Today is the second meeting of my Juilliard graduate course on music criticism. I’ve blogged about the course before. Follow the link for details.
But because there’s been so much interest, maybe I’ll go week by week, and say what I’m teaching. One thing I do each week is play music, and ask the students to describe what they hear. That’s because a big focus of the course, as I’ve said here before, is learning to talk about music better. For me that means talking more precisely, more evocatively, more accurately, and in a more personal way. You might have different criteria. But many people seem to agree that we could all learn to talk about music better. (I know I can.)
So tomorrow in class I’ll play a performance of Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro overture. Click the link and you can listen to it. I won’t say who’s performing — just as I won’t tell the class — because I don’t want to influence your (or their) judgment. Listen to the recording, if you’d like, and post a comment, describing what you hear. What are the characteristics of this performance, as you hear them?
There’s also a reading assignment — some of my own reviews. Not, as I tell the students, because I’m presenting myself as a critic they all ought to admire. Instead, it’s because I’m going to be holding forth about criticism all semester, and I think the students have a right to know what my own reviews are like. Maybe they won’t like them at all, and will question everything I teach them! Fair enough.
We discuss my reviews in class, and while often the students like what I’ve written, I’ve sometimes gotten some bracing critiques. From which I’ve learned a lot. Feel free to post your own comments here. Admiring or not.
Here’s the assignment, as the students see it on their online class schedule:
Some of my own reviews (so you’ll know what kind of critic your teacher has been)
Classical reviews, from the Wall Street Journal:
You’ll see that I added a long postlude when I put this review on the web. You don’t have to read this extra part unless you want to.
One pop review, from the late ‘80s, when I was chief pop music critic for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner:
“Vintage Talent’s Pop Wine: Rocking Chair’s Got ‘Re, James B” (about Aretha Franklin)
One of my reviews from the early ‘80s, when I was a columnist for the Village Voice, specializing in new music: