Waka/Jawaka by Frank Zappa. I’ve been on a Frank Zappa kick the last 24 hours. Music to pack by. The Zappa Wiki doesn’t have much to say about this “jazz-ish” album. Though, while in the wiki, I learn of a bootleg CD I would love to find: An Evening in Detroit. Recorded in 1976 at the Cobo, the first disc’s tracks sound like a who’s who of mockery: “A Kiss Concert?” “Whole Lotta Crux.” Zappa and mockery go together. “Flakes” – from the Sheik Yer Bouti album – hosts one of my favorite mockeries, a Bob Dylan parody that has Dylan singing:
Well, the whole damn weekend
Came ‘n went, Frankie
(Wanna buy some mandies, Bob?)
You know what? They didn’t do nothin’
But they charged me double for Sunday
Such discoveries – a Frank Zappa bootleg showcasing him in Detroit when I am writing a book about Detroit – send me off and searching. Where can I find this disc?
Who owns it? What does it sound like? Is it for sale or download? These kinds of questions, which are largely imaginary since there is no referent to hold them in place, are the focus of a piece that I just had accepted at JAC. That essay, which explores the folksonomy as “me,” works with the concept of the digital diegesis, the imaginary narrative.
Some forms of research ask for the “answer” (or claim), but the kind of research I propose here is that of the unknown (following Barthes: as if things shuddered with meaning). The example in the JAC essay is “Detroit Day,” and it concludes with a digital diegesis that has Dylan at the Cobo in 2005. The example, however, could just as easily be “An Evening in Detroit.” This isn’t to say that the discs don’t exist (or that the day didn’t exist) but that my interest in them is not dependent on hearing them (as much as I would also like that). The lack of representation is as important as the representation (but for different goals). The lack of representation evokes the imaginary (imagine what this might entail). Those that adhere to strict hermeneutics might object that such a practice mocks traditional research goals (evidence supports the claim) or intent or true meaning. Or they might bemoan a collapse of all things scared to information organization. Information as sacred is little more than fetish (thought fetish is not necessarily a bad thing). The imaginary Zappa experience suggests that mockery is important to research goals (I want to hear the mockery as well). But it also suggests (again) the importance of allusive meanings (what does it look like/what does it sound like) that keep our research goals (and investments in ideas) going, going, going strong.