Friday, July 29, 2011

Music Blogs

Why are most music blogs so dull? I've just been browsing around a few and not finding much interesting. "I just went to such-and-such concert", "next week so-and-so is playing", "here's a photo of so-and-sos gravesite", "the Bayreuth Festival this year is going to be such-and-such". Yawn...

This seems to miss the essence of blogging, somehow. Shouldn't blogging be about issues, problems, questions, that sort of thing? When I started reading blogs a decade ago, there was a lot of fire. A lot of people had things to say and a burning need to say them. There seemed to be things at stake, things that mattered. Part of the reality and urgency was that, finally, people not part of the long-established social structures had their say. As a journalist complained "some guy out there is writing about this stuff sitting around in his pajamas." Yep, and the scary thing was that he was often making more sense than the journalist. The whole mass media community tends to have a lot of irons in the fire that mean that their interests are rather different from their readers. People tired of the usual BS tend to read blogs instead of the online newspaper or magazine.

So why are classical music blogs so dull? True, not all of them are. I often enjoy Jessica Duchen's blog and Norman Lebrecht is often interesting but most aren't. Often the problem is the writing: awkward, uncommunicative, verbose or meandering prose. Lots of musicians just can't write. But there seem two other reasons for the lame blogging: one is to be so well-connected in the music world that you can't risk annoying anyone. Another is that you don't have much in the way of developed principles or values with which to orient yourself, meaning you don't have much to say that delves below the surface.

You know who I wish would blog: Richard Taruskin. Blessed with one of the most formidable and informed minds in music, he writes very weighty volumes on, among other things, Stravinsky and the history of Western Music. Occasionally he does a bit of 'journalism'--in scare quotes because his idea of journalism is just as weighty as his other work. Here is a sample: a review of three books on classical music's dilemma in The New Republic called "The Musical Mystique: Defending Classical Music Against Its Devotees". Twenty-four pages long... and well worth your time. To give you a taste of his prose, here is a quote. Remember, this is a book review:
As with rising gorge I consumed these books, the question that throbbed and pounded in my head was whether it was still possible to defend my beloved repertoire without recourse to pious tommyrot, double standards, false dichotomies, smug nostalgia, utopian delusions, social snobbery, tautology, hypocrisy, trivialization, pretense, innuendo, reactionary invective, or imperial haberdashery.
 Wow, I wish I had written that. Even more, I hope that what I am doing here, in my small way, tries to live up to the beloved repertoire without falling into that list of vices.

I'm especially worried about the last one: "imperial haberdashery" because I'm not quite sure what that might be. I hope it doesn't mean that I can't blog in my pajamas...

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