“Rita Juanita” (Wayne Newman and the Torques)

It’s not clear how he got into this predicament, but it’s 1960 and this Louisiana singer is courting identical sisters of color, Rita and Juanita. “My head it spins because they are twins.” He loves them both, and they each love him. In order to avoid misidentifying them (and especially on the telephone), he calls them corporately, “Rita-Juanita.” Well, that solves one problem. But the singer eventually figures that a decision must be made. The girls, however, won’t accept such a choice: “You can’t love one and still be true.” Endlessly and ultimately aporetic, the trax exits by reiterating the impossible choice: “Which one shall I lose? Which one shall I choose?” This trax is in mono, but that doesn’t prevent us from recognizing its potential implication in “stereoscopic viewing,” a key invention of the nineteenth century. It’s as if the singer has taken two slightly separate images of the same person (the two related echoes in the trax), and is desperately trying to fuse them. But he cannot find his stereo Viewfinder and is thus doubled over in the agony of indecision. Relatedly, Samuel Delaney once informed a member of the Traxionary staff that both the stereoscope’s name and dream connect it to another crucial nineteenth-century invention, the “stereotype,” which was often made of papier-mâché, and allowed for the three-dimensional metal molding of printing plates. “Stereotyping” was thus originally deemed as substantially improving and correcting one’s representation or copy of reality. So back to the trax: it is possible to see that the singer is psychologically blocked precisely at the moment when he has to choose a woman of color as his main squeeze? Has he stereoscoped—and thus stereotyped—his girl, all in the name of a certain and definitive rendering? As for his motivation, surely he’s considering whether he can bring either of these girls home to meet Mom and Dad. (And remember the alternative, which is to skirt bigamy: one “Juanita” is diversity, two constitutes a girl gang.)

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“To Composer John Cage” (Anthony Braxton)

What did Braxton learn from Cage? Little, perhaps, but that’s not a problem. Cage’s legacy primarily is one of compositional indeterminacy (short-circuiting the composer, but not the composition), whereas Braxton seems interested instead in refiguring Cage as an improvisor’s avatar. That is: Braxton creates oblique scores, like Cardew’s Treatise (in this score, the letter “G.,” a line, a crossing, a shaded block, a dotted barrier, and the notation, “4%”), which thrive on deciding, each time, that which is in principle uninterpretable according to a verifiable rule. One way, then, to hear the myriad skronks, foghorn soundings, runs, and even screams into the alto: the unescapable decision, always with reference to an ultimate undecidability.


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“Killing an Arab” (The Cure)

Robert Smith says: a condensed moment from Camus. It works this way: singer is the political “stranger,” and the man at his feet is “Arab.” Singer “alive” and “dead” at same time, at a moment of decision which turns the whole world and decisionism itself into “absolutely nothing.” Eliminating the other decimates the self because, in the realm of identities, there are two (at least), or there are none at all.


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“Hey Joe Where Are You Going” (Surfaris)

The first recording of “Hey Joe,” and perhaps the most undecided since Joe really can’t make the decision (to seek out his estranged lover, to murder her, or to escape the inevitable lynching). “I guess” riddles the track, and the only place to escape is to “where all those men are free” (and not the “Mexico” of later versions). Like the confused authorship/copyright, no lineage, no endpoint, but only a question of who holds/does the deed.

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