Monday, June 20, 2011

Thoughts on Writing (Despair is Boring)

I tend to over-think things...often to a fault.

One hopes that it is an asset, when it's come to writing about music.

Anyhow - Author/historian David McCullough researched letters (you know, the snail mail paraphernalia?)- written by artists through the mid-19th century for his latest book. TIME Magazine recently interviewed him about the quaintness of letter writing.

We don't write letters on paper anymore. How will this affect the study of history?
-The loss of people writing--writing a composition, a letter or a report--is not just the loss for the record. It's the loss of the process of working your thoughts out on paper, of having an idea that you would never have had if you weren't [writing]. And that's a handicap. People [I research] were writing letters every day. That was calisthenics for the brain.

We often can't understand how people in the past could have owned slaves or not educated girls. What do you think people will wonder about us?
-How we could have spent so much time watching TV.


Before reading that, however, I had had an electronically-facilitated conversation with local musician John Bissa about the usefulness of: "considered criticism" in helping "raise up a lot of things" and potentially spur on the continued traditions of meaningful art and highlighting relevant new talent in the community.

"Certainly," I responded. "But, I worry that few things are considered in the Internet age -
too many writers will just look, briefly listen, load the chambers and fire off."

(Set aside that we now are sorely sated with 'writers' out here on the blurring, bohemoth Internet's icy, antagonistic plains).

"We also risk stumbling over our own shoelaces" by processing/half-analyzing a glutton of data, be it news, or be it music. "Jumping all jittery across a hopscotch/taunt and flaunt playground of sites and blogs."


So that made me dig up this story from NPR's Fresh Air:
"How The Internet is Re-shaping Music Criticism" - an interview with music writer LinkAnn Powers. Thus giving me insight and helping me relax a bit, with added perspective, when our state of literary intellect seems to be either dizzying or disconcerting.

Powers acknowledges the notion that the blogger brigade threatens sustained thought.

Forget having your life changed by a great music book, the way mine was by Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train in 1985. We can’t even trust anyone to tell us whether the new Justin Timberlake album deserves five stars.

"But," she continues, "I think despair is boring. It lands the worrier in the time-travel trap of longing for the past while fearing the future. It obscures the present. The present is unstable, but that’s what makes music writing—and all cultural writing, in fact—so exciting a practice these days. We have to dump our expectations and try to use our voices and our minds in different ways."

Listen to the story here.

At the end of the day, I try not to over-think myself-writing-about-music; since I spend too much time already over-thinking-the-music-itself. The internet is going to shape our habits no matter what - but nothing can change the interaction between a listener and an album; it's only up to the listener to how great an extent they open themselves to said-album (and hopefully long enough for it to have an impact).

"Music itself is a call that deLinkmands response," Powers writes. "It organizes desire, sorrow, and joy into a form both primal—the ear is the first sense organ to begin working when we are in the womb—and intensely communal; in every known culture, some form of music has been a constant in everyday life. Making music or listening to it is part of how we grow; sharing music is what helps us create community."

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