Composers Forum is a daily web log that allows invited contemporary composers to share their thoughts and ideas on any topic that interests them--from the ethereal, like how new music gets created, music history, theory, performance, other composers, alive or dead, to the mundane, like getting works played and recorded and the joys of teaching. If you're a professional composer and would like to participate, send us an e-mail.

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Monday, January 03, 2005
A music critic worth reading?

Let me begin by thanking Jerry Bowles for asking me to contribute to this blog. The only blog that I have read consistently is by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker magazine: I recommend it to readers interested in a variety of musical topics treated with seriousness and fun.

As it happens, The New Yorker arrived today, and I was delighted to read Ross's review of "The Wedding" by William Bolcom. I would like to think that my delight had nothing to do with the fact that I have met the author and agree with him most of the time. Nevertheless, I must admit that my encounters with music critics have usually left me with a sense I was dealing with beings from another world.

On the other hand, Alex Ross seems to be from a recognizable culture. No need for me to ask him my usual impertinent music-critic question, which goes somewhat as follows: "Why don't you include an incipit of the music (or a few measures of the score) in your reviews?" One would not think of writing about architecture or poetry without showing a picture of the structure or quoting a few lines. My question is percieved as, at best, irrelevant to the general (non-musical) reader and, at worst, elitist.

I am not interested in this space in starting a thread about music criticism. It occurred to me today, however, that Alex Ross's writing is so vivid and draws upon so many cultivated references that we don't miss music examples. Perhaps this truly is a music critic worth reading for his own sake. (posted by Larry Thomas Bell)


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