Google “book music blog” and the first result will likely bring you to Largehearted Boy, now 15 years of age. It comes with a clean, minimalist layout, though with minuscule font sizes which are not responsive across devices. The self-run blog itself is David Gutowski’s primary credential, one that has gained him over 30k Twitter followers. While monetised with blog ads and the Amazon affiliate advertising program, Gutowski had to rely on donations to tide him through heavy medical expenses.
As many innovative features have been discontinued, ‘Book Notes’ – where authors create and discuss a playlist relating to their published book – has become the blog’s staple. Spotify playlists are conveniently embedded in most posts, but hyperlinks to the respective musicians’ websites are lacking. The eclectic format necessarily yields only positive reviews, but also expands the interpretive potential of songs, as seen in poet Fred Marchant’s piece. He does provide narrative context to some of his selected “roots” songs, from Slim Gaillard’s invention of Vout to the Vietnamese đàn bầu to The Harry Smith Box, yet these appear secondary.
What is most notable here is the embrace of subjectivity. Marchant begins with a muse on the mystery of music, then litters the piece with his impressionistic reactions, from another muse about scat to the re-interpretation of a love song as a religious song. He also weaves in personal stories and poems, summoning themes like the Middle East which are not implied by the song. This can be considered as distortion, yet Blackman (2004) insists that all that is essential for listeners is to “find a syntax and their own meanings in the music.” (10)
Gutowski’s vision of mixing literature and art is a refreshing one that plays to the Derridian concept of ‘tympan’, or the ”softening of boundaries which allows ostensibly central and marginal texts to be read together in a complimentary fashion.”(Biron 2011, 2) Marchant is candid about his projections and creates an almost-literary work that does not come across as self-serving. The result is a continuous narrative – note how the tales on his sister, Prometheus, and the Harry Smith Box aid track transition – typifying an envisioned “era of experimentation” that yields “intensely personal and illuminating” music writing (Schankler 2014).
Biron, Dean Leonard. 2011. “Writing and Music: Album Liner Notes.” PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies 8, no. 1, 1-14.
Blacking, John. “’Let All the World Hear All the World’s Music’: Popular Music-Making and Music Education.” In Popular Music: Music and Identity, edited by Simon Frith, 4 (2004): 7-31. London & New York: Routledge.
Marchant, Fred. “Book Notes – Fred Marchant “Said Not Said”.” Largehearted Boy, May 3, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2017/05/book_notes_fred_4.html.
Schankler, Isaac. “Music Criticism is Broken and It’s All Your Fault.” NewMusicBox, July 2, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/music-criticism-is-broken-and-its-all-your-fault/.