New Criticals

A Brief Exposition of Contemporary Music Criticism: Part Two

To draw a line between the operational modes of the laylistener - the listen with no context other than the one they have constructed - and the critic - the supposedly trained individual - two points that most skeptics of the critic make will be explored: first, that the critic does not actually make/perform music, and because of this, they cannot discern whether or not music is good or bad; the second, is that good and bad are non-existent modes that the critic use to impose their taste onto the impressionable music listener. Both points, are duly true within the current critical-journalistic context, but ultimately revealed to be only partially so upon evaluation. Yes, through the embracing of audience and decidedly more relatable discourse the critical spectrum has become a space for gentrifying and selling “high brow” taste and opinions, but this angle is only true insofar as the listener purchases music under the guise of being genuinely interested in the objective nature of taste, then receding into the position of the victim, refusing the critical language as a means of preserving their own taste assertions. The upholding of one’s tastes and the refusal of the “policing” of it can be directly tied to the point of music writers not being music makers. The laylistener is correct to point this fact out (though there are exceptions), but it too is only correct on the surface. The laylistener sees critical discourse as being cheap and unfounded - essentially an elevated platform for a listeners like themselves. The laylistener assumes that music writer buys and experiences music the sames as them, but there is a large matter that is lept over with this argument.The laylistener ignores that - similar to their to their own assertions against the critic - they are not writers or trained in critical discourse. one can listen to, enjoy, and know things about music, but that does not equal a critic’s training in pattern recognition and prediction. Unbeknownst to most laylisteners, there is a strong mechanical thread that runs through a medium, an intrinsic aesthetic mode of operation that defines its very structure. Admittedly, this point is lost on the majority of music critics working today, but despite this stumble in form and function, the point stands to be true. Art in all categories is defined by its relation to everyday phenomena and events, proposed narrative. At the end of the music making process is a work, an object that exists amongst life, the laylistener’s daily routines and the surrounding subsequent events of the global community. The music release, through the stream of advertisements and sales, exist amongst society, offering its function like any object does. Unlike, the laylistener, the good critic cannot limit music’s function to the confined space of commerce and entertainment. Immediately upon its introduction to the world the music object submits to the narrative that is in place, as well as its creator’s biographical narrative. These parallel plots are the music object’s situational context, which in combination with the mechanisms of a work reveals - again upon inspection - the meaning of the work, its shape and definition, and its aesthetic - not economical - value. The critic’s value comes from their being able to understand and employ these modes, and to then use the written language to not just explain, but to engage the work (and its context directly. This is, in essence, an active push-and-pull, deconstruction and assertion of the work in “real” space, the work stabilizing and fitting into the objective framework.