When Bob Dylan arrived in New York in January 1961, he found himself in a cultural paradise, a city that offered him access to art and music and film that he could only have read about back in Hibbing, Minnesota.
But he had always been curious about the world.
According to Dylan in his autobiography, “Chronicles Volume One,” back in Hibbing he’d already been absorbing a fantastic amount of culture, reading “Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke, Montesquieu, Martin Luther – visionaries, revolutionaries … it was like I knew those guys, like they’d been living in my backyard.”
Thelonious Monk, “Misterioso”:
He’d seen 100s of films and already had an encyclopedia of music in his head. Sure there were all the folk and blues and country records he’d heard, and many live performances he’d attended (Slim Whitman, Hank Snow, Web Pierce and others), but he’d listened to rock ‘n’ roll and jazz too. And pop music and classical!
As Dylan recounts in Chronicles, once he got to New York he had the opportunity to stretch even further. He saw Fellini films and hung out with Thelonious Monk at the Blue Note and attended performances by many jazz legends, read the poetry of Rimbaud and Baudelaire and Ginsberg and so many others, and even saw Jean Genet’s play, The Balcony.
Trailer for Fellini’s
And he was still reading all the time: Robert Graves, Thucydides, Gogol, Balzac, Maupassant, Dickens, Dante and so many more.
It was not a narrow focus on folk music and on playing folk songs that allowed Bob Dylan to become one of the greatest artists.
No, it was his wide-ranging curiosity. Dylan has a curious mind that constantly seeks out and absorbs new information from wide-ranging and eclectic sources.
The point I’m making is that Dylan exposed himself (and continues to expose himself) to a all kinds of new information. All of that forms the backdrop for his own unique art.
And this leads me to Festival Albertine, a six-night event curated by arguably the leading Dylan expert, Greil Marcus.
“Engrenages” – Season 1 – Trailer:
Marcus’ worldview is certainly informed by his love of Dylan, who he was been listening to and writing about since the ‘60s. Marcus has written three books about Dylan, including his “Basement Tapes” masterpiece, “The Old, Weird America.”
Next month, Festival Albertine will take place from October 14 through October 19 in New York, and videos of the panel discussions will be available for all to see at the Albertine website after the festival ends.
This festival itself, like Marcus’ own approach to writing about culture and history, reminds me of Dylan’s curious mind.
Marcus has reached out to radical French filmmakers and experimental novelists, a Foucoult expert, and the genius mathematician John Nash, TV show auteurs and rock, film and book critics, fashion experts and screenwriters, graphic novel creators and political science professors, and organized a wide-ranging series of panels on topics ranging from “Extremist Fiction in Ordinary Language” to “Olivier Assayas in the Post-May Period.”
All of them and more will be at Festival Albertine.
The trailer for “Après- Mai”:
For more about the festival, please check out my previous post on it here.
If you care about Bob Dylan, you should care about Greil Marcus, and if you care about Greil Marcus, you should care about Festival Albertine.
— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —