Keeping narrative and musical detail in contented balance
I’ve happily solved my big question of the month. This is related not to content or ideas but how to find the proper balance between different kinds of writing. My goal has been to craft a narrative that includes lots of musical information yet keeps everybody, including non-musicians, content and engaged. I think I’ve solved this by keeping each of the chapters reasonably focused on a particular area, sustaining that focus for long enough, and then alternating with a different kind of chapter. Some chapters remain close to straight story line (including first person narratives, critics comments, and my own commentary), while other chapters deal with strictly musical details and points of interpretation. And then there are chapters that address broader conceptual issues. Sometimes, like in a chapter about Herbie’s first decade of musical growth, these areas interpenetrate, but in those cases, I keep the musical details tight and reserve the more expansive musical writing for the “just music” chapters. I personally prefer musical books that have enough musical evidence to back the basic ideas but don’t go into extreme detail (x happens at 1:40, y at 1:47…). I like just enough musical detail to learn from, enough context to help me understand why it matters, and enough narrative to keep the book moving. I think that the story of the Mwandishi band offers quite sufficient material to work with! Its certainly been a challenge to articulate this story in a musically meaningful way that strikes a good balance for a broad group of readers. I think I’m now almost there.