The keyboards of existence

If there is a “keyboard” of existence, who plays it?1

The point here is that this kind of single-level awareness [in Dos Passos] is not possible to anybody seriously manipulating the multiple keyboards of Joyce’s art. (Dos Passos: Technique vs. Sensibility )

The beloved detective story will serve as an example of a supposedly non-cultural type of expression. Built around the character of an omniscient and omni-competent sleuth whose lineage stretches backwards from Holmes to Da Vinci it manages to be popular poetry about the modern city. The sleuth is a master of every facet of the city. With the skill of an organist at a five-keyboard instrument, he can touch any note or level of metropolitan life. He is familiar with all the dives and clubs. He knows the whole range of drinks, foods, clothes, perfumes, as well as every intricacy of transportation routes and schedules. Anybody in the future who wished to acquaint himself with the full range and texture of the modern big town would not be able to find in reputable novels anything comparable to the poetic reportage of the detective story. The raw mechanical power that is imparted to the ordinary metropolitan citizen by his milieu is found in the gestures and idiom of the sleuth. (Technology and Political Change)

Joyce has shown us is how to do for the whole of existence what the sleuth does with the keyboard of the city. Today we are compelled by the quantity of available social and political facts to learn a new (…) language for swiftly mastering the inner dynamics [through]2 the outer carapace of facts. (New Media as Political Forms)

the press opened up the “human interest” keyboard after the telegraph had restructured the press medium (Understanding Media, 52)

  1. In Un Coup de Dés, Mallarmé writes of a “childlike shade”, of an “immemorial ulterior demon”, and of a “corpse”, exposed to “the virgin index” of possibilities — “in sight of all non-existent human outcomes”.
  2. McLuhan has ‘by’.