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Manifesto

September 5, 2015

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been interested in doing another music meme here, but existing suggestions don’t seem to be inspiring me. Instead, I think I’m going to build my own. It’s likely to be quirky and personal and maybe not suitable for others, but if you’d like to play along with one or more of the subjects I propose, I’d love to hear your songs.

Blogging about music is now part of my job – not a big part, but a little part. And one of the things I love about it is that it gives me a chance to talk about music that matters to me — often figuring out the reasons along the way. I got to write an obituary for Lou Reed a couple of years ago and it turned out that the things I wrote about were not about sound. They were about the role his music played in defining myself, in belonging and not belonging, in growing up. That wasn’t what I was expecting to write.

Music for me has never been just about the sound. It’s always been a way of relating to the world, of learning about things I haven’t yet experienced. And there’s still so much to know.

I’m part of a small book group at my office that is reading books about music and psychology and cultural practice. We are not all musicians, but we’re all interested in the question of why we listen, how our listening and performing practices and preferences reflect other things about ourselves and our world. It’s been interesting, because we all have backgrounds in academia but we’re driven by questions that are primarily personal, practical, observant and curious. We’re doing this for fun. But in the course of our discussions, academic discourse has seemed ever more relevant. It’s made sense of my work. Past a certain point in an academic career, it can feel risky to dabble outside the area of your focus. But it’s so good to do it. It keeps me going, reminds me that just because you’ve selected your scholarly diet doesn’t mean you can’t be constitutionally omnivorous.

But while music blogging has been a way to sort out my own ideas about things, it’s also opened my ears and eyes to new things, new ways of thinking. The other great pleasure of blogging about music is hearing what other people are listening to and why it matters to them. So when I say I’d like to hear your songs, I mean it. Post in the comments, tag me on your own blog, slip me a note during social studies. Whatever works for you. I hope you’ll join me.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. eleanorio permalink
    September 5, 2015 5:36 pm

    Okay, here goes. As you know, I have become a blues singer. This doesn’t mean that I necessarily listen to music any more than I used to, since I prefer live to recorded, but it does mean that I have to listen to old recorded blues tunes by southern men playing beaten-up guitars so that I can learn them to sing myself. One of my favourite tunes to perform is Soul of a Man by Blind Willie Johnson, and I am now thinking that I’d like to venture more into “gospel blues” because it requires a truly emotional delivery. To that end, I am now considering John the Revelator, considered a traditional blues first recorded by Blind Willie in 1930, and then by Son House in several a cappella versions. So, here’s Blind Willie Johnson’s 1930 version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ek4G1TCU4E) and Son House’s 1965 rendition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGBoP70A7Q0). I’d actually be quite interested to know if you think I could pull it off.

  2. September 5, 2015 9:23 pm

    I would love to hear you do that song. It’s really funny that you mention this, actually, because I was just listening to this last night:

    Not a great quality recording, but you’ll get the idea. This is Mamie Minch. She’s a local guitarist/singer/luthier and I really like the way she sings the blues. But I was thinking while I was listening about how and why it seems to be hard for women to sing the blues. Most of them, like Mamie, have pretty low voices. But what does that need to be so? Let’s hear it, Eleanor!

    And while you’re learning it, here’s Mamie again singing one of her own songs, Razorburn Blues “for the ladies out there.”

  3. September 13, 2015 12:15 pm

    I’ve been driving around in the lovely early fall weather listening to a cast recording of Anything Goes, and then wandering around campus trying to remember enough lyrics to sing “You’re the top” to myself.

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