Curation Nation is a feature written by Wellington music enthusiast, librarian, gig goer and writer John Heighes. Usually Curation Nation will be published from time to time and include music book reviews, occasional digressions and topics of musical interest.
Interestingly enough there is an ongoing debate and a surprising complex history surrounding the origin of the quote “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” and for those interested the discussion can be found here.
However, if music occupies a place in your life above and beyond some nice sounds in the background while you eat dinner, chat with friends etc. then you may agree that music writing is cool and a great way to gain a deeper grasp on how, where and why your favourite music came to be.
Bloomsbury Publishing’s 33 ⅓ series is a great example - original, informative and hugely entertaining - offering the possibility of being introduced to new music and, if nothing else, a great excuse to re-appraise old favourites. Last year the series celebrated its 10th Anniversary with its 100th title - Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’.
Each title focuses exclusively on one record selected from somewhere within the 50 year history of popular music, and is far more than just another ho-hum track by track analysis of a (yawn) ‘classic album’. Each writer, invariably a fan, offers a new slant on a record you may or may not have heard, replacing fan type hyperbole with license to “obsessively explore a piece of music without restriction”.
Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Fear of Music’ is a good example, endearingly exploring his relationship to that record, which is like that of a dear and trusted friend; or Andrew Hultkrans’ ‘Forever Changes’ which paints a fascinating picture of what the LA band scene was like in the mid ‘60’s; Mike McGonigal’s ‘Loveless’ is based on an in-depth interview with Kevin Shields, who relates the entire history of the recording process of that highly influential record; while Ben Sisario’s ‘Doolittle’ takes the shape of a primer on surrealism. Other titles include ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, ‘Trout Mask Replica’, ‘Kid A’ and ‘Histoire De Melodie Nelson’. The full list can be found here.