Dancing about Architecture

“Framing all the great music out there only drags down its immediacy. The songs are lyrics, not speeches, and they’re tunes, not paintings. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture—it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.” – Elvis Costello

When reading others’ posts on how they perceive text, and what it can be, this quote stuck out in my mind. It points out how different forms of texts can do and express things that others just can’t. They’re all expressive communication, but different… perhaps, too, like looking at something through someone else’s glasses.

Another interesting thing about this quote is that, while it is what Costello said in 1983, the main simile in it isn’t his. The generation of this wise comparison was by someone else, and it took a good deal of sifting through texts (oral, written, etc.) to figure out who it originally belonged to.


It’s a great example of how unique text forms can be, and how what people say can be recycled and re-authored.

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1 Response to Dancing about Architecture

  1. smyers says:

    Great post and a great quote. I’ve known if for a long time but honestly had no idea who first said it.
    Your post raises an interesting debate about what is more important…the author or the message? Does not knowing the originator of the quote make the quote less valuable? It is interesting, I wonder if in an a primary oral culture if the message that is conveyed by such a quote would insist that the originator of the thought be a priority in the coveying of the message or if it was the meaning and significance of the message that would be most important? As we shift to a print based culture, we can become fixated on finding the information, such as who said it first, but does that give more meaning to the message? Interesting!
    Thanks so much…It was interesting to learn the answer to the question – I had no idea it was Martin Mull who originated it! (I also pulled out some Elvis Costello from my collection which I haven’t listened to in ages so thanks!)

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