The Los Angeles Times has reported on how local theatre scene blog Bitter Lemons, which used to be a Rotten Tomatoes-style compiler of theatre reviews, is getting into running reviews by its own critics. The twist on this particular piece of citrus is that the site is requesting producers pay $150 for the privilege of having their play reviewed.The argument used by Colin Mitchell, who runs Bitter Lemons, is that as traditional media outlets reduce or eliminate their arts coverage, keeping the public conversation going over what is good and bad, worthy and unworthy, needs to find new and creative stimuli.Mitchell insists that he is sending out capable theatre reviewers to write what they see fit – be it positive, negative, or indifferent.The cry of foul from traditionalists is that journalistic integrity goes flying out the window as soon as a producer or presenter starts paying for the review.
As more and more discourse about life and culture migrates to social media and other forms of online sharing of ideas and opinions, finding creative ways to keep public the voices of reason – people with knowledge of each particular art, craft, its history and its generally accepted standards – becomes all the more important. The only thing holding people like Michael Vincent and his merry band of excellent contributors at Musical Toronto – and all the people and websites like theirs around the world – is money.I'm sure that there is a grain of truth there and in fact, I strongly suspect that a great deal of what passes for objective critical commentary in the music world is bought and paid for in advance. Read the comments at the Slipped Disc piece for some examples.
I have been approached by a performer to write a piece reviewing her upcoming concert. I declined for a number of reasons. First of all, she was performing repertoire that I am not fond of so she was not likely to get the kind of fulsome praise she was looking for and second, I am not fond of the newspaper that was going to print the review. Also, I don't really see myself as a conventional music critic.
Let me add one thing: Mr. Terauds says that:
the only thing holding people like Michael Vincent and his merry band of excellent contributors at Musical Toronto – and all the people and websites like theirs around the world – is moneyBut of course, there are lots of people like myself who write about music on blogs that do not have any discernible earnings. I do not write because of the money. So I can pretty much say what I want. Mr. Terauds and Mr. Vincent likely cannot. Without examining it in detail, what I see at the Musical Toronto site is a lot of civic boosterism, not music criticism.
What would drive the production of genuine music criticism would be a reading and listening public that demands informed discussion of artists and performances. This was the case in the 19th century when an enthusiastic middle class were the economic force behind the growth of classical music concerts. That was also the era when modern music criticism originated coming from people like Robert Schumann and much later, George Bernard Shaw.
So, I suspect that things will get worse before they get better!
Here is Canada's Premiere Symphonic Ensemble™(the Toronto Symphony Orchestra) performing Ravel's Bolero as a TEDxToronto "talk".