Composer: What it feels like to have your work critically reviewed

Posted on: July 16, 2014

“My first really bad review appeared in my hometown newspaper, The New York Times,” writes the composer Derek Bermel in a June 30 posting on his blog. “The piece that garnered this unique honor was my string sextet Soul Garden…. The premiere performances of Soul Garden went well.… I retained most vividly the [critic’s] summing-up: ‘Bluesy notions hardly worth a sideways glance.’ I felt a keen pang in my stomach and my mouth dropped open.… Philip Glass once came in to speak with the young composers in my Making Score seminar at the New York Youth Symphony.… ‘Mr. Glass,’ [one student] began earnestly, ‘I googled you and realized that you’ve had a lot of bad reviews.’ I cringed. Philip, however, smiled gently and replied, ‘Yes, that’s true; if you do something interesting and individual, you’re bound to get plenty of bad reviews…. But you know, the thing about critics is … Eventually they die.’ The kids laughed, and I did too. But Philip’s face bore a faraway look…. In the end, critics are the only folks who convey to a wider public what we artists do…. I try to seek a modicum of Zen, grateful that … when my tree falls in the forest, it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.”

Posted July 16, 2014