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Write around the world- a proposal for international music journalism

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Monday, Jan 9, 2006

After I do my yearly round-up of best music journalism, I always find out later on about material I missed out on.  Sometimes, it’s good that things were missed: as Bob O’Connor points out, Dan Aquilante of the New York Post has some howlers in terms of fact checking.  Sometimes, it’s bad that I missed some things: while Alex Ross was gratified that I picked some classical articles, he was a a little let down that I didn’t chose him or anyone else from the New Yorker.  It’s a shame because he happens to be one of my favorite writers.  Also, I feel bad for anyone who writes for my zine: for obvious reasons of nepotism, I can’t include their work for me on the list.


But if there’s anyone I really have to apologize to, it’s the writers we usually don’t think about.  After doing this list for four years, something occurred to me.  Almost all of the material I was finding came from only two countries: America and England.  One reason is obviously language barriers but that doesn’t help out Canadian or Australian writers who usually get overlooked also.  The fact of the matter is that even when journalism comes outside of the Anglo-America axis and is translated into English, it usually never makes it into our cultural dialog.  That’s a loss not just for some excellent writers around the world but also for all of us in the West who won’t get to see and absorb their fine work.


One impetus to this discovery came from writers that I’d been working with at my zine.  They come from Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Ireland, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.  They were all fine writers and deserved more recognition.  It just didn’t seem fair that they weren’t part of our cultural dialog because they didn’t happen to live in the ‘right’ country.


Sometimes complaining about a problem is a good impetus to get it solved.  If you’re brave or foolish enough, taking a further step to try to solve the problem is another option.  So, rather than just complaining about this, I want to try to do something.  Why not have an anthology of music journalism from around the world?  Since the U.S./U.K. is already badly over-represented in this realm, let’s hear from the great writers in other countries and learn from their perspective.  Let’s hear what they have to say.  I think we’ll all be the richer for expanding the horizon of conversation past the usual corridors.


As writer/editor/broadcaster Ed Ward warned me though, this is biting off a lot.  This is the kind of thing that would take years to do well (for now, I think it would be best to be open to time periods and genres covered, though I might have to narrow this later).  But if I learned one thing from doing reissues, these things do take time and a lot of patience is required- the DNA reissue alone was about five years in the making.  I’d been thinking about this for a while and just decided that there was no reason to put off doing it.  It’ll be a struggle for sure but in the end, I think it’ll be worth it (especially if I can convince a former Spin editor to be a collaborator).  In any case, I’m sure I’ll have some entertaining stories to report here about the process.  In the end, isn’t that the least we all can hope for?


This is just in the formative stages now but if you have suggestions or want to point out any good writers or articles that might be approrpriate for this, please let me know.

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