Why I Blog

Jonathan Bellman

The current self-examination and comments engendered make for a good thing for Dial M, I think. I’d like to amplify the comments to acknowledge not only that we do have a faithful readership, they tend to be an appreciative readership, which is much appreciated by me. Phil and I blog differently, which is part of the reason Dial M has worked thus far; we can do simultaneity, we can do counterpoint, and we can do antiphony. We can also do Dada. What I meant by “powdered,” by the way, was “ground into powder,” a phrase learned from my Angeleno brother, and which seems to be an accurate ongoing description of my existence.

I blog for a couple of reasons. The first of these is that I got sick of the recurrent self-flagellation bursts on the AMS list—bad us, we haven’t done enough to educate the populace, it’s our fault, we must reach out more, everyone is so ignorant about music. I still post there occasionally, but the fact is that you’re writing for the same relatively small group of friends, colleagues, and specialists; if you want to reach beyond that community you’ve got to do something else. When the opportunity to participate in this blog came up, therefore, I jumped at it, even with trepidation about what it would do to my other activities. My responsibility it to try to write comprehensibly, and to write about what I care about in such a way that others will care about it too.

And to steel our joint resolve: good newspaper columnists produce what amounts to a blog every week, every couple of days, whatever. They have restrictions on length, they do it for years on end, and the columns can approach poetry—I remember wonderful stuff from the Los Angeles Times’s Al Martinez (anthologized in Dancing Under the Moon), and from the San Francisco’s Jon Carroll. Why would I shoot for anything less? I’m sure columnists have flat periods, too, and they push through ’em.

I also try to use this to improve a kind of essayistic tone. Too often, musicological research, no matter how important, reads in an unfortunate way: jargon-laden, syntactically byzantine, insular and self-referential. True scholarly objectivity being nonsense, a well-reasoned, persuasive tone and approach will obviously serve whatever subject I’m writing about, so it seems to me that regular labor in that vineyard is both discipline and reward. An added benefit is that I get to write about musical and academic matters not directly pertinent to my research and other writing assignments.

For me, this is like good, solid, regular piano practice (which I wish I did more of). I appreciate—deeply—that people read and like our blog, and I continue to think that we have something important to contribute to the wider musical and academic discourse. We’re entitled to rest (which we probably will, and some point soon), after some solid work, but I hope that we come back tanned, rested, and ready.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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3 Responses to Why I Blog

  1. David Cavlovic says:

    Blog on, bro’!

  2. squashed says:

    Will blog for donuts.

  3. Rebecca M says:

    I love the piano practice analogy. That may be just what I needed to get out of my own blogging slump. Thank you!

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