Wednesday, April 09, 2008

the music critic as pollster

This past weekend the Juno music awards came to Calgary, and I played in a concert featuring some of the classical music nominees -- cellist Matt Haimovitz, the Gryphon Trio, composer Brian Current, and violinist James Ehnes. The concert was on Calgary Herald arts critic Bob Clark's beat, and he wrote an interesting review titled "Classical stars deliver Juno joy," in which he solicited individual audience members' reactions to each of the pieces on the program:

After the Gryphon, composer Current conducted the Kensington Sinfonia -- most of whose musicians are Calgary Philharmonic players -- in a performance of his piece For the Time Being, a clear and very imaginatively textured work, structured as a series of vanishing accelerations of sound that constantly give rise to new material within them.

"I really liked it -- how it was really rhythmic and kept going all the time," said 16-year-old Danielle Wiebe.

"It was really exciting and really cool how he (Current) introduced all sorts of new concepts into it," said her friend and fellow string player, Maria van der Sloot, 15.

Both girls admitted, however, they had come to hear Ehnes perform.

I haven't seen this kind of review before, and so I can't say it's a trend. As a performer, it's gratifying to hear flattering comments from (ahem) teenage girls. They might not have all the fancy adjectives and backhanded compliments that an experienced critic would -- but what's wrong with just being really cool?

I worry, though, that journalists might take this too far -- swarming the bathroom stalls for heartfelt comments at intermission, sticking a microphone in your face for instant feedback between symphony movements, eavesdropping on people's private conversations and personal asides: 55-year-old Jerry Pickens likened the Stockhausen to the sound of his lawnmower, which reminded him of pressing duties. "Damn, I gotta cut that grass."

They might even -- I shudder at the thought -- try to sneak backstage for the musicians' reviews of their own performances. "I totally cacked that entrance," remarked horn player Fred Jones, "but the half-assed cue sure didn't help." Concerts might begin to resemble Iowa political caucuses, with every clap or groan getting prominent coverage. Do we really want to go there?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THe orchestra member comments remind me of Peter Schickele's (PDQ Bach) baseball announcer's play-by-play call of the Beethoven 5th Symphony...

Bill in Dallas