24 December 2011

Poonpuff FAQ for the e-Nihilists in the room (as well as any and all past/present/future MFEDI readers whose e-worldview necessitates such overt clarifications of purpose and method be made again and again regarding this and the few other constructive, well-written weblogs about music and musicians)

WHEEEEW, okay...


Dear Angry Reader With Better Things To Do Than Sit Around Reading Some Young White Asshole's Weblog,

Before attacking my motives for joining the Post-Nicholas Payton Foofaraw (PNPF or "Poonpuff"), for making any particular argument therein, and/or for having this blog in the first place, I would humbly ask you to consider the following clarifications of purpose and method, issued at the outset of my joining the PNPF and applicable to all subsequent statements made on this topic.

(1) You're not qualified to disagree with someone who "plays more horn" than you do. Who do you think you are, anyway?

While NP indeed plays more horn than I do, mine is bigger.

In all seriousness, I graciously defer to NP and similarly accomplished individuals (if any others exist) on matters which are directly informed by one's degree of musical skill and/or career success, such as issues of instrumental technique, music criticism, marketing/career advice, practice habits, etc. However, any generalizations (music-related or otherwise) about a group of which I am a member (e.g. "white people" or "all these kids with music degrees") are fair game for rebuttal because they require no further qualifications than (a) that I be a member of the group(s) in question, and (b) that I tell the truth about myself. Under those circumstances, no musical skill whatsoever is required to be qualified to make such a rebuttal, even to a highly skilled musician such as NP. Were I to make a blanket generalization about "black people" or "New Orleans cats," don't you think NP and all other members of those respective groups would be qualified to rebut my statement?

(2) But...you're...white. WTF is up with that shit?

Guilty. Can't change it, and unlike many white classmates growing up, I never tried. If it's relevant (and I'm not saying it is; only you can decide), I did go to an elementary school from 1st through 5th grade where blacks outnumbered whites by more than 2-to-1; I have spent hundreds of hours of my life on the basketball court (one of NP's hallowed proving grounds, which is the only reason I bring it up) outnumbered by a similar margin; I did continue to volunteer (albeit in fits and starts) on the Northside of Minneapolis long after I finished high school there; believe it or not, a good high school friend of mine declared another friend and I "blacker than some [black people]" even though we didn't talk, act or dress like him; and of course, it goes without saying that a good number of my strongest musical influences are African-Americans. These are mere facts about my life experience. They do not grant me any kind of authority to speak about racial issues that I would not otherwise be thought to have. By relating them here, I simply hope to convince anyone who is not otherwise inclined to believe so that I care and that black people are real and human to me. You don't have to believe me, but that is the truth. That's all I've got for you on that front.

Hence, if you see fit to comment on something I wrote (which I welcome), I would appreciate the common intellectual courtesy of having this articulated in terms of the content of the argument in question, not in terms of my supposed qualifications (or lack thereof) to make it based on overbroad generalizations about groups of which I am a member (e.g. "young white assholes" or "academically trained white musicians from the Upper Midwest who, surprisingly, can also hold their own on the basketball court") when these generalizations may or may not actually be reflected in my specific case, and indeed, when you clearly have no possible way of knowing if they are reflected in my case or not based solely on an argument I have put forward about music and the world immediately surrounding it. There certainly are "qualifications" I do not and cannot possess, and I promise never to speak as if I possess them; I am, however, eminently qualified to evaluate overbroad generalizations about groups of which I am a member, no matter who made them or what they are. At that point, any further psychoanalysis of my identity, while perhaps relevant to other, broader discussions, is moot to the particular argument I've made about music and the world immediately surrounding it. And that's why we're all here. Just the facts, ma'am.

(3) Gee, that's a mouthful, Socrates. If you're a musician, why don't you go practice/study/listen/compose instead of writing a pointless blog about your white angst?

Like you, I'm darn close to being a Nihilist at this point, but not completely. The ethical issues surrounding music still matter enough to me to devote a small bit of my time to considering them publicly. This is wholly a matter of (a) self-interest (i.e. since I have to live and work in this world just like NP and everyone else who makes music, and therefore would like to see it improved wherever possible), and (b) the sense that such "improvements" are, frequently, so fucking obvious to a majority of us and thus quite easily attainable if only more of us were to give them proper consideration using adequately precise terminology and more than 140 characters where needed. As you no doubt know based on your wording of the above question, most blogs fall short of meeting this need; this is where I come in.

If I had no self-interest in seeing a better musical world, or if I thought it was a wholly untenable proposition, then no, I absolutely would not bother. There are other areas of life that I feel are lost causes in this way (see: Congress, U.S.), but music is not one of them. I believe that music is trivial in comparison to these other areas, and therefore that it is easier to fix. Only a small percentage of these musical issues do I choose to explore publicly. The rest I keep to myself and seldom write down; thus, the content here is already heavily edited and pared down to its essence. You are absolutely entitled to judge it to be a waste of your time, but not a waste of my own; the latter is for myself alone to judge. Know that I spend quite a bit of time reading blogs as well as writing them, and have thus developed a very low tolerance for vacuous garbage masquerading as musicology. My activities here are always directed towards achieving something more vital and useful. Even during my annual "Blog Month" project (which is presently in effect), during which I force myself to blog daily for a month regardless of whether I feel I have something just this important to say, I am after two things I believe to be constructive objectives: one is to throw myself a change-up, knowing that I sometimes become a different writer when forced to work constantly; and the other is to critique the vacuous garbage referred to above through the time-honored literary device of satire.

Sounds like fun, huh? None of this is a burden on my direct music-making endeavors, from which I, like virtually every other musician, need occasional respite anyway. In fact, blogging has frequently allowed me to bring fresh motivation to these endeavors at times when it has been lacking. (Knowing that more people would take your blog seriously if you "played more horn," while not necessarily right, certainly provides some motivation, doesn't it?) It isn't hard to find bloggers and trolls whose musical lives are out of balance in this way, but I do not consider myself to be one of them. If you do consider me to be one, I would like to know on what intimate knowledge of my inner thoughts you base this observation, and also what you are doing wasting your time with my senseless rants? It must be more complicated than misery loving company...

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