“In life outside music, ambiguity is not necessarily a positive attribute—it is often a sign of indecision and, in politics, a lack of firm direction—but in the world of sound, ambiguity becomes a virtue in that it offers many different possibilities from which to proceed. Sound has the ability to make a link between all elements, so that no element is exclusively negative or positive… Feeling is an expression of the struggle for balance, and it cannot be allowed independence from thought. As Spinoza shows us, joy and its variants lead to a greater functional perfection; sorrow and its related affects are unhealthy and should therefore be avoided. In music, though, joy and sorrow exist simultaneously and therefore allow us to feel a sense of harmony. Music is always contrapuntal, involving an interplay of independent voices, in the philosophical sense of the word. Even when it is linear, there are always opposing elements coexisting, occasionally even in conflict with each other. Music accepts comments from one voice to the other at all times and tolerates subversive accompaniments as a necessary antipode to leading voices. Conflict, denial and commitment coexist at all times in music.”

-Daniel Barenboim, “Music Quickens Time”

Photograph: Frederick Sommer

SoFoBoMo, fo’ sho’


National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWri Mo, is a non-competition, a challenge to oneself, wherein writers work to complete a 175-page, 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s an up-front admission by that organization: “Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap.’ The fo-do version of this is Solo Photo Book Month, wherein workers make a virtual on-line “book” of at least 35 pictures inside 31 days.

Scraps of paper have been piling up all around me for decades. Since I’ve never had a cigarette, this has not been much of a hazard. Everything seemed to have pictorial potential: notebooks, hand-drawn maps, found notes, anonymous grocery lists (someone has a website of these; hell, that can be said about everything), signs I’ve appropriated (Walker did it too). Keeping in mind the dicta of Garry Winogrand — “Any and all things are photographable” — and of Harold Allen, that what matters is where you put the camera and where you place the edges, I plumbed my archive and plucked pix thereof.

Ray Metzker speaks of working from a set of concerns, and that’s what happened with this little project. In no particular order, there was the texture of the surfaces, the limited (but real) color palette, regard for “horizon” in each image, the writers’ script, their legibility, and the words themselves.

Because I have attained certain level of cyber-capability (just enough), and working under their deadline, the display of the images isn’t what I envisioned (double-page spreads, blank pages as caesurae). If (when) this appears as a hard copy through blurb or whatever, those and other issues will get resolved to some degree. “Writing” is rewriting.

Most of the other 221 completed books employ more traditional / expected / pictorial subject matter, and may be easier to take at first viewing than this subject matter.  Please offer me some feedback on this experiment; thanks.