Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I've been thinking about the moments in my personal history when I have experienced the golden spark of unexpected connection. There have been a lot through technology, most of them on the web. The vehicles are an odd mix of off and brand names: Bittorrent, YouTube, AudioGalaxy, Google, Ultima Online, IRC, Project Gutenberg, Netflix, Tivo, Metafilter, Blogger. They've all left me a little breathless from what Kierkegaard calls "the dizziness of freedom". Expectations of restriction and boundary are overturned and there is literally no end to what you can find. On an ur-level, this is what it means to be a child, to be in a constant state of amazed discovery at every leaf or toy or Werner Herzog short that shows up on the plate. The problem comes when I find myself in a state of media gluttony; it's a rare moment when I'm not immediately offering myself up to engage with some sort of art. There are repercussions, a sort of creative torpor. Sharp flavors dull and bright colors blur a bit. Expectations of self decline: while Aristotle was supposed to have read all the worthwhile opinions of his society, I can't even read half the magazines I subscribe to. Context wobbles in and out of focus; when the music that reminds you of your old country home in the Ozarks is Afro-pop and Tuvan throatsinging, where are you really from? It takes work to be curious and even more work to be excited all the goddamn time. I write less and less until eventually I'm not writing anymore.
When I started The Tofu Hut some four years ago, there was a premium in the newly burgeoning 'music blog' scene on either finding the newest new stuff or on finding really rare tracks. Personally, I aspired to being more of a shadchan, a matchmaker for ideas and interested minds. I've never been interested in being a critic; why should I tell you what to think about something that you can just as easily listen to on your own and form your own opinion? And, incidentally, fuck a 'tastemaker'; that always struck me as the sort of term you'd use to describe a coffee machine. Scarcity is a fun novelty, but it means less and less as the celestial jukebox starts filling up... and you don't need me to tell you that new tarnishes faster than it can get on the shelves. So why bother at all?
I've been paralyzed with diversity, with being unsure whether what I have to say matters, with the recognition of the time and effort it would take, with the fear of my own amateurism and lack of polish. But to be that golden spark for someone else? To give them a new idea that carries them somewhere down the spiderweb that I can't even see? It's still something worth aspiring to.
All this is a rambling, roundabout way to say that I've been listening and watching and reading over the past year and I have a few nice goils you should meet. I'll trot them out for you now. Thanks for waiting for me.