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Music Journalism - A Response to My Knowledge of Beck's Scientology

So...Beck is a hard-core Scientologist? Guess what: Miles Davis was a wife beater, Shane MacGowan can't take a piss without shooting morphine into his veins, Lou Reed was *ahem* difficult (if difficult = evil bastard), Sun Ra was from Saturn, Elvis is still alive and every musician who ever toured cheated on their girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or husband. Scientology seems a little weak, if we're comparing moral failings.

The Beck/scientology article on the Robot Filter really got me thinking about the double-edged sword that is muusic journalism. In theory, I despise the very idea. However, in reality, reading about music has provided me with tons of wonderful life-changing information and perspective.

Back in the North Carolina 80s, there was a zine called The Dixie Voice. You could pick it up at local record stores like The Record Exchange and Schoolkids. It was a Xeroxed explosion of love for all things for all musical and North Carolinian, which slanted a little towards the Winston-Salem scene, but had plenty of great things to say about Chapel Hill/Raleigh bands. I read about a lot of great music in those pages, a lot of bands I would later see in person, and a few people I would eventually meet.

However, if one went back and read The Dixie Voice, you would find almost nothing regarding the musicians' personal lives other than the occasional "Mitch Easter is a swell guy," and "Rick Miller hands out fried chicken at SCOTS shows." There was respect and community between the writers and the musicians that created memorable writing that I actually remember 20 years after the fact.

In contrast, I now know the dating history between the two songwriters of Rilo Kiley. I know the family death toll of the members of the Arcade Fire. I know the dating and dietary habits of people I have never met. I know Beck's religion, as well as Sufjan's (maybe), for God's sake.

At this point, I'm shooting for innocence. I don't want to know. I want to go on myspace and listen to songs by bands I have never heard of, because that is the only way to get back that teenage joy of discovery, the only way I know to hear music without a wall of context getting in the way. At worst, I want remember what it was like when I only imagined what kinds of drugs Elvis Costello was taking in 1979.

My most beloved music right now is The Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled by Harry Smith in the 50s from all of these 78s of rural musicians from the late 20s and early 30s. One of the things I like best is that I get to, with the help of a little info in the liner notes, make up my own ideas about these musicians, these crazy voices that are still echoing in my bedroom, years after each of these performers were put six feet under.

My idea of a music journalist has turned so much in the past twenty years. There is a cult based on easily accessible personality traits rather than music. The writers I read in magazines strike me a sycophants, desperately and bitterly clinging to other people's talents. The sentences I read are giddy insecurities, infatuations which are constructed to disappoint. There is some talent, from time to time, but little love.

Given capital, I would start a new magazine, with this (or something like it) as my credo, to always remember: Art is made by people, but it is separate from people. We write about art.

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post #398
bio: blaine

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Category List
April - National Poetry Month 2008

Favorite Things
· Autumn's first apples
· What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves boxset
· Collected Works of Jack London
· Spring Migrants