Questions and Answers

 Q.   Hello Alan,
I’m a freelance writer (and former editor) with Symphony magazine, doing a story about the recent rounds of layoffs and cutbacks of classical music critics and other arts critics at print publications. It’s a kind of big-picture look at what this means for arts journalism now and in the future, and what it means for some of the writers involved.
Of course, you have some firsthand experience with the subject, and have launched your own web site/blog as a response.  I’m curious to hear what you think of launching a blog at this point in your career. How did you get it started and what do you think of the differences, if any in blog postings and commentary. Are you hearing from readers? I know you’ve been through lots of rounds of staff reductions/dramas at newspapers over the years. That said, are we really seeing the end of music criticism in print, as so many are saying, or is this just another round of media world machinations? How healthy is it for cities to have only one critic, if any at all, devoted to classical music coverage?
 A.    Hi Rebecca. Interesting you should ask.
The situation right now is at its worst. Not only because critics are losing their jobs right and left, but because the field is being pared in so brutal a fashion. It is far worse for a city to end up with one single critic, no matter how competent or how well-positioned, than none; the only way for criticism to work is as a forum of some sort, whether it be four guys on the NYTimes or me versus Mark Swed in L.A.. This network of small dictatorships reduces the field to a lot of interlocking blather. All these blogs right now are a kind of Babel, but the small-talk guys, the guys that used to shoot off in the record stores and now have access to websites, will soon run out of steam, and the few worthwhile websites — Alex’s, best of all — will survive as the new source for musical intelligence. The fact that schools like USC are actually training arts critics these gloomy days is a good sign; there’s a chance that the art will survive. Just the fact that I maintain my own blog in close contact with a few hundred  readers who respond constantly — if only to help me with spelling and fact-checking — tells me that there is a readership for criticism. We will step out over the blabbermouths and, maybe, survive. Alan
 ANOTHER Q    Though it’s six months away, I wanted to personally get in touch about Stephanie Barron’s upcoming German Cold War show. This one promises to be as innovative as her two previous German presentations, at least one of which I know you covered. Please do let me know if I can provide further information or arrange a conversation between you and Stephanie.
Best regards,
(Press release attached.)
Allison Agsten, Director, Press Relations
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
A.  Thanks for this advance information. It would be interesting to learn whether LACMA plans any kind of musical program to correlate to this material; the period did produce some important music. (The name of H. P. Zimmermann, whose “Soldaten” was just produced at the Lincoln Center Festival, comes first to mind.) Unfortunately, now that LACMA has self-destructed as a producer of serious musical events I have my doubts. Could you elucidate? Alan
Q.  I’ve just heard back from our music department. We have programming for
Basquiat, African Art, Hearst, Pompeii, and possibly one other, though
likely not Art of Two Germanys.
Allison Agsten
A.  yes, that figures

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