Critics and Critics

Ken Nielsen, commenting at Jessica Duchen's blog, observes:

Tis very useful to get such from someone whose taste I understand, even if I don't always share it.

This is the best reason to read criticism (in the "review" or "notice" sense) that I can think of. The more you read a given critic, the more you understand where she or he is coming from, in terms of aesthetics, tastes, and standards. It makes the expenditure of your cultural currency less of a crap shoot.

Example: I've read enough of Alex Ross' criticism to factor his views into the equation, even when I don't agree with them, which is true at least occasionally. His writing about John Adams hasn't convinced me, but it reminds me that Mr. Adams is there and that serious people take him seriously. His new review of music by Giacinto Scelsi, when taken along side other readings, seals the deal.

You can learn as much or more by reading critics you rarely agree with, too. The point is, that if the critic has a staked out, complex, and nuanced aethetic positon, it is easier to locate yourself in relation to that position and use the criticism to inform your own experience.

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