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May 15, 2006

jumper from the corner


Having just read Chris Lavin's brilliant speech "Why Arts Coverage Should Be More Like Sports," I flashed back to a recent piece I did for WSJ, on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his interest making a documentary linking basketball to jazz. Now, this piece was an excuse to express my own twin passions for these subjects, and to share (validate?) the aesthetic connections I see (improvisation blended into form; the primacy of changes in rhythm and tempo... but I digress). What Abdul-Jabbar wished to do was to share a moment in Renaissance Harlem when basketball and jazz were literally linked — performed on the same floor, on the same night — as part of a larger culture. What's more, through that long lens, he hoped to bridge today's hiphop-inflected, big-money game with its more modest jazz-related predecessor. (It's worth noting that jazz and hiphop cultures, which musicians and DJs readily connect, rarely meet within music media — yet, again, I digress).
Kareem sought to create context through storytelling.
Lavin's focus on storytelling, and on an arc and depth and color to coverage that reaches around and beyond simply reviews, hits home for me. Arts coverage needs to be much more than a series of reports on events and products, punctuated by profiles of personalities deemed important by virtue of the success of their live events and products (or trend stories that find similarities between recent events and products). Online media and the rise of the computer as a personal media center may stifle the outgoing and communal nature of cultural experience (arguable, but that's how I feel) and further segment and isolate cultural consumption. Yet online media and the blogosphere could, perhaps paradoxically, reconnect the dots that place each art form within a larger and more engaging picture (at the very least, guys like Sasha Frere-Jones and Alex Ross link music, life, and visual images in interesting ways online). Or — consider this — newspaper and magazine editors, once they realize how much their work is being displaced in terms of straight and timely reviews, might end up moved to cover arts in a deeper, more varied and investigative manner.
Might happen.

Posted by at May 15, 2006 6:34 PM


Excellent start here. Sports "discourse" if we can use such a term, can be a useful model. In addition to the approach you mention, there's been a culture of fan/audience participation in sports that stands in stark contrast to that of the arts.
We wish art discourse was a little more like the radical populism of sports talk radio where "experts" are debated on nearly equal terms by fans. We delve tangentially into that here and in the comments that follow.

Posted by: LeisureArts at May 15, 2006 7:34 PM

Could someone tell me why my comment wasn't approved? What a perfect commentary

Posted by: LeisureArts at May 15, 2006 8:56 PM

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