So, while my blogging here has leveled off considerably, I continue to do a lot of writing in other places.
I've mentioned www.muzzleofbees.com which continues to be the place my writing appears that I am most proud of and excited about. I spent a day with Ryan Matteson the founder and main editor of the blog over the summer at the Pitchfork festival in Chicago, and am so impressed by him. You won't meet a more authentic guy. He has a genuine interest in music and musicians that he's been able to translate into a successful blog, but more than that, he's on track to be a successful "new-school" contributor to the music business in general. He seems to understand that success is measured not by one's ability to quickly amass wealth, but rather it is a mixture of strong, honest friendships/business relationships and an anti-cynic philosophy. Cynicism prevails in music criticism especially, but Ryan's blog is mostly about promotion and spotlighting and never a space for cutting down. And I say "mostly" because the only cynicism that I read on muzzleofbees is usually in an article by me. I still have a lot to learn and am grateful for serendipitous relationships with people like Ryan who, just by example, push me out of the cynic's self-conscious cycle.
I have also recently been doing a bit of freelance writing for the magazine American Songwriter -- at least, I've been writing for their website. It's my first freelance experience. So far it's been just three pieces: A review of the Pitchfork fest, a review of a Soundgarden concert, and a record review of the new Ray Lamontagne record. I was particularly proud of the first I'm realizing that it focuses a bit on cynicism as well (a state of mind frequently on my mind, it seems). I spent a long time writing that article and thinking carefully about my argument there and I think it is a decent piece of writing. I probably spent 10 hours writing it and got paid exactly one dollar an hour for my work, their going rate ($10 per piece). The Ray Lamontagne review has also been fun to watch because of all the comments it got. People, on the whole, didn't like my review and one goes as far as to say "this isn't just a bad review, it's a bad REVIEWER!" That made me frown first, but it quickly turned to a smile when I realized that I might have had the very same response if any of my favorite artists' records were negatively reviewed. I actually felt a bit proud that my review had prompted such a large response.
The best thing by far that these writing gigs provide, despite the low/no paychecks is access to amazing live and recorded music. That Soundgarden show, for example, was sold out. They were to play for an audience in the tens of thousands a few nights later at Lollapalooza and I saw them in a small theatre and was relatively close to the stage. Also, I've been able to see a few of my favorite bands not just once but numerous times over the summer. I saw Dawes, my favorite new band, FOUR times this summer and another favorite The National three times. This is a near unspeakable privilege for a kid who has always loved live music but has never had deep enough pockets to experience it on even a fraction of this scale. So, I'm feeling blessed.
Additionally, I've started to do some "blogging" (if that's what you can call it) over on a Tumblr page. The focus here is mostly MoB's runnoff -- ideas that I have for music writing that don't quite seem to fit that particular writing space. I've stated there that I'm interested, particularly, in exploring the craft of songwriting. That is a big net, though, so I have some liberty to deviate a bit. The last post there about songs that sound similar should be a fun one to explore. I love thinking about the ways that music is constantly overlapping as influences, almost like implicit or subtextual references to other music and styles. So that should be fun.
Finally, I'm going to start trying to use this space --a blog I've titled "Sonic Rhetorics" -- to start collecting ideas and musings about my academic writing. I created it a year or so ago, but have never used it. I'll start using it this semester for a course I am taking, and we'll see what happens from there. Right now the best thing about it is the title banner.
This leads to a bit of an admission of fear: for all the writing that I have been doing this year, only a small percent of it has been academic writing. This worries me a bit. I know that in order to be successful in my career as an academic, I have to start producing and publishing my work. This is a bit daunting for me, but I have begun to make moves to help these two kinds of writing -- the kind that I want/like to do and the kind that I have to do -- and merge them. I am fairly certain that my dissertation will be a historical look at American music (focused in around the turn of the last century). I want to argue for music as rhetoric -- as persuasive discourse -- that is deeply embedded in culture, ideology and national/regional (and personal) identity. It is my hope that my writing in the last year will prime the pump on my more academic stuff. We'll see.
So that's my update for now. I still see blog as an important home base for me and so will continue to use it from time to time as such.