Eleven months ago, Madeline, Austin and I began a conversation that would eventually lead to the establishment of The Astral Plane. All three of us wanted to write about music, but more importantly, we wanted to share the music that has irrevocably affected our lives with an audience outside of our immediate group of friends. In January, we created an account with WordPress, officially putting The Astral Plane in motion. Finally, we were the music aficionados we had always dreamed of being… except that we kind of sucked at it. See, we’re all competent people, solid writers and obsessive music fans, but there is a steep learning curve in an endeavor like this.
Ten and a half months later and I’d like to think we don’t suck anymore. Today marks my 500th post and I’m going to use the occasion to offer a HUGE thank you to my fellow writer and all of the artists who have participated in interviews and contributed mixes, but most importantly to every single one of you who has responded to our writing positively or negatively and those of you who follow us on a regular basis. I am also going to use the occasion to discuss the role of context in music journalism and what motivates myself to do this damn thing.
First off, thank you to Madeline, Austin and Will for entertaining my absurd ramblings, supporting me at every turn and turning in some of the best music on the series of tubes some might call the internet. Sam, you’ve only been with us for a few weeks, but your artwork and writing are already an integral part of the operation. The Astral Plane would not be what it is without you guys.
Thank you to all of the artists who have graciously committed their time and energy to interviews. I’m looking at you The Philosofist, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Stavrogin, Skips, Hobo D, Room E, Baauer, Rick from Beat Cinema, Ryan Hemsworth, Co. Fee, Haleek Maul, Aaron Meola and DJAO, Cedaa, Dane and Preston of TeamSupreme and Devonwho. Alex Ruder from Hush Hush Records and Ill Cosby from Car Crash Set. It means the world to me that I am able to talk with the people that drive me on a personal level like these incredible human beings.
It is something of a dream come true to have the musicians I adore actually to compile mixes for me. Well maybe not specifically for me, but having Yesh, Riley Lake (our own Dildo Shaggins), DVMSTR, Kong, Boeboe, Stavrogin and Rap Class to flex their collective muscle behind the decks, providing us with some of the best mixes you will hear all year, is a privilege I never believed would be within reach. We have big things in the works on this front so stay tuned in.
Continue after the jump…
Finally, a huge shout out to all of you. I don’t know if we have any loyal fans or whatnot, but every pageview, comment, facebook like and retweet means the world and constantly reaffirms what I’m attempting to do. For some reason, you’ve stuck with us for ten and half months and I get all touchy feely thinking you appreciate what we’re attempting to do. So what are we attempting to do? I can’t speak on behalf of my compatriots, but I’m going to attempt to explain my philosophy towards this whole music blogging deal over the coming paragraphs. This is going to get a little bit conceptual so follow me down the hole if you will.
Quick note: this is a completely idealized conversation about music journalism.
The role of the music writer is an interesting one and one constantly in flux. Basically, anyone writing about music is attempting to frame a song/album/artist (the text) and give it context. Whether that context is simply background information, comparative, technical or emotional analysis, or historical relevance entirely depends on who is contextualizing the song/album/artist. Since the inception of the blogosphere, this process has been drastically inflated, with every song/album/artist immediately hypercontextualized within a series of links and references. The Internet has obviously made music criticism more immediate, but it has also publicized the vast cultural matrix, which every musical text exists within.
So if every musical text is meant to be read within this cultural matrix (and that point is up for debate), what role should music critics play in promulgating a culture of positivism? Positivism in music journalism is vague in that it ranges from technical analysis to outright “this is how I feel about this right now”, especially when you take into account live music, but isn’t a culture of empiricism necessary?
If you spend a few hours, scratch that, a few minutes reading music blogs, you’ll quickly realize that timeliness trumps thoroughness; that much of the blogosphere can be boiled down to a circle jerk over who can post the new (insert hyped act of the moment) first. Isn’t this antithetical to the goal of attaining empiricism? A world wide web full of vapid posts devoid of anything but a few links and a release date. Now I’m not saying that we at The Astral Plane are above this. We participate in this culture as much as anyone else so I’m not trying to pull some silly elitist blogger claim. It’s just important to note how insidious and deep rooted the need to be first has become.
Moving onto another question: isn’t the ideal goal of every music critic to find the perfect musical text? This is a stretch (I warned you), but in the late David Foster Wallace’s seminal Infinite Jest, “the Entertainment” is an irresistible film cartridge that is so entertaining that it leaves the viewer unresponsive, without any interest in carrying out the remainder of his or her life. While extreme, isn’t that the ultimate goal for both musician and listener? The perfect auditory experience. Heaven, Valhalla, or whatever you want to call it. Would you engage in the experience if you were well aware of the consequences?
I’m rambling now, but sometimes you need some stream-of-consciousness thinking to answer the tough questions. I realize this is pretty far off-topic, but these are the questions I ask myself everyday and that inform the way I write and live my life. Do I write exactly as I would like to? Of course not. Do I succumb to time constraints, laziness and other personal factors? All the time. But this is my 500th post, so I think I deserve to indulge.