Music Criticism

(Juilliard, fall semester, 2000)

Classwork and Assignments

(Since I can't be here for two classes, 
we're going to have guest teachers.)

September 11

Introduction to this course.

What do we think about music criticism and music critics? (class discussion)

September 18

Guest teacher: Anne Midgette, who writes about music, theater, and visual art for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications

September 25

More discussion of music criticism. What I and you think critics do, and what they should do

Reading assignment: 

Some of my own reviews (so you’ll know what kind of critic your teacher is). These are on reserve in the library. You can also read them here by clicking the links. 

Classical reviews from the Wall Street Journal:

"Putting the Music First

"Rolling Over Beethoven" (I changed the title on my website, so when you read it here, it's called "Rolling Through Beethoven.")

"When the Solid Dissolves"

"Conduct(or) Unbecoming the Boston Symphony

A pop review from the late ‘80s, when I was chief pop music critic for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner:

"Mellencamp Takes Troubles To Daddy

One of my Village Voice columns from the early ‘80s:

"Cage Speaks Faster When the Street Gets Noisy"

October 2

George Bernard Shaw’s music reviews (written in London in the 1890s).

Reading assignment:

From Shaw on Music, edited by Eric Bentley:

“A Bad Oratorio,” 257-264

October 9

Guest teacher TBA.

October 16

More on Shaw.

Reading assignment:

From Shaw on Music, edited by Eric Bentley (on reserve in the library):

 “Bayreuth,” 116-122

 “Rigoletto” 157-158

“Dramatic Singing,” 162-163

October 23 (fall break; no class)

October 30

No assignment. More discussion of Shaw, if we need it.

Discussion of how to write a music review. This will help you write your first paper, due in one week.

November 6

Virgil Thomson’s music reviews (written for the New York Herald-Tribune in the 1940s and ‘50s).

Reading assignments:

From A Virgil Thomson Reader, edited by John Rockwell (on reserve in the music library):

 “Schuman’s Undertow” (about William Schuman), 270-272

 “Gloomy Masterpiece” (about Berg’s Violin Concerto), 330-331

First paper due. Please write a two-page review of some music I’ll put on reserve in the record library.

For this week’s reports on New York Times music reviews you can pick any anything published during the past two weeks.

November 13

More on Thomson.

Reading assignments:

From A Virgil Thomson Reader, edited by John Rockwell:

“Master of Distortion and Exaggeration” (Vladimir Horowitz), 226-227

 “Equalized Expressivity” (Artur Schnabel), 248-249

“Dramatizing the Structure” (Clifford Curzon), 334-337

"Warm Welcome” (Myra Hess), 283-284

November 20

Eduard Hanslick (Wagner’s opponent, from 19th century Germany)

Reading assignment:

from Eduard Hanslick, Vienna’s Golden Years of Music, 1850-1900, translated and edited by Henry Pleasants III (on reserve in the music library):

 “Die Meistersinger,” 116-131

November 27

No assignment. Nothing scheduled (except the usual reports on New York Times music reviews), in case we need more time for everything assigned up to now.

December 4

Rock critics.

Reading assignment:

From The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (in the reference section of the library):

Ellen Willis, “Janis Joplin,” 382-387

(I’ll put some Joplin songs and the Springsteen album in the next assignment on reserve in the record library.)

Second paper due. Please write two or three pages about a concert you’ve gone to.

December 11

More on rock.

Reading assignment:

From Stranded, edited by Greil Marcus (in which rock critics pick the muisc they’d take to a desert island):

Ariel Swartley, “The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle” (about Bruce Springsteen’s album with that name)

(A xerox of the article will be on reserve in the library.)

Take-home exam given out in class. 

December 18

Final discussion, summarizing everything we’ve talked about.

Take-home exam due.

Course overview

How to write a music review