Friday, March 18, 2011

Critic in Residence

Since newspapers have cut critics & fine arts coverage, arts organizations are doing their own "institutional blogging," but the WSJ's Terry Teachout finds the concept suspect:
The reason artblogs caught on in the first place is that they frequently offered a sharper, better-informed alternative to the bland arts coverage published in regional newspapers—and that they were, to use a word coined by no less a journalistic authority than Joseph Pulitzer, "indegoddamnpendent."
But at least being an official content curator is a paying job. Where does the support for these alternatives outlets come from?

§ The Cleveland Orchestra Invites 'Criticism' in From the Cold
By Terry Teachout
Wall Street Journal
Sightings | March 18, 2011


pjwv said...

I think it's more that we're going to all these things anyway, and few to none of our friends in "real life" want to hear our detailed opinions, so . . . why not put our opinions out there just in case someone else does

sfmike said...

Patrick is wise as usual.

I'm curious about your question, "Where does the support for these alternatives outlets come from?" Do you mean interactive reader support or actual money? Because what you and I and Patrick do are not "an official content curator's" job. (Love the job title, though.) If we were, that would mean having to go to bad and boring concerts and plays and art exhibits and actually pretending you give a damn, and then writing short essays with disposable phrases like "the canny orchestration" or "the profound silences in Pinter" or "the sharp curatorial eye."

Though I don't particularly enjoy being poor, being ""indegoddamnpendent" really is a priceless gift.

Axel Feldheim said...

Patrick: You are quite right about our motives. The funny thing is that through blogging I've made new friends like yourself who DO care about this stuff & are very eager to talk about it!

sfmike: I did mean financial support. You are right that I would have to be a different blogger if this were a paying gig, but shouldn't there be a business model for coverage that is comprehensive, independent & informed?

BTW, you scared me for the few seconds it took to verify that I had never used the phrases "canny orchestration," "profound silences" or "sharp curatorial eye."

David Lasson said...

The case of the BSO and Michael Steinberg is instructive: From his post as chief music critic at the Boston Globe, he published scores of reviews critical of Seiji Ozawa. The orchestra's solution? They hired the critic away from the Globe, prompting one wag to describe Steinberg as a poacher turned game warden. Who says independence can't be parlayed into a better paying gig?

Axel Feldheim said...

Seems that Cleveland did a variation on the BSO scheme, resulting in no net loss of jobs, though in both cases an independent critical voice was still lost, which is the point that Mr. Teachout is making. Alex Ross is currently on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as "curator" & has recused himself from writing about their performances. I fear that we may eventually lose Mr. Ross in his role as music critic.

David Lasson said...

Well, in the case of Steinberg, I assume his voice was replaced, rather than lost; that is, the Globe hired someone else to be independent. And while I'm about it, independence is not the most important quality I seek in a critic: insight and learnedness are, to me, of more use. To be blunt: if a critic can convince me, through those qualities, that I need to change my plans in order to get down to the concert hall to hear a performance of Beethoven's Fifth, then I don't care if he's paid by the orchestra, the mob, or not at all. Having said that, I do indeed lament the fact that while we're living through a golden age of orchestral playing--by any standard one cares to apply--we must also suffer through a dearth of interprative insight on the part of conductors. And precious few critics--indpendent or not--are pointing this out.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, I think that is the question. As traditional arts coverage goes away, are official critics in residence & a handful of scrappy bloggers pursing their own interests adequate to provide comprehensive & informed coverage? Perhaps, but sometimes I get tired of scanning the Web looking for news & reactions.