Monday, August 12, 2013

Maybe it's just me . . .

It is interesting to look at Lisa Hirsch's latest post about her place in the musical blogosphere, and to read Alex Ross's post about his (which mentions my post, and has upped my readership by tens). I have really only glanced at The Rambler since it moved to WordPress a couple of years ago (I thought he just stopped writing), but I think I'll bookmark Tim's page there now. I just left a comment on his most recent post. Perhaps this blog post might stimulate another comment or two there, or perhaps not. I imagine that the answer is "not."

My issue is not the number of visits I get, but the general lack of engagement I notice in general. Most of the blogs that I used to read are no longer active. Perhaps people thought of them as a stepping-stone towards more professional writing (as in Soho the Dog), or people have migrated to Facebook, where they can feel good about pressing the "like" button rather than engage in some kind of a discussion. I find that kind of discussion that used to happen in the "interblogs" now happens on "legitimate" commercial sites and newspapers, but most of it isn't about music. Incidentally, most of my visitors of late (199 as of right now) have come to this post from blog posts about the gradual fall of the musical blogosphere (particularly this one). Most of my posts, according to my blogger stats, have 30-60 views. This is by no means anything like the "big time," but I know the "big time" and don't really have much of a desire to be part of it because I like to be able to speak my mind. Once you reach "big time" status, your opinions are owned by others, and it's difficult to be really honest.

Perhaps we musical bloggers used to be voices in the wilderness, eager to find other living and breathing souls who understood us in some way. Perhaps that wilderness has become overrun with billboards and neon, traffic noises, and tourists taking pictures. Those of us who used to feel we had a voice and a place to be heard are passed over in favor of a "current" authority. Perhaps this has to do with the prestissimo pace that information comes into our lives. On Facebook new stories become old ones, as quickly as old friends become new ones (and then they fade back into the times of the old friendship--sometimes to "places" we would rather not dwell too long). The worlds we now inhabit through our devices have become kind of like bubbles. They emerge, they rise, we chase them, and sometimes we catch them, but once the bubbles pop they are forgotten.

In the end we are all limited human beings who only have so much room in our lives for "stuff," and that includes material stuff as well as intellectual stuff. Why should the internets (in any form) be any different from life in a small town (where hierarchy plays a starring role)? Why should the internets be any different from the schoolyard? Why should the internets be any different from the barnyard?


Lisa Hirsch said...

I would more than quibble with a few things you say.

> stepping stones, citing Soho. Writing a book took up a lot of his time; he has other paying work (church and teaching gigs, I believe) and something has to give. That doesn't mean he didn't enjoy blogging in its own right.

> where they can feel good about pressing the "like" button rather than engage in some kind of a discussion

That's a really insulting thing to say, because you are making huge assumptions about people's participation on Facebook and the Internet and about their motivations. There are some good music discussions on Facebook. Mostly I stumble on them - I'm an occasional Facebook reader only.

The thing about the "like" button: the lurker to active-participant ratio on ALL internet forums is around 10 to 1. The people clicking like are people who would rarely contribute to a discussion in blog comments. The "like" button is the equivalent of "read and enjoyed, but no comment."

> Once you reach "big time" status, your opinions are owned by others, and it's difficult to be really honest.

What counts as "big time"? How do you know that it is the case that you can't be honest and your opinions are owned by others? If you were getting 5,000 hits/day, would your opinions be owned by anyone other than yourself?

I don't know quite what to say about your next-to-last paragraph. I blog because I like writing about music. I hoped blogging would get me a little more paid work writing about music (it has).

Elaine Fine said...

Lisa, I didn't mean to insult you at all. By "big time" I mean to be in a position where you can't speak your mind for fear of offending your editor. Writing something negative about an important musical entity (a example of dead one would be Jean Pierre Rampal) would not fly in that world.

There are indeed some good discussions on Facebook, and I do find it an interesting (and necessary) supplement to the (sometimes too quiet) world of blogging. But everybody's Facebook is different: handpicked and regulated. Your Facebook is different from my Facebook. The blogosphere belongs to everybody.

I'm glad that your blog has gotten you more paid work writing about music (I got you one of those gigs, remember?). We have different reasons for blogging. I do not live in a cultural center. Sometimes my house (complete with a fellow blogger) seems like the cultural center of my world. Most people wonder how I survive here, but the house is paid for, the place is pretty, and the living is easy. I have a few friends, but for most like-minded people I have to go elsewhere.

My sadness comes because "elsewhere" used to be more easily accessible through blogging.

Elaine Fine said...

P.s. I do hope that more people weigh in on this issue. We'll see.

Carl said...

I always love to read your blog posts, Elaine! I agree with everything you said in this one (of course).

Lisa Hirsch said...

I am not personally insulted and knew the remark about people who click "like" was not about me. It's a big generalization to make about millions of people you don't know.

Indeed, I remember very well, and with gratitude, that you got me one of those gigs. I now wonder why you didn't write the article yourself, actually. You would have done a great job, I am sure.

TimR-J said...

I think there are a lot of factors at work here. Eight, nine, ten years is a long time to be doing anything, and it's not surprising that we're looking around and taking stock. It's a healthy conversation to have. I slowed down a bit because I got a mortgage, a career (of sorts), and two kids. As a result I just don't have the time to read blogs as much as I used to, and that has changed my whole relationship to the medium.

The nature of blogging itself has changed enormously too: what used to be the vanguard of the internet has become normalised, even middle-aged. Blogging itself has to compete with flashier, faster things like Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, whatever. But it's a slower, more literate medium than those, so it struggles to compete in certain arenas.

None of which is to say that it's dead, defunct or useless. I don't plan to stop. But I do feel that what I'm doing now, and why, is very different from a few years ago.

Elaine Fine said...

I still find it interesting that the NMB article doesn't have any comments. It seems that the only people concerned about adding to the conversation are us "chickens.

I didn't mean to start a "tempest in a teapot," but I suppose, as in most things, there are a relative few people who care to engage in the things I find interesting. Unfortumpnately there is no tempest. Just an affirmation of how things stand. So we go on, and perhaps remember the good old days when we all found one another without all that other noise of the Internet getting in the way.

. . . And Lisa, I get that "accomplished" feeling when I press a "like" button. Isn't that why those things are successful? It's always easier to "like" than to comment.

Anonymous said...

Love the typo "Unfortumpnately!"

I don't read most music-oriented blogs (consider this a compliment, please). Among my reasons are that many review some local concert which I could not attend nor have an opinion about which respond were response wanted, some address musicological back waters that become more about themselves than music, and a number reproduce the same stuff from others. Like/dislike/ya-da-ya-da.

I find the small town metaphor apt, and think that, were I in your small town, we would like each other although we would probably disagree in a spirited manner from time to time. I can't say that for others, and so my list of blogs which I look at with any regularity is rather short (consider this also a compliment, please).

As to Facebook and such as "sign-in" ports for making comments or challenges or corrections, none of these website-based social doo-dahs will seduce me. Being anonymous while respectful in disagreement is just fine.

As to the "more than quibble" objections to your post, ah well....

I rather hope, Ms. Fine in your small town and little synagogue-in-a-church and free concerts and composition-when-the-spirit-moves, that your small and lovely town enjoys itself, because (having lived in NYC) I do so appreciate small towns.

As to "big time," let us not forget Dickinson was published post mortem, and so wasn't "big time," was she. She is now.

As to "writing about music," gee whiz, I much prefer writing, arranging and playing the stuff to writing about it. Musical blogs entertain/enlighten me when they get me back to the music, the music and the music. Even in my small town, which might be a little like yours -- "and the living is easy." Best wishes.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It's great to have enough time to compose, arrange, and play music. My work week is around 55 hours, which includes a ridiculous amount of commute time, so I have to make some choices. I go to a lot of concerts, but unfortunately can't accommodate both my martial arts practice and choral singing (my primary musical outlet since I was in school). C'est la vie: one makes choices. I'm lucky to hear as many performances as I do, and I'm lucky enough to be able to do martial arts at my age.

Elaine Fine said...

I do feel fortunate that playing, practicing, arranging music, and composing music is my work and what I do for my living. Like I said before, the house is paid for and the living here is easy.