Music Into Words

Jessica Duchen, Fran Wilson, Mary Grace Nguyen and Imogen Tilden on the panel. Picture by Christian Hopkins.
Jessica Duchen, Fran Wilson, Mary Grace Nguyen and Imogen Tilden at Music Into Words. Picture by Christian Hopkins.

holsthousezoom      By Simon Brackenborough

On Tuesday I spoke at Music Into Words, an event I co-organised with several other music bloggers, which aimed to bring together people interested in writing about classical music, to share ideas and discuss common issues. We’ve planned this for a while and were delighted at the enthusiastic response.

I gave a presentation about the genesis of Corymbus, the reasons behind it and my plans for the site. I also offered some thoughts on how we could better write about music today. You can watch a video of the talk below.

Following on from me, blogger Mary Grace Nguyen spoke about her experiences of reviewing opera as a young writer from a non-musical background (video). Journalist, author and blogger Jessica Duchen talked widely on the agonies and ecstasies of writing about music professionally (video). Sadly Dr. Mark Berry, who was due to be speaking about academic writing, had to pull out due to illness, but we look forward to him speaking at the next event (more on that below).

A panel discussion followed with many fantastic contributions from the audience, which contained a great variety of writers, many with far more experience than I. Joining our panel, the Guardian’s classical music and live reviews editor Imogen Tilden gave an unflinching account of the difficulties faced by traditional print media in the age of the internet. Inevitably, this brought about lots of discussion. Fran Wilson, our fantastic host for the evening, added many thoughtful points from her years of blogging and social media experience as The Cross-Eyed Pianist. Fran also did a huge amount of work in making the event happen and we’re all very grateful to her.

The audience were encouraged to live-tweet with the hashtag #MusicIntoWords, and many did. A compilation of the tweets can be found here.

All in all it was a very stimulating evening. There was clearly an appetite to discuss issues for far longer than we were able to. I had worried that perhaps the conversation would stray from writing about music to other classical music topics. The dreaded spectre of concert etiquette and clapping between movements – the beast that never dies – loomed large in my mind. But these fears proved unfounded. Topics brought up included the barriers of musical terminology, leaving negative reviews, blog self-editing, the ambiguous status of writing on dance, ways to use social media, the relevance of ‘classical’ as a genre…to name but a few. A post-event survey has revealed that if anything, the audience was keen for more, and in greater depth and breadth than time allowed.

As fantastic as the internet is (the event wouldn’t have taken place without personal connections made through social media) there is clearly great enthusiasm for getting together in a space with like-minded individuals to talk about common issues and interests. It was a pleasure to join many members of the audience in a nearby pub afterwards for socialising. I was particularly thrilled to hear from people who had travelled from as far as afield the Midlands, Wales, and even Dublin!

We definitely plan to do this event again in some form, so please stay tuned. Many thanks to those who came, and especially those who took time to share their thoughts on the survey. We will take your suggestions into account when considering what to do next time (if you attended but haven’t got round to filling out the survey, find it here).

Simon Brackenborough is the founder and editor of Corymbus. He is a music graduate who divides his time between Hampshire and London, and tweets at @sbrackenborough.

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