Blog is back, alright?

and Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
he’s got a daytime job; he’s doin’ alright

-Sultans of Swing, Dire Straits1

While pondering how to return to writing this blog with a much different focus, I was scrolling through the twitter hashtag for #PitchJam to catch up on what I missed in not having pitches ready for participation. It is encouraging to know that there are some people and some publications in the intermediary space between “one person on the periphery holding their web presence together with gum and paper clips” and “Professional Writer For A Publication” for someone like me to aspire to in the midst of a day job that grabs a lot of my spoons and other kinds of life-maneuvering work that grabs the rest. In particular I’ve been spending a lot of time with Unwinnable and the new podcast Game Studies Study Buddies in addition to normal academic music reading. Unwinnable merits mentioning particularly because it is a direct subscription publication that hosts a range of writers (for pay!) on a range of popular culture topics with a dedicated editing crew who are pretty open and approachable (a fact that I have not yet engaged with like I want). On the other side, GSSB is a podcast where Cameron Kunzelman and Michael Lutz rehearse the arguments2 from books that fall within the purview of academic Game Studies with some discussion about the structure of the text and what readers might take away from those books should they need to engage with them more thoroughly in the future.3 Since Game Studies is only on the periphery of the kinds of things I am thinking about as a scholar of music whose potential focus is on the nebulous “video game music scene,” having a couple of hours of smart people to listen to when I do more rudimentary tasks at work is a godsend.

While on the topic: I’m currently doing the legwork for a project that I’m envisioning as a retrospective study of the American4 reception of the music from the Katamari series. In short: the award-winning soundtracks to the Katamari series5 attracted attention from our games media for what many thought was weird, quirky, and unique music to underscore the Cool Japan/Weird Japan reception that the game itself had in the Western mediasphere. Yet when reading about how Miyake went about envisioning the audience for the games’ music, no one seemed to zero in on the fact that he deliberately chose the genre and performers for each track to appeal to a wide variety of listeners from the history of Japanese pop music. I’m particularly interested in the games’ relationship to Shibuya-kei, a genre formation noted in Japan for “ostentatious internationalism,” even in the growing identity formation of J-pop. This partly has to do with Shibuya-kei’s distribution and reputation in the United States–that of indie pop, not video game music. Taking a cue from Michael Bourdaghs, I hope to get more into Area Studies and the concept of asymmetrical listening/reception between the two largest music industries in the world of the last few decades.

I’ve got a while to go until it is digestible, but I hope to whip it into shape sooner rather than later.

Other things

I’m looking forward to the next installment of CapsuleCrit. Their initial publication got me thinking about what can be conveyed in short form fiction and how I might be able to write like that in the future, on this blog or elsewhere. Check it out when you get a chance.

Recently I won a bundle of books from Boss Fight Books. Their e-books are a great way to support good writing (though I plan on ordering at least one in paperback).

Swimming laps is hard. Swimming laps is good. Bless DC parks & rec. Also bless my friends for planning a tubing trip in August.

1: I read a tweet from someone I don’t know the other day about how song lyrics in an epigraph are corny 100% of the time. Yes.

2: Is that a quote? That might be a quote.

3: I have a tweet bookmarked somewhere about another person in a far different discipline trying to sell the idea of a podcast that acts like an audiobook abstracts of sorts. This is a great idea if for no other reason than that modern scholarly communication is unwieldly and outrageously exploitative. I could have used something like that when I was studying musicology the first time.

4: Western? English-language? Anglo-American? We’re at that early point in the project. It may depend on what I can find in the review corpus, given that the first game came out in 2004 and includes a lot of reviews in now-defunct publications that the Internet Archive might not necessarily have.

5: At this point, I’m inclined to use only the games which came out on a console platform and for which Yuu Miyake was the primary sound director: Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari, and Katamari Forever. I may also use Me & My Katamari, but I’m not sure how to treat major reprises and previous games’ cut tracks yet.

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