“The omission of any writers’ credits anywhere on Triplicate—on the back of the package, on the discs, in the liner booklet—can let the songs communicate as if they actually don’t have authors, as common coin that is also common property, as if they are landscape, atmosphere—and isn’t that what a song, not its composer, not its singer, but the song itself, really wants? To be the air that you breathe?”
Bob Dylan, Triplicate (Village Voice, April 19, 2017)
I see how this can be fairly said of a traditional folksong that has undergone the alterations of several hands over the years,with it may even be the case that the original author /composer is literally unknown-a song whose origins is in a sense prehistoric.While these Great American Songbook Standard Songs are constantly re-interpreted by singers ,to shoehorn them into this ethereal category is a pointless rhetorical stretch that unnecessarily obscures the meticulous craft of the composers-who are in all cases known-and in many cases not known well enough in today’s world of musical fandom.
In the second line of the above reply ,the word “with” should be “while”-Dave Rubin ……
I don’t think GM’s point is that the composers would necessarily love having these songs attributed to nobody except Public Domain. Anyone who actually heard them for the first time in Dylan’s renditions could easily find out the composers’ names (In fact, more easily now than at any time in history.) I think GM is trying to catch something about a way the songs themselves benefit from being unloosed from individual authorship, a new way for them to allow themselves to be heard. Also, a lot of Public Domain songs are themselves pretty meticulously crafted.
I often think the “stretch” in “rhetorical stretch” should lose its pejorative tone. Nobody thinks it’s a bad thing for an artist or an athlete to stretch themselves in the effort to do something difficult.
I just heard Dylan sing Autumn Leaves on you-Tube. This might be of great emotional value to Dylan and his fans/expositors ,but to say that the song itself benefits ( to go with G.M.’s anthropomorphizing of the song ) is another thing entirely…If the song wants to breathe free ,Dylan is polluting the air with by straining for notes whose nucleus he doesn’t hit. An example of a highly individualistic stylist putting his stamp on a standard ,which leads the song itself way beyond the composer,into cosmic territory that does an ultimate justice to the composer and leaves him behind at the same time is Otis Redding’s version of Tennesee Waltz.Dylan simply doesn’t have the chops to do justice to these songs…Stretching before a game only really helps if you’re great at the game your playing.Dylan is a great singer -but he does not sing these songs well-it’s merely a curiosity to hear him sing this stuff.
Errors: In line 5 of the above the word”with ” should not be there & in the third line from the bottom,”your” should be”you’re”
Much as I love and revere Bob Dylan, I feel that omitting composer credit on this and the previous album is simply bad manners.
Dave, we can self correct your typos. It’s all good.