National Arts Journalism Program
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New York, NY 10027

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It hasn't been done in 50 years. But now, classical music critics are gathering for a rare symposium exploring the past history, present issues, and future hope for our profession.

The Music Critics Association of North America and The National Arts Journalism Program in partnership with The Columbia University Department of Music, Miller Theater, Columbia University and the American Music Center are pleased to announce

A Symposium on the Present State and Future of Classical Music Criticism

October 15-17, 2004
Columbia University School of Journalism

We like to think that in the century since Louis Elson misapprehended Debussy, we have become less tradition-bound, more attuned to the new. But there is always the chance that one day our words will prove us, too, spectacularly wrong. Any music critic with a conscience must be haunted by the fear of missing a revolution. We now have an opportunity for self-scrutiny in the midst of several simultaneous revolutions. Within our lifetimes, the concert world has expanded enormously.

New genres have been created.Technology has made radical new tools available to every composer with a laptop. The authentic performance practice movement has merged into the symphonic world. The mainstream has widened to include music from nations as far apart as Finland, Mongolia and Azerbaijan. The contemporary critic working in a major market could easily review a plainchant performance one night, a video opera the next and a Brahms symphony the following evening. At the same time, the other world we share - journalism - has been similarly transformed. 'Zines, blogs, boards and the global distribution of instant opinion have created a parallel universe of amateur and professional criticism. Meanwhile, the cost of newsprint, the diversification of entertainment and the nationwide drive to recruit young newspaper readers all exert new pressures on us, affecting what, when, how often and how long we write.

So the fundamental question is: Are we adequately prepared for the world we work in? Are we adapting quickly enough to these changes? In what ways are we helping to bring them about? This is a conference about issues few of us ever have time to think about on deadline: mission, style and expertise.

Friday evening, October 15
5p.m.: Opening reception at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.Guest speaker: Ned Rorem, who will begin with a reading of an article he wrote in 1982, "13 Ways of Looking at a Critic," and continue with his updated views of criticism, followed by questions and general discussion.

Saturday, October 16
9:00: Welcome: Andras Szanto, director, National Arts Journalism Program, Columbia University
9:15: Keynote speaker: James Conlon, music director designate of the Ravinia Festival.A conductor reflects on criticism from the receiving end - and from both sides of the Atlantic
10:15: The Right Words: Adapting Language to Describe an Ever-Changing Art.Moderator: Ara Guzelimian, artistic adviser, Carnegie Hall Participants: Osvaldo Golijov, Meredith Monk, Mark Swed (Los Angeles Times)
As the vocabulary of music changes, so must the vocabulary we use to write about it. The early 20th century critic Louis Elson (quoted in the symposium introduction) was evidently thinking of 19th century definitions of "melody" when he accused Debussy of lacking any. Do we run the risk of repeating that mistake when we sling around terms like "development," "harmony," and "climax?" And how do we convey the novelty of sounds?
11:30: Serious Music Today: Speaker: John Rockwell, Cultural Critic, New York Times. In his essay, "Serious Music Today," Rockwell argues that "classical" and "serious" are no longer synonymous, and that music critics need to open themselves up to that fact. The dominance of pop music today and the emergence of journalism online has created a new environment for the critic. AFTERNOON
1:30: Speaker: Joseph Horowitz, who is writing a book on Classical Music in America. Horowitz presents his essay "Criticism at the Crossroads," on the historical shift in the assumptions underlying the profession of classical music critic. Horowitz argues that American classical music degenerated into a culture venerating the act of performance more than the act of creation, and that the time has returned when the critic should be a "doer and an organizer" on behalf of the music they observe.
2:15: Looking Back to Look Ahead: How Music Criticism Has Changed in 100 Years Moderator: Alan Rich, Los Angeles Weekly. Participants: Anthony Tommasini, New York Times; Tim Page, The Washington Post; Greg Sandow,; Barbara Zuck, Columbus Dispatch. Do music critics serve the same function that they did in earlier times? Have the increasing constraints of journalism forced us to become less detailed and more general? We ask a panel of experienced critics what role music criticism can play in today's fragmented and competitive society.
3:45: Who Are We, Anyway? Presentation of Early Results from the First-Ever Survey of Classical Music Critics in North America. Willa Conrad, Music Critic, New Jersey Star-Ledger; Lawrence McGill, director of research and planning, Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive, Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies.
4:30: The Gatekeepers' View: Editors Discuss Changing Paradigms in the Arts Beat Moderator, Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times Participants to include John Habich, Fine Arts Editor, Newsday; Chris Lavin, senior editor for special sections, San Diego Union-Tribune; Jim Oestreich, Classical Music & Dance Editor, New York Times; Manuela Hoelterhoff, editor, Bloomberg Muse Each newspaper has an unique vision of arts coverage, yet there is also an understood national standard. This panel explores five views of arts coverage, what factors determine how much coverage is accorded to classical music vs. the other arts and why, and what new areas of knowledge and journalistic skills an effective classical music critic must have today.

Sunday, October 17
9.00: The Limits of Style: Do Non-American Critics Write More Freely? Moderator: William Littler, Toronto Star.
Participants: Shirley Apthorp, Financial Times (Berlin); Charles Michener, New York Observer; Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times (New York); John Allison, Opera and New York Times; Renaud Machart, Le Monde (Paris)
"Where is style?" Stephen Sondheim asks in "A Little Night Music." He might have been addressing today's North American music critics,whose writing leans toward the careful and the mild, rather than the colorful and even provocative means of expression European critics enjoy using. How can our writing appeal more directly and powerfully to the reader? We explore the topic with some of the finest stylists in our profession.
10:30: Writing New Music: Composers and Presenters Take the Floor. Moderator: George Steel, executive director, Miller Theatre at Columbia University
Participants: Michael Gordon, founder of Bang on a Can; Welz Kauffman, executive director, Ravinia Festival, Chicago; Jane Moss, vice president for programming, Lincoln Center, New York How must the protocol of how music is presented change in order to survive? This panel explores new ways of thinking and experiencing classical music.

1:15: Teaching Critics: The Place of Journalistic Criticism in Undergraduate and Graduate Studies. Moderator: Scott Burnham, Princeton University Participants: Walter Frisch, Columbia University; Jan Swafford, Tufts University and author of Charles Ives: A Life in Music; Johanna Keller, Syracuse University What can critics teach musicologists, and vice versa? Where does the interface between the two professions need to be made more porous, and how might critical thinking be better injected into higher level music education?
2:45: The Pulitzer Budges. Frank J. Oter, moderator.
Participants: Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle; Frank J. Oteri,; Gunther Schuller, composer.The Pulitzer Prizes have adjusted the rules in order to elicit a broader range of submissions, and actively encouraged the entry of musical theater works, film scores and improvised or non-notated pieces. Does this represent a rush of enlightenment or a dumbing
down? And are a few changes in wording enough to make a difference in what sorts of music are deserving of prestige?
4.00: Now What? A Speculative Conversation on the Critic of the Future Alex Ross, (The New Yorker) and Justin Davidson, (Newsday) Summarizing three days of trend-spotting and debates, two critics try to glean some lessons, both for themselves and their successors.

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