The Rough and Tumble of Music Criticism

Unlike what I refer to as the tangible arts, like sculpture and painting, music is a different kettle of fish – something that cannot be seen and, if necessary, felt physically. Therefore, when it comes to criticizing a musical work, a complex series of sensory reactions come into play relating to ear and sound rather than eye and light.

I happened to have – for a time back in Calcutta, India – occupied two hats: that of concert pianist and that of Western Music Critic. The former role I have covered occasionally in various blogs, but the latter has left me nonplussed as to the way I should come forward and treat the matter in a forthright manner – fair-minded but necessarily critical to the extent that circumstances would permit me to be.

Not so long ago I wrote about my concert appearances with orchestras in India over the period 1964-70 and took the liberty of including therein a summary of critiques by various national newspapers of my performances around the country.  To name a few, they were The Times of India, Amrita Bazar Patrika, The Statesman and Hindusthan Standard. The last mentioned turned out to be the one I was appointed as its Western Music Critic over the period 1964-67. Thereafter, I found it to be too problematic to fulfill that role without raising “conflict of interest” concerns.

Nevertheless, during those three years I was able to hone my writing skills.