Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One motivation for nomadic DJs, preceded by general thoughts on wit and criticism.

One motivation for nomadic DJs, preceded by general thoughts on wit and criticism.

I was listening to Peter Buck talk about music on Sound Opinions a few weeks ago, and laughed when he said he'd make a terrible music critic since he can't stand to listen to music he doesn't like. He said that when he hears music he thinks is bad he actually has a negative physical response to it, and reckoned that due to that he couldn't stand having to sift through all the crap that crosses the average music writer's desk.

Now I'm going to guess that Peter Buck's taste are more restricted than mine are. I don't think that means he's better or worse judge of music than I am (and judging by the groups he talked about his tastes certainly run to the more esoteric and display and encyclopedic knowledge of music in general) but he's probably right ion that he would find being a music writer a painful profession by his standards. I laughed, though, because I share his negative physical response to music I don't enjoy. At the same time, no matter what the band, I do try and place the work itself in the appropriate context. I think that's what helps make someone a decent critic. You can't slam something just because you don't like it; you need to work up a reasoning behind your judgment and support why it doesn't work.

Now, by that reasoning, I think Peter Buck would make a great music critic. He could probably dissect just about any song, show you where the roots of the piece grow from, and explain why it does or doesn't work. And I imagine, based on the quick wit he displays in interviews, he would probably be able to meld two disciplines rarely found in music criticism: he would be entertaining and illuminating. He'd be a natural.

I know that's what I strive for, and have been aiming towards over the past two decades, and I think I'm doing a decent job of it. Sometimes, due to space limitations, I don't always make the best arguments. I can accept that. But one of the things I've learned to love about writing for online outlets, that I didn't have back when my stuff had to wait (sometimes) weeks or months to appear in print, is the immediate response I get from readers and the opportunity to bolster my argument or even adjust my view when someone unearths a valid angle I hadn't considered. I think my openness to that, and the belief that while music criticism is a craft there are no immutably right or wrong opinions, is part of what has also turned me from the opinionated teen I was when I started writing about this stuff, into the reasonably able, and somewhat trusted, critic I am today.

The other thing Buck mentioned in his interview that particularly tickled me was his admission that he hates going to parties at other people's house because he has no control over the music. I think most music fiends have the same problem. I know that's one reason why, back in the day, I never went out to a party without a few decent mix-tapes in my pocket, and why today I've always got at least one iPod on me.

Y'know, just in case.

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