Into the Looking Glass

As an avid music fan, I often find myself in the position where I am asked to write album reviews. The catch is, I'm not a musician. I don't know how instruments work, and I don't understand the terminology associated with them. I do, however, know what I think sounds good, and I often feel the need to spread the word. Unfortunately, when I try to write something up, I fall into one of several traps, and I am almost always dissatisfied with the result.

The first thing a person can do when faced with a situation like this is try to bluff. After all, we all know a wee little bit about SOMETHING that's going on SOMEWHERE in that piece of music. The VOCALS. Oh yeah, the vocals. I like those; those are gritty and honest. Hey, maybe that's a harmony. And maybe that part I'm digging, maybe there are some CATCHY RIFFS there. That wonky part, is that one technically complex? Is it derivative? Unless it's The Ramones, I'm not sure. Well, what else can I say? I'll throw in some vague laudatory statements, bulk them up with some verbs. Oh, it's SOARING, MOVING, WAXING, WANING. What a wonderful house of cards.

The other option is to be the music historian. Yes, that band is from California. Yes, their previous drummer was in Primus. It's all very, very interesting. It's also from Wikipedia. If someone wanted the Reader's Digest version of a Wikipedia article, I could do that in a heartbeat, unless it's an article about The Ramones.

And so by this point I have firmly established that I LIKE THIS ALBUM, so much so that I have told you inconsequential junk about the band members. Bully for me, right? But if I'm truly going to be a descriptive writer, I need to provide more specific information about the structure and style of the music itself. "Anything. Anything descriptive. A room. Or a house. Or something you once lived in or something - you know. Just as long as it's descriptive as hell..." Unfortunately, the only place to find that is in previously written reviews. This is, at best, thievery.

Are there ways for non-musicians to convey their excitement about new music and pick out the parts that suit them most? I would like to assume so. I can only state with certainty that I have never figured out a way to do it and be pleased with the end result. Writing about writing about music, however, has proven infinitely simpler.

This is an introspective and is not meant to criticize anyone or suggest anything.


  1. introspective like a Leonard Cohen song!

  2. Before I was laughed out of the Edinboro University music department....I took classes with a Musicologist...she was not a musician...or trained one anyway, but she pulled it off by saying how the music relates to the people that make it. like how music impacts life or impacts culture. That was the intent of the class, but it was strangely disappointing.


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