Almanac Music: A Swiftian Rumination



Having set a high bar for myself by ascribing this rumination as Swiftian, I must declare that I would never be so presumptuous to write prose that could hold a candle to anything from the pen of Jonathan Swift. Rather I am taking licence with the term to evoke another Swift, who bestrides the modern music scene in a Gulliverian fashion. Taylor Swift is a divisive figure, so I thought I would write something about that matter with due deference to the great 17th/18th century satirist along the way.


Like Jonathan, Tay Tay has led a rather solipsistic life of coming out of one tradition (Whigism v country music) and moving into another (Toryism v pop music). She has taken some fans along for the ride, but disenchanted others. I have always felt she has managed the transition as well as anyone else but has failed to fully utilise her pop stardom to further her reputation as a song writer. She has innate talent but her recent musical output doesn’t bear the hallmarks of songwriting maturation.


One of my favourite Twitter interlocutors, and all-round good bloke, Andrew Stafford opined recently he felt Tay Tay had made a substantial contribution to music and deserved credit for it. A robust dialogue ensued where I accepted some of the arguments Andrew proffered but doubled down on my belief there was a hollow core at the heart of music. As all music lovers know, one of the great things about discussing this great art form is articulating why some music moves one person in a way that someone else finds unfathomable. After attending a chamber recital at Macedon on Sunday, I engaged in a Twitter riff with the composer of one of the pieces, Gordon Kerry. Within the confines of an exchange of tweets, Gordon and I offered our own perspectives on this particular musical form and why it moves us so.


So whether we feel the world around us resembles Lilliput or perhaps the Land of the Houyhnhnms, music gives us a chance to imagine our own escapade to a place of happiness and comfort. Not long after his paean to Taylor, Staffo wrote a damning broadside about her latest single, ME! I understand why he did it. We want artists we cherish to have certain traits and standards that we can incorporate in our own lives and that when they disappoint us we feel aggrieved. Taylor Swift may have lost a fan scribbling away at his Brisbane eyrie but like Gulliver must forge on with her journey, as her travels will resonate far more with many more than what was written about all those centuries ago.


That a modern day diva with a fragile ego holds so much sway in the modern world while one of the great writers is not much more than a footnote in high school assignments is very Swiftian indeed. I tell myself not to worry too much about it – just shake it off, Brian.



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Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.


  1. Brian – I have endured many loooooong road trips in company with Tay Tay as my kids jump and wriggle along with her in the back seat. Her repertoire is as broad as the Plenty River that trickles along the side of the Lower Plenty Hotel. But she obviously appeals to many. Having said that, so does KFC.

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