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Music journalism is criticism and reportage about music. It began in the eighteenth century as comment on what is now thought of as 'classical music'. This aspect of music journalism, today generally classified as music criticism, comprises the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of music and its performance. Modern music criticism is often informed by music theory consideration of the many diverse elements of a musical piece or performance, including (as regards a musical composition) its form and style, and as regards performance, standards of technique and expression. It was expressed, for example, in journals such as Neue Zeitschrift für Musik founded by Robert Schumann, and is continued today in the columns of serious newspapers and journals such as The Musical Times. Today a major branch of music journalism is an aspect of entertainment journalism — covering popular music and including profiles of singers and bands and album reviews. In the 2000s, online music bloggers are to some degree displacing newspaper and magazine-based pop music critics.

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Music criticism

The Oxford Companion to Music defines 'music criticism' as 'the intellectual activity of formulating judgments on the value and degree of excellence of individual works of music, or whole groups or genres'. In this sense it is a branch of aesthetics. However with the concurrent expansion of interest music and information media over the past century, the term has come to acquire the conventional meaning of journalistic reporting on musical performances.[1]

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History

Critical references to music, (often deprecating performers or styles) can be found in early literature, including, for example, in Plato's Laws and in the writings of medieval music theorists. The English composer Charles Avison (1709-1770) published the first work on musical criticism in the English language. It was an Essay on Musical Expression published in 1752.[2]In it Avison criticized the music of one of his contemporaries, George Frideric Handel.

Before about the 1840s, reporting on music was either done by musical journals, such as Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (published by Breitkopf & Hartel, and then by Rieter-Biederman between 1798 and 1882), or the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (founded by Robert Schumann), and in London such journals as The Musical Times (founded in 1844 as The Musical Times and Singing-class Circular); or else by reporters at general newspapers where music did not form part of the central objectives of the publication. An influential English 19th-century music critic, for example, was John Davison of The Times. The composer Hector Berlioz also wrote reviews and criticims for the Paris press of the 1840s.

Several factors — including growth of education, the influence of the Romantic movement generally and in music, popularization (including the 'star-status' of many performers such as Liszt and Paganini), among others — led to an increasing interest in music among non-specialist journals, and an increase in the number of critics by profession, of varying degrees of competence and integrity. The situation here was distinguished from that before the 1840s, in that the critics now — on the whole — were not also practising musicians; this could be considered a turning‐point.

Popular music

Popular music journalists write books and articles on music and artists in various fields, from jazz and folk music to rock music, rhythm and blues, hip hop and top forty pop. In addition to writing features and profiles and interviewing artists and producers, journalists write reviews of records, CDs, DVDs and concert reviews. Where criticism of classical or art music usually deals with the music itself (drawing on the analyses to be found in such journals as The Musical Times), popular music journalism has a greater tendency to focus on additional, non-musical topics such as fashion, style and lifestyle and youth culture generally. Magazines featuring such journalism have included Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy!, Creem, URB, College Music Journal, New Musical Express and The Source.

Music writers only started "treating pop and rock music seriously" in 1964 "after the breakthrough of the Beatles..." .[3]One of the early music magazines in Britain, Melody Maker, complained in 1967 about how "newspapers and magazines are continually hammering [i.e., attacking] pop music". [4] Melody Maker magazine advocated the new forms of pop music of the late 1960s. As more pop music critics began writing, this had the effect of "legitimating pop as an art form"; as a result, "newspaper coverage shifted towards pop as music rather than pop as social phenomenon" .[5] "By 1999, the 'quality' press was regularly carrying reviews of popular music gigs and albums", which had a "key role in keeping pop" in the public eye.As more pop music critics began writing, this had the effect of "legitimating pop as an art form"; as a result, "newspaper coverage shifted towards pop as music rather than pop as social phenomenon" .[6]

Steve Jones claims that both popular music articles and academic articles about pop music are usually written from "masculine subject positions". As more pop music critics began writing, this had the effect of "legitimating pop as an art form"; as a result, "newspaper coverage shifted towards pop as music rather than pop as social phenomenon" .[7]; as well, in the way that critics differentiate between pop music and rock, using terms like "trivial", "fluffy", or "formulaic" for pop (versus "serious", "raw", and "sincere" for rock), there is an implicit or even explicitly gendered dichotomy.[8] Frith notes that pop and rock muisc are closely associated with gender; that is, with conventions of male and female behaviour. [9]

As more pop music critics began writing, this had the effect of "legitimating pop as an art form"; as a result, "newspaper coverage shifted towards pop as music rather than pop as social phenomenon" .[10] In the world of pop music criticism, there tends to be a quick turnover. The "pop music industry expects that any particular [music critic] star can disappear within five years; in contrast, the "stars" of rock criticism are more likely to have long careers with "book contracts, featured columns, and editorial and staff positions at magazines and newspapers..."As more pop music critics began writing, this had the effect of "legitimating pop as an art form"; as a result, "newspaper coverage shifted towards pop as music rather than pop as social phenomenon" .[11] Critic Robert Christgau was the "originator of the 'consumer guide' approach to pop music reviews", an approach to writing pop recording reviews that was designed to help consumers to decide whether to buy a new album.[12]

Carl Wilson describes "an upsurge in pro-pop sentiment among critics" during the early 2000s, a "new generation [of music critics] moved into positions of critical influence" and then "mounted a wholesale critique against the syndrome of measuring all popular music by the norms of rock culture."[13] In 2008 Ann Powers of the LA Times argued that "[p]op music critics have always been contrarians", because "pop music [criticism] rose up as a challenge to taste hierarchies, and has remained a pugilistic, exhibitionist business throughout pop's own evolution."[14]

Powers claims that "[i]nsults, rejections of others' authority, bratty assertions of superior knowledge and even threats of physical violence are the stuff of which pop criticism is made"; at the same time, the "best [pop criticism] also offers loving appreciation and profound insights about how music creates and collides with our everyday realities." [15] She states that pop criticism developed as a "slap at the establishment, at publications such as the hippie homestead Rolling Stone and the rawker outpost Creem. [16] She notes that the "1980s generation" of post-punk indie rockers "has lately [i.e., in the 2000s] been taken down by younger "poptimists," who argue that lovers of underground rock are elitists for not embracing the more multicultural mainstream". [17] Powers claims that with the 2000s-era "poptimism" critical approach, debates about bands and styles are "like the scrum in rugby", because "[e]verybody pushes against everybody else, and we move forward in a huge blob of vehement opinion and mutual judgment".[18] Popular music journalists have been the targets of criticism by their subjects. For example, Frank Zappa said about rock journalism, "Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read.[19]

Slate magazine writer Jody Rosen discussed the 2000s-era trends in pop music criticism in the article "The Perils of Poptimism". Rosen notes that much of the debate is centred over the perception that that rock critics "...regard rock as "normative … the standard state of popular music … to which everything else is compared."[20] At a 2006 pop critic conference, attendees discussed their "...guilty pop pleasures, reconsidering musicians ( Tiny Tim, Dan Fogelberg, Phil Collins) and genres (blue-eyed soul,Muzak)" which rock critics have long dismissed as lightweight, commercial music. Rosen states that "this new critical paradigm" is called "popism"—or, more evocatively (and goofily), "poptimism". The "poptimism" approach states that "Pop (and, especially, hip-hop) producers are as important as rock auteurs, Beyoncé is as worthy of serious consideration as Bruce Springsteen, and ascribing shame to pop pleasure is itself a shameful act". [21] In 2006, Martin Edlund from the New York Sun argued that music bloggers are to some degree displacing newspaper and magazine-based pop music critics. Edlund notes that while the "Internet has democratized music criticism, it seems it's also spread its penchant for uncritical hype".[22]

See also

External links

Sources

References

  1. ^ Bujic, Criticism
  2. ^ Bujic, Criticism
  3. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 45.
  4. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 116.
  5. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 118.
  6. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 129.
  7. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 134.
  8. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 96.
  9. ^ S. Frith, "Pop Music" in S. Frith, W. Stray and J. Street, The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock (Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 226.
  10. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 96.
  11. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 85.
  12. ^ Jones, Steve. Pop music and the press. 2002. p. 4.
  13. ^ Ewing, Tom. "The Decade in Pop". Pitchfork articles. August 27, 2009. Available online at: http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/7703-the-decade-in-pop/2/
  14. ^ Powers, Ann. "Bratty by nature". The LA Times. July 27, 2008. Available online at: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jul/27/entertainment/ca-pop27
  15. ^ Ibid
  16. ^ Ibid
  17. ^ Ibid
  18. ^ Ibid
  19. ^ Quoted in the Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1978. See also Shapiro, Fred R., editor (2006) The Yale Book of Quotations. R.R. Donelly and Sons. p. 850.
  20. ^ Rosen, Jody. "The Perils of Poptimism". Slate magazine. May 9, 2006. Available online at: http://www.slate.com/id/2141418/ -
  21. ^ Rosen, Jody. "The Perils of Poptimism". Slate magazine. May 9, 2006. Available online at: http://www.slate.com/id/2141418/
  22. ^ Edlund, Martin. "Not All They Were Blogged Up To Be". The New York Sun. June 6, 2006. Available online at: http://www.nysun.com/arts/not-all-they-were-blogged-up-to-be/33913/

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