Critic: what it takes to write about music

Posted on: March 6, 2012

Friday (3/2) on her Washington Post blog Classical Beat, Anne Midgette writes, “Today in the New York Times, Roberta Smith expressed great enthusiasm for the Whitney Biennial in New York. One sentence in the review leapt out at me—about music, of course. Smith writes, ‘Another filmmaker who stands out is Werner Herzog, who contributes “Hearsay of the Soul” … The shifting scroll-like play of images is set to sonorous music, primarily by the Dutch cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger, who also appears briefly on screen, playing his heart out. I dare you not to cry.’ [Emphasis is mine.] … In the middle of this sophisticated appreciation of contemporary art comes this throwaway line implying that seeing a classical musician at work, ‘playing his heart out’ (classical music always leads, it seems, to clichés), is something so moving and genuine that it will evoke tears. And this kind of naïve, heartfelt statement falls right into the ‘gosh, ain’t these talented folks grand’ school of classical music appreciation that my own work as a critic has largely been about trying to get beyond. … Classical music has a reputation of being something smart—indeed, its fans are often stereotyped as nerds and eggheads—but the way that people engage with it often seems to me anything but, as if it renders otherwise smart thinkers uncritical.”

Posted March 6, 2012