Let's see some insightful analysis AROUND the music!

A comparison of the apocalyptic visions of T.S. Elliott and Cormac McCarthy. A harrowing tale of union rigging and horrendous work conditions in a cultural environment. An in depth discussion on the idea of "disruptive design", creativity intentionally hampered by limitations in order to create greatness. Conceptual procedural art. A discussion about gender and cultural budgets.

What snobbish literary journal am I describing? The July issue of video gaming magazine Super Play. Which is the best selling in Sweden for its subject, selling tons more than music magazines do.

Specialist magazines for other pop culture subjects have really been stepping up their game recently. I leafed through some in the library and found football mags about economics, larp mags about queer theory, skateboard mags about the concept of art. The question is, really, why isn't music writing pushing to catch up?

As I understand it, music journalism has a history of being fairly advanced. But to be honest, as long as I've been reading music mags it's been fairly tepid. Fan-oriented, full of meaningless "personality-establishing" interviews, occasional opinion pieces that deal purely with the actual music and the experience of listening to it. You don't get very much of the world around the music. This insularity worries me a bit - is there any other type of culture that should be open to deeper analysis as part of society? And why isn't it?

Is music too abstact to get decent reporting on the working conditions of musicians, and union issues? Even music creation articles tend to be very sketchy, perhaps because music writers don't tend to know the technicalities of musicianship, but equally likely because there's no tradition of this kind of writing.Why are there no "design principle" articles for music? Why are there no articles on music technology in fan-oriented music mags, only in specialist ones? I know I'd be interested.

Where are the big society-oriented questions? Where are the gender analyses of the music industry? "It's been done" you'd say, but why isn't it done more often, as a big source of new articles? And where are the articles dealing with culture around music, beyond just "look at this cool subculture"? Super Play have huge features on the music of video games, why are there no features on the visual (or something) aspects of music?

Let's face it, music journalism is the granddaddy of all pop culture journalism. But maybe this initial advantage has been wasted in our arrogance. If even video games magazines can effortlessly blend in deeper questions, why can't we?


Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right. It's a shame music journalists have no higher amitions than to review some albums ("it's good, sounds like if xxxxx and yyyyy had a baby and it became best friends with zzzzz") and do some basic interviews ("how did it feel to go from obscurity to fame?"). Where is the bigger picture? Where is the ANALYSIS of music? Where is the cross-cultural perspective? Where is the connection to society and politics? If it ever is done, it is done very shallowly and sloppily. A shame indeed.

Birdseed said...

I'm curious how even video games can be ahead in that respect. What do they have that we don't?