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July 19, 2005

Touting Two Tims

The discussions this week about the role, and relevance, of music critics have touched upon various aspects of the job. Yes, Fiona, we most definitely should be able to read scores, though not necessarily while in the concert hall or opera house. I also agree with Peter that we must make sure that our writing focuses principally on music.

But the absence so far from this conversation of two of my American colleagues, Tim Page at The Washington Post and Tim Smith at The Baltimore Sun, points out how well they are doing their jobs beyond their specializations as music critics. Both are up to their mouses covering the fascinating situation involving the Baltimore Symphony and its supposed next music director, Marin Alsop. The music world can't wait to see how this one is going to play out. Some of what Tim and Tim are writing is analytical, some straight reporting. This is how virtually every American music critic must function, given diminishing staffs and battles for space. The halcyon days when reporting and criticism were separate are gone, at least in this country. We may not always like having to go investigative, but we accept the fact that our experience and knowledge may make us the best candidates to be writing these stories. When we finally do get back to the business of opining on music and musicians, it is with a heightened sense of relief and fulfillment.

Any notion that American critics are isolated from reality or live narrow-minded existences is simply wrong. Just read Tim and Tim, or any number of my other colleagues, to see how expertly and judiciously they balance today's journalistic needs.

Posted by drosenberg at July 19, 2005 04:38 PM


I'm not sure about the "halcyon days" when critics weren't reporters. Critics for newspapers in all disciplines must, first and foremost, be reporters. When you write a review, you are reporting -- honestly and fairly -- on your educated reactions to the performance. The great theater critic Brooks Atkinson considered himself a reporter and even took leave to cover the Pacific Theater during World War II. Historically, the role of classical music critic, which requires somewhat more specialized knowledge than a theater critic, may have been different. But isn't a critic enriched by her or his reporting?

Posted by: Richard LeComte at July 19, 2005 06:14 PM

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