Monday, October 08, 2007

History, authenticity, scholarship, blogs, and all that

Got some time for an example of scholarship at its best? In his NY Times blog, Zoom, the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris is two parts into a series investigating a pair of photos from the Crimean War, one of which may -- in the opinion of Susan Sontag -- have been staged.

If I sometimes give the scholars of record in my own field of interest a hard time, it's simply because I feel passionately about the project of knowing music better and am sometimes disappointed when a musicologist or theorist doesn't take that project any further. Moreover, I am concerned that musical research takes place at too slow a pace, and is often done in fora that are too-exclusive; the combination of these leads to a public image of music scholarship as a slow, unexciting, and clubby academic exercise, and that image runs counter to everything I value in music itself.

While some larger issues are implied by Morris's research here, in particular the reliability of historical evidence both in immediate and long-term evaluation, the exciting thing here is the form of the research. It is presented with the immediacy of a blog entry (albeit, a very substantial blog entry) , takes the opportunity to risk lines of research and opinions that may never find their way into a standard research publication, and the response from readers forms an essential element of the research. Contrary to all MSM complaints about the noisy and rude commenters in the blogosphere, the response is is instead the thoughtful and measured response that actually prevails, and it brings both surprising and useful techniques and resources to the project. Morris takes this wise counsel with the seriousness it deserves.

And this: the series has really got me hooked. Can't wait for part three.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the controversy over Charles Ives's dating or postdating his manuscripts.