Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cervantino 2014: New Yorker's Alex Ross on Writing about Music

Alex Ross & interpreter at press conference
With the Cape Verde beat, hiphop, post-Shakespearean choral music, and the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas already behind us, what a pleasure to listen to a speaker who has considered how so many musical forms meet in this millennium.

Alex Ross, the New Yorker music critic and currently the only one writing full-time for a magazine in the United States, opened the Cervantino’s Training Workshop on Criticism in the Performing Arts and Music. His topic: The Present State of Music Criticism. 

The respected, widely read critic started by saying “Journalism is a declining industry, Critics in general have been disappearing from the printed page, including music critics." 

"My job is to report honestly on unrepeatable events What I listen to represents a great deal of work by the composers and performers. A critic has the responsibility to explain.”

He mentioned that until the beginning of the nineteenth century, performers mostly played the contemporary music of their era. By 1875, however, work by dead composers dominated the scene, as it still does.

Joroge Volpi taking Alex Ross to see the Juarez
A former English major, the speaker advised workshop members to use strong, colorful, precise language, saying they should read great prose and poetry. On his desk beside a style guide, he keeps a book of poems by his writing hero, Wallace Stevens. 

Ross, who started at the New Yorker when he was twenty-eight, gives his editors credit for guiding him in writing well. “From them, I learned a minute change can make a difference.”

He said writing for an audience with varying degrees of musical knowledge is a challenge. Writing a review can take three to four days. “I am fortunate in not having to meet a daily deadline.”

Afterward, an audience member asked Alex Ross about studies on educating children to a broad range of music. “I wish I knew of some,” Ross replied with interest, adding that children often respond well to music by Stockhausen and other contemporary composers.

[For a deeper look, see Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007) and Listen to This (2011), available in both print and ebook editions].

No comments:

Post a Comment

Always interested in hearing from readers like you. Keep commenting!