Today I’m taking part in a blog tour for the new ‘Futures’ series from Melville House – short books in which authors reflect and speculate on the possible future of their subject. The first four titles were published in the UK yesterday, and include volumes on the future of trust, war crimes justice, and Wales. But I’m looking at The Future of Songwriting, by Throwing Muses co-founder Kristin Hersh.
Hersh’s book is written as a series of conversations between herself and a comedian friend (standing in for a number of actual conversations she’s had along similar lines), while both are playing a festival over Christmas in Sydney. The two of them are not out for fame, but they do want to work, and to keep working. Hersh is constantly thinking over how to balance art and commerce:
Art plus entertainment, substance plus style, and maybe they could get along, of all things. But don’t goddam sell, you know? No selling, no stars, no status, just pass the hat so you can work again.
Hersh and the comedian talk around this and related issues, with various symbols recurring. They see echoes of themselves in the Jack of Diamonds, the messenger travelling between the material and spiritual worlds. An apple growing on a tree represents music in its primal form, and (Hersh suggests) people’s relationships with both have grown distanced and denatured.
My overall impression of Hersh’s book is not of an argument that progresses and reaches a firm conclusion, but more of a dance that explores the space opened by the subject. That feels appropriate, when Hersh highlights the importance of reaching back as much as pushing forward.