FOUCAULT FUNK:
THE MICHEL FOUCAULT POSTMODERN BLUES

Lyrics by Michel Foucault, Gary Radford, and Marie Radford; Music by Stephen Cooper and Gary Radford
Debut: Rutgers University, March 8, 1997

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Recorded at Suite 16 Studios, Piscataway, New Jersey, November 1997
Produced and Engineered by Paul Sukovich
Stephen Cooper - Bass; Robert Kubey - Drums; Jennifer Lehr - Vocals; Gary Radford - Guitar

The inspiration for "Foucault Funk" was a suggestion from Marie Radford that the Professors write a bluessong about postmodernism. Well, there's nothing to make you feel that raw blues feeling of despondency and cynicism more than a good dose of postmodern theory. This idea led to the first verse of the song, which proclaims we "can't find no foundations" and "there ain't no truth anymore." To round out the song, we decided to go to my favorite postmodern blues-master, Michel Foucault, and allow him to speak through our song.

Verse two of "Foucault Funk" proclaims that "Man will be erased like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea." These are the closing lines of Foucault's "The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences" (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1973), where Foucault writes: "If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility - without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises - were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea" (p. 387).

Verses three and four are taken from Foucault's classic work, "The Archaeology of Knowledge" (A.M. Sheridan Smith, Trans., New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1972). Verse three is based on Foucault's response to the charge that his work changes constantly. Foucault responds: "What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing - with a rather shaky hand - a labyrinth into which I can venture, in which I can move my discourse, opening up underground passages, forcing it to go far from itself, finding overhangs that reduce and deform its itinerary, in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again. I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write" (p. 17).

Verse four is inspired by Foucault's account of the implications of his book. Foucault writes: "This book was written simply in order to overcome certain preliminary difficulties. I know as well as anyone how 'thankless' is the task that I undertook some ten years ago. I know how irritating it can be to treat discourses in terms not of the gentle, silent, initmate consciousness that is expressed in them, but of an obscure set of anonymous rules. How unpleasant it is to reveal the limitations and necessities of a practice where one is used to seeing, in all its pure transparency, the expression of genius and freedom. How provocative it is to treat as a set of transformations this history of discourses which, until now, has been animated by the reassuring metaphors of life or the intentional continuity of the lived. How unbearable it is, in view of how much of himself everyone wishes to put, thinks he is putting of 'himself' into his own discourse, when he speaks, how unbearable it is to cut up, analyse, combine, rearrange all these texts that have now returned from silence, without ever the transfigured face of of the author appearing: 'What! All those words, piled up one after another, all those marks made on all that paper and presented to innumerable pairs of eyes, all that concern to make them survive beyond the gesture that articulated them, so much piety expended in preserving them and inscribing them in men's memories - all that and nothing remaining of the poor hand that traced them, of the anxiety that sought appeasement in them, of that completed life that has nothing but them to survive in? Is not discourse, in its most profound determination, a "trace"? And is its murmer not the place of insubstantial immortalities? Must we admit that the time of discourse is not the time consciousness extrapolated to the dimensions of history, or the time of history present in the form of consciousness? Must I suppose that in my discourse I can have no survival? And that in speaking I am not banishing my death, but actually establishing it; or rather that I am abolishing all interiority in that exterior that is so indifferent to my life, and so neutral, that it makes no distinction between my life and my death?

I understand the unease of all such people. They have probably found it difficult enough to recognize that their history, their economics, their social practices, the language (langue) that they speak, the mythology of their ancestors, even the stories that they were told in their childhood, are governed by rules that are not at all given to their consciousness; they can hardly agree to being dispossessed in additon of that discourse in which they wish to be able to say immediately and directly what they think, believe, or imagine; they prefer to deny that discourse is a complex, differentiated practice, governed by analysable rules and transformations, rather than be deprived of that tender, consoling certainty of being able to change, if not the world, if not life, at least their 'meaning', simply with a fresh word that can come only from themselves, and remain for ever close to the source. So many things have already eluded them in their language (langage): they have to preserve that tiny fragment of discourse - whether written or spoken - whose fragile, uncertain existence must perpetuate their lives. They cannot bear (and one cannot help but sympathize) to hear someone saying: 'Discourse is not life: its time is not your time; in it, you will not be reconciled to death; you may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said; but don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he'"(pp. 210-211).

The Lyrics

I can't find no foundations
There aint no truth anymore
I can't find no foundations
There aint no truth anymore
I'm caught in multiple perspectives
I can't think straight anymore

Man will be erased
Like a face drawn in sand
Man will be erased
Like a face drawn in sand
Like a face drawn in sand
At the edge of the sea

Do not ask me who I am
Do not ask me to remain the same
Do not ask me who I am
Do not ask me to remain the same
Do not ask me to remain the same
I am not the only one
Who writes to have no face

Discourse is not life
Its time is not your time
Discourse is not life
Its time is not your time
In discourse you have no survival
You only establish your death



Copyright 1997 by Gary Radford, Stephen Cooper, and Marie Radford. All rights reserved

This page last updated June 30, 2010 by Gary Radford.
Many thanks to Kurt Wagner, Marie Radford, and Jon Oliver.