I’m in the middle of preparing a day of workshops for New Writing North’s Cuckoo Masterclass in music journalism (I think you can still sign up!), which I am very excited about. I think I’m going to end up learning as much from these classes as the students hopefully will: Having to put what you do into words, when you’ve never previously studied or theorised it, requires some difficult thinking.
When it comes to something like album reviews, I can’t very well say to them, “Well, do some research, listen to the album at least five times, then do a live annotation and Bob’s your uncle.” I have to strip away my cosy and couched writing habits to figure out what’s (hopefully) going on there, the questions that my own reviews are hopefully asking, in order to teach the students how they should approach a similar piece: What is an album review? What’s the point of it, especially now that it’s not so much of a consumer device for most people? Is there evidence here of a wider story or argument on the musician’s part? How does it fit into the band’s history, and the wider context? What’s the relationship between the sound and the lyrics? Is it too literal? Whose business in that anyway? What the dickens do you write about electronic music when there are no words to cling onto for safety?
All gets a bit existential after a while. It’s great fun doing it, though.