Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breaking the law, breaking the law

Whoops! If this is a (broad) rule of jazz blogging, I guess I violate it a lot:

It is generally easier to discuss someone else’s music than your own. (I freeze up when I have to write about The Bad Plus.)

(Source: Ethan Iverson's advice to new bloggers (as part of the excellent contest you may have heard about).)

There is some basic truth here, of course. Hence another statement I pompously dispensed to the MTC attendees a few weeks back: "I'm the least-qualified person to say anything valuable about my own music."

And yet what, other than "I like it" or "I don't like it," can I usefully say about other people's music? F'r'instance, when it comes to the well-known critical trope of innovation --

[Artist X] is the first to do [musical strategy Y]. Hooray!

-- isn't the real question this:

Why do you or do you not like [musical strategy Y]?

And when you peel away the layers in an effort to answer that question, aren't you really just saying that you like it because you like it? (Or, maybe worse, because of some brain chemistry process that you may not completely understand?)

Which is not to say it's not fun to read excellent writing about music. Just that, these days, when I make the effort at third-person criticism, I usually end up feeling stymied by the ultimate tautology of it all.

Which is also not to say that I'll never use this blog to write about other people's music again. Just that I'll spend a fair amount of time (maybe too much time) writing about thongs and mustaches too.

But you knew that already, right?

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