Breaking: The Role of the Critic is to Talk About the Role of the Critic

06/17/2009 12:21 PM |

c678/1245255637-picture_3.pngI’ve had this theory over the past six months or so that for all the constant talk about how the internet is killing arts criticism, the truth is that what’s actually killing it, or at least what’s making matters much, much worse, is that so many of the best critical minds out there have spent too much time—at bars, on blogs, and in print—lamenting its death. Every time someone publishes a trend piece on internet culture or crowd-sourcing, they’re not only taking space away from a record or a film that’s deserving of attention (and making it so that every other publication feel like they need to run a similar piece lest they seem out of touch) they’re also giving new life to this sad narrative and running the risk of accidentally convincing a few more people there’s no reason to turn to a professional critic—and it actually makes sense: rather than reading 2,000 words about how people are discovering music, it’d be a lot easier and far more fulfilling to spend that time on the internet trying to track down new records. Remember, for most people, the art is what’s fulfilling, not the never-ending discussion about how it’s distributed.

But that said, in the video below from something called the 140 Character Conference, music writer Christopher Weingarten, who’s dedicated himself to reviewing 1,000 records on Twitter in 2009, gives a detailed, accurate and very funny description of how we’ve gotten where we are in terms of the critic’s role in music culture.

The troubling bit about this isn’t even what’s happened—it’s how Weingarten suggests we move forward. I’m not convinced he’s wrong, and I do fear that he’s right, but he seems to be suggesting that rather than trying to get long, thoughtful pieces published (or, for that matter, publishing them ourselves, which is how all this really started about 40 years ago anyway) about exciting pieces of art, we simply try to make our 140 character reviews ever so slightly more poetic and informative. Depressing, for sure, but maybe he’s onto something—any valuable piece of writing probably should be able to have its main point expressed in 140 characters, and if all we can do is hope that if those 140 characters are used wisely, they make it so that people once again want to read longer pieces, maybe word will eventually get back to the higher-ups at the glossies and alt-weeklies, and things will go back to normal.

Also, in the time it took you to read this, I discovered three new bands, wrote two of them off as meh and declared the third the greatest band since Fleet Foxes. [via Idolator]

One Comment

  • 104 characters:

    “any valuable piece of writing probably should be able to have its main point expressed in 140 characters”

    So, I miss anything else important?