The Modern Ambivalence of The Gift

This is an odd experience — maybe it's typical of our (publishing) time, maybe it's just a culture that doesn't know what to do with itself.


I had a few Twitter chats with a kind person at UQP, because I wanted to send them a *free* copy of my book. You know the one. They wrote back saying Sure, but don't expect anything in return (read: consideration for publishing). I said, no, I know you don't publish much of this kind of writing anyway. Sure, I just want to send it in the spirit of a gift. If you know someone who's into music writing, make them a gift of it.

And so I typed a nice cover letter with the above sentiment repeated, and posted it along to the publisher. They have a good rep and list; I thought: they might enjoy quality writing.

And then, about 6 weeks later, I get the book back in the mail. With a note:
While we appreciate the spirit in which this gift was given, we would like to return it to you so that others may have the same opportunity to enjoy it.
Now, isn't that a) not the spirit of receiving a gift (which I had clearly er, laboured over), b) slightly rude as well, and c) just a bit lame?

Yes, I know, they're in publishing and probably receive a massive pile of slush in the mail and can't possibly afford the effort of reading it all. But to send a gift back to the sender (unread too), in contradiction of the spirit of it, that just galls me a little bit. They could've quietly recycled it and not bother with the return postage.

This odd little episode confirms a few prejudices which I've been forming about the publishing industry, mostly along the lines of PR and perception. But mostly it confirms how incredibly hard it is to get anyone to read anything at all.

How does a piece of shit like Mx (free local street press / gossip rag / Facebook-in-tabloid form) manage to get so much attention and eyeball interaction? Oh, yes, it's a piece of shit, that's why. Gossip and web trash and fashion police make the media go round.

It's perhaps a far-fetched analogy, but I'll let it dangle.

New review of Song Logic

Kindly blogger Bosco Ho has penned a nice review of Song Logic at the Amazon site:
For the criticism to work, there has to be a tacit agreement by the reader to the central thesis and the central thesis that "the goal of good music is to become pure feeling" rings true to me. These essays are concerned not just with how feeling are generated on a technical level, but how they fit into the scheme of things.
Read more on the Song Logic Amazon page.

If you liked the book, or if you begged to differ on a few points, or even felt outright that every single sentence rang silly and untrue, then by all means pen your own review and air your thoughts! I'd love to hear either way.

Song Logic on Extempore

I'm happy to announce that the good people at Extempore journal are running the Song Logic essay on The Necks.

Extempore is one of the few - no, the only Australian journal focusing on writing about jazz and improvised music. Worth supporting for that reason alone. I'd also recommend signing up for their newsletter - because they're also running a giveaway of the book in that. Totally great.

My thanks to Miriam Zolin for setting up the content-share. Plenty more where that came from.

Song Logic song playlist!

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier: just make a playlist of some of the tracks discussed in the book! I mean, you do work on websites, you know about sharing stuff, right Reens?

Listen to a sample of Song Logic tracks on Grooveshark now.

I have to thank Bosco for the idea; over the course of some fine Pho he came up with the perfect idea. Some people have heard an earlier mix of tracks; but now you can stream them anywhere.

If you like it, let me know! I can add a lot more tracks to the playlist. I can get exhaustive and detail every track mentioned in the book... for an ultimate reading companion.

Check out another happy Song Logic reader (no, it's not Franzen):

Song Logic on the 4ZZZ Jazz Show

Wow - Knox on the always-good Jazz Show on 4ZZZ FM did a good 40 minute set based on tracks from the Degrees of Late Night essay from Song Logic! I'm very, very chuffed. Knox played some Grateful Dead, Dexter, Miles and a little more Dead! And more than anything, I'm really happy Knox pronounced my name right ;-). I'll go with "Flemish" over Dutch anyday, Knox.

It's Wes Montgomery's birthday today, and a lot of great tunes were played, including a cut from Bags Meets Wes which I'm gonna research right now.

Thanks Knox, and hooray for 4ZZZ! You guys rock at 102.1 FM.

Sharing Song Logic love

Jonathan over at Metal Only, No rubbish has written some generous words about Song Logic. I was a little worried the book might be too niche, but realise now it's pitched just right: for music nerds of all persuasions. (I keed. It's good for everyone. Like George Clinton said, Funk not only moves, it can remove.)

And fellow blogger Katie has sent a nice action shot. It all makes me a happy author.

Love is in the Em

Hi, my name is Rino and I’m somewhat of a punctuation nerd. There’s one character I’m really mad for — the one character that floats my grammatic boat — and that’s the em dash. It’s the punctuation mark par excellence. Better than the colon or parentheses. Typographically elegant; functionally useful; and interpolative in the best prosaic sense. Used to mark an amplifying or explanatory element, or an interruption. Also for rhetorical pause: Darth Vader's line "I sense something, a presence I have not felt since—" And, to indicate a change of speaker in French novels and Joyce.

As wide as the letter m — and sometimes even wider depending on typeface. There’s also a 2-em rule if you really want to break in and score the text with a big, mean line.

I get a bit huffy when I see the lame use of double-dashes on a web page -- so ugly and scattered, like morse code in the middle of a sentence. Ummm, well, I don’t know how to make the proper em dash character, so I just ummm use the dash key. Just get into the html and paste: — and presto, you’re sorted. Get it right, mmmkay?

But this is preamble — what I wanted to say is that I did a count and Song Logic has a shining total of 470 em dashes. Of which I am very proud.

Song Logic on the Kindle

After an amazingly difficult, duh-geeky process to try and get Lulu to accept my ebook/epub file for the book, and failing with enough rage to hurl twenty computers out the window, I've got an ebook version at last! It's available for Kindle via Amazon. It's only 5 bucks, but really, if you promise me you'll put up a review or a link to this blog, I can send the epub file to you direct, for free. Just post a comment or email me.

The Lulu process for ebooks is insane because Apple's iBookstore is difficult and narcy and secretive about its QA standards. So instead I wanted to see if it works and functions well on the Kindle, which creation process is much friendlier. But yes, if you have a thing about books and paper and don't like the tactility of something you can safely throw at someone (to make a point), then by all means get the ebook version. And let me know what you think.

I'd rather people have the paper product because the paper's soft and creamy and the type looks great on it. Decision is yours.

Song Logic - book launch

Today I'm happy to push my little book of music essays out into the world.

This book is many things: an experiment in self publishing; a collection of essays previously spread and scattered on the web; and something I wanted to give friends and associates. Some of the pieces go back about ten years, and others appeared on blogs or the Slow Review. There's also some specific new essays in the book. But I wanted to connect and collect them between two covers — on nice soft paper, a proper book — and make a complete work. Content changes — it improves, actually! — when it's compiled and edited together.

The book has some of my best thinking about music and musicians. Writing about music is important — because music is at the heart of cultural life. And music writing should be expansive, bold and insightful in respect to that importance.

So: welcome to the Song Logic blog. I hope you like the book — it's available for $15 from or $5 in ebook format. Good value! It'll shortly appear on as well.

I'll be posting regular observations and reactions here. Please follow this blog using the links on the right, and post comments or share the site as you see fit.

cheers! rino