Now NPR has a regular music ‘critic’ to discuss pop releases. The ensuing drivel is clearly an infection passed on from the classical world. The need for quarantine has never been more clearly demonstrated.
What troubles the long-time observer of the music ‘talk’ world is the fact that soon all of the critics will be quoting each other. This would be fine if they they referred to the sources as people-with-a -smattering-of-knowledge on the subject matter. But in fact, music critics refer to each other as historical sources. Critics never shine brighter than when a musician dies. The obit writer jumps in with a barrage of quotes from critics during the musicians lifetime. If the “subject” himself ever thought he was above the criticism, the obit proves the contrary. The critic, even while calling black white, will prevail.
And now that pop music has a tradition of ‘criticism’, the amazing language that these folks use to second guess, praise, deify, question, or advise with will take on a life of its own. They will quote each other (”critics say…”) and weave their own web around the musical world that they and probably many of their adherents will worship as, um, relevant.
There is much to say on this subject, but I am reminded of a delightful conversation at the Hay Adams Hotel with Dan Schorr, his wife, and Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Stern. I referred to a nasty review I had just received. Isaac Stern himself had just received a buffeting from Washington Post writer Tim Page. Mr. Stern said, “Burnett, I was in Vienna recently and as usual was looking at all the statues of the greats, whether Bruckner or Strauss in the Stadtpark, Beethoven, Mozart, in other parts of the city. But you know, there was not a single memorial to a music critic.”2e