When I started grad school, I signed up for a course in Music Criticism, figuring it would be to my advantage to broaden myself as much as possible while young. The course was taught by a venerable man, recently retired from one of the major New York papers. I believe he had been quite influential in his day but, sadly, I no longer recall his name.After two weeks, I withdrew from the class. In my youthful narrow-mindedness (which has been replaced by a more paunchy form of narrow-mindedness), I decided that the way music critics listen and think about music was not the way I wanted to listen and think about music.

So it was with mixed emotions that I found myself sitting in the Ailey Citigroup Theater, clutching a Press Pass, listening to Alex Ross interview Dawn Upshaw in the New Yorker Festival last week. Definitely a How the Hell Did I Get Here moment.

How did I get there? On September 17th, I got an email, which I assumed was a mass email, from the PR department of New Yorker magazine, offering me a Press Pass to two events in the New Yorker Festival: the New Yorker Dance Party, hosted by Sasha Frere-Jones and featuring Ghislain Poirier, and an interview with Tom Morello emceed by James Surowiecki.

I was blissed out to discover my ignorance of these celebrated personages. I wrote back declining, and half-jokingly asked if they had press tickets to the Ross-Upshaw interview. Over week went by; I heard nothing. I assumed my question had vanished into the ether.

On the Monday before the festival, I got another note saying my ticket confirmation would be emailed the following day, and could I please provide my address for the press packet. I ignored the message, assuming it was another anonymous mass email, because it contained no response to my question.

The next day, I got an email confirming that a ticket would be held for me at the Dawn and Alex show. Puzzled and curious, I sent my mailing address, requesting the Press Packet.

Friday night, I still hadn’t received a press packet, so I wrote to the PR people expressing my regrets that I would not be able to attend. The reply came back immediately: “You still can! Because it is ticketed you don’t need one.”

Twelve hours later, after hurried airplane and hotel reservations and my usual fitful night’s sleep, I found myself on board a flight to La Guardia.

I’m not an impulsive traveler. When I leave the house, I usually have a well-considered plan. Even trips to the grocery store are often scheduled a week in advance. But this odd opportunity to witness a couple of geniuses going tête to tête, come at me out of the blue, was too much to resist. After all, Ross and Upshaw are two people whose work has kicked my butt repeatedly, in the nicest possible way, over the years. My interest was seriously piqued.

So that’s the preamble, or rather pre-ramble, to my coverage of this event. Stay tuned: more soon.

Leave a Reply