17 November 2009

Surveying The Landscape

The more time I invest in my blogospheric activities, the clearer it becomes to me that I must be the most uncool blogger in the world. I've been scouring the landscape for new and interesting writers for quite a while now, long enough that I'm beginning to perceive trends that I didn't notice before, and although most all of these trends lay bare my extreme uncoolness, the fact that I'm aware of them is a very good thing, for one of my primary purposes in bothering to read music blogs has been to try to get an idea of what's going on everywhere else in the world. I suppose it's possible that the internet, which as we all know is currently ruining society, has merely given me a bunch of false impressions of what and how people think outside of Minneapolis. I find it doubtful, however, that this is entirely the case.

So, in case you don't know, let me tell you what's cool right now. First of all, everyone who you'd never expect seems to have decided that pop music is great, maybe even our only hope. Within that group, it seems to me that there's a rather strong contingent of minimalist and post-minimalists (whatever the hell that is), though the overlap is not strict. While both classical and jazz musicians seem to be looking increasingly to pop music and minimalism for inspiration, the jazz people also seem to be disproportionately adamant about the hybridized jazz-rock and free-jazz music of the 1970's and 80's that the bebop establishment so loathes.

Now, if you're relatively new to everything, don't go generalizing based on that last paragraph. It's just my highly subjective impression of where online musical discourse seems to me to differ most notably from the tiny little world I live in. And if you're older and wiser than I am, don't just dismiss this as some random idiot from fly-over country blowing smoke about people and places he knows nothing about aside from what comes across his computer screen. This is what blogs do, and, at least during Blog Month, this one is no exception. I suspect it would be an overreaction to label these as large-scale trends in the music world, and I also suspect that the reason the internet seems to be teeming with activity in some areas and utterly devoid of it in others is almost entirely attributable to the demographics of who tends to embrace the internet as a tool and who has resisted. If the musico-blogosphere was just a bit older and more (musically) conservative than it is, it would probably better represent the world at large. That is doesn't is nothing to lose sleep over, but it does get those of us who don't fit the mold comfortably thinking about where (or if) we fit into anything in particular.

While I'm under 30, embrace the blog format, use computers many hours a day, and believe that the internet is generally a good thing, I'm also not a minimalist, not a fusion guy, and I absolutely can't stand pop music. As I've become more aware of the trends I mentioned, I've made a certain amount of effort to sample the music that everyone makes such big deal about on their blogs. They make it sound so cool that the letdown when I heard it was pretty severe. The saying goes that the more you know, the more you don't know, and this being the dynamic at work here, I quickly began to feel obligated to educate myself about things that everyone seemed to have in common but me. What I found, though, was that even though I knew few of the artists names, the sounds were in large part not new to me, for whatever reason. Trends being what they were, I assumed that I hadn't embraced them simply because I hadn't heard them, when in fact I knew more than I thought I did.

What I'm getting at here is that there's knowledge for knowledge's sake, and then there's knowledge that is useful or essential to one's very existence. There's plenty that I am interested in, plenty that I know I don't know about things I've already found to be very important to me. Stumbling on this whole other world made me not only feel guilty, but more importantly, made me wonder if perhaps I had missed the boat out of ignorance, and that being both a tragic and embarrassing condition to be in, it seemed necessary to rectify things. I wouldn't want to overstate how much listening I've done; it hasn't been all that much, but it's been enough for me to say that by this time, I would have expected to have found something that really grabbed me if that something exists at all. By the time I had listened to this much Miles Davis Quintet, this much Aaron Jay Kernis, this much Gentle Giant, I was hooked. I'm still waiting for that to happen with the music about which the blogosphere is constantly abuzz, but I'm running out of time to wait, and increasingly wondering if it's worth the wait at all. I think it would have happened by now if it's ever going to.

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