Today’s Deep Philosophical Inquiry

Obviously, dropping out is an integral move in rock criticism — some people exist in an almost permanent state of dropping out — but one thing I’ve long been curious about is, is dropping out particularly unique to rock criticism? Do movie critics and art critics and TV critics and ballet critics and comics critics routinely throw their hands up in the air and declare that they are finished? (Or anyway, express some amount of burnout/dissatisfaction/etc. with the whole enterprise?) I don’t read enough of any other types of criticism to know the answer to this but my guess is that it’s particularly unique, at least as an expected sort of move, to rock criticism. If my premise is correct, why?

6 thoughts on “Today’s Deep Philosophical Inquiry

  1. As long as I can still get published professionally or generate the energy necessary to keeping a daily blog, I won’t use enthusiasm for music or writing about music. Showing interest in other things helps; often I turn to music and rockcrit for relief.

  2. Actually, Alfred, I’ve been amazed for some time at your (and your blog’s) consistency. Maybe the fact that you’ve never limited yourself to just writing about music (you do equal amount politics and movies) has something to do with it? I just get too wound up in feeling the void, but I wish I could adapt a methodology closer to your own (though maybe there’s nothing too methodological about it?).

  3. I’d imagine it’s because it’s youth oriented culture, and as you evolve, your priorities and business of culture horizon expands beyond rock music.

    Plus, the discouraging fact, for instance in your situation, where you’ve got this amazing website, and contacts and yet you work in obscurity compared to much lesser writers and make no money off the books and work you do and are almost never invited to events, or to give opinions or write articles or be quoted. You’re not part of ‘the system’ even though your work is excellent, interfaces with players in the system and that’s just one of many Scottlander paradoxes.

    Plus, it’s the age old pattern of looking for something bigger and exciting outside of bureaucracy and the norm, which for a brief period music represented, but obviously rock and roll is also a tool of cultural pacification with faux revolutionary spirit, so it’s hard, if you examine things or are a critical thinker, to be genuinely devoted to something that’s no longer really that fresh or important beyond temporarily drugging people and making them boogie and feel nice, which actually is quite a bit of fun, but after decades, it maybe wears a bit thin on the intellect or original idealism.

    That’s my mundane explanation.

  4. Always a pleasure to hear from you, David (and you are far too generous in your assessments of moi. Not that I wish in any way to discourage such public displays of affection.).

    i.e: “it’s youth oriented culture, and as you evolve, your priorities and business of culture horizon expands beyond rock music.” I might quibble about pop music being “youth oriented” anymore (though it’s still marketed as such, surely), but yeah, as a writer, I’ve not really expanded my horizons much beyond pop music, despite the fact that, my priorities have expanded somewhat (though not as much as I sometimes like to think; I’m much more monochromatic than you give me credit for, probably). It’s hard for me to imagine what else to write about (but also: I’ve known for a long time, that writing in and of itself will NEVER be enough for me… I want to do more podcasting and whatnot, and hope to take more shots at that again, but there;s the whole thing about getting my shit together, too). .

  5. I think it’s natural to just get burned out writing about any subject exclusively for a long time. It happened to me with rock criticism, then I became a TV critic, and after 20+ years of doing that, I felt the old burn-out again. Now I write a bit about music again, but on my blog, and pretty much as a hobby. The longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back into it. Harder still, now that, almost literally, everyone’s a critic. But, as to my original point, you age, you change, you’re not a robot. There are only so many pieces you can write about the same show, or the same artist, before you feel like you’re just repeating yourself. Writing about other art forms helps can help get the mojo going again, sometimes. Writing outside the criticism mode helps, too. Experiment with different interests and types of writing and keep it secret until you feel confident enough to do it in public.

  6. Thanks, Joyce. Appreciate hearing from someone who’s been doing it professionally for a long time. It’s funny, because I’ve had an opposite experience in some respects. I discarded the (short-lived to begin with) idea of writing professionally 13 years ago or so, and have mostly just mucked about on blogs and whatnot ever since. But I actually have a secretive (and anonymous) paying gig on the side (it’s not terribly frequent, though it pays decently), and not all of the writing is about music, though some of it is, and I find that, with actual deadlines, actual stories to tell (sometimes about stuff I have no personal investment in), and a structure to follow, etc. (and — I have to be honest, because it makes a difference to me though I know it’s the sort of thing you’re better off not fessing up to — a paycheque on the other end) it usually ends up being a fairly refreshing experience. Not *easy* work by any means, but it’s one way to keep at it, to work on the craft, etc., and there are so few (if any) emotional consequences involved. Well, I’ve had a mild run-in or two with an editor, but it had nothing to do with the writing itself.

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