19 thoughts on “O for Obscurity, Or, The Story of N — Andrew Hook

  1. 7CE0619E-18D9-419D-A73D-42D530DF8369”N” – An Introduction

    “…the Residents had neglected the fetid, forgotten and foul smelling object currently residing on their coffee table.”

    I was listening (still am, as I write this) to the album ESKIMO that I found on Spotify as I became hooked by this book.
    A book interspersed by items of artwork with a variable form of monochrome.
    Today is my 73rd birthday, 18 January always being the psychological Midwinter for me if possibly not for Eskimos!

  2. PROLOGUE: The Mark of the Man

    N Senada, famously Nemonymous, here, I guess, as N, is shown on a plane flight in his mid sixties, coughing at the air hostess, wary of name and other defining bureaucracy. I am wondering that, if by pure chance, I happen to be reading and reviewing (here), alongside this book, one about a comparable (?) character called Ezra Slef? We shall see. Some striking prose work and characterisation in this ‘O’ book so far. Nada= nothing, Se=Self or Slef?

  3. 1. Beginnings Are Endings For All But A Few

    “N…N!

    That’s his mother calling him, when he was 12, just after the end of the Great War in Germany, amid the scrawny garden hens in contrast to the earlier travel by planes? But now the plane becomes a retrocausal saxophone? Where music is invisibility and he dreams of being a sheaf of paper. Autistic as artistic. The many connections towards an eventual gestalt, connections with the explicit knowledge of the overall history of time and place, with the more singular backstory and nature of his parents, and with the art of music to transcend his lack of articulated dialogue.
    The saxophone itself with its bulb or bell. The single letters of people’s names like N and K mixing with music’s keynotes “code.” And so much more.
    “There are those who cover a scratch with a plaster whilst simultaneously ruin livers with flagons of beer.”
    This first chapter is a genuine tour de force of style and subject impartment. It so far FEELS like someone has merely been limbering up for writing this work that already promises to be a seminal one.

    “There is nothing so obscure as the allegiance of the self to the self.” (Sic)

  4. 2. The Mark Of The Mode
    Pages 21-26

    “He is formulating a theory that the best art is not only created in isolation, but left there to breathe.”

    There is more to dwell on in that quote than first meets the eye. As is the Cathode Ray TV first developed in the 1920s, and its then potential influence on music, the music of connections but also pure music as inspirationally adumbrated here within the thoughts of N as he becomes smitten by a flute legged woman, just as Slef was today by a woman in the image of a painting, during both these men’s earlier academic days. Here it’s N’s student sojourn in Munich amid his own synaesthesia. When I say ‘inspirationally’ above, I really mean it, and cannot do justice here to this O book’s style. I also thought that Schoenberg, one of my favourite composers, must have been starting up his serialism in Germany about this same time? By the way, I loved the word “nonsensuous”.

    “He wonders why it is considered necessary to be finite.”

    There continue to be sporadic “Intermissions” in this book with artistic or photographical or coded images that might be better deemed having “binary monochromatic attitude” than what I earlier called them above.

  5. Pages 26-31

    “On one level, he is becoming his own creation, but will it be possible to distance himself from it?”

    I empathise with N.
    Meanwhile, he writes but does not write to his parents and they equivalently to him. Mentions a campaign speech by Hitler. Muses on music, and its silences. And there seems sonething intrinsically relevant to his visit to a hall with a chess tournament and his thoughts on its accoutrements, following the recent worldwide fame, since this work was written (?), of The Queen’s Gambit as part of our personal lockdowns …

    “These moments of apartment-tranquility, of self-imposed isolation, render silence unto N in ways previously unconsidered.”

  6. 3. Madness Becomes Method
    Pages 35-43

    “, so the triumvirate of N, his saxophone and his fedora are physically separated within a respectable distance of each other.”

    From my own triangulation of coordinates through Gestalt Real Time Reviewing to the quadiltaeral compass of N with E while dreaming up S and W.
    N and E working on The Thumb of Christ musical installation created in Munich despite the Nazis’ antipathy towards so-called ‘modern art’, and, alongside such kicking against the pricks, it also reminds me of Charles Ives and Scriabin. For example, Ives’ Concord Piano Sonata also had echoes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Later, please try Sorabji’s dabbling with Liszt’s Dies Irae. And Beethoven’s own dabbling with Diabelli’s hook. I am learning a lot from this book that I am so pleased is being so inspirationally instilled into the sump of my otherwise lockdowned mind.

    “There was a crack in the cloud of isolation.”

  7. Pages 44-52

    “The large holes in the work are so that the performers can insert music of their own choosing, thus becoming composers themselves.”

    A symphony analogised by the holes in a sausage that N and E and Kna its future conductor are eating. These empty spaces are now serendipitised for me, having discovered only yesterday Chaz Brenchley’s amazing story HERE!
    This first and ever unique performance of N’s magnum opus in dream and reality is here wonderfully described by another magnum opus, that of Andrew Hook’s art form of narration. Cell division, cockatrice pestilence, the nonchalance of origami, dabbling with doppelgängers, the symbiosis of the usual and the unusual, et al.
    The apotheosis of the unconsoled, I say.

    “…collages pickpocketed from the minds of other composers. The work itself could be construed as an analogy of Nazi Germany,…”

  8. 4. In Himself Nothing
    Pages 55-61

    “N understands that the greatest compositions remain in his head – undiscovered – indeed perhaps never to be written.”

    Thirty years hence, with the Thumb of Christ magnum opus now a memory he has not since matched, today in the Bavarian Forest, N, still with his fedora, being with an early tape recorder, initially made me think of Messiaen and birdsong music, and lo! at the end of this section of pages, I later found N — via thoughts of Frank Sinatra’s slowth of sound like a distant avalanche, and a colour symphony (like that of Bliss or Scriabin?) — think explicitly of birdsong as part of his Phonetic theories. But I was even more taken with this sixty year old’s crush, insisting that… “He is no Humbert Humbert to her Lolita…” (cf the Humbert already in the counterpart book still being reviewed HERE!)
    Frank Sinatra’s second wife “A V A”?

    “Courting notoriety whilst also attempting to remain anonymous has not done his reputation any favours.”

  9. Pages 61-70

    “In the communal living area he contemplates bookshelves. His expectation is to find a tract on local fauna and flora — it is what most of the residents come here for —“

    Alongside the inadvertent counterpart book, a ‘book’ is also lifted surreptitiously and impulsively, here in an inside pocket, to N’s private area, one that turns out serendipitously to be a third person singular autobiography of a composer I have heard of and listened to whose name can be mixed up significantly beyond coincidence with “anthill”. Literature, like music, can also be embraced for its “absurdity of ascribing meaning to an artform which is best expressed when having none.” This is a sort of N autobiography, his meeting with a kindred spirit (“convergence of his musical leanings with N’s sporadic dabbling”), meeting him as if picking randomly within his own autobiography, as sired by Anthill out of Sinatra and Senada. And now returning to the inadvertent counterpart book and ‘surfing’ its coincidences, if not any of its resultant equally chance ‘changes’, a counterpart character (“who now had it in his power to do whatever he saw fit”) has now got this power over the Slef book there or the Thumb of Christ composition here — both thus potentially transcending any hopes of ‘obscurity’!

  10. 5. Resident in America
    Pages 73-83

    “: the importance of self had floated to the fore.”

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    Not only am I thinking of a comparison with the musical ethnologist Béla Bartók who also moved to America in his later life, but also, incredibly, following my earlier review today of the inadvertent counterpart book, I see that Uriah Heep and the Residents, as well as Pere Ubu, are often now mentioned on-line in the same breath. Also my own experience with taped sound, words and concrete music as experimentation with the Zeroist Group (that I helped to found) in the 1960s. Also in that 1960s era I attended a live concert by the inscrutable Cornelius Cardew as he repetitively hurt his fingers on a piano keyboard and tuned a cello with the static on a wireless, etc. Some of the sparse audience prematurely left the concert room, but I shouted ENCORE!
    This section of pages is full of inspiration. A definite “sensawunda”. N even ‘knots the fingers of both hands’ Uriah-like! The word ‘resident(s)’ sometimes slipped, almost unnoticed, into the context of what is being described. N’s revelatory reaction to America. His ‘Theory of Obscurity” in the context of an approaching general “stench of celebrity.” Children dancing to the seemingly random noise of seagulls. The concept of instinctive collaboration. And much more.

  11. Pages 83-91

    “— that true art should only be presented to the world once the originators have forgotten they have produced it.”

    The tension between fame and obscurity, freedom as a prison, and I serendipitously think again today of Time’s Arrow when told that N wants to truncate time so that he had arrived in this, what I see as a Warhol type Factory, when still young, amid artistic and political “cyclical movement”, to leave being the same as to arrive, the “circular form of the Earth” as the cursor. That ‘O’. The residents arriving at their residence, too. ‘The permanence of impermanence’.

    “N considers: what does it take to be an individual? Can one be so whilst remaining part of a whole?”

    N O

  12. Earlier this morning, before concluding my reading of this book, the following comment was inscribed by me, as seemingly relevant, on the otherwise separate review of the inadvertent counterpart book…
    “NB: the group THE THE — I have just discovered its leader has said that they were in part influenced by THE RESIDENTS!”

    THE THumb of Christ – a cross-pollenating by pollex?
    Though, this book itself now calls it a “big toe”, it seems!
    The big TO something instead of the FROM it, as the meaning of death and resurrection? Thumbing a lift? Hooking into or bottling the empty air?

    6. Arctic Manoeuvres, and Epilogue: Caligatio

    “The external moments of almost nothing allow introspection and reflection, and subsequently an adherence to the self —“

    …with reference TO N’s substantively epiphanic stay living with the Inuit in the Arctic. To the “tapestry of identity” tellingly and convincingly related to Cage’s 4’ 33” that explicitly inspired the first blank story in the world published in Nemonymous. To the nature of complex muscular creating of a smile. To soul food, mental osmosis, musical correlations, artistic or symbiotic telepathy, N’s appraisal of his life and the people he met, co-vivid dream as magic reality and serious absurdism transcending the comic, the ‘wife’-induced cleaning of Inuit urine pots as a transcending of what politically incorrect obsessions I have already covered today (in the counterpart review, before finishing my reading of this O book). “…N wonders if he might accept religion in a purely fictional sense to explain the mystic.” “…the disparity of the once-was and the is-now.” A Vaughan Williams type trawling or hawling of folklore archetypes in his music, I sense, too. To obviate our lives today in front of mindless screens like this one — a conduit for truth, though, being true to oneself, when exploited via the nothingness of cyberspace…? And so much more here to dwell on before I become a resident in a home called death. But that singular tree in a forest of selves, will it be finally felled? The caligatio beginning to demystify or demistify at last.
    A major read for me, this book, as you can already tell. I shall now read Hook’s afterword for the first time but, as is usual with the Intentional Fallacy considerations that have always informed my writing and reviewing work, I shall not come back here to review something that at least seems extraneous to the core work. All art in the book is copyright The Cryptic Corporation.

    end

  13. As usual, Des, a wonderful review. ESKIMO and MEET THE RESIDENTS are two of my favourite albums of all time. NOT AVAILABLE is also on that (long) list, and — I happen to know — a favourite of the author whose book you have reviewed.

    Des, you have made a new art form of your own, merging our responses to artistic works with *your* responses to the same. It’s a new religion, mate. It’s glorious.

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