A problem of notation

Several times, now, I have alluded to a song I made up using the many names I bestowed upon my much-loved cat Celestino (c.1992-c.2002). (He was named after Pope Celestine V, the patron saint of bookbinders. Celestine was followed by Boniface VIII when the latter placed a speaking tube in the wall of Celestine’s room and, impersonating the Holy Ghost, urged him to abdicate.) The issue is relevant to my project for two reasons. First, it forms the basis of an objection to a philosophical thesis, defended by the philosopher Robin Jeshion, that our practice of naming is regulated by an ideal that one should not give a name to something if one knows it already has a name. Secondly, I noted that I have a kind of psychological block about saying nonsense words and the revelation of the text of my song is part of an attempt, through the psychoanalysis that my book is largely about, to overcome this inhibition.

Well, here goes nothing:

I have a little grey cat
I have a little calico cat
And his name is Zemeckis
And his name is Tenbrooks
And his name is Boon Boy
And his name is Farabiano Butel
And his name is Macky Bee
And his name is Farabutles
And his name is Boxim
And his name is Bocca
And his name is Boyottles
And his name is Bunols.

The song is, like Echad Mi Yodea and Green Grow the Rushes, O, a cumulative song. The first iteration consists of the first two lines and the last. The second inserts the penultimate line, and so on, till the last iteration goes through the whole litany.

I will also, in the book, provide the melody but, as you can imagine, this presents a problem of how to notate a cumulative song. Should one just write out the final iteration, as I did with the text, and add an explanation like the one in the previous paragraph? Should one just write the first iteration and then separately provide the melody for the inserted lines? In the end, I decided to write the first and second iterations, setting off the inserted line in the second with repeat marks on either side and a comment above that one should repeat the phrase as many times as one has names to sing.


Skin in the game

Following up on my previous post about cumulative songs and naming… A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! is a work of auto-theory. To see how the pros do auto-theory, I recently read Maggie Nelson’s fantastic book The Argonauts. She speaks very frankly about many things in it (including sex) and I sort of realized that to make my book credible as a work of auto-theory, I was going to have to put some “skin in the game” and be prepared to write about embarrassing personal things.

That is why I decided to reveal the multitude of pet names I gave a previous cat of mine, Celestino.

But seriously, I had not fully anticipated, when I began this project, how much I would have to confront issues of self-revelation. And, since the form of the book is commentary on the memes by a notionally distinct editor, how self-revelation will work when it is presented through that indirection.

And then, this morning, I saw a post by Skye Cleary in which she refers to a film about Derrida in which he complains that philosophers don’t write about their sex lives! I imagined how that would go, in an article in Mind or Synthese:

“x is an ORGASM[subscript: philosopher’s name] if and only if a)…. b)… c)…. This definition is both too broad and too narrow. Regarding b), I have often found myself…. The problem with c) is that it would make it impossible, by definition, for anyone other than me to experience an ORGASM[subscript: philosopher’s name]. But while I think that it is metaphysically impossible for that to happen, it is not conceptually impossible. We might therefore weaken c) to c’)… ”

Rest assured: whatever happens in A Certain Gesture, it will not look like that!!!!