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July 19, 2005

Hang on, Norman

With due deference etc to my colleague Norman (it's okay he knows I don't mean it), life actually takes place outside feature meetings not inside though it will pain editors to accept this harsh fact. And what critic can afford to forsake crucial earning hours to indulge in such pleasures, though occasional attendance at the morning news conference might quickly demystify the editorial sieving process.

It is also the case, as he would acknowledge, that he does not review concerts in the conventional sense we've been discussing here but instead comments on matters arising which is an entirely different exercise. (Maybe Norman you should remind us why?). If critics aren't easily tempted out of their boxes there's usually good reason. In my experience as editor, as well as writer, there are those who never say no to a chance to rant and those who prefer to wait until a particular issue provokes them. It would be a bad editor who judged one better than the other. It's how you feed your mind when not in the concert hall that counts.

There's a place for narrow expertise, and we should celebrate it, as well as for the more generalist tendency. I've always done other jobs in addition to music criticism to support a family. Hours which could have been passed comparing early recordings of [enter any genre, mainstream or obscure] are instead spent washing hockey kits or dealing with other less pressing crises. In that respect, I'm not typical and probably have a slightly different perspective from many colleagues. But essentially it comes down to how you listen. Encourage music critics to be broader, to offer social critique and take up issues by all means. But don't sacrifice that hard won skill. It's a serious business which takes dedication, application, experience.

And by the by, does anyone think it matters any more whether a music critic can read a score? I happen to think it does, but maybe I'm being antediluvian.

Posted by fmaddocks at July 19, 2005 01:14 AM


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