Posts tagged #Nothing Has Been Done Before

Upcoming Author Talk in Columbus

I'm thrilled to be giving a free author talk about Nothing Has Been Done Before at the Bexley Public Library this coming Thursday, December 7, from 7pm to 8pm. Bexley is just east of downtown Columbus. The library has hosted some terrific authors.

Click here and say you'll be there. I'll have copies of the book available for purchase. The perfect holiday gift.

Still working out the exact format, but there will be music. And maybe video. I'll have more specific info next week. Thanks to Bexley Public Library for having me, and for making this nice flyer...

Author Visit- Robert Loss 11x17.jpg



Nothing Has Been Done Before Has a Website

I created a website full of resources for my new book, Nothing Has Been Done Before: Seeking the New in 21st Century American Literature. Go here and bookmark:

The site includes audio and visual, a complete discography, outtakes, and more. Those resources won't update much--though I'm still building the annotations for the discography--but I'll update it with news, reviews, and the like.

Posted on November 15, 2017 and filed under News, Music Criticism.

April Is for Updates

I've emerged from my burrow after a busy fall and winter. Apparently, the last time I posted was August 24th. Since then I have:

1) gotten married. Best day of my life.

2) finished my manuscript for Nothing Has Been Done Before and sent it to Bloomsbury.

3) become addicted to political news again.

4) tried to buy a house, moved, and fallen down the stairs once.

Among other things. This being a professional blog, I'll keep focused on the book. Nothing Has Been Done Before took up most of my time between September and early February, as it required some wrangling, negotiation, and major revision. In October I was able to travel to NYC thanks to a development grant from CCAD. The trip was for various purposes, including some meetings related to the college's upcoming Comics and Narrative Practice major, but I was also able to meet with Boris Groys, which was wonderful. Among the many things I've learned from this experience of bringing a book to completion is the absolute necessity of shutting out the noise and getting down to work. It's tough. During the election it was impossible.

I'll have plenty more to say about the book in the coming months, but we're on track for a release in late 2017. And I'll plant this tidbit here: synthwave.

Upcoming work includes various writing projects, including the application of some of the theory and concepts from this book about music to other topics. My band Blind Engineer has an upcoming show on April 13 at the Big Room Bar and we're shooting for the release of our next album, a full-length, in late summer. Lots cookin' at CCAD including the new major, which I'll comment on at some point. I'm also back to my regular monthly schedule at PopMatters.

How are you?

Here is a photo of our lovely wedding cake.

Posted on April 3, 2017 and filed under News.

Nothing Has Been Done Before To Be Published by Bloomsbury

So I can finally announce the big news I've been keeping hush-hush: Next fall, Bloomsbury will publish my book of music criticism! The working title is NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE. The book explores the concept of the "new" in American popular music since 2000 and argues for a different way of engaging with that idea, and with music in general. It is not a book about, so help me, "trend forecasting." It's an unorthodox take on what newness, innovation, and novelty mean in popular music in this very particular and peculiar culture of ours.

I've been working on this since late 2014. The book has changed considerably since then, and I expect it to keep changing over the next several months before I submit the manuscript. That includes the musicians I'm writing about, but to give you an idea, there's a chapter on Kanye West and there's a chapter on Gillian Welch. I'm hesitant to give away too much about the book, and frankly, I have a lot of work to do. I don't imagine I'll post much "process" work, but we'll see.

So for now, here's a photo of a stack of paper: the working draft. I got the official word on my birthday back in July and signed the contract soon after. This is the biggest thrill of my professional life, and while there are a lot of people to thank, I owe everything to the biggest thrill in my life: my soon-to-be wife, Jamie.

Posted on August 24, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Scenes of Love and Theft and the Midwestern Work Ethic or Something

Scattered updates must mean I'm busy, which is a good thing. My article "Scenes of Love and Theft: Bob Dylan, Piracy, and Cultures of Transgression" for the Los Angeles Review of Books should be up today. It reviews two new books: Elijah Wald's Dylan Goes Electric! and Stephen Witt's How Music Got Free. (Edit: Here's the link.) Further thoughts? You bet. The "leftovers and notes" document was 11k words. I'll have much less than that in a day or two.

Meanwhile I think my proposal for Nothing Has Been Done Before, my book of music criticism, is in good hands and headed in the right direction. Hope to have more to say about that in the near future.

The last few weeks have been devoted to revising my novel from its bloated 450 pp. incarnation down to 346 pp. at the moment. It's been exhausting but good work. More on that later, too.

A new PopMatters column is in the pipeline, as is my long overdue review of Tom Williams' excellent novel Don't Start Me Talkin', which will appear in Heavy Feather Review

The Blind Engineer appeared a couple weeks ago, a fact I neglected to advertise here. We're working on some new songs today, as it happens. Still planning on releasing an EP this year if we can. Here's our newest member, Jesse Charles, and myself:

Thanks to  John Garrett  for the caption.

Thanks to John Garrett for the caption.

And now, Sonny Boy Williamson performing "Nine Below Zero," which it thankfully hasn't been here since, what, January?

Tiny Sandwich

Here's a picture of our dining room table, which is rarely used for dinner. Instead, it's a work table where Jamie fixes up some of the clothes she sells on Etsy and where I type a bunch of words. The tiny sandwich is what I had for lunch the other day: ham and provolone on dill rye with mustard. Behind the tiny sandwich you can see a pile of books, a few I just got in, and on the right, a pile of papers that is the still-growing manuscript of my book of music criticism that I'm working on.


I normally don't talk much about a project as it's developing, partly out of modesty—or so I tell myself—but mainly because I'm afraid the project will never reach fruition. As someone who has released five records under different names but shelved or neglected three others, and written two novel manuscripts ready or almost ready to be published by some wise editor out there but placed another three in the drawer, I know the creative process can turn jaggedly from enthusiasm to frustration. If people know what I'm working on, won't they wonder why it's never published, never released, or why I've stopped talking about it? And won't that require me to explain the…well, the failure?

The sense of failure is tyrannical in its totality. It turns the temporary into the permanent, the imagined into the definite, the inconsequential into fate, a good aesthetic decision into a punishment. The normally it's-bumpy-ride process of making something new becomes a judgment of one's character. I'm wondering if the antidote for me is to be total in my openness, my process, in order to not just overcome the fear of failure but to embrace it in a Buddhist sense: to recognize and free its grip.

So, the music criticism project. Tentatively it's titled Nothing Has Been Done Before, which was the title of my review essay at Public Books in November. Writing that essay, as I said in an earlier post, got me thinking about how we consider music new or not new. The word is thrown around so easily that it loses its meaning. I'm tearing into it, shining a flashlight into all the corners. I'm focusing on music made since 2000, for the most part, since the question of the new has become even more complicated in the internet age. Much of this was inspired by the confluence of reading two books, Greil Marcus' The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (the subject of my Public Books review), and the philosopher Boris Groys' On the New. The title of my book is taken from a passage in an Arthur Danto book that's greatly influenced me, After the End of Art, and I'm also going back through Doug Rushkoff's Present Shock, some excellent Nick Tosches, Ellen Willis, and more.

The manuscript is a little more than halfway done. I've collected some of my PopMatters columns and revised them, in some cases significantly, and also written plenty of new chapters. One is a 17,000-word meandering mess at this point about Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft". Another that I just finished a draft of today is about three versions of "Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen. Other artists who I'm pretty sure will make a final cut, should that day ever come, are Gillian Welch, The National, Janelle Monae, Guided by Voices, Archers of Loaf, a bunch of indie-folk bands, R.E.M., Brad Paisley, and Prince. The question of music as a construct v. event is picked up in the book, as is Groys' ideas about the cultural archive.

So there's that. Now I have to live up to it. I'll be plugging away and all that, like everyone else. Only the tiniest sandwich can be eaten in one bite, and if that's the case, it's probably not much of a sandwich.

Posted on February 2, 2015 and filed under Music Criticism, News.