Break the news, Dennis!
Yes, Soho the Dog HQ is moving again, this time back to my original, once-familiar, probably-not-all-that-familiar-anymore hometown. Come mid-October, at least I won’t have to mail-order poppy-seed hot dog buns. (The move is occasioned by my wife—still and always the brains of this operation—landing a new job at Chicago Public Media. I myself will be doing… something or other.)
This, of course, will also mark a fond, albeit oddly liminal, farewell to Washington, D.C. It’s strange to move somewhere new, just start to find your footing, and then watch as a pandemic shuts everything down and your sense of place shrinks to something not much larger than your house. But even if my experience of public, monumental D.C. was curtailed, I will still miss the merits of quotidian, lived-in D.C.: the subtleties of neighborhood, the piecemeal assembly of a roster of favorite takeout, the surprising amount of primordial nature still tucked in the odd corners of the district, the serendipitous counterpoint of friends and acquaintances, both tied-down and transient in a peculiarly-D.C way.
(On the other hand: the weather here in August? I, um, appreciate it, but I won’t miss it.)
The philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy died last month. I came to Nancy’s work late, only after meeting filmmaker and fellow Radcliffe Fellow Phillip Warnell, who collaborated with Nancy on three wonderful-in-every-sense films: The Flying Proletarian, Ming of Harlem, and Outlandish: Strange Foreign Bodies (the latter leaving a small but crucial mark on my Horror of Fang Rock analysis). In short order, I read everything of Nancy’s in English I could find. The effect was rather like meeting someone who had thought about a lot of the same things I had always thought about, but had gotten closer than I ever would to their essence while seeming to expend far less effort. But what I found most compelling about Nancy’s writing and thinking was how he, tacitly or otherwise, acknowledged that language could only get you so far in expressing an idea, that there was always going to be a gap—and how he actually leveraged that gap in both analytical and expressive ways.
A compact but consistently effervescent collection of Nancy’s writing on music has been translated into English by Charlotte Mandell under the title Listening. I think about this passage a lot.
It is not a hearer, then, who listens, and it matters little whether or not he is musical. Listening is musical when it is music that listens to itself. It returns to itself, it reminds itself of itself, and it feels itself as resonance itself: a relationship to self deprived, stripped of all egoism and all ipseity. Not “itself,” or the other, or identity, or difference, but alteration and variation, the modulation of the present that changes it in expectation of its own eternity, always imminent and always deferred, since it is not in any time. Music is the art of making the outside of time return to every time, making return to every moment the beginning that listens to itself beginning and beginning again. In resonance the inexhaustible return of eternity is played—and listened to.