Notes On Music Criticism from Tony Herrington

by Thomas Brett

If you have an interest in writing about musical experience (as a student, critic, academic, or simply as a music blogging individual) you may find Tony Herrington’s notes on music criticism particularly edifying (I know I did).  Herrington is a contributor to The Wire, one of the best sources for insightful writing about exciting new music.

Here are some of what I found to be Herrington’s most probing suggestions:

“Music criticism should wrap urgent despatch (what is happening, where, when and who does it involve?) and instant philosophy (what does it mean?) into one volatile and unruly package.”

“The music critic has to decide immediately whether a work is inert or active, a closed circuit or a pathway to universality.”

“The music critic must respond to local initiatives by thinking cosmically on their behalf.  They should ask of them: do they expand and elevate existence, or do they diminish it?”

“The music critic should be aware of a work’s world-historical significance, its cultural capital, and if that work has no such status, be prepared to construct a new world in which it will have.”

“The music critic should aspire to the status of the autodidact.  They should eschew academic and systematic study in order to amass an idiosyncratic and syncretic personal cosmology from the stuff of the world around them as a way of both better understanding and negotiating a way through that world.  This will result in an approach to the critical process that will by definition be non-doctrinaire, non-hierarchical and anti-dogmatic.”