Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why write? (Why bother?)

I've been thinking lately about why I write. I currently contribute to a music website devoted to non-mainstream releases (profile here), and I do so uncompensated. I've always liked music, and this writing demands that I listen to new music on a constant basis, whereas left to my own devices (and pocketbook), I would probably just stick with my favorite groups at this point.

So there, at least, is one reason -- to discover new music.

But the question of why I write could also be linked intrinsically to the question of why people read these writings. Since I don't keep a journal or any other writings that I wouldn't want people to read, there must be a reason that this forum for my writing even exists. Why do people read?

This is a little bit of a harder question. Music and movie critics are assumed to be there to direct the public's attention.

"Iron Man is hot -- go see that."

"Gnarls Barkley took a step back on this album -- pass on it."

But looking at my own practices... many of the reviews I read are for movies I've just seen or albums I've just listened to. So while there's a surface level goal of "okay, what do esteemed people think about this album," there's also a deeper level, I think, of "okay, what is this album really trying to say?" Unfortunately, with the short amount of time I spend reviewing an album (I'm also a full time worker and part time student), I usually just shoot for the surface stuff -- describing the sounds, seeing if the lyrics make sense -- rather than the deeper meanings in this art. Of course, with some entires there is a substantial lack of a deeper meaning, but that is beside the point.

So I think I write now to give my honest opinion on an album, hoping that somewhere, someone with tastes similar to mine will benefit from my coverage of whatever artist's material. But I suppose I would like to work towards a deeper level of writing based on what the art represents. I've found that this is easier to do in a movie review than in an album review for whatever reason.

I'm still putting a lot of thought into this, as some of this might end up as my future career. So what are your thoughts on why people write or read artistic criticism? Even though I've focused on movies and music, this could extend into why people devote time to writing about paintings or art exhibits.

I suppose I also spend a large portion of time posting my thoughts on this blog, but I don't wonder too much about why I do that -- whenever I browse the internet, I usually come across a number of things that I would like to tell people about. Unfortunately, I'm usually alone when I'm browsing, and I think my friends are already sick of dozens of emails about cool videos or articles. So I tend to post them here. I also use this space for venting when necessary, but I try to keep it as a center of learning for my legions of readers.

1 comment:

  1. Criticism is suffering because the whole point of it originated as a means for people to decide what to spend their money on. Now that you can see any movie or listen to any album before you buy, there is no need for a music review to tell me that a record sucks. Criticism needs to consciously shift gears and move away from "this is good/this is bad" to a style that contains some kind of inherent meaning.

    Not that I know what that would be.

    Also, the more I think about it, the basic purpose of criticism still applies, but it still should aspire to something meaningful. I think.

    Screw it, time to make a white Russian and watch Caddyshack.