To Blog or Not To Blog

Blogging was one of the hot topics at the conferences for both the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) and Chamber Music America (CMA) in New York City this past week. Once a word like “blog” winds up in the title of one of the sessions at a major music industry conference, it’s probably a sure sign that the phenomenon has entered the mainstream culture. But, if something’s entered the mainstream, it’s also usually a sure sign that it’s not on the radar of most folks who operate outside the mainstream.

This time around, however, the reverse seems to be true. Our community seems very open to the idea of blogging. Every time you turn on a computer someone else seems to have their own blog. Often before people have a chance to let me know they have a blog, I stumble upon it on my own.

DIY journalism has been the way to give voice to our music in a media environment that seems only to care about what sells this week. The blog has been a way for individual composers and performers to call attention to what they do and explain it on their own terms. Plus, there’s no editor breathing down their necks telling them that their readers won’t understand terms like “metrical modulation” or even contrapuntal. But that said, there’s also no editor breathing down their necks to tell them how fugue is spelled or what year Charles Ives was born. There’s also no one writing paychecks for all of this time-consuming writing, as Jazz Journalist Association President Howard Mandel pointed out in a panel I joined him on for IAJE.

It’s the proverbial double-edged sword. Thanks to the Internet, you can now get the word out better than ever before about anything you want, but there’s no guarantee that anyone will read it, or to guarantee to readers that what they are reading will be correct information. And, for the most part, no one’s paying for it.

To this day, I’ve resisted having a personal blog even though my comments here might partially fit the bill, and I occasionally post to Sequenza21 when I feel the inspiration. After all, I sit in front of a computer every day of the work week writing and editing text about music. The last thing I want to do on my so-called “own time” is more of the same, right?

But it’s terribly addictive. To meet a musical composition deadline in December, I was waking up at 6:30 a.m. every morning to compose. Wouldn’t you know it, every morning when I turned on my computer, before opening up Sibelius, I logged into Sequenza21 and the NewMusicBox Chatter page to see if there were any new comments posted overnight. These tools have helped make us more of a community. But they are just tools, and in and of themselves, they are not the community.

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