The elements of kitsch are secondhandness, but also a nostalgia for origins. Take the tin-pan alley song "The Birth of the Blues." It is not a blues song itself, but a pop song in another form that is about the blues. Specifically, about its origin or birth:
Oh, they say some people long ago
Were searching for a diffrent tune
One that they could croon
As only they can
They only had the rhythm
They started swaying to and fro
They didn't know just what to use
That is how the blues really began
They heard the breeze in the trees
Singing weird melodies
And they made that the start, the start of the blues
And from a jail came the wail
Of a down-hearted frail
And they played that
As part of the blues
From a whippoorwill
Way up on a hill
They took a new note
Pushed it through a horn
Until it was worn
Into a blue note
And then they nursed it
They rehearsed it
And then sent out that news
That the Southland gave birth to the blues
The secondhandness and the evocation of origins are in tension. The endless repetition of the song, the numerous versions by Sinatra, Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr, and Crosby, add layers of kitschiness to it. There are other non-blues songs about the blues, like "Lady Sings the Blues" and "Blues in the Night," or maybe even "Mood Indigo."
That's an easily identifiable case. But what about a real blues song that becomes kitschified? Or what if there is no origin there at all? The search for origins itself gives rise to secondhandness. What if Lorca is already kitsch, and the kitschification of him is simply a logical next step?
To condemn kitsch is to commit oneself to some notion of the non-kitsch, the authentic, yet the search for the authentic is already part of the mechanism of kitsch. I feel I'm reinventing deconstruction here. You know, one of those aporias.
Even though it's misinterpretation, mistranslation all the way down, I still feel that there is an aesthetic judgment to be made. Some aesthetic appropriations breathe new life into the original material. Mingus's music, for example ("Better get hit in your soul"). Some of Ellington's reinterpretation of folkloric materials.
Whenever you feel embarrassment, or that something is in "bad taste," then something interesting is going on. I find the lyrics to "The Birth of the Blues" intensely distasteful.
So my essay would have two parts, one on Lorca and one on jazz. I plan to make this my traveling piece, so I could give it various places where I am invited to speak, Iowa and Belfast for example.