Thursday, February 24, 2011
I've been listening to the New York Times Popcast for a couple of months now, and it's quite good. The usual host is Ben Sisario, a music journalist for the Times. He talks about music with Times music critics, including Jon Caramanica, Jon Pareles, Nate Chinen, and Ben Ratliff.
It's fun to listen to because it allows the critics to reflect on their opinions and to rationalize them in a conversation. You can literally hear them piecing their thoughts together, and it's relieving to find that they have regrets and hesitations, too. Reviews don't seem so final after you've listened in on one of these Popcasts.
Today, the Popcast aired its first Jazzcast in what is hoped to be a monthly feature on jazz. It's basically a fifteen minute or so conversation between Nate Chinen and Ben Ratliff. But they're both very smart and quick and you'll learn a lot from them. I did--and do, every time I read their articles. Check it out here.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
On February 7, I did a phone interview with Marcus Miller for Nextbop. I'm probably as surprised as you are, but I think it went well. We talked for about an hour, and he seemed willing to open up. Before I did the interview, I happened to have come across this line in an entry from Sam Stephenson's wonderful blog, the Jazz Loft Project:
"Joseph Mitchell once said that the least interesting people to interview were business leaders, society women, and successful authors. These types were required to talk so much that their stories inevitably became canned. Miles Davis is going to tell you the same stories over and over; he’ll be bored stiff; and the stories probably won’t be true."
I think he has a great point. (Although I did enjoy Miles Davis's autobiography.) The interview I did with Mr. Miller was one of many many interviews he's done in the past. After that many, you might start to mythologize your own life, to unconsciously create cliched answers. Listen to any interview with Dave Brubeck: he's a mensch, and one of the sweetest guys in jazz, but you'll probably be sighing from boredom after the second or third story he tells.
I might be putting too much blame on the interviewee, though. The reason I like Terry Gross so much is because she can talk to anyone, almost always asks the right questions, and gets her interviewees to open up, regardless of how many times they've been asked the same question.
I'm starting to realize that interviewing is an art unto itself. An art that I am very uncomfortable with. I'm not yet sure if an interview is a conversation. But maybe if I start looking at it like that, it'll get easier. I hate waiting to ask a question--instead of listening--but sometimes I do wait for fear I will not have anything else to say.
I felt the interview with Mr. Miller went very smoothly. I had questions I had planned on asking, as I imagine any interviewer should, but they came up naturally as we continued to talk. I hope you find his answers insightful.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Yes, that's me in the picture. I recently became an opinion columnist for one of my school newspapers, the McGill Tribune. The picture is for my column. I've wanted to be an opinion columnist ever since I started reading the New York Times opinion pages early in high school. It seemed like such a heroic and awesome position to have.
When I started this blog about six months ago, I was excited to get out all my pent-up ideas about jazz and how I relate to it and what it does to me and what I think it can do to you. I still am, nearly 60 blog posts later. A few months in, though, I worried that I might be pigeonholing myself. But then I realized that that was the point: I decided to start a jazz blog, and I was the one continuing to write for it.
So I started writing for the school newspapers as well, contributing articles on culture (poetry, music, books) and some opinion pieces when I felt passionate. It felt good to find a balance between writing about jazz and other subjects.
When I became an opinion columnist in January, it felt good to know the balance would last the semester. And when Ricky, the opinion editor, asked me for a column title, I immediately thought of Paper Moon, after the old Harold Arlen song "It's Only a Paper Moon." I don't know why it came into my head, but it seemed fitting. (Listen to the Nat Cole version below and guess why.)
It seems to show how much jazz has to do with my life. I know the name is corny, and so is the photo, but maybe I'm old fashioned. Speaking of which, that's another great song.
Find my latest columns here and here if you're interested.