Allan Kozinn has trained his critical eye on his own profession and has come up with a shortfall. He writes a list of what a critic ought to be in 2015… and leaves us struggling to name one who ticks all the boxes.
In the 21st century, after all, a classical music critic should come to the job with an overstuffed (conceptual) tool bag. It must include a familiarity with the great works of the historical canon, as well as a sense of their place in history, both general (political, social, etc.) and musical – and a familiarity with some of the more interesting outliers by so-called minor composers as well. The canon is sprawling now, taking in opera, symphonic music, chamber music, sacred works, art song and solo instrumental music from the last millennium.
But a critic who focuses only on the canon and who cannot respond to the wildly variegated contemporary canon is useless. And to respond properly, these days, a critic needs a functional knowledge not only of the formal styles and techniques – serialism and post-tonal approaches, minimalism and post-minimalism, not to mention the various neos (neoclassicism, neo-romanticism, et al.) – but also the vernacular ones: with so many new works drawing on jazz, rock and world music, a critic cannot afford not to know them. And really, it’s hard to imagine anyone growing up in the late 20th or early 21st centuries who hasn’t moved in all those worlds. Today’s composers do. Critics should as well – and not just out of a sense of duty but because this is our musical universe.
Who can we name, on any major newspaper, who fulfils those criteria?
Read Allan’s full article here.