Nothing Has Been Done Before began coming together in the late summer and early fall of 2014, largely as a collision of three texts: Arthur Danto’s After the End of Art, Boris Groys’ On the New, and Greil Marcus’ The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs. I was reviewing the latter for the great site Public Books when it struck me that music’s ability to make it seem like nothing has been done before is (as I wrote then) “what Marcus is listening for in The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs, and regardless of how much it’s been tied up in American history and culture, it’s what he’s been listening for throughout his entire career.” You can read that review here.
“Tied up in American history and culture” is not meant to be a pejorative. As I go on to explain, the relationships between music, history, and culture are crucial to understanding that sense of newness–the feeling of discovery that can happen at any moment. Without those relationships, it’s very easy for a form (a song) (a melody) (a lyric) to sound only familiar.
A few short passages from the review made their way into the Prologue of Nothing Has Been Done Before. I’m grateful to Public Books for the opportunity to write for them and, in the process, lay some important groundwork for what has become my first book.