Sunday, March 16, 2014

Apologia pro bloga sua

I HAVEN'T BEEN GIVING enough attention lately to blogs, either to my own or to those of others. I find online comments and blogs, carefully selected (and lord knows I overlook more than I should), frequently enlarge one's perspective. They have a way of bringing material to one's attention that might otherwise go unnoticed; they can also cast familiar material in new light.

I am drawn particularly to Daniel Wolf's always intriguing Renewable Music. The other day he put a long post up on Facebook. I repost it here — I hope he won't mind — adding paragraphing to make it a little friendlier to my aging eyes:
When I started my blog, it was just supposed to be a sampling from the kinds of notes and observations I write while composing. Then the public nature of the beast got me to twisting the writing style in a more conventional journalistic or even scholarly style.

(People started sending me all sorts of SWAG, asking me to mention their work or even review it, although I have no critical ambitions, let alone, talents whatsoever, which I would patiently explain. (Then people would get angry with me, sometimes virulently, for not mentioning or reviewing the materials they sent me.))

Some journalists and scholars can write wonderfully within the parameters of their genres, but my own attempts at writing in those styles were half-hearted, labored, and dull and, thankfully, didn't last long, as I realized that, as a composer, I had the license _not_ to write conventional prose, but rather could be, indeed ought to be, more inventive, and if not inventive, as least more of myself, even if that pushed some eccentricities into play.

In general, and though my thinking processes are certainly flawed in one way or another, I try to capture the way I actually think these things through, while working on my music. Sentences, breezily beginning with "And"s or "So"s can run long or fragment, often broken into phrases with comments and extensions and exceptions divided by ,s and ;s and between —s and ()s and []s (some of those within several layers of brackets, a habit for which reading Roussel and Roubaud has only encouraged me), footnotes appear ("Who footnotes a damn blog?", asks Rollo), though rarely as references, divisions into paragraphs often get tossed, and often an item beginning with topic alpha ends up on topic omega.

Sometimes, I set myself compositional tasks, or even games, sometimes of an oulipian nature, involving form or numbers or vocabulary or even punctuation. I've even written scatological limericks about centenarian composers. Now, I get more complaints about the writing style than about the content I don't mention, so I suppose I'm doing something right. The velocity and volume of posts to the blog has varied over time, slower in recent years due to all sorts of pressures on time (as well as a long period of not being able to use my right hand, which is tricky, being overly right-handed) but a less manic pace strikes me as just fine. It's still ancillary to composing, I have no idea how many people read it, I have no impression that it's helped my music get performed through the public-ness of it, but that's really beside the point: I continue to learn a lot, working through writing these texts, practicing composition in a textual medium that has yet to find its ideal forms, and still have plenty of fun with it.
I repost the comment to take heart about my own predicament, or position, or something — lack of focus, inconsistency of style, uncertainty as to audience. (Not his second paragraph, thank heaven; I've been spared that; also not "ancillary to my composing", as I've largely retired from that.) When I read my own writing from one or another of the books I've published in the last few years, I'm generally pleased enough: but the writing on these blog posts almost always troubles me for its inconclusiveness. I don't mind disjunction or allusiveness or even periphrasis, but irresoluteness is not a quality I admire, least of all in myself. Still I will soldier on, boat against the current…


Curtis Faville said...

The facility of blogging is a great temptation.

As with any other medium, one's ability to perform it with ease, seduces one's attention, often into areas that are not productive.

I have written something like 800 blog essays, over 750 of which I've "published." I'm happy with many of them, astonished too at the range of subject matter.

But I'm aware as well that I waste time here. I "should be doing other things" etc. And I do.

Has this computer fiddle stolen real lived experience from me? No doubt.

But putting words into books seems less and less the point. Who reads books anymore?

I do.

Am I an exceptional person in that regard? Are you? Are we old-fashioned?

No doubt.

Soldiering on.

Charles Shere said...

Yes, blogging is like playing the saxophone, easy to do badly, impossible to do well. And yes, it does provide a tempting distraction from "real" work.

As to books, I believe they will well outlive the Internet — in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find the Internet an early victim of the impending collapse of civilization: but a few copies of a few books will survive. That's why I continue to publish them.

Thanks for your comment. Another very nice comment came from Michael Strickland, but I've decided not to publish it, because it's directed to me personally, and causes me to blush.