A Comment on Comments

I treasure your comments, which at this point, I believe, take up well over half of my total blog space. There’s no way I’d turn off my comments feature: the dialogue is too good, I’ve gotten tons of helpful feedback, and being able to put up your comments directly saves me a lot of time. From my own experience reading comments on other blogs, though, it detracts from the enjoyment when someone posts a comment that goes on for paragraph after paragraph, all out of proportion to the other comments and sometimes longer than the blog entry itself. You don’t want to miss anything because someone might respond to it, but you begin to suspect that someone’s nerve has been struck and he’s going to go on for pages about his pet peeve. Also, this not being a group site, it’s not an effective place to grandstand, shout down the other commenters, and try to get in the last word. On your blog you get the last word, and I get the last word on mine. For more general and democratic discussions, go to Sequenza 21 or New Music Box. I’ve deleted a few comments lately for various combinations of verbosity and bellicosity, and I always feel guilty doing it, but I’m the bouncer here, and I do it to preserve the enjoyment of others.

Another bounceworthy infringement, as I’ve noted before, is writing in to disparage music I write about. Say, Carl Stone or somebody is sitting off in Japan minding his own damn business, and I put up a fragment of an mp3 of his music, and five people write in to say how much it sucks, and Carl’s being spat upon, when he didn’t have any control over the presentation, and maybe I didn’t explain his music correctly, and maybe I played an old version or the worst two minutes, and it’s not fair to judge composers on fragmentary work of theirs I present for analytical or musicological purposes. Sometimes I’m merely trying to illustrate a point. I’m writing about postminimalism now, and there’s a lot of great postminimalist music and a lot of bad postminimalist music and a lot in-between. So if I play or describe something that’s in-between because it illustrates my thesis, that’s not a cue for everyone who doesn’t like that fragment to roar in exulting that, Aha!, just as they suspected, postminimalism sucks. We’ve got to be able to discuss music without instantly confronting the earth-shaking question of whether you LIIIIIIIIKE the music or not, as though being LIIIIIIIKED was music’s sole purpose for existing. There are people who are very quick to reject new ideas without thinking about them much, or studying the scores of the music that inspired them, and usually those people seem to be in gradyooate school. Well, I was in gradyooate school once myself, and I knew everything. Someone should have given me a high-powered job just at that moment, because I had the entire world figured out, and I knew for sure which was the good music and which was the bad and why. And now I’m 51 and confused and can’t figure out how the world works or where it’s going, nor where to draw the line among the 171 shades of gray I see everywhere, and guess what? Now they let me teach. Go figure. But at least I don’t sit here going onto blogs of musicians more experienced than myself and tell them their ideas are bullshit, and neither should you.


  1. says

    “We’ve got to be able to discuss music without instantly confronting the earth-shaking question of whether you LIIIIIIIIKE the music or not, as though being LIIIIIIIKED was music’s sole purpose for existing.” That’s something that can apply to all the arts. Very well put! Sometimes the point of referring to something is not that you think it is good or bad or anything else but that you think it is worth thinking about.
    KG replies: That’s it – *that’s* the type of comment I like to see.

  2. casey anderson says

    Honestly, “mud-slinging” does not seem very helpful here, as everyone who reads this blog is at the very least aesthetically allied, whether merely in terms of interest or in terms of creative output. Thusly, it seems counter-productive to spend an exhorbitant amount of time “breaking up the ranks,” if you will, as the music discussed here is never going to be taken seriously without support amongst those of us attempting to thrive within it. I feel as though I am dancing around cliches here, however the communication taking place within this blog, and its subsequent comments section, ought to function more as a rallying point than a space to destroy “our own.”

  3. mclaren says

    “…The music discussed here is never going to be taken seriously without support amongst those of us attempting to thrive within it.”


    Essentially all the music Gann discusses here is taken very seriously indeed by huge numbers of folks, including essentially everyone I know. One of the great things about Kyle’s blog is that I wind up having e-mail discussions with other composers/listeners about their favorite postminimalist or totalist or minimalist pieces. Lincoln Center plays Steve Reich. That’s serious.

    If you want to see music that really isn’t taken seriously, try:

    Microtonal music;

    Orchestral music for high-end video games (the CD for the game HALO is one of the best-selling orchestral CDs of all time — and nationwide concert tours of major orchestras playing game music invariably play to sold-out halls…betcha didn’t know that, huh? Have you ever even heard the HALO orchestral CD?);

    “Process music” of the kind produced by Trimpin and embodied in machines;

    Music for homebrew instruments (Skip LaPlante, Kraig Grady, David Simon, Bill Wesley, et al.);

    Computer music (If you’ve never been to an International Computer Music Conference, I highly recommend it. The music is of an incredibly high caliber and will knock your socks off, and it sounds like nothing being done anywhere else);

    Algorithmic composition, often interactive, often done in real time, often with MIDI but increasingly with real-time DSP (viz., Jeffrey Harrington, Warren Burt, William Duckworth’s “Cathedral” project online, etc.);

    Music/video/art installations like Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon or Bill Alves’s POVRAY work.

    That kind of music is just off the charts. No one in the East Coast critical mafia talks about that kind of music. At least minimalism and postminimalism and totalism get occasional mentions & Lincoln Center concerts, though often not by those names. Remember BOAC?

    Indeed, one of my (minor) peeves about Gann is that he’s too hidebound and conservative. He doesn’t talk about the really off-the-charts truly wild serious modern music.