― ❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:53 (4 years ago) Permalink
If you can write entertainingly, I forgive your first person narrative.
― Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:54 (4 years ago) Permalink
xhuxk on point
― max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:59 (4 years ago) Permalink
xp "So why would print them?", I meant.
Anyway, bottom line is, no fucking way does the the detached pseudo-objective tone used in most glossies and daily newspapers make for better music writing than what I was printing week in and week out in the Voice for ten years (though sure, a few pieces I published may have sounded "Internetty" or whatever. Point was to have lots of different voices, so it'd be a miracle if anybody approved of all of them. I didn't want to ban Internetty writing -- which can be good too, sometimes -- either.)
On the other hand, I like the creativity with which guys like Sanneh at the Times have managed to get around the limitations against first person and swear words. A smart writer can work within those perimeters, too, and make it entertaining anyway.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:02 (4 years ago) Permalink
its funny you mention sanneh--his profile of michael savage in the nyer from a couple weeks ago was very careful about not using "i" (which i think is generally a no-go in the nyer, except in the personal essays they publish every once in a while) but still managed to tell a set of interesting stories about sanneh's own encounters w/ savage that sort of hinged on sannehs own specific experiences trying to set up an interview... in the end, though, i thought it would have been a better piece if they had let him use an authorial I
― max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:06 (4 years ago) Permalink
wow that got convoluted
I thought about that, too.
Over the years, Savage has noticed that his disdain for the mainstream media is widely reciprocated ... So when he received an e-mail from a journalist asking for an interview, he was deeply suspicious. He read the e-mail on the air — he kept the writer anonymous, and didn’t mention that the request came from The New Yorker — and then asked his listeners, “Should I do the interview or not?”…
About a week later, Savage revisited the topic — “my continuing correspondence with a big-shot magazine writer.” He quoted the latest exchanges, along with his tart response, in which he asked, “Why must all of you in the extreme media paint everyone you disagree with as demonic? Why is the homosexual agenda so important to the midstream media?”
When he invited the journalist into one of his undisclosed locations, he proved to be a first-rate host, chatty and solicitous. A steady supply of beer refills lubricated the conversation (one of his earliest books was “The Taster’s Guide to Beer,” which was published in 1977), and as the temperature dropped and the sky above Berkeley started to turn orange, he seemed to be working hard to stay suspicious, despite himself. On his next show the next day, a caller asked how the interview had gone, and Savage described his interlocutor: "If I told you he looked like Obama, I wouldn't be far from the truth." Coming from him, this sounded like a deeply twisted compliment.
Sanneh has to resort to speaking of himself in the third person ("the journalist," "his interlocutor") but otherwise does a decent job with passive-ish phrases like "a steady supply of beer refills lubricated the conversation."
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:22 (4 years ago) Permalink
no i think you're OTM, that NYer piece was convoluted. it read to me like sanneh had a personal 1 on 1 reaction to savage that was quite different than what he expected and the resulting article would have been more effective and immediate using the "I" but the NYer has always employed a certain lofty distance from its subjects, even in the 70s it wasn't really into the personal/new journalism thing. well apart from pauline kael I guess.
but journalists do have to meet readers half-way. my problem with a lot of the vintage village voice stuff is that it's so personal to the point of being impenetrable or off-putting.
― m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:24 (4 years ago) Permalink
the best first person stuff illustrates how the subject of an interview interacts with other people, rather than "setting the scene"
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:25 (4 years ago) Permalink
i'm guessing whiney's not big on fiction as a rule.
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:26 (4 years ago) Permalink
I'm not big on fiction as a rule either, and one of the principles that was drilled into me when I started writing was that first-person is something you have to earn--expecting the reader who's never heard of you before to go along with I-I-I-me-me-me instead of saying "So what?" and moving to the next item is not generally a good idea--but I love first person writing even if (despite whatever reputation I may have for it due to the 33 1/3 book) I don't use it all that often professionally.
― Matos W.K., Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:30 (4 years ago) Permalink
matos if you don't mind me asking: you're not big on fiction as a journalistic device or (gasp) you don't like reading novels?
― m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:36 (4 years ago) Permalink
I don't write fiction or about music, but first-person is the default in my area of writing (analytic philosophy). Sometimes we resort to the royal "we" if we're feeling nervous about first-person. But it was made clear to me that third-person is to be avoided, as is passive voice.
― deep olives (Euler), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
hang on, you're not big on reading fiction...at all?!
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
xp I don't buy the "have to earn" thing. I'm not even sure what it means. If I listen to a song sung in the first person, I might be able to relate to, and be moved by, the song even if I'm unaware of the singer's specific biography. Not sure why reviews are necessarily different. You don't have to be a famous writer to have a life that creates a context.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
i thought he meant less that you have to earn it in the sense of being already famous or noteworthy, but in the sense that you have to earn it through your writing--i.e. you have to justify use of the first person in the piece itself, not necc explicitly, but at least in making your "I" of interest to the reader
― max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:39 (4 years ago) Permalink
When it's well done - and it does have to be superbly well done, and yes, generally (but not always) "earnt" - first-person music writing is my favourite of all music writing. (And when it's pointlessly done, the reverse holds true.)
For my own part, I avoid it at least 95% of the time - but then I come from a personal-blogging background, and taking "myself" out of the equation was a deliberate, sought objective.
― mike t-diva, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:40 (4 years ago) Permalink
My first piece at the Voice (when no reader could've had any idea who I was) and a couple soon after were in the first person, fwiw. I seriously doubt they would have improved if the "I"'s had been edited out. (Whether they stunk regardless is another question, but they wouldn't have stunk less.)
Editorial "we" -- first person plural -- bugs the hell out of me no matter what, though. I never buy it, and I've fought editors to keep it out of my own writing (which usually they've been open to).
And btw, I've also edited at Billboard, where first person is almost never allowed. So it's not like I don't know that drill. I just don't like it much.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:45 (4 years ago) Permalink
Of course, at Billboard, the writing tended to be more news and less review-oriented. (So first person would have probably have made no sense anyway.)
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:47 (4 years ago) Permalink
And I come from a journalism (and not fancy dancy "new journalism") background too. I came up covering zoning boards and sewage commissions, where objective detachment is strived for. Not saying I don't understand it there, obviously. When I'm defending first person, I'm specifically referring to criticism (though, when it comes to say artist features, I prefer criticism to be part of the deal.)
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:51 (4 years ago) Permalink
i thought he meant less that you have to earn it in the sense of being already famous or noteworthy, but in the sense that you have to...justify use of the first person in the piece itself, not necc explicitly, but at least in making your "I" of interest to the reader
Well, obviously I buy this, if that's what Michaelangelo means. But in that sense, you need to earn whatever you put in your writing -- so first person's no different from anything else.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:54 (4 years ago) Permalink
I mean I don't read novels almost at all. Gasp!
― Matos W.K., Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:59 (4 years ago) Permalink
xpost: If there's one thing I hate even more than editorial "we", it's the sort of "we" that includes both the writer and his/her presumed readership. ("When did we all fall in love with Kings Of Leon?")
― mike t-diva, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:01 (4 years ago) Permalink
haha please tell me you made that KoL quote up Mike
― Matos W.K., Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:02 (4 years ago) Permalink
Really: What do you mean we, kemosabe? (Those ILM threads titled "What Do We Think Of [fill in the blank]?" are almost as bad.)
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:04 (4 years ago) Permalink
Tbh, reading good first-person music writing is what made me want to write about music. (Or even reading bad first-person music writing: some Pitchfork stuff from around the turn of the century, though hard to read now, at least made me realize that criticism need not be all neutral/detached/objective.)
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:08 (4 years ago) Permalink
(Which, I should add, was mighty refreshing for someone who just wanted to write about his experiences with music and his reactions to listening to certain songs or albums without the burden of serving as some kind of authority.)
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:12 (4 years ago) Permalink
Avoiding first person is a good technique to get beyond the inherent subjectivity of reviewing music- it pushes the writer to find a common ground with the reader, rather than just reporting their personal reaction. I drop it if I start to get grandiose.
― bendy, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:26 (4 years ago) Permalink
lots of reasons here why i generally prefer reading about music on the internet just my personal opinion!
― ❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:35 (4 years ago) Permalink
Re this, exhaustively shat upon by Eric Boehlert.
― Gorge, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 18:09 (4 years ago) Permalink
"Avoiding first person is a good technique to get beyond the inherent subjectivity of reviewing music- it pushes the writer to find a common ground with the reader, rather than just reporting their personal reaction. I drop it if I start to get grandiose."
I think this is one of the root issues but it also points to the fallacy of avoiding first person - the technique assumes that it's the specific use of "I" that makes music writing solipsistic or uncommunicative. It also suggests that that the choice is between solipsism and objectivity (I accept that specific publications may have other reasons for disliking it).
But it's not hard to write a review that avoids using "I" but still reads like the writer has never thought to question their personal reactions, their prejudices, their assumptions.
Learning to adopt a critical perspective w/r/t those things has a lot to do with how you relate to music generally, how you try to convey what the music is actually doing etc. etc.
Kogan is a good example of a writer who puts himself into the story but still makes the music's potential to affect different people differently the star attraction.
― Tim F, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 23:33 (4 years ago) Permalink
The tendency to lean toward the first person is usually an indicator of a writer being green but not always of self-obsession. A lot of these throw away 'I thinks', 'I feels', 'as I was saying to x' etc come from a nervousness about stating an opinion without a crutch or without reflexively reminding people that, it's just, like, their opinion, man. All reviews and value judgements are obviously the opinion of the writer. We can tell because it's prefixed with a byline. It's just that if a writer is all apologetic and constantly reminding people that it's all subjective innit, they won't get ripped to shreds on the internet. Or not as much anyway.
But it's a writer's job to be authoritative. In, er, my opinion it is anyway.
It's more acceptable in features but then the reasoning still has to be solid behind it. I've been stabbed during or around three interviews. Once accidentally by a member of a band while we were larking about, once purposefully by a band member during a play fight that got out of hand and once after getting so drunk in an interview I got thrown out of the hotel by security and got stabbed randomly outside.
The first piece was written third person with only passing mention of boisterous high spirits. The incident was unremarkable. Barely drew blood. The second time was pertinent. The guy was a loon and this helped to illustrate that. Some of the piece was written in the first person. It was impossible to write it neatly otherwise. The third incident was ignored and the piece was written in the third person. A good pub story perhaps but nothing to do with the band or the story.
Once I got to an interview with Matt C from The Bronx to find out that we'd both broken our noses the night before. That was kind of on the cusp. Could have been written either way. Just about interesting enough as a jumping off point to be worth including.
As a rule you shouldn't do it unless it's an on the road/reportage piece or you have a unique involvement in the story that no one else has (or at least your readers don't). That said - and I'm twisting Eric Arthur Blair to my own ends on this - I'd break any rule about writing I have rather than write something barbaric.
(And house style rules. If you can't write a piece around I said/we said/Rolling Stone said and still make it readable, maybe you shouldn't be writing. It's fairly straightforward after all.)
Co-sign everything that guy said about a variety of voices on a magazine.
― Doran, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 10:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
Re. "authoritative": should music writers attain a certain level of knowledge of music before setting up as arbiters of taste?
― smoke weed every day, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:06 (4 years ago) Permalink
Not necessarily because knowing loads about music doesn't necessarily give you good taste in music and beyond that 'good taste' is a bogus concept on its own.
It's up to the individual writer not to make a fool out of themselves/magazine that's hired them. Canonical thinking is the enemy of good music writing but that doesn't mean you shouldn't know about this stuff anyway. I mean, I hate the Beatles and a lot of other big groups from the 60s and won't write about them as a rule but it doesn't mean I don't have a basic grounding in them.
Some writers set up this completely false binary of the job being fusty old rock professors with their "facts" and everything and young, free spirited rebels who don't know about the music but who can "feel" it and "live" it. Somehow suggesting that the more you know about music, the less you can actually appreciate it, which is obviously not true.
― Doran, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:23 (4 years ago) Permalink
good for you for fighting the power
― max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:32 (4 years ago) Permalink
i can't believe people are still arguing this stuff.
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
^^^ probably listens to the beatles
― max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:38 (4 years ago) Permalink
i'll fight you for that.
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:38 (4 years ago) Permalink
with a broken copy of rubber soul.
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:39 (4 years ago) Permalink
i dont think u have earned the right to fight me
― max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:40 (4 years ago) Permalink
It's more acceptable in features but then the reasoning still has to be solid behind it. I've been stabbed during or around four interviews. Once accidentally by a member of a band while we were larking about, once purposefully by a band member during a play fight that got out of hand and once after getting so drunk in an interview I got thrown out of the hotel by security and got stabbed randomly outside. And once in the arm with a broken record by the ghost of a well-known music bloggist after I made some heavy accusations.
― max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:42 (4 years ago) Permalink
for example's sake, here's a review i wrote last year that uses the first-person twice in the first two sentences, and then never again. especially writing in that venue, it felt honest and useful to state up front my own skepticism about the band. it tells the reader -- whatever their own position on the band -- where i'm coming from, and also establishes a little bit of critical tension. i'm sure i could have written the same thing without the first-person, but it would have been less direct, and i don't think would have improved anything.
― flying squid attack (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 13:47 (4 years ago) Permalink
It works fine, tipsy (and your review is first-rate).
― Anatomy of a Morbius (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 13:49 (4 years ago) Permalink
that is a really nice review, but I would have edited the first sentence out if you had turned it in to me since its burying the lede. Ppl are picking up the article to read about DBT, not tipsy mothra.
― can au jus (Whiney G. Weingarten), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 13:55 (4 years ago) Permalink
not to dog yr review, becuz it is a v nice review.
no that's fine, i've had editors who think the same way. i don't have strong feelings about it, it just isn't always a big deal to me as a writer or an editor. (and thanks.)
― flying squid attack (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:04 (4 years ago) Permalink
a pretty large amount of my freelancing is live reviews, and i don't always write in the first person, but sometimes in those situations you kinda have to -- i think when strongo was my editor a more 'editorial we'-or-avoid-it-altogether thing was reccomended, but now that he isn't i get away with straight up first person more. it's just awkward to go by yourself to a show where there's maybe 5 other people in the audience, and then later on not be able to talk about the experience without referring to the obvious fact that you were just a guy in the room and not some omniscient observer. i don't think i've used first person in record reviews much at all, if ever (although i use it a lot in casual, vaguely review-y blog posts because who cares, and also i hate when one-person blogs refer to themselves in the third person like they're Rolling Stone or something).
― ringtone lizard (some dude), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:10 (4 years ago) Permalink
(should note here the "editorial we" was a diktat imposed from above. there's actually little i hate more than the editorial we. (about six months before i left cp i just gave up and started shoving first person in anywhere it made a piece flow better.))
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:12 (4 years ago) Permalink
yeah -- not blaming/crediting you with the policy at all, dog, just saying i think you enforced it more
― ringtone lizard (some dude), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:14 (4 years ago) Permalink
(that's not to say i wanted people running wild with first-person, either, but it makes anyone sound less goofy than referring to him/herself like the king/queen of a small, bankrupt nation.)
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:14 (4 years ago) Permalink
One thing that very, very rarely works … telling an editor they have to use you because they are old and dead and out of touch and you are young and vibrant and the future. A surprising number of people try it. You have to have written a very funny covering note, and hope the editor is in an extraordinarily good mood, on a day when every single thing has gone right, to have any joy with that.
― If you tolerate Bis, then Kenickie will be next (ithappens), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:23 (10 months ago) Permalink
I'd like to think no one older than about 17 would ever do that. Though I doubt that's the case.
― they all are afflicted with a sickness of existence (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:29 (10 months ago) Permalink
if you know a magazine hates Imagine Dragons or Lumineers or whatever and you're cold pitching to them for the first time with positive feature ideas on those bands?
Magazines/websites should not hold party lines on any band (ex. the obv Skrewdriver etc), they should be open to good writing on any band even if they are normally critical whipping boys
― my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:30 (10 months ago) Permalink
i don't think that's how professional publications work
― we're up all night to get picky (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:33 (10 months ago) Permalink
XP: Yeah, and I should get paid for every piece of writing that I do at a rate per word that's gone up noticeably in the last 25 years but I don't. I just wrote a piece on a feminist Egyptian film maker documenting an underground revolutionary dance scene in Cairo. It's gone up on my site because no one will pay for it. In an extremely abstract way I think this is wrong and that NME or Q should give me a decent amount of money and cover my travel expenses, instead of me having to save up for ages so I can pay to do my own job but I'm not upset about it - it's just the way things are. So you can either deal with what things are like and get work or sit round complaining about what they should be like and not get work. There are enough threads on ILM about how rubbish the music press is, I was under the impression this thread was different and about practical advice.
And, as I said, quite clearly, I am open to good writing on any band but I'd sooner give that kind of work to a trusted scribe. If you are cold calling as a first time writer how do I know you're going to provide good copy? More often than not people sending these kinds of pitches in are indulging in immature passive aggressiveness: "I want to work at your magazine - here's why I don't like it."
― Doran, Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:42 (10 months ago) Permalink
I'd recommend telling them to move to London, meet a few friends who're cooler than yourselves, then bam, you'll end up writing for Vice like me.
I've never been paid for anything, which sucks a bit after doing music writing nearly week in week out for four years now.
― the Shearer of simulated snowsex etc. (Dwight Yorke), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:45 (10 months ago) Permalink
― the Shearer of simulated snowsex etc. (Dwight Yorke), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:46 (10 months ago) Permalink
i think it's very important for people to ask themselves why they want to do something, regularly
― we're up all night to get picky (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:46 (10 months ago) Permalink
I don't pitch pieces or hustle but I imagine it's pretty stressful. Writing pieces can be stressful. Sending pieces for review is stressful. Seeing them published and having dozens of people telling you that you are a idiot for liking x, y or z is stressful. It's also fun and rewarding but doing it every day and knowing my financial security depended on it would be too much.
I accidentally wound up writing for money after being approached by a publication whose message board I posted on. It's possibly an underrated way of getting your ideas, tone and style seen by editors.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:22 (10 months ago) Permalink
xpost A former ILX regular once used that very tactic with me, Nick.
― If you tolerate Bis, then Kenickie will be next (ithappens), Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:26 (10 months ago) Permalink
I can probably guess who.
― they all are afflicted with a sickness of existence (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:29 (10 months ago) Permalink
― markers, Friday, 26 April 2013 19:02 (10 months ago) Permalink
what was it?
― Chuck E was a hero to most (s.clover), Friday, 26 April 2013 19:08 (10 months ago) Permalink
(tweets gone now)
aol shut down spinner effective today
― J0rdan S., Friday, 26 April 2013 19:08 (10 months ago) Permalink
And AOL Music in general, it seems.
― 誤訳侮辱, Friday, 26 April 2013 19:12 (10 months ago) Permalink
Say I have what I think is a good idea for a profile piece. However, I'm an untrusted scribe. If I pitch the idea to an editor and they like it, wouldn't they just say "yes, good idea" and then commission one of their trusted scribes to write it? Alternatively, should I go ahead and write the piece and then submit it in full? If I do that, though, I wouldn't be able to say to the subject of the profile that I was writing about them for such-and-such a magazine.
― my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Thursday, 2 May 2013 07:40 (10 months ago) Permalink
― markers, Thursday, 30 May 2013 20:50 (9 months ago) Permalink
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 30 May 2013 22:10 (9 months ago) Permalink