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A Critique Of Pure Jargon

As regards My post about Micachu, a friend wrote to me:

not intended to be sarcastic at your expense. I went through your review and xxxed out all words that either conveyed nothing to me (in my ignorance; like i know who matthew herbert is but not what that implies abotu how the album would sound) or that seemed to me to be content-free (eg “embrace the chaos”) and got the following dada-esque review:
‘xxx is a sort of next big thing-esque young woman from xxx, whose debut album about to be release was produced by veteran xxx xxx xxx. The songs on the myspace page remind me of xxx from xxx, having some of that xxx xxx xxx, though xxx seems to xxx xxx xxx a bit more than that duo. xxx xxx’s album “xxx xxx” is perhaps the high water mark of musical xxx, kind of like the first xxx record as heard by someone on a xxx xxx xxx.
xxx isn’t as deliberately xxx as that, but she’s not afraid to xxx the xxx, as she does on this “mix tape” which features some of her xxx xxx xxx on the xxx tip, with occasional vocal interjections from xxx, mashed together voices, and musique concrète.’

Fair enough I guess. I was depending on readers knowing things I can’t know they’ll know, to understand what I was on about.  On the other hand, I don’t try and live up to the same standards in blog posts that I follow when I write reviews for publication.  A big part of my review-writing narrative is the assumption that many readers aren’t going to be aware of everything I might bring to listening to a piece of Music. I’m someone who spends a large portion of their waking hours listening to, making, or thinking about music, so I have a domain-specific knowlege set a casual reader would not.

When I write on my blog, I don’t feel the same responsibility to explain, or to judge what needs explaining.  First, it’s a more personal forum, and until the big bucks start rolling in for my blogging expertise, I’m not going to waste time worrying about whether people can follow what I’m saying.  Second, with two examples of Micachu’s music included in the post, one can presumably gloss over the stuff in my post you don’t get, and judge the music independent of anything I might have to say.

Third, I think my friend goes a bit far, x-ing out some things that aren’t arcane references or untethered metaphor.  I’d think ‘obtuse’ would be part of most people’s vocabulary, and the meaning of an ‘obtuse’ composer or musician shouldn’t require a  lot of sweat to understand.

3 replies on “A Critique Of Pure Jargon”

I know what obtuse means, but not what it implies musically. If you said there was a song, and someone had done an obtuse remix, I would have no mental image of what that remix would sound like or how it would be different. Perhaps you do.

I did over-X a little bit, I admit, but when I started thinking about which words would convey to me something about the sound as opposed to evoke an emotional response in me on reading the review (e.g. if I am a mainstream-despising hipster, reading that something is “obtuse” will probably make me more likely to want to hear it, other things being equal), I went for the X.

Not to argue the point but ‘obtuse’ is too rich a word to give up, and in fact it’s the right word for the job, not a hipster signifier. I intended it in this sense (from Merriam Webster) “difficult to comprehend : not clear or precise in thought or expression.” Blectum From Blechdom’s music makes obtuseness a creative strategy — they sometimes foresake music for music-like sound, abandoning steady rhythm, normal methods of chordal arrangement, recognizable melody, etc.

Micachu by contrast isn’t afraid of some mess, but her songs continue to pay nominal service to song structure. I meant to contrast Blectum from Blechdom with Micachu by saying she’s not as deliberately messy and imprecise; she has some chance of attracting listeners who want something recognizable to hang onto even as they tolerate, or even value the mess.

I guess your post was that in shorthand (and I know it wasn’t meant to be a formal review), but one would have to already know pretty much what you were getting at to understand what you were getting at.

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