Theory As Poetry: David Sudnow’s “Talk’s Body” (1979)


A biology of action (19):

You could say that experiences
are deceiving,
but you cannot say this
if the goal of your description
is the characterization of experiences
and nothing else (22).

A method for studying something
always discovers only those possibilities
that spring from a world the method creates.
The perspective defines
the phenomenon from the outset (37).

Describing my experiences
at typewriter and piano,
I find no good use
for an analytic conception
of ‘the thought’–
there is only process.
Maybe the thought
has a chordal significance (57).

The musician,
like the writer or speaker,
regularly confronts his conduct
as performance or not (65).

When I listen
to a Herbie Hancock solo,
I listen with my hands (68).

The body
is a natural
higher mathematician (78) –
the embodied calculus
of such accomplishments
as reaching for a doorknob
and getting there on time (79).

You listen to the voice to hear its nervousness.
You listen to identify the language.
You listen to see if you are interested.
You listen to be able to repeat it later.
You listen so as to write a piece of criticism.
You listen to show you are listening.
You listen for your turn to talk.
You listen for the recurrent use of ‘you listen’,
hearing its voice
only to detect the overall rhythm (83).

Who will convince me
that there is more beauty
in a Bach cantata–
that its encounter is richer or deeper
or more intricate–
than there is in the sound
of a single piano string
loudly struck
and grasped
over the entire course of its decay? (86).

The clock or the philosopher
can never describe time.

A pianist can (118).

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