All in Music Criticism

John GibbonsThis is what you do:

  • Be angry, because a piece is too hard for you.
  • Be annoyed, because a piece reminds you of Stravisnky (and you’ve decided You’re Just Not That Into Stravinsky).
  • Listen to a much better piece immediately before the piece you’re going to criticize.
  • Drink some fine Belgian beers, immediately before making criticisms.
  • Associate the musical “isms” in the piece with political “isms” that followed in the next decade, creating the Second World War.
  • Focus on irrelevant aspects of a piece’s structure.
  • Be preparing equally accomplished, and more charming, Martinu piano concertos for that very week’s classes.
Like so many other classical music lovers, musicians, and bloggers, I too am impressed by the new book by Alex Ross, “The Rest is Noise”, and am enjoying this perceptive, engaging and big spirited work. But I would like to comment on a suggestion or appraisal made in the book concerning the deep difficulties a listener faces with Schoenbergian atonality — and I don’t dispute for a second that many fair minded listeners have difficulties with Schoenberg and his atonal colleagues and progeny. Schoenberg understood this as well.