Opinion: music criticism should not be lifestyle reporting

Posted on: March 19, 2014

“Imagine, for a moment, football commentators who refuse to explain formations and plays. Or a TV cooking show that never mentions the ingredients,” writes Ted Gioia in Tuesday’s (3/18) Daily Beast. “Something comparable is happening in the field of music journalism. One can read through a stack of music magazines and never find any in-depth discussion of music…. Music criticism has turned into lifestyle reporting…. When Harry Connick, Jr. recently used the word ‘pentatonic’ on American Idol, his fellow judge Jennifer Lopez turned it into a joke.… Yet football announcers not only talk about ‘stunts’ or the ‘triple option’ but are expected to explain these technical aspects of the game to the unenlightened.… It wasn’t always like this. When I was a child, Gunther Schuller’s byline appeared in Saturday Review, and Leonard Bernstein hosted music specials on CBS. In my teens, I could read smart, musically astute critics in many magazines and newspapers.… Many of them were musicians themselves. [Winthrop] Sargeant had served as a violinist with the New York Philharmonic. [Alfred] Frankenstein had played clarinet with the Chicago Symphony.… It’s not too late to fix the mess, but that won’t happen until critics stop acting like gossip columnists, and start taking the music seriously again.” 

Posted March 19, 2014