Happy Birthday to The Rambler: Thoughts on a decade’s new music blogging

I missed the actual birthday because I was away, but last week this humble blog turned 10.

Bear in mind that blog years are like dog years – that’s pretty old. Weirdly, I fell into blogging because of the Second Gulf War. Through the spring and summer of 2003, blogs were the best way to read opinion and news on what was going on, and it was through them that I developed a feel for the medium and what it could offer.

That also meant reading a lot of right-wing windbaggery, so it was a relief to discover (and I can’t remember how I did) a network of music, culture and philosophy blogs centred around Simon Reynolds’ Blissblog, Mark Fisher’s K-Punk and Matthew Ingram’s TWANBOC (later Woebot, both since defunct).

A lot of that history can be reread in Ingram’s Big Book of Woe, and as very much a fringe participant I’m not going to recount it now. But reading those blogs back then taught me a lot about how it possible to think and listen and be, and join them all up with writing. Like somedisco, written like a stream of consciousness micro-blog years before anyone thought of Twitter, or heronbone, a blast of East London reportage, poetry, nature watching and FM radio static. Some of them irritated the hell out of me too, and I quietly withdrew from the circle. But still, I owe them all a massive debt of thanks.

After a couple of months of fairly aimless posting, I realised that if the Rambler was going to succeed in any dimension, I, like so many before me, needed to write about what I knew. And that meant contemporary classical music. I wasn’t the first to blog about this stuff – Kyle Gann’s Postclassic blog also started in August 2003, and he was onto blogging new music from the off; I didn’t really get going on that score until October. But we were both beaten to it by Robert Gable, whose Aworks blog started tracking new American classical music in July 2003.

And yet, on the stroke of one decade’s blogging, Gable appears to be bringing down the curtain on Aworks: “As the blogosphere winds down … I fully acknowledge that social media no longer includes this typepad blog.” A lot has changed in ten years. Back in 2003 it was possible to talk about ‘the blogosphere’ with a reasonably straight face: there actually was a community (or communities) of bloggers talking to one another, doing that crazy online interaction/content generation thing before it all got commodified under the Web2.0 banner. Now, all those conversations have migrated to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, and the ‘blogosphere’ is more like a bunch of corporations ‘pushing’ ‘content’ to their ‘customers’. I’m not sure where the innovative writing that got me into blogging resides any more. It’s not for me to do; I’ve dabbled, a little, but it’s not really how I roll. Maybe I’ve just got old.

The population of classical music bloggers, even new music bloggers, even musicology bloggers, has expanded exponentially too. So much so that I stopped keeping count four or five years ago. It’s a different world: now that everyone genuinely has a mouthpiece, it feels like we’re not talking to each other as much as we used to. Having a mouthpiece doesn’t always feel quite so meaningful as it once did. We might finally be finding ways to leverage the social capital of our blogs into books, jobs, careers, but there’s an undercurrent of betrayal in that for those of us who remember the anarchic origins of blogging. Hell, I can even get nostalgic about the handmade DIY-ness of pre-Google Blogger, when you wrote your own CSS, had to hand-code your RSS, imported your comments, stats and other widgets from third parties, and wrote everything in Word first in case Blogger crashed.

Still, as Robert Gable puts it, ‘our mode of communication is becoming a private channel to any remaining readers, who by definition are sophisticated and worldly’. So, don’t expect me to stop any time soon – it’s nice to write for people like that. Thank you all of you who have stopped by.

Photo Credit: robokow via Flickr | cc

5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to The Rambler: Thoughts on a decade’s new music blogging

  1. Good to see a blog that is 10. Music has a long history. I’d like to introduce you and your readers to my recently published book “Joint Venture…A backstage rock and roll journey. My memoir from being a roadie, to a tour manager and then my own management company, I started in 1966 and left the business in 1984. The music world was changing as was the rest of the world. I worked with the Blues Project, who became Blood Sweat and Tears, then eventually was the tour manager for Elephants Memory with John and Yoko and then was tour manager and the manager for The Stranglers and was part of bringing in their hit single Golden Brown and the La Folie album.

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