Richard Schickel, who writes book reviews for the Los Angeles Times and covers film for Time, wrote an impassioned plea for the continued relevance of criticism—in the old-fashioned more probing and less thumb pointing meaning of the term—despite its predicted demise as a result of the democratizing force of the blogosphere. After being numbed by a recently-published compendium of the 10 best blogs about music (nothing classical, jazz, or otherwise non-commercial, surprise, surprise) from Whudahexup, Schickel’s observations in last Sunday’s L.A. Times struck a chord with me despite my having already found something of an antidote to Whudahexup on Musical Perceptions‘ even more inundating list of the 53 best classical music blogs.
According to Schickel, “[I]n the best reviews, opinion is conveyed without a judgmental word being spoken, because the review’s highest business is to initiate intelligent dialogue about the work in question, beginning a discussion that, in some cases, will persist down the years, even down the centuries.” Certainly this isn’t what I read when I read most reviews of contemporary music, whether they are published in print media or online. However, admittedly, from time to time I read wonderful writing about music both in print and in various blogs. And since I frequently write about music myself, I’d be worse than a hypocrite if I were to claim that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Besides, I don’t dance.
I also think it’s possible to write meaningful, substantive commentary online, otherwise why bother doing it? Schickel, citing D.J. Waldie, claims that “blogging is a form of speech, not of writing” and that the “act of writing for print, with its implication of permanence, concentrates the mind most wonderfully. It imposes on writer and reader a sense of responsibility that mere yammering does not.” I disagree. I think that all forms of written speech, which includes not only online threadstarters such as this but all written responses submitted to it as well, impose responsibility as does public speech.
That said, if the blogosphere is about democracy as its advocates claim, mightn’t there be something somewhat undemocratic about compiling a “best of the blogosphere”?