Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Letting it all hang out

As a composer and cultural gad-about who jumped early and fully into the craziness of the online world, I sometimes wonder if I'm giving too much away with what I do here.

Isn't that the great trade-off of blogging and social media? Hooray: I'm sharing my personal thoughts and experiences with a pretty big audience! Yes, but, you know... I'm sharing my personal thoughts and experiences with a pretty big audience.

Which is not to say that I feel like I've lost my privacy altogether. But I do think I put a lot more of myself out there than my basically introverted nature seems to require. I mean, I used to keep a personal journal, and I don't really do that anymore. I do continue to carry around notebooks, but they are full of fragments and sketches, rendered in the shortest shorthand I can muster. Still, in the end, for better or worse, this blog (and my social media presence in general) has become the new testing ground for most of my latest ideas and observations.

I get the point about how a significant portion of what's out there on the internets is "pointless babble" and "narcissism." Note that pointless babble and narcissism totally make sense in the context of a personal journal -- sometimes you have to slog through (or purge!) what the Zen monks called "roof-brain chatter" to get to anything of substance. But in public? Unseemly! I can only imagine what the great Neil Postman would have to say about Twitter.

Of course, I can't remember ever feeling this paranoid about the way things are going:

I actually really want to see this now, cuz it looks like a good comedy. (Sorry: it's hard for me not to laugh at any film whose trailer includes the line "But he took it too far." (Dun-dun!))

Actually, the movie feels like a trap: showing us what a culture of compulsory voyeurism/exhibitionism does for the human species, and simultaneously implicating us in that process (because as the audience, we're the voyeurs -- get it?).

I dunno: I realize we're living in a new era, but it will take a lot to convince me we are living in a true Panopticon culture of compulsory voyeurism/exhibitionism. To me, it feels less compulsory than compulsive.

And besides: jazz! Perhaps one reason I've adapted to this new landscape so readily is that it resembles the dynamic of improvisatory music (and the sort of music that I do, which is heavily informed by improvisation, whether it explicitly includes it or not).

What is a jazz soloist doing if not publicly presenting a work-in-progress (the fruits of an ongoing routine of practice, study, imagination, listening)? Like a social media junkie, sometimes a jazz musician shares too much, or too soon. ("Hey, I discovered this cool figure while practicing earlier today -- let's see if it works in this tune. Whoops, never mind!")

Even the best bloggers and twitter-devotees let through the occasional typo, awkward turn of phrase, or incompletely-considered idea. (That there is one reason somebody is always "wrong on the internet.") And even the best improvisers and composers-who-think-like-improvisers let through the occasional clam, or hackneyed theme, or bad transition. In both cases, the dedicated ones go back to the drawing board, edit, and try again -- and that persistence (and its subsequent payoff) is part of what makes them great.

Process over product, baby. No?

[Photo credit: Hyku]


Anonymous said...

Have you looked at Dylan's Chronicles? I think the way he dealt with being the most public of persons was brilliant: from the start he just dazzlingly bullshitted everybody who asked him anything about himself. That is the correct approach.

Andrew Durkin... said...

I haven't had a chance to read Chronicles yet (though I love Dylan). But "dazzling bullshit" is a concept that appeals to me in this context...