by Joseph Kyle
Am I the only one annoyed with the sudden blossoming of Collapse Board manifestos? It reminds me of grad school, wherein books about historical events were rarely about historical events, but were about the historical research about the historical event in question. Cold, clinical, and yielding absolutely no insight or interest, these works were ad nauseam treatises about the historical research about the subject at hand. [Aren't we being a little meta here Joseph? Commentary around the commentary around music? - Ed]
The problem with multiple manifestos about what music writing should and should not entail is that in doing so, you run the risk of not only missing the point of music, but you often suck the joy and sheer fun that goes along with the enjoyment of simply putting on a record by a band or an artist you like, turning it on, and taking pleasure in the listening experience.
I am of the firm belief that the best music writing should reflect that joy. Over-intellectualising and politicising music just for the sake of displaying your intellectual feathers — well, it has its place, but consistently doing so misses the point. It has been said that once the intellectuals and the academes start writing about art, then the art in question has died. Just take a look at PopMatters. For every decent review, article, or editorial you find, there are twenty didactic, dull, pretentious pieces that, well, make me wonder if the writer even cares about what they’re supposed to be writing about. These types of writings make me wonder if the author has a desire to live in the courts of Versailles or the annals of Oxford, and that such dull, droll expositions serve any other purpose than to display the author’s sense of intellectual superiority. It all seems a bit pathetic, no?
Note to these over-intellectualists: I have succeeded in grad school thanks in large part by eschewing said intellectual writing styles, and actually speaking in a vernacular that doesn’t make me sound like a pompous windbag. As an undergrad, you do need to learn the language of the academes. As a graduate student, you need to forget every bit of that learning, because it won’t get you very far, and you will be chewed up. As a writer, you want to reach the greatest number of people possible, and you want to build a rapport with an audience who will appreciate what you have to say. You certainly won’t do it if you constantly talk about things in a manner meant to impress philosophes and undergrads. It is amazing how far one can go in life by simply speaking plainly and directly! The stacks of most research libraries are lined with thousands of volumes of one-upmanship, haughty language, and self-gratifying pats on the back that absolutely no one will read — or care to read. Think people care about these things? Keep telling yourself these things matter to the world at large — and if you’re lucky, it will. It won’t, of course; the notion that the world isn’t smart enough to understand these things is merely a self-help device that these writers employ in order to not feel so worthless and unimportant.
My point? There’s a time and place for everything. Getting caught up in manifestos only heightens a sense that you’re not sure who you are. It’s that simple question of being versus doing; what you are should be evident in how you do what it is you do. You can espouse the virtue of being free and honest and truthful and creative all the live-long day, but just shut up and do it, OK? Find something you love or feel passionate about, share that love in a well-written form, and be heartfelt about it in a way that is honest to who you are — and you’ll go far in life.
Thus endeth the lesson.