What makes a good Critic?

Critics are often maligned, joked about. But being a critic is a LEGIT job for quite a few mofos.

I understand why they exist - as a kind of quality control so that we can filter the good and bad.

But just as often as I agree with a critic - I disagree.

Even among the members of da SDC - I hear people out and take recommendations into account - but after listening I still hold my own opinion that often differs from others.

I prefer critics that use more colourful adjectives than simply ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
A critic can describe a Horowitz rec for example as - dynamically explosive and overtly personal - allowing us to make up our own minds if that sounds like it’d be our cup of tea instead of just saying ‘amazing’ or 'shit.

Honestly the only critic I’ve found I can endorse is a fellow who wrote as T. Huss or similar for a small music magazine which existed here in Sweden in the late 1800s. He’s as much of a “nerd” as you can get, and you can’t escape his enthusiasm. I do think Schonberg was a “great” pianophile too - his book is very impressive IMO - but even his reviews are often rather beside the point I think. I would like to read more historical reviews - Schumann, “Liszt”, Hanslick, etc - but have not done so much to date.

Today I read reviews in the Guardian and the NY Times on occasion, but otherwise I usually rely on friends. I have high respect for several of the older pianophiles in particular I’m in touch with who really have the best minds I’ve encountered anywhere for art music, and I’m always interested in the opinions of Tony (x2), Jai, Chris and Erwin here for instance.

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To answer the question however it’s someone who is genuinely open minded and can detect quality and thought processes as broadly as possible, and can also identify what is happening and put that in to words. I also appreciate guts to express personal opinions - which is rare today in published pieces - as long as they are clearly motivated.

On top of that I want of course vast experience both from today and past eras, high intelligence, someone who’s good at expressing him/herself in text, and who preferably has a pleasant, conversational writing style.

Tru, I’m hard to please.

Good summation there!

I suppose the opinion of one is one thing but aggregate ratings on sites like rateyourmusic is interesting to see too


According to the general consensus here - Radiohead’s OK Computer is the greatest album ever.
Is there a site like this for classical & piano fans?

I love OK Computer but that’s a huge call, when there is Sgt Peppers.

That’s at no29. If you look at the sheer amount of people rating - it’s just something that’s universally praised and loved. I don’t think it means it’s the greatest album but just the album that most often features high in many peoples lists.

I randomly thonk @da_zepp a pretty decent critic


An authoritative critic should above all have culture and good ears. Preferable someone who plays an instrument on a high level him/herself and really knows what (s)he is writing about. That the critic is eloquent and has a pleasant writing-style also helps a lot indeed.
In short, someone like Abram Chasins. His review on Brailowsky for example is a masterpiece and still worthwhile to read:

Okay…so bazically like da ZEPP?

Right, though we could argue about hiz perzonal writing ztyle :wink:

haha. I wuz actually referring to da zepp pleazant writing style


@krittyot = Pozz da bezt critic :dong:

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da kritty iz bezt just being da kritty

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Just watched ratatouille again, damn it’s a charming movie (and I didn’t actually like it first time I saw it). From second time I saw it, the critics monologue at the end really hit him and gives me goosebumps everytime now. So true!

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.

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Music reviews are odd on several counts. Its not like a theater engagement or musical where you can see how it went and expect more or less a similar outcome when you see it later in the run. Also music is so easily distributable now you can sample artists on your own without much trouble and decide whether or not to see them when in town even if they aren’t recording commercially.

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There are at least few people who can do it well. Anyone can toss out an opinion, but what you “like” means very little if you’re writing a review that’s supposed to be meaningful. Music can always be described though - what I’d try to do in an official piece is to give an impression of what the musician was doing and then weave in my personal praise and criticism as to what was done well and what wasn’t, and above all why I felt that way. Parallells and analogies are always helpful too. But sadly just that basic part of a rich musical understanding is beyond 99% who’ve ever had this job.

Are you able to give a ‘pozitive review’ ov zome playing dat u perzonally don’t like but know zum otherz would?

Da ability to tranzcend yo own taztez and zubjectivity and vicariouzly play a kind ov ‘muzical devilz advocate’ when u recognize a zheeyat haf merit but juz iznt for yo azz

Yes :+1: