The credibility of composers who also serve as critics has often been questioned. There is a pretty fine article on the topic in NewMusicBox this month by Joshua Kosman. The argument goes something like this: Composers have artistic and professional agendas that limit their ability to listen objectively.

I find this line of argument entirely persuasive. A composer invests a tremendous amount of time and energy in pursuing a specific artistic vision, which is bound to leave blind spots where other artistic visions might be found.

On the other hand, composers have valuable perspectives on the experience of music, being involved on the ground floor, so to speak. Their viewpoints, though they may be biased, can be very insightful.

The most questionable practice is the composer who conducts the premiere of a new work, then reviews the concert. Certainly a composer describing his/her own piece and performance cannot be trusted at all.

On the other hand, if you know the reviewer has such an intimate involvement with the material being reviewed, then you certainly don’t have to fear a hidden agenda: The review is bound to be intensely subjective, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that implies.

So watch for a review of the premiere of Revenant on this page in the coming days. I will do my best to make it pan-jective (combining the best of sub- and ob-).

And you can read it with a grain of salt.

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