Neo-Curation Is The New Post-Creative Act

Submitted by Andy on Sat, 03/13/2010 - 18:56

I'm totally going to finish that manifesto on digital notation in the near future srsly, but since I totally missed the topical train [1. Originally supposed to be tied into the iPad announcement, I could have related it to the iPad pre-order I suppose. There's always April 3rd!] I might as well try and chase another one down.

Last Tuesday my ethnomusicology class had a battery of articles on globalization and post-modernity and post-colonialism and post-everything to read. However, at the beginning of class it was discovered that Frederic Jameson himself was giving a talk at the Old Capitol RIGHT NOW NOW NOW GO GO GO. So we went to that instead. I'm not the most skilled man when it comes to cultural critique and contemporary theory and what not, so I wasn't able to engage quite as much as some of my classmates. But at the end of the paper he closes with this total throwaway line:
"I was going to go on about how in post-modernity curators are the true artists, but it appears that I've run out of time."
There was a bit of tension about that one, no one in the room would have begrudged him thirty more seconds. He had spoken a little bit out "singularity" too, so a lot of a Q&A was sidetracked into Kurzweil and immortality and all that but someone get tease out a little bit about the curation bit. Unfortunately he didn't really elucidate much beyond his original statement, a little about post-modern artwork only having meaning in relief of one another.
I had gotten the chance I would have asked him about Tumblr and other technologies have democratized the curatorial process so is a post-modern act becoming modernized? DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND? I didn't and I'm not nearly well-read enough to actually go on about that, but I have thought a bit about how this relates both to curation of music and the "paying with attention" meme that's gone around lately.
Blogs, as it were, are a prime example of this. Kottke was the first famous one, but a there are a number of them now that center on a whole bunch of different fields, even if graphic design/typographies and other nerderies are overrepresented. [2. I'd say that Alex Ross and Matt Guerreri are the closest things for classical/concert music, when not underwater writing books of course.] However the best bloggers are sort of a cross between curators and journalists. I don't read John Gruber or Shawn Blanc just for the links but also for some sort of insightful commentary. So why are these guys more trusted than I am, for instance? It seems to break down to three things. Or the inverse if you've wondered how to lose trust or your friends and relatives.
  • A unique voice
  • Presenting constitently quality material
  • At a consistent rate
These are the same qualities that make a good "curator" at any level. Hence, these bloggers are usually more famous (read: trusted with their readers' attention) than the authors they link to. Hell, Gruber has his own word for when the tremendous amounts of traffic he provides overloads unsuspecting servers. I'm not sure if the same sort of thing can happen with sounding music.
There's all sort of fantastic ways of distributing sounding music now: Bandcamp, YouTube/Vimeo, more disk space and bandwidth than anyone can deal with. This is the sort of Long Tail situation that seems like it would demand some curation. However, I just can't see a situation where the curator supercedes the artist for music. I won't go as far as to say that musicmaking is a more personal act that writing, but it is certainly perceived this way. There already exist so many interconnections and suggestive paths in music that a Tumblr of awexome tunes would be greatly appreciated but unlikely that it'd ever be the golden touch that Ed Sullivan was.
Of course, it could augment reader's trust nonetheless. I've discovered more music from superfriends and dueling partners Bryan Teoh and Erik Schoster than I can ever thank them for, and it certainly effects my opinion of them as musicians despite the fact that it's not their own sounding work. I've toyed with the idea of incorporating a linked list into this humble site, so put that on the list of changes that lie dormant for months before being enacted suddenly and without warning.