Art critic Dave Hickey writes about creating "communities of desire" to foster the arts we love. That's central to my mission here. I write, listen to, perform, and write about concert music because I desire it--passionately and completely. Concert music has fallen out of the lives of the vast majority of otherwise cultured people--if they belong to a community of desire for music, it is generally of the popular kind, not concert music.

This is a circuitous way of getting to what I really want to talk about today, and that is analysis and criticism. Or more precisely, what place do analysis and/or criticism have in creating a ciommunity of desire around concert music?

Recent weeks have seen music bloggers analyze passages from the
classics and Moderns, discuss the content of those analyses, and criticize those analyses and discussions. And we also have an explication of some analytical tools. Analytical/critical styles have been criticized not so much for what they tell us as for how. In the simplest terms, some want audience-friendly "impressionistic" analysis and others want more hardcore technical material.

There is both room and need for both approaches, as well as any other that may be forthcoming. The community of desire for concert music has at least two sub-communities: A community of interest and a community of practice. (One hopes that every member of the community of practice is interested, of course.) For practitioners a greater or lesser degree of technical knowledge of a piece may be necessary if we are to do with the piece what we need to, be that play it, write about it, use it as a model for our own work, or teach it.

Occasionally someone will write a highly-technical piece on a composition and write so that it will be off-putting to a lay person, for whatever reason. But that is the exception. For most of us, thinking about music in a technical way--and expressing in prose (and charts) what we have learned about it--is an important part of practice.

Talking about music in the more impressionistic way has value, too, especially when it helps listeners find their way into a piece. I hope we can find meaningful ways of combining the two approaches and enriching our community of desire.

EDIT: Here's a good example of the value of analysis from the performer's point of view; in this case,
Helen Radice. (7.11.04)

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