Monday, June 17, 2019 11:09

A word about critics.

– Wiccapundit

A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally. – Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Your Wiccapundit was enjoying the following solo piano performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue by Jack Gibbons, who is renowned for his note-for-note transcriptions of Gershwin’s piano roll performances.  It’s long, but it is so worth it.

This extraordinary performance (and even more extraordinary musical composition) lead me to think of one critic’s reception to the Rhapsody In Blue that was published the day after its debut performance.

How trite, feeble and conventional the tunes are; how sentimental and vapid the harmonic treatment, under its disguise of fussy and futile counterpoint! … Weep over the lifelessness of the melody and harmony, so derivative, so stale, so inexpressive!

Lawrence Gilman, New York Tribune, February 13, 1924.

Who is Lawrence Gilman, you say?  A music critic and the composer of such musical masterworks as “A Dream of Death,” “The Heart of a Woman,” and “The Curlew,”  all of which are lost in the mists of time, just as the memory of his existence is.  As for Gershwin, his work is regarded as classic American music, and is still frequently played today.

When Gershwin died at the untimely young age of 38, the best-selling author John O’Hara said: “George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”

Music critics.  What a waste of space.

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5 Responses to “A word about critics.”

  1. Chirotus says:

    Is it bad that this reminds me of the Who Framed Roger Rabbit NES game?

  2. Gilman was probably right, only unaware he was describing the piece’s virtues rather than its flaws.

    Having sat through some modern music (Holloway’s Spacious Firmament; in my defence the second piece on the bill was Beethoven’s 9th, and the venue King’s College Chapel) and it is horrible, but it is in every way not what this Gilman creature was complaining about. I suspect he was comparing Rhapsody in Blue to more avant-garde pieces, that no-one sane would ever enjoy, but those who wish to be seen to be cultured will flock to and praise. Rhapsody in Blue is beautiful; it has melody, it has traditional forms, forms that became traditional because they are pleasant to the ear. However in that time it was coming to be that being pleasant, being beautiful, was looked down upon in art.

    • Wiccapundit says:

      I agree with you completely. It’s like with modern art; those who consider themselve “cultured” don’t want to be thought “uncultured” by not liking what they are told they should like, most of which is utter shite.

      Don Troiani, the superb artist who specializes in painting scenes from the War of Secession (you should check his work out), once said that most modern artists draw like they are five-year-olds; however, five-year-olds have an excuse: they haven’t learned how to draw yet.

      The unmusical excess of modern music found its apotheosis with John Cage’s 4’33”, in which the musicians do not play but merely sit silent for the duration of the piece. The work is supposed to be a challenge to the “assumed definitions of musicianship.” To me, it is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of jagging off.

      I’ll take Ludwig van’s Ninth any day. Truly a transcendental piece of music. To me, it is proof that there is a God.

  3. Sebastian Page says:

    I admittedly prefer the sequel, Bohemian Rhapsody (perhaps still in Blue), but this is good stuff. Thanks for the post WP!

  4. Critics loved On Golden Pond and hated Star Wars.

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