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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:12 pm 
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"Dancing about Architecture"

Elvis Costello attributes the well-known phrase "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" to comedian Martin Mull.
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Anybody know if this is an FZ quote or is EC correct? Maybe some dated document for example?
According to Wikipedia, Mull opened for Zappa in '73.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:03 am 
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This has been in dispute for a long time. Click the picture and you'll find a long discussion on the topic:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:13 am 
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Whoever said it first, it's bollocks. Anything humans do can be analysed rationally. Hence, you could say, writing about anything is like dancing about architecture. But, writing about architecture is a whole lot more obvious than dancing about architecture. When you tell someone how you feel about a piece of music you do so with words which can be written down. You can dance to music in a way you can't dance to architecture, but you can write sensibly about either.

It sounds far out, but it's just bollocks.

Edit: See my later post explaining why I edited this.

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Last edited by polydigm on Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:46 am 
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polydigm wrote:
Anything humans do can be analysed rationally.

only because we make "rationally" fit our own definitions i.e. beliefs.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:23 am 
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Anything that can be put in words, can be said by expressing with the human body. But it takes an exceptional choreographer and an exceptional dancer to make something proper out of "Fountainhead, the ballet".

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:46 am 
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BBP/lapsed maps wrote:
Anything that can be put in words, can be said by expressing with the human body.
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how would one bodily express the word "the"?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:56 am 
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I don't like the quote either. It doesn't make sense. Anyway, I think it was Monk who first said it.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:07 pm 
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BBP wrote:
Anything that can be put in words, can be said by expressing with the human body. But it takes an exceptional choreographer and an exceptional dancer to make something proper out of "Fountainhead, the ballet".
I'm not trying to say you can't express yourself meaningfully with dance, but I have to disagree that anything that can be put into words can be expressed with dance. Sign language, I guess, could be cited as an example of expression with the body, but it's none the less a language that has a system and has to be learnt to be understood.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:28 pm 
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I'm agreeing with poly on this. In general, I would say that art does not deal well with ideas, certainly not the way that words do. Art tends to work with emotions around ideas. Most math songs end with Sesame Street and most musicians don't even know much higher math, much less compose for it. If a song does mention math or physics, it is as an abstract idea about numbers going on forever or that astronomy makes people impressed by the universe.
You can't dance the word "the" because "the" doesn't have meaning in a sentence; it helps the other words to have meaning.
There could be onomatopoeia for dance though. If someone wants to convey that they are riding a motorcycle, they can rotate their wrists like they are revving the motor. But, then one can't express that we are going to ride to 4 different shops to pick up 4 different things without utilizing Mime Language, which is imo, a bit difference than dance.
Words do these mundane things easily as language. But, when people talk about music or dance or architecture being a language on par with words, it is absolutely incorrect.
I will say that for emotional intensity, art can increase the power of words and words increase the power of art. If I'm in a restaurant, holding my hands to my throat would indicate that I need the Heimlich Maneuver. But, otherwise, I would have very little success conveying that message by dancing around. I couldn't do it at all with music or architecture. A statue would likely take too long before I died.
I think the way that the quote makes sense is that you will never express music with words only. Music hits us in a way that language cannot reach, ultimately leaving the critic with: "Only when you hear the music will you possibly understand it." Critics have found ways around this by saying a song sounds like another song and if they are equivalents, then that is fine. But, how to do it without that previous example? You can't. It is like explaining color to a blind person.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:59 pm 
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*To reiterate:Author not meaning.

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Glad I didn't ask for direction to the nearest hospital. I'd have gotten an earful of how ugly the nursing department is instead of a straight answer.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:04 pm 
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Milton Bradley wrote:
*To reiterate:Author not meaning.

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Glad I didn't ask for direction to the nearest hospital. I'd have gotten an earful of how ugly the nursing department is instead of a straight answer.

Just be glad they didn't bring up Trump!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:56 pm 
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wakawazoo wrote:
I don't like the quote either. It doesn't make sense. Anyway, I think it was Monk who first said it.


And Monk knows how to fucking dance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJYeCYO-hA


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 4:02 am 
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Amazing.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 8:31 am 
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polydigm wrote:
BBP wrote:
Anything that can be put in words, can be said by expressing with the human body. But it takes an exceptional choreographer and an exceptional dancer to make something proper out of "Fountainhead, the ballet".
I'm not trying to say you can't express yourself meaningfully with dance, but I have to disagree that anything that can be put into words can be expressed with dance. Sign language, I guess, could be cited as an example of expression with the body, but it's none the less a language that has a system and has to be learnt to be understood.


Dear Poly - ever heard of sign language dance?

I'm sure you can dance about architecture and if I wasn't one of those people who can get anyone to either laugh or turn away and blow chunks by dancing, I'd show you my Evoluon choreography. But for now that's confined to my bedroom.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 3:51 pm 
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Scenario: Fred and Pete meet up in a pub and order in pints of beer. A conversation ensues:

Fred: I've been wondering about that "dancing about architecture" quote. Did FZ make that up or was it said by someone else before him?
Pete: I have no idea, I would have to do a little research into that, I wonder if Johnno knows?
Fred: Well, I saw in an interview that Elvis Costello attributes it to comedian Martin Mull.
Pete: Yeah, I've heard that about other FZ quotes, that they were sometimes borrowed, but now that you bring it up, I think that quote is actually bollocks, what do you reckon?
...
The conversation ensues with some disagreements but remains civil and ends up settling on a debate about the best way to bake a gluten free carrot cake just before they say their goodbyes and head off home.

Is that really that weird a conversation? Isn't that how conversations evolve? Would Fred at some stage have jumped in and said: "I asked you about the etymology of the quote please don't now try and talk about the quote itself". Now that would be weird. It's nothing like the situation where someone is asking for directions. This is a forum where many of us have been familiar with each other for a long time. It's just talk.

This thread has proceeded until now with perfect decorum. People are having a discussion about an interesting quote used by FZ and no-one is flaming anyone. We can still talk about the etymology of the quote as and when anyone comes up with pertinent information. I don't see why these things have to be mutually exclusive.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:15 pm 
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I've just reread my original post and realise that my opening statement could have seemed inflammatory. "Who cares who said it?" was just a turn of phrase and I need to think more about my off the cuff remarks. I was not intending to dismiss the OP as a pointless question. I do believe that whatever famous quotes are and that whatever you may think about them, their etymology is interesting. My apologies for any misunderstanding.

There are several other FZ quotes that have been traced back to other people, like the one about parachutes and open minds. Does that mean he wasn't original? No, of course not. Most people learn pithy clich├ęs that they like the sound of, that come in handy when expressing themselves, but then most people are not under the microscope like well known artists. Being a well known artist shouldn't have to go hand in hand with the obligation to be either 100% original, whatever the context, or to have to know and cite the original source of anything they say that wasn't originated by them.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:18 pm 
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What makes Elvis Costello an authority?


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 2:22 pm 
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his aim is true.

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