This September marks the two-year anniversary of my entry into the blogosphere. I began writing for Polyphonic soon after I began my graduate studies at Eastman in 2012, and have contributed regularly ever since. The experience of sharing my writing and receiving feedback has been as educational as it has been enjoyable, and as I’ve reflected on the past two years of posts, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the many invaluable experiences those years have given me.
Blogging is still a relatively new medium, and the practice of blogging about music is even newer. Polyphonic, while one of the older music blogs, remains less than ten years old, and some of today’s other blogs have only emerged since I started college (back in the dark ages of 2008). What obviously made an impact on the viability of blogging-in music, or any field-was the advent and subsequent explosion of social media. Now, instead of relying on a handful of email subscribers to view your posts regularly, you can instantly broadcast your latest missive to thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. Today, with so many music bloggers publishing on a regular basis, it’s rare that you go a day without seeing an intriguing article in your newsfeed (even if it is only about a cat playing a piano concerto). On the Facebook page for my website, Musicovation.com, we routinely share three to four music-related posts every day, and we’ve never had any problems finding material.
As the potential and frequency of blogs grow greater, so does the responsibility-and influence-of bloggers like myself. It’s mind-boggling to consider that one well-written post could gain you recognition around the internet, or even in a prominent publication. Even more amazing-at least, to me-is how widely spread your readers can be. It’s funny that while we all know the internet can enable instantaneous communication with most parts of the world, it still seems as though it exists within the confines of a phone or laptop. I remember once observing that one of my posts had been shared on the Twitter account of someone in London, and thinking to myself, “Whoa-this is crazy. Here I just wrote this two nights ago in a small Rochester apartment, and now someone’s reading it in England!” Call me overly saccharine, but the sheer existence of the internet, and its myriad possibilities, continues to astound me.
Of course, the most thrilling part of blogging is sharing your stuff. My posts always go live quite early in the morning on the east coast, so often times my personal social media sharing is done while I’m still under my covers, opening my eyes just wide enough to ensure that the spelling and grammar of my Facebook and Twitter prefaces adhere to English language conventions (fun fact: when you see me share a blog that’s not prefaced by a thoughtful introduction, it means I shared it while I was still semi-conscious). Of course, I could wait until later, but I’ve observed that sharing first thing in the morning often gives me the best chance of visibility, because people tend to do a sweep of their news feeds before the workday starts at 9 A.M. If I totally oversleep or something, I just wait until lunchtime, since that’s the next most common “Facebook Sweep” amongst the 9-to-5 folks.
The reactions my work receives constitute the most curious aspect of the whole process. Sometimes, I slave for a few days on a post and get absolutely no response, while other times I put together something in a day that I’m not very confident about, and get a blizzard of positive feedback. I am not fishing for compliments, of course; in fact, I welcome dissenting commenters, because I often learn something from them. Even if I don’t agree with another person’s point of view, I’m always fascinated to discover their rationale for holding that point of view, because in any contentious matter, it’s not as important that the opposing parties agree as much as they understand each other, since understanding is the first step to resolution. Sure, I’m not exactly negotiating the Treaty of Versailles on Polyphonic.org, but I am bringing up issues that tend to provoke a variety of opinions amongst musicians, and by studying and interacting with the ensuing debate, I-and, hopefully, my readers-have the opportunity to glimpse a potential middle ground.
One of the more humbling aspects of blogging has been the opportunity to express my reactions to current events, both joyous or tragic. It was a great privilege to share my personal recollections of Van Cliburn and Janos Starker when each passed in 2013, offer commentary on Renée Fleming’s knockout Super Bowl performance in 2014, or write about gaining perspective in the midst of turmoil as remnants of Hurricane Sandy swirled outside the windows of my Rochester apartment in 2012. Writing a response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings was an almost surreal experience, because the events themselves seemed almost surreal. A few hours after I first heard the news, I pounded out that post in a guttural fury, spewing out everything that came into my head. The published version was pretty much a first draft, but looking back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing, because it truly captures how I felt that night, and how I in turn related those feelings to my musical worldview.
You would think that writing on such serious subject matters would be the hardest part of blogging, but very frequently, the biggest challenge is simply thinking of a subject to write about in the first place. People often ask me how I come up with topics, and I admit that sometimes it can be tough. There might not be a controversial article or a significant recent event to comment on, and at times I find myself depleted of inspiration. On a couple occasions, I’ve written and edited entire posts before scraping them with an almost Brahmsian disdain (I haven’t printed out and burned any yet, though). But most of the time, I always have an idea in mind, because I’m always looking for one. I’ll be having a conversation, attending a concert, or teaching a lesson and suddenly think to myself, “Oh, this would make a great subject!” I suppose it would be a lot harder for me to write a blog on, say, economics, because that’s not a subject I spend much time thinking about-but as my mind is so often immersed in all things musical, any whim, insight, or experience can quickly be transformed into a viable topic.
Blogging can be as mundane as it is thrilling, and as challenging as it is enjoyable, but its potential is endless and its rewards are great. These past two years have given me an opportunity to share some of my innermost thoughts, my most meaningful experiences and my most treasured memories, and for them I’m deeply grateful. Here’s to many more!