day can only be deciphered from within capitalism’s prior imposition of clock time, and it’s this root cause which rock’n’roll disputes without overcoming. “Rock Around the Clock’s” surreal twenty-two hour shift (with breaks at noon and midnight) leaves no time for the great outdoors or contemplation. It’s a serious business, this constantly jumpin’ at one’s leisure.


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“Voyage” (Family)

Ah, the eternal questions: what is “truth,” “and where do I look for proof?” More specifically, do the phenomena of time and color exist in the world, or only inside of me?  It is my “whereabouts” that are at stake as I sail along on this strange voyage called life. It appears that I cannot find my bearings without another: “who do I ask and what do I say?” But there’s no great guru waiting on a hilltop. Instead, there’s the problem of her truth and his truth and my truth. Listen closely: each time the trax scales up toward “truth” the tape is slowed down, torn, and cut off. We’re on the far side of knowing, it seems, which leaves us in a seesawing, group jam that hints at both a unified cosmos and chaos. But, importantly, neither here nor there.


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“Magic” (Olivia Newton-John)

This trax fits well with Newton-John’s tradition of disarming. Elsewhere, it’s in confessions of love: “I’m not trying to make you anything at all.” Calls for action: “I wanna get animal, let’s get into animal.” Analyses of the other: “Now, you’re not hard to understand.” And in tacit condemnations of the head/heart divide—after each speaks in “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” listen for the vocal acting-out/mockery of affect. Here, with ELO’s minor-key undulations, we have an interlocking four-part argument concerning the future. With a properly imagined—hence provision(al)—future in mind, there must be a commitment to work. There’s no time to waste; “dreams” begin to exist with the thinking. The other is always “guiding you” and not the other way around. Finally, you are “home free” already, save for the traps and follies of manifest life. “You,” eventually, will be evacuated on nobody’s authority.


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“Take the Time” (Dream Theater)

Dismissal of physical world for revolution “within.” Disembodied monadism as way to find “new voice” and “new law”: prog inversion of “Amazing Grace,” but god doesn’t care.  The decision to “take the time” equates subjectivity with self-sufficiency; closed system logic denies social to craft solipsistic refuge. Fetishization of “invention” with denial of (inevitable) lineage.

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“Fundamental Frequency” (Toots Thielemans)

While the bass solo in this bop tune equals the combined time of the intro and ending, the three primary soloists have roughly the same amount of solo time: harmonica (61 seconds), sax (65), and piano (72). The BPM ambles if compared to more extreme examples of the genre. While the harmonica may be a non-standard jazz instrument, there are precedents (and heirs). Those are the particulars, as far as frequency and fundamentals go. Thielemans is probably more concerned with the spacing of the band, often pushing back against organizational and operational structures and a strict sense of time. The playful coupling and teasing of the introduction—harmonica partnering up with the other soloists sequentially—for example. And the harmonica’s carry-over from the intro to its solo magnifies the case. Frequency as a given variable. Fundamental: the foundation, the (shifting) root of a chord, and the sounding/vibration of a body.


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