Friday, December 05, 2003


Oh yeah, and one more thing in regards to contemporary music journalism - this might be a rather insular comment, only of interest to other writers vs. the reading public, but what's most certainly happened too is that it's harder and harder for journalists and critics to find places to write for that actually encourage critical and thoughtful engagements with culture. This is sort of what I meant by the "Blender-ization" of content (which I ripped off from Jeff Chang) - everything is about zip and polish. Editors at most of the glossies want short, punchy reviews that are easy to read but that doesn't mean the writing actually says anything, only that it goes down easy. There was much hand-wrining over the Voice's decision to kill the long-form essay format in their music section and while some have argued that this has cut down on some of the bloated, convoluted pieces that more indulgent writers at the Voice have churned out, it also means that the opportunity to really get your hooks into something is gone. That same problem is practically everywhere in the current publishing world - from big blossies to alt weeklies, even WWW sites are trying to reduce word counts out of the assumption that readers are too lazy, impatient or stupid to appreciate anything longer than 100-300 words. Don't get me wrong - longer essays can be taxing as hell, especially if the writer is gassed off some self-aggrandizing ego shit (I don't name no names but ya'll know who's violating) but the problem with short pieces is that they make it damn near impossible for writers to ever get into "the big idea". This is something that Harper's covered in their May 2003 issue and while that article was not in reference to music or even cultural criticism per se, I think part of what Cristina Nehring has to say in that piece is wholly relevant to understanding why criticism/journalism has become so problematic. People are scared to speak their minds, scared to put the Big Ideas out there in fear of being criticized or ridiculed. So instead, we have all this diva writing masquerading as criticism on one hand and then snarky, soundbite fluff on the other.

When I get a chance, I'll list some pieces of music journalism from 2003 that I think run against the grain and suggest what is still possible in an sphere on increasingly shrinking opportunities.