First Words: A Panel Discussion About Reviewing Premieres

The Role of the Critic

DAVID STOCK: When someone has taken the trouble to find out something about me or my colleagues and shows some care in the review, it means something to the composer. Who cares whether it means something to–you know, it’s not going to convince the Philadelphia Orchestra to take up Joe Schmoe‘s piece. It just isn’t. I wish it would, but…

WILLIAM LITTLER: Now, you’re assuming that we want this power.

BARBARA JEPSON: Yes. Yes.

DAVID STOCK: Of course not! No, no, no, no, no! I don’t assume it, but I know that, I just don’t want you to feel that because it isn’t as important as it is for performers that it’s not as important for the composer him or herself.

BARBARA JEPSON: But we’re not writing to advance anyone’s career…

DAVID STOCK: Of course not.

BARBARA JEPSON: …or to derail a career…

DAVID STOCK: Of course…that’s not…

BARBARA JEPSON: We’re writing to communicate…

DAVID STOCK: Yes.

BARBARA JEPSON: …to the readers.

DAVID STOCK: Look, we all know why you do what you do and it’s extremely important. It’s the effect that I’m talking about, the ripple effect.

BARBARA JEPSON: Yeah, yeah.

DAVID STOCK: The third thing that we really need as composers is something that is impossible under journalistic conditions for most writers in the United States and that is what I would call critical studies–taking another step. In Europe, there still are people, mostly either composers or musicologists, who actually do critical studies. They have time. They’re not on deadline. Maybe they’ve got a pamphlet coming out or a book or something and they can actually spend some time and really assess the long range of a composer’s work if he’s someone that has stuck around for a while. And ultimately, that kind of attention is infinitely more important for the lifeblood of the music than the daily review. First of all, on top of everything else, is the fact that pieces change over time, as you said. I’ve been astonished to discover that some of my own pieces develop a performance tradition…when I’m not there! I can’t understand it! Do they hear the tape and then…? I don’t know, you know, so if there are more people who had the luxury–and I know many of you wish you did–to take the time to study Composer X or Composer Y or Group B or Group C, you know, the downtown school, the blah blah school, the turntable school, and write about them in some depth over time, this would be fantastic. Of course, it’s not very likely under the circumstances that all of you work under.

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, it’s very interesting hearing everybody at this table with their stories and what Bill was saying about The Lexicon of Musical Invective versus Barbara coming to turntable music and doing essentially a deep study because she had the time…

BARBARA JEPSON: It wasn’t deep.

FRANK J. OTERI: But it was deeper than one normally has the opportunity to do.

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