Earlier today, I tried starting a blog post series of my favorite–note, not best–songs. The first one was going to be Reverend Gary Davis’ I am the Light of this World (which would have been followed by about eight other Davis songs; I sweat him hard), but the limits of blog software led me to a cup of coffee instead. In this spirit, I launch a new series of Favorite Music Reviews, of which this post is the first.
For the record, most music reviews make me sick. (seriously; I’ve had a near panic attack over one in particular; ask SF). In fact, my own album ratings is an ironic and functional spin on the review process, where thoughtless albums receive a tremendous amount of column space and incredible albums register only a few gazillion hits on Google. Furthermore, the only music critic who does not make me want to throw my Internet out the window is Sasha Frere-Jones, and even he decides to write about inconsequentials such as Neko Case.
Nonetheless, about once every decade, there is a music review that I find so absurdly great that I put it on my fridge, mental or physical. To these reviews, I dedicate this series. Typically, my favorite reviews are those that are ruthless (in either a positive or negative manner), to the point, and demonstrate a wide knowledge of music without coming off as clever. People who know me, know that I feel CMJ reviews are the antithesis of this.
The first is Richard Gott’s Liberation Music, which appeared in the March 12, 2009, issue of London Review of Books. Now, Gott’s article is great, but it’s not his work that ranks him in my favorite music reviews. No, it is who he quotes. Specifically, I am keen on a Rodney Bennett review of a January 1960 performance:
It took time, though, for the new experimental music to be widely accepted in London. Cardew and Tilbury had played pieces by Feldman and Cage at a concert at the Conway Hall in January 1960, and Rodney Bennett, who was present, recalled that the audience of 70 sat ‘transfixed with gloom’ while the two pianists produced, slowly and laboriously, ‘a series of small tired noises, not violent, not beautiful, not exciting, not even remotely interesting: the whole effect as soporific as an evening spent listening to the complete Methodist Hymnal’.
The entire article is filled with these sorts of gem, and I encourage some of you to read the entire piece.