The Impulse Behind All Those Indie-Tastic “New York Times Magazine” Profiles Revealed

noah | August 25, 2009 10:00 pm

As a New York Times weekend subscriber who happens to think that there’s more to music out there than those artists who reside at the intersection of “tasteful” and “indie,” I’ve often been disgruntled with the Sunday Magazine’s choices for music-related features, which for the most part seem to crib their ideas from Pitchfork’s Best New Music listings. (Daniel Radosh’s insanely in-depth piece on The Beatles: Rock Band was well worth the read, but the feature well has also seen articles on Andrew Bird, Stuart Murdoch, and Neko Case this year—all fine artists, but definitely pitched to a similar target demo, or, hell, a single side of a mixtape.) Well, a Q & A session on the Times site with Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati went partway toward solving the mystery of why—and surprise, surprise: It has something to do with Marzorati’s own, sordid music-writing past!

Q. I have noticed over the years that you seem to write about the music I like, most notably Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Beth Orton. Do you play guitar or another instrument? Are you in a band? Or do you just have incredibly good taste in music and an unbelievable platform on which to indulge it? — Michelle Falkenstein, New York A. Dear Ms. Falkenstein: I think you meant to say not “incredibly good” taste in music but, rather, taste remarkably similar to yours. Yes, I did play bass guitar in several bands, but quit the business in 1970, when the Beatles broke up, though that had nothing to do with it. I was 16. It was a high school like Liverpool in 1962, or Reykjavik in 2001: Everybody was in a band. One of my classmates went on to be in a real band, a really great band, actually, the Feelies. Their albums are being re-issued next month. I loved writing about music, and yes, the Times Magazine gave me an unbelievable platform to indulge it. So did Slate and Artforum and some other places. Writing about music was always an indulgence — something I did mostly for me. Editing, which is what I really do, is not so much about me, and when I became the editor of the Magazine six years ago, I decided that continuing to write for a Magazine that I had the say in what got published would be, well, WAY TOO MUCH about me. So I don’t write about music anymore, though I still buy CDs (was the new Grizzly Bear in heavy rotation for you this summer?) and surf the Web (how about those Velvet Underground covers Beck has on his site?) and go to shows (TV on the Radio was energetically channeling a Stax soul thing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park two weeks ago). And … oh, got to get back to work.

Hmm, no mention of current pop, R & B, or, uh, anything outside of knowledge-worker-approved indie in those name-drops? Nothing for nothing, but I don’t know if Marzorati should no longer be worried that the Magazine’s music coverage is “WAY TOO MUCH” about him. At least he plugged the Feelies, though?

Gerald Marzorati – Talk To The Times [NYT] feelies crazy rhythm [YouTube]