In a similar spirit, I would like to announce that I am suspending my activities as a music critic.
For more than three decades, I’ve written for various newspapers, magazines, websites, and for my own blog, “Eatock Daily” (which you are now reading). But for the last year or so I’ve been wondering if I really want to continue reviewing concerts and writing about music.
In January, I respectfully severed my ties to the last few publications that would still pay me a modest fee for my work. And now, I’ve also decided to stop posting concert reviews to this blog.
Why? The demise of music criticism in the mainstream press is certainly a discouraging factor. However, I don’t share the view that some people in the business hold as to why this has happened. I don’t think it can be entirely blamed on declining print-media revenue, or on philistine entertainment editors who care only about pop culture. These are contributing factors, to be sure – but I think there are more deep-seated reasons.
I believe that our culture (and by “our culture” I’m talking about North America, and perhaps also Europe, to some extent) has undergone a fundamental shift. Expertise is no longer much valued in the cultural sphere; rather, it seems that the currently prevailing belief is that any one person’s opinion is as good as any other’s. Furthermore, if critical judgements are acknowledged at all, they are the judgements of the masses, expressed in economic terms: what is best is what sells the most.
There are some determined “elitists” who steadfastly oppose this trend. I wish them well, but I’ve come to the conclusion that to stand against this sea-change is to defy the incoming tide, as King Canute once tried to do. And even Canute knew when his feet were wet.
As a profession, classical music criticism emerged in the early 19th century and remained an esteemed aspect of musical culture to the end of the 20th century. It had a good run. But to cling to the idea, in the year 2018, that music criticism remains somehow relevant, and to soldier on with it, is to behave like a child clinging to a much-loved but hopelessly broken toy who refuses to throw it away and get on with life.
On a more personal note, I will add that I’ve enjoyed my years as a critic and journalist writing about music and musicians. It was fun while it lasted, and the free tickets were much appreciated! But at the same time, the precariousness of the work has taken a toll. For the last decade, the life of a freelance critic has become an increasingly difficult and frustrating struggle – and the end-result of the struggle was not any kind of advancement to a more secure, ongoing situation, but just more struggling.
However, all is not doom and gloom chez moi. I have never forgotten that my involvement in criticism was tangential to my main musical interest. I am a composer, first and foremost, and my chief musical goal is and always has been to write music. And as my interest in criticism has waned, I’ve felt a renewed energy and sense of purpose as a composer. It’s my intention, at this time (having reached the ripe old age of 60), to focus my time and efforts on composition.
Will I continue to contribute to this blog, in any way, shape or form? Will I write as a composer, rather than as a critic? Will I find some other subject to write about? Maybe – but truth be told, I don’t really have any inclination to blog about anything at this point in time.
But, of course, I am only “suspending” my campaign!
© Colin Eatock 2018