“Bob Dylan” the public artist is a cryptic puzzle. As some scholars may spend years piecing together an understanding of dead languages or obsolete technologies, those with similar Don Quixote-esque tendencies may try to parse a true meaning from Dylan’s art.
Dylan has a reputation for being media averse and any long statement from the now 76-year-old artist is rare. So, it’s a unique opportunity that there’s a new, nearly half-hour speech by Dylan to consume.
Last year, Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” as the institution described. At first, Dylan hesitated to accept, but finally allowed the institution to give him his medal earlier this year, albeit in a private ceremony.
Part of the requirement of accepting this prize, however, is to give a lecture for The Nobel Foundation. Dylan therefore recorded an audio-only lecture Sunday that was subsequently released Monday.
“When I received the Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature,” Dylan began his lecture. “I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was. I’m going to try to articulate that to you ― and most likely it will go in a round-about way.”
Dylan famously didn’t even acknowledge the award for nearly two weeks, a slight that a member of the Nobel institution called “impolite and arrogant.” He also did not attend the formal banquet.
Eventually, Dylan warmed to the honor and told The Telegraph that it was “amazing” and “incredible.” He further said, “Who dreams about something like that?”
This new lecture at least has the audio flourishes of background music and editing to distinguish it slightly from a straight, rambling recording of Dylan speaking into a microphone. Although the latter wouldn’t have been too surprising (or unwelcome) given Dylan’s artistic history.
Dylan finished his intro to the speech by saying, “I hope what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.”