Thursday, March 21, 2013

Arts (and Music) Criticism

Is this topic like the one once voted "most boring" headline ever: "Worthy Canadian Initiative"? It would seem so based on articles like this one. Doing music criticism is one of the core goals of this blog, but I try to take it from a different angle. Since I don't live in a big center like London or New York, I do almost no concert reviews. I don't really do reviews of recordings either. What I do is something we could call "theme-oriented" maybe. I have an idea, often one that is musicologically inspired, and then I do a post on it. Sometimes it is a very simple idea like "solo instruments" or "musical textures" or a piece on a particular piece of music like a Shostakovich string quartet.

Now here is a piece of music criticism that is like something I would do. Trust the Aussies to do a blind "tasting test" of six different orchestras.

My readership has been growing, if not by leaps and bounds, then at least steadily. However, I do have the feeling that I am mostly attracting the cognoscenti. Cambridge University has put a link to The Music Salon on their music resources page and readers include music writers and composers. Occasionally someone stumbles across this blog, reads something like my very critical post on David Garrett and reacts with outrage--just look at the comments. Though in that case I suspect that "anonymous" might actually be David Garrett or his manager!

Sometimes I have tried to be provocative as with the post on David Garrett or the one on Nigel Kennedy or my ongoing series of catty micro-reviews.

What genuinely puzzles me is that more people are not curious about music. This is what drives me: what's happening in that music? How does the performer do that? What was that harmony? Why is that melody so affecting? And on and on. My whole love affair with music is really based on curiosity. Though, of course, a lot of it is just being knocked over by a piece of music. My belief in doing this blog is that sharing this curiosity and love is a good thing. So far, I think it is going pretty well. But I do wonder about how to reach out to more people. If you have some thoughts, please leave a comment.

Again, I don't have a lot of time today, so let me just end by putting up three pieces of music that did knock me over the first time I heard them. This first one I heard driving to work at the University of Victoria back in the 1980s. I was listening to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and this was the last thing I expected to hear:

John Lennon's last hit single. John Williams' first recording of the Bach Chaconne was another one that knocked me over:

And finally, the third movement of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms:

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