too much typing—since 2003



In the latest edition of his long-running online (music) column "The War Against Silence," glenn mcdonald announces the forthcoming end of TWAS's weekly installments. (I put "music" in parentheses because even when mcdonald writes most directly about music - which he does in compelling detail - his real subject is his relationship and interaction with music, and in recent years he's often filled entire weekly dispatches without addressing music at all.) I know glenn casually, through a music mailing list, although I've never met him personally. But TWAS tempts its readers to believe they know its author, since he's never been shy about addressing the intensely personal way he - and by extension, or perhaps presumption, most people - is affected by music and by the rest of the world. In this, mcdonald has walked a tightrope: some of his columns wield the personal in such a way as to encourage readers to examine their own private reflections therein, while others feel rather like accidentally walking in on someone undressing.

In the past year or so (as TWAS has documented), mcdonald has gone through an extraordinary number of changes, most important for him being his forthcoming marriage (I trust he won't be offended at my presuming this priority). Much in the way a friend of mine all at once quit drinking, smoking, eating meat, and his job, the engagement seems to have caused in mcdonald a global re-evaluation of his life. Part of that, it seems, is an interrogation of the impressive, but perhaps less strictly necessary, dedication or even compulsion that has enabled (or allowed, or even forced) him to write a lengthy installment of TWAS every week without fail for nearly ten years. Rounding out TWAS with issue no. 500 both complements and defeats this compulsion, defeating it in the obvious sense that he will no longer write a weekly issue, but complementing it in insisting on ending at a round number - instead of, say, merely stopping. (Incidentally, it's odd that "compulsion" is generally a negative word: some things should be a compulsion, or at least yield positive results when they create one. Writing about music is one such object.)

I'm writing this entry to commemorate the occasion, to acknowledge the influence of TWAS on my own work, and to speak of the joy and intellectual pleasure the column frequently offered me. Of course, I haven't always agreed with mcdonald (our musical tastes, for example, have only about a 10% correspondence - and sometimes I'm utterly flummoxed as to how he can simultaneously enjoy Artist A and Artist Z) but I've always understood that, and often why, he feels strongly about the musicians he's written about.

Perhaps the central idea of TWAS, or at any rate the one I can most enthusiastically endorse, is the notion that music is what humans do best - or that the best things humans do is to make music. (The counterargument is that they can, and should, do better at being with other humans - and perhaps that's what mcdonald is now dedicating the bulk of his energies toward.) I understand the religious impulse, although I'm so constituted as to bog down immediately in reason and practicality when following that impulse along the traditional lines - but music provides, for me, most of the transcendence and sense of wonder that the religious impulse would pursue. And of course, it's musicians, primarily, who've taught me that - but glenn mcdonald, in his tireless dedication to exploring that sense and transcendence, has aided immeasurably in the effort. Thank you.

In a typically pretentious - but provocative, and even beautiful - phrase, Robert Fripp notes that "music is the cup that holds the wine of silence." A toast, then, and the laying down of arms.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you could see it coming as early as last year. ah, well, another one bites the dust. to me, glenn mcdonald is what net writing is all about, or used to be all about before it got standardized. the idiosyncratic voices drop off, and all we're left with is the clones over at pitchfork, and those so much like them that they might as well be clones of the clones over at pitchfork.