Task 2: Blogging with WordPress

Listening in

In the early 2000s (when many of you were toddlers), amateur music lovers published mp3 blogs — posting on sites like Blogger or LiveJournal, these bloggers shared and wrote about emerging artists who were sometimes themselves creating music using DIY tools like Pro Tools and Garageband.

MP3s, as you learned last week, are a kind of digital audio format — they compress audio in such a way that it can travel over the web quickly and efficiently. They replaced the WAV file in the late 1990s as the go-to format for the web and revolutionized music consumption in the process; they led to the rise of piracy networks like Napster using peer-to-peer technology, which in turn spawned new business models for music, the most important being streaming audio like Spotify.

“Bloggers usually uploaded MP3s for readers to download — sometimes directly to their blog, and sometimes to a third party, like Mediafire or Zshare. The bloggers acquired the files in various ways.”

from this short oral history of mp3 blogs from The Fader

Mp3 blogs led to the rise of popular digital publications like The Fader and Pitchfork who now regularly embed streaming audio into their articles and posts.

You are going to use similar embeds on your own blogs in a moment, but before you do that, I want you to get some practice writing about music.

Assignment: In your IWA folder, create a new Google Doc and title it “Eilish review.” Listen to this song by Billie Eilish (also embedded below) and jot down your impressions of the song. What do you notice? What stands out to you about the lyrics, vocals, instrumentation, tone, mood, etc.? Listen to it twice and revise or add as necessary. Again, these are just impressions. No need to get fancy or formal with your writing here.

The genre of track reviews

Now that you’ve written some thoughts about this Eilish song, read this review of it on the popular music publication Pitchfork. How might you break Dani Blum’s review down into separate parts? What does she notice? What does she describe? What language is used in the review, specifically the nouns and adjectives? What kinds of metaphors? How does it compare to your own review of the track from the start of class?

Assignment: Now browse several of the track reviews on Pitchfork and read a handful of them (they’re usually quite short at ~250 words). As you do, you might see the following pattern emerge within them:

  • Context (or, time & place): Does the author describe a context for the song? That is, do they tell us who the artist is or their reputation based on previous recordings? Do they mention popular or representative responses to the track? Is it on a certain album? Do they mention the year and/or social or cultural context of the track?
  • Content (or, music & lyrics): How does the author describe the music? What adjectives are chosen? What and how are comparisons are made? Are instruments/samples/beats named?  How does the description account for the ways the track is structured or organized? If there are lyrics, what does the author say about them? Do they guess about their meaning through some kind of interpretation?
  • Format (or, the recording & production): Does the author write about the production process? That is, do they comment on the how it sounds overall or who put their trademark sounds on it (Kanye, Timbaland, Rick Rubin, etc.)? Or maybe who this track is a collaboration with?

Assignment: Once you’ve read a handful of track reviews, use Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube to find a new song (released in late 2019 or early 2020), ideally from an artist you’re at least a little bit familiar with or who is popular. Write a review of this song in a new Google Doc that is saved in your IWA folder. Title it the name of your track. Include a link to the song in your draft and incorporate information from all three components we discussed above: context, content, and format. Aim for to be efficient at ~250-300 words.

Writing tool #3: WordPress

WordPress is a popular blogging platform, also known as a content management system (CMS); depending on who you ask, it is the software that is responsible for supporting at least 30-60% of all websites where CMSes are known. In this module you will compose five posts using WordPress (four on your own WordPress.com site and one on phonoproject.com, which is run using WordPress software I’ve installed on my website). 

WordPress.com Essential Training for LinkedIn Learning

In the previous task I have briefly mentioned “Learning Audacity,” one of many courses offered by LinkedIn Learning (LiL for short). It is one of the consistently great resources you can use at Rowan.

What is it? LiL produces high-quality, video-based tutorials that Rowan pays a fee to subscribe to. The fact that you can have a free account to this site is a perk of being a student here. To use LiL, log in using your Rowan credentials. Once you’re in, you can search for different videos, courses, and other content.

Assignment: Use the LiL course “WordPress.com Essential Training” to publish your first two posts on WordPress. To do this:

First, log in and to the site and get a sense of the course by browsing the contents tab. Check out the Introduction & the videos in the section titled “1. Get to Know WordPress.” (See image below.)

Once you gotten a sense of WordPress, use the tutorials in the section titled “2. Managing Your Account in WP.com” to sign up for a WordPress.com account. (See image below.)

Once you have an account, adjust the site settings as desirable and necessary by looking at the tutorials under the section titled “3. Managing Your Site on WP.com.” (See image below.)

Finally, publish your first two blog posts using the “4. Create Postssection of the tutorials. (See image below.)

These posts will include:
Post #1: Your audio essay. Convert this to SoundCloud and include your transcript.
Post #2: Publish the track review you drafted in Google Docs (see above). It should embed 2-3 links, include at least one image, as well as the song you chose as an embedded video or track from a streaming service.

Finally, make sure your site is functional and public so I can see it (this is covered in the “Configure general site settings” tutorial). Once it is, copy and paste the address next to your name in this spreadsheet. [Note: this address does NOT start with wordpress.com; it starts with your blog name (i.e. coolname.wordpress.blog). Adding your address to the spreadsheet allows me, and others in the class, to find your blog easily.]