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Jocks Sun The Story of Jocks
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This is the forward, even though it comes at the end

Is it important to know what the creator intended to get value from the results? Does the creator's intention, known or not, have bearing on the user's experience? Cover the footnotes with an index card; you need only the text. Context is vital to understanding the work. Read this story, or not.


"Talk plain," he said: The intelligibility issue

Jocks occurs along a continuum from clear, intelligible phrases to sonic mud. Where intelligibility ends and mud begins is directly proportional to the depth of listening and repeated listening. The various voices, speaking styles, and accents gradually become familiar. Subterranean text bubbles up through sonic fissures toward intelligibility. You realize you've heard it before, two sections back, in a totally different context. Meaning smears its way through chaos. Words separate from the ambient sludge until you realize that Jocks is all ambience and that ambient sound does not exist. Intelligibility is up to you. It's your play.


Are we guys bombed?: The drug connection

Over an eight month period from November, 1969 to July, 1970, I took LSD and other hallucinogens at an accelerating rate. By the final six weeks or so, I dosed every two or three days and smoked enough marijuana that this period was, in effect, one long trip. My creative impulse -- what one friend labeled my "compulsion to create" -- was at this time focused on writing. Writing while tripping is a challenge on many levels, not the least of which is the strictly logistical act of handling pen and paper. It took some practice. As I wrote on March 3, 1970, the result was inherently unsatisfactory: "So much is lost from my brain to the paper. I think that is what you must remember: This is written on air. What really needs to be said can't reach the paper." There was no way to capture on paper the everything everywhere all at once right here now perspective that for me was one of the important insights of the tripping experience. The perspective of the space. The perspective of the room. A space, a room, a mountain lake, a city, a bike, out of time, out of place, all time, all space.


Why are we having this session with football?: The literary connection

At some later point in this period I read Kenneth Patchen's novel The Journal of Albion Moonlight. Written in the 1940s, this novel evokes better than any I have read that elusive perspective I could not capture. Patchen wrote: "I propose to make the future and the present and the past happen all at once. I shall not allow you a moment to draw breath." And later: "The words get lost somewhere between my head and the paper." Clearly the right book at the right time. The key inspiration that led to Jocks was Patchen's proposition of the fourth person -- not an individual but a part of speech. The perspective of the space. In a flash I knew that tape recorders, which hear everything indiscriminately, were the answer. The new question became: What should I record?


We're playing with tape recorders: Mark and me

Two strands in my relationship with my brother, Mark, converged in Jocks: an utterly disrespectful absurdist view of television, courtesy of our father, and a history of playing with tape recorders. Both came with a substantial dose of silliness. The years of shared experience had generated cues and modes of improvisation not unlike those of jazz musicians with a long history of playing together.

Our dad was fond of pointing out what we called "holes in the story." You know, when the good guy doesn't get killed in the first five minutes even though the bad guy had an easy opportunity to knock him off. Continuity problems were another source of hilarity. He also took pleasure in exposing the logical fallacies in commercials. This has made it impossible to this day for me watch TV without an automatic veneer of the ridiculous, and nowhere is this veneer more highly polished than in the broadcasts of American football. Watching football on TV is an utterly different experience from attending a game. The language of the commentators, their twisted syntax and football jargon: "I think we should explain veer. It's just a fancy term for the word slant; the women who, uh, watch the game, veer, it really means slant." And need I mention the political incorrectness? The emotional outbursts: "Oh! Look out! Oh! There's a flag! There goes a penalty flag!" The crowd noise, the band, the noisemakers, the signal calls. It's easy to ignore but always present: "Like we could just not even watch it, just talk to each other, and no matter how much we talk, the football game is always dominant."

My first tape recorder was a cheap three inch reel to reel acquired when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. In high school, Mark and I wrote and recorded a number of plays. I'd write a scene, he'd write a scene, and back to you, Dave. The plays were just excuses to make sound effects. These were formative experiences for me at a time when I was first listening to electronic music and, on my own, attempting to duplicate the sounds of that music. The plays were sheer fun done for the moment. I only had one reel of tape, so we'd make the sounds, record the play, listen a couple of times, then record something else over it, generally including a lot of laughing.

So, what should I record?: Mark and I having a conversation while watching a football game. Would the game influence what we say? What chance juxtapositions of meaning might there be? Would the tape be, in fact, a fourth person record of the event?


You need a little mic stand or something: The recording session

Jocks was recorded in September, 1971, in my apartment at 15 North Henry Street in Richmond, Virginia. We used two tape recorders: one recording us, the other recording the game. The game was recorded by wrapping the microphone cord around the TV so that the microphone dangled over the speaker. You can hear the game in the background of the dialog tape. You can hear us in the background of the football tape ("See, if I put this all on one tape; 'cause all I have to do is record this on the [other] track, it would be a good stereo tape."). This provided four layers of raw material on about five hours of tape; a massive amount of material. The microphones and recorders were inexpensive and of dubious quality. It was a warm day. Most of the time a large, loud Sears window fan was on in the next room. It was raining. Traffic on the busy street close by ran loudly through the water ("If the traffic noise got loud enough, we'll get the traffic noise."). It was recorded at the lowest possible tape speed (1 7/8 ips), and thus the lowest fidelity, so we wouldn't have to change reels. After I wrote a transcript shortly following the recording session, the tape sat untouched and slowly deteriorating in a box moved to various closets, attics, and basements until I transferred it to DAT tape in 1995. Intelligibility is an issue.


They're all a bunch of jocks: iterations

"They're all a bunch of jocks" is a key phrase in Jocks. This section traces its evolution from the original utterance on reel to reel tape to the final version in the First Quarter section of Jocks, titled "They're All a Bunch of Jocks."

The original reel to reel recording (1971)

Here's the phrase as it's heard in the original recording:   Listen LISTEN 0:10

The Typescript (1971)

The Typescript

Shortly after Mark and I made the recording, I transcribed the tape in three columns: Mark on the left, the game in the middle, me on the right. The columns were typed so that if they were overlaid, the words would overlap as they are heard on the tapes. Too linear.

The Football Notebook (1971-72)

In late night obsessive work with Rapidograph pens over the winter of 1971-1972, the text Jocks was incorporated into a drawn version. This format breaks the text out of sequence, out of context, out of time. A lot of additional material was thrown in. Meanings cross fertilize. Some pages have a large scale visual impact quite separate from the text that makes it up. A good shot. The Football Notebook

And Now This (1990)

The game became the structure, and much of the dialogue was incorporated into an unpublished novel completed in 1990. After several rejections I put it away and have never reread it, so don't know now whether the phrase, "They're all a bunch of jocks", is in it or not.

Jocks: First Quarter: They're All a Bunch of Jocks (2005)

An exploratory work composed in 1996, Jump and Dance, convinced me that the original medium, recorded sound, is the best way to work with this material. Here's the key phrase in its final iteration:   Listen LISTEN 0:58
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