Simon and Garfunkle and McLuhan

November 22, 2021
Posted by Jay Livingston

The term “global village” was coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1962 in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy.

But certainly the electro-magnetic discoveries have recreated the simultaneous “field” in all human affairs so that the human family now exists under conditions of a “global village.” We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums. So that the concern with the “primitive” today is as banal as nineteenth-century concern with “progress,” and as irrelevant to our problems.

McLuhan was prescient. He saw that the electronic media would dissolve the distinction between primitive and modern. In 1962, even the term “electronic media” was not much in circulation (McLuhan uses electro-magnetic). “Globalization” had not yet entered the general conversation, and the Internet and World Wide Web were decades away.

(Frequency of globalization in books. Google n-Grams.)

I doubt that anyone still reads The Gutenberg Galaxy these days, but Maurice Stein assigned it, along with McLuhan’s Understanding Media (1964) to my Sociology of Literature class in 1965. That was also the year that Simon and Garfunkle’s “Sound of Silence” became a huge hit.

These seemingly diverse facts came together for me this morning as I was listening to a promo for a new audiobook, Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon.

(No transcript. The idea is entirely in the music.)

Dave Frishberg, 1933 - 2021

November 19, 2021
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Times obit for Dave Frishberg left out the best parts. Frishberg wrote some wonderful lyrics, but the lines the Times chose are hardly the best. From “I’m Hip,” they commented on “I read People magazine,” noting that in the original 1960s version it was “Playboy magazine.” Frishberg changed it. But the best line in this song in the persona of someone who’s “on top of every trend”  was “When it was hip to be hep, I was hep.”

My favorite Frishberg rhyme is vocal/local in “I Want to Be a Sideman.” Not many words rhyme with vocal (focal and yokel are the only two that come to mind), so while the rhyme is unusual, it’s not forced. It fits perfectly with the sense of the song.

I wanna fill behind the vocal
Double on flute
And jam on the blues.
I wanna go and join the local
Buy a dark suit
And start payin’ dues

Frishberg wrote “Do You Miss New York” in 1980 a few years after he had moved to Los Angeles. It has the wonderful line,
Did you trade
The whole parade
For a pair of parking places?
Susannah McCorkle’s version captures poignancy in a way that Frishberg’s own voice, often described as “reedy.”

[UPDATE: Since writing this, I’ve read the WaPo obit, which is much better and not just because it mentions the same lines that I included