“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” is a deft phrase meant to evoke the futility in writing about music but more often retaliate against a critic who doesn’t like the sounds we make. The implication being, of course, that conveying the essence of music through words is as futile as conveying the essence of architecture through dance. For instance, what does Justin Timberlake really mean when he declares his intent to, “bring sexy back”? Could the song really be about where his sexy has gone and how we might form a committee to help bring it back? I argue that, much like a forty pound sword, the pen is only as mighty as the skill of the wielder allows.
Elvis Costello once said, “Writing about music… is a really stupid thing to want to do”. Opinions vary, but somewhere between some and many musicians view music journalism in a negative light. Frank Zappa once opined that rock (music) journalism was, “People who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read“. It’s likely due to an unavoidable adversarial relationship between the press and whatever they’re writing about as they aren’t bound to only write praise. In fact, they will often write noxiously critical things which leaves a crack under the door for resentment creep.
There also exists an exaltation of music that is somehow threatened by daring to try and capture it with words. For many of us, music is vapour; it is by its very nature, effusive. Writing about it somehow either misses the whole point or robs it of what makes it special. First of all, music doesn’t get robbed; musicians do. Second of all, most human beings are capable of having a very intense emotional connection to what they listen to. It’s inevitable that, sooner or later, someone from among us would have something profound to say about it.
Someone with a pen and a love of music, is a worthwhile ally to music creators. In fact, I would encourage all my fellow music creators to become their own best allies, come out with their pen swinging, and tell us about WHAT they do, WHY the do it, and WHEN it’s happening. It’s a lesson I’ve slowly been learning about my own creativity – YOU NEED TO TELL PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AND WHY YOU DO IT. Otherwise, how will they know?