Write/Right/Rite of Passage?
ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash
Are Social Media and the Internet Impacting Artists’ Literacy and the Ability to Communicate?
THIS is another topic I have covered before…
but I am culpable of falling into a trap! I conduct my interviews via email/Microsoft Word and I am finding, more and more, there is a real disparity when it comes to the accuracy of the written responses (it may be a career bullet but I totally get it and empathise). I forgive artists whose first language is not English but, a lot of the time, I find a lot of corrections need to be made. Maybe it is grammatical or punctuation but, more often than not, I will spend a lot of time re-writing or modifying answers. A lot of artists will abbreviate responses or write in a ‘personal’ manner – usually involving slang and poor English. I cannot wag the finger: look at most of my pieces and, more often than not, there will be something that needs correcting. That might sound like a worrying admission but I find it in the majority of published articles from other journalists. Nobody can create perfection and never make a mistake but there is a limit I guess! I envy the professional journalists because their language is richer than mine and I often find they make fewer mistakes. I check all my work and stare at it hoping everything is right but, inevitably, there are a few gaps and things that pass me by. In terms of musicians; I get some interviews back that need very little work and some that are shocking - again, it is not really the fault of the artist. I am not blaming them or embarrassing anyone because, as I say, I am guilty of the same thing...
Songwriting is a different discipline - and the way they are written is different from how you’d approach an interview or text. I wonder whether the way we write music and communicate on social media means we are less cohesive and accurate when it comes to writing in general. I write as much as I can to ensure I do not slip too much but most artists/people are texting and using short-hand when communicating. Tweets limit how much we can write in one go and, even with a healthy word limit; a lot of people are shortening words and writing in a very basic way. Maybe it has always been this way but I feel, more and more, the written word is less valuable and necessary than years previous. The reason I have brought this up (again) is not to wag fingers at artists but ask whether this problem translates to songwriting. Compare the legendary songwriters pre-Internet/a long time ago and the way they wrote. A lot of the best writers, now, are using punchier phrases and employing language in a more basic way. We still have florid and poetic writers but you seem to get fewer artists who pen in an imaginative and unique way. Maybe I am being all-sweeping and naïve but I have noticed a distinct change in style and originality.
I am finding a lot of songs with similar lyrics and many, to me...the language used in songs is more basic and unadventurous – there are artists who defy this but there is a trend. Maybe that is what music demands and what consumers want but I feel the Internet and texting have made its mark! There is a benefit to this new trend whereby we are inventing new words and phrases. In a way, we are changing the English language and bringing more accents and dialects into speech. The Internet means anyone, anywhere can express themselves and communicate how they like. I do worry the brevity of Tweets and posts mean we are trying to convey ourselves in a shortened and less accurate way. I am not suggesting we all break out the quills and write some prose but we are all taking less time to think about what we write and how it looks on the screen. Maybe we are rushed and living in an age where we need to converse ultra-fast and do not really get the chance to look up. Vocally, we are articulate and updating the language every year. I feel writing and the written word is fading into the background. At schools, tablets are used and English classes have different syllabuses.
Exam results are good but I wonder whether children switch off a part of their brain when they go online – less constrained and worried about accuracy and proper English. It has been many years since I sat exams and I think I am losing some of the fundamental lessons I was taught. Again; this might be worrying considering what I do but I feel I have a good style and command that is about right in comparison to everyone else. It is frustrating having to reword and rework written interviews to the extent where I am almost rewriting some – I appreciate every artist who comes my way and would not want to seem ungrateful! (It is not their fault in a lot of ways). I fear we are communicating more by phone and the Internet which means quick responses, short lines and a less joined-up approach. Most of the time, considering we are hurried; punctuation, grammar and spelling go out of the window. I am fascinated seeing how various artists write and how they approach lyrics. The lexicon of Hip-Hop has changed but not broken too far from its roots.
Modern Pop retains some of its older characteristics but so many artists are evolving the genre and writing in a very modern way – language is shifting and they are writing the way we speak. Maybe we will see few artists like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan but I am not so worried about the cessation of great poets and immense thinkers. There are ample intelligent and genius songwriters but, with vocal apps available, they are laying down tracks using technology. Even if they are writing something down; there are tools to correct the wording and we are not noting how it is done and where we are going wrong. This article, written in 2011, reacted to a study conducted by FYI Living – they studied musicians and compared their brains to the rest of us:
“Researchers tested the mental abilities of senior citizens and discovered that musicians performed better at a number of tests. In particular, musicians excelled at visual memory tasks. While musicians had similar verbal capabilities to non-musicians, the musicians’ ability to memorize new words was markedly better, too. Perhaps most importantly, the musicians’ IQ scores were higher overall than those who spent their lives listening to music rather than performing it.
The experience of musicians also played a role in how sharp their minds were. The younger the musicians began to play their instruments, the better their minds performed at the mental tasks. Additionally, the total number of years musicians played instruments throughout their life corresponded with how strong their brains remained years later.
“…The study also found that musicians who took the time to exercise between symphonies had even higher-functioning brain capabilities. This finding supports another recent study that reported people who walk regularly maintain healthier brains. With that in mind, perhaps joining a marching band now will make you the smartest person at the retirement home in the future”.
I can definitely see a correlation between learning an instrument (at a young age) and intelligence. Fewer artists are learning instruments – with sounds and music available online; a lot of electronic aids assisting musicians –; so maybe that is an answer? That sounds rather simplistic but I feel, the more we lean on technology, the less important language and written expression become. I am happy enough to edit and amend interviews – it is what I am supposed to do, I guess – but I myself am not free from blame. Perhaps less time on the Internet is the answer; picking up the phone rather than texting all the time?! The more we engage verbally, the more that is going to bleed into the way we write. I am fascinated by the songwriters coming through but find myself more drawn to melody and vocals than lyrics. Maybe I’ll pick up on some great line and quip but, when I was growing up, I was quoting entire songs and narrating them like speeches. Perhaps streaming and the competition today means artists need to deliver lyrics in a different way and songwriting’s evolution is necessary and unavoidable. It doesn’t help that most spellchecks are complete shite – as the one I am using has just proven! – and that is an issue. In any case; I think the written word is as important now as it has ever been. Maybe we are connecting in a different, faster way but I love artists who can write long interview answers and spend the time to open up. I think an improvement will come soon – forgive me for any errors in my writing... – but, as we all engrain ourselves into the Twitter/tweet culture and texting our conversations, that is going to have a big impact on songwriting and…
THE way we right (sic).