Cory Arcangel: The Bruce Springsteen Born to Run Glockenspiel Addendum
With wit and glockenspiel, Brooklyn artist Cory Arcangel finishes The Boss's 1975 classic and creates his own minimalist work of art.
Arriving in a subtly detourned sleeve, this 33 RPM vinyl release is a minimalist triumph. Cory Arcangel has created an album of glockenspiel parts for all the songs on Born to Run -- the ones that lack them in the original, that is. Listeners can either spend happy hours syncing this album to Springsteen’s original opus, or just listen to it on its own. I chose the latter and was stunned by its sparse counterpoint to the sprawling splendor of its memorable inspiration.
If you’ll recall, the main guitar theme on the track “Born to Run” is doubled by a glockenspiel. The song also has a thrilling moment of anticipation that is broken by Bruce spitting out the line: “1-2-3-4…The highways jam with broken heroes on a last chance power drive…” Somehow, The Bruce Springsteen Born To Run Glockenspiel Addendum inhabits that exact space and uses it as a portal to transport an unsuspecting listener to another realm.
With apologies to John Cage, I must relate that whole tracks on the album are completely blank. However, as Cage knew, there is no such thing as silence, and as the needle moved across the area where the waves of “Thunder Road” usually come crashing in, I found it impossible to prevent remembered lyrics from intruding; the screen door slamming, Mary dancing across the porch, Roy Orbison singing for the lonely... and so on.
I zoned out for several minutes before the striking arrival of the first note on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”. This produced a shock both visceral and elegant, and made me anticipate the next one. A fleeting notion of humor threatened to betray Arcangel’s intent, but there is a reverent atmosphere in these grooves which will quiet cynical sniggers. Another expanse of blankness followed, until the eventual appearance of extraordinarily sparse tinkling on “Backstreets” (always my favorite track from the original).
Side 2 features more solo shenanigans, as the glacial bone structures of “She’s the One”, "Meeting Across the River”, and “Jungleland” are writ in transfixing, er, glockenspielia. Brooklyn artist Arcangel has previously altered Super Mario games to leave nothing behind except the clouds and created the installation piece I Shot Andy Warhol. His work seems to ask questions about the relationship between culture and technology but, thankfully, is also a lot of fun. Where Bruce learned from Dylan, Orbison, and Spector, Arcangel (unwittingly?) evokes Bryars, Cage, and Satie with a precision and restraint that are strangely moving. Personally, the idea of listening to the efforts of Cory and Bruce in perfect harmony strike me as only a slight improvement on sitting down and syncing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz, but anyone attempting it should be sure to remember to declare that they have seen the Ghost of the Future of Rock and Roll. If The Boss has a sense of humor, we might expect this homage to become better-known. Just 300 signed copies are available, though, so grab this cult item before it disappears into the darkness on the edge of town.