Sunday, May 21, 2006

A couple of breaks of sunshine

Kenneth Goldsmith’s The Weather is a sort of post-modern version of James Thomson’s The Seasons, based entirely on New York area one-minute weather report transcripts. It begins with ‘Winter’: ‘A couple of breaks of sunshine over the next couple of hours, what little sunshine there is left. Remember, this is the shortest day of the year. Looks like the clear skies hold off till later on tonight. It will be brisk and cold, low temperatures will range from twenty-nine in some suburbs to thirty-eight in midtown. Not a bad shopping day tomorrow, sunshine to start, then increasing clouds, still breezy, with a high near fifty…’

Kenneth Goldsmith has said: “The piece itself is a master narrative of a year, a sub-narrative of the four chapters, and several micro-narratives within the chapters. Storms approach from afar; they get closer; they occur; they pass. Weather, that most organic of phenomenon, is framed as a transaction. Quantified, narrativized, and capitalized, the weather either aids or abets our drive time.” The way weather is treated seems to convey a sense of contemporary landscape, where natural phenomena are present as background noise, like the sound of the radio. Marjorie Perloff has written an interesting essay about The Weather on Ubuweb.

Nothing to do with landscape, but there are some Goldsmith songs here based on cultural theory, for example text by Frederic Jameson sung to the tune of John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things. Not, I think, on this evidence a musical genre likely to flourish.

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