Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I just realized something that must be totally obvious to everyone else on the planet.* When a critic writes about a piece of music or its performance, she or he is responsible for backing up the opinion with evidence and argument.** Composers, on the other hand, have the luxury of placing their opinions out into the world without critical apparatus, and those opinions will be considered by audiences alongside the composer's music. Thus, unlike a critic, I have the luxury to say that "I like X" or "don't like Y" without further verbal ado, but I've got to be prepared for an audience which will only swallow that opinion with whatever salt my music summons up.

*As poet Charles Olson put it best: I Have Had to Learn the Simplest Things Last.
**See also this earlier Renewable Music item: In other words, in order to read a piece of criticism, you have to read critically. Basta.

1 comment:

Charles Shere said...

I usually follow you, Daniel, but I don't see the point of this. I was a critic (primarily concert music) for twenty years or so, and have been a composer for as many and more, and I don't see any need to state my positions differently under one or the other of the hats. It's a question of why you're making the statement, I think. If it's simply "I don't like X" -- let's say Wagner for the sake of discussion -- why bother saying that? What's likely to be interesting, my likes and dislikes, or the reasons or explanations of my likes and dislikes? Why make uninteresting remarks?

John Cage and Jerry Neff in conversation, at the dinner table, while a recording of Rachmaninoff is playing in the background, at Jerry's insistence (it was his home):

JC: Would you mind turning that off while we talk?
JN: Don't you like it?
JC: It's not a question of whether I like it...
JN: But isn't it beautiful?
JC: Of course it's beautiful, I just don't like it constantly telling me it's beautiful.