Not So Clever Blogs

Do you find reading about classical music like wading through flowery bullshit? Click here anyway, and let ANTHONY FRIEND guide you to the blogs that use the power of the internet to make classical music criticism interesting for everyone.

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Getting interested in classical music is an intimidating prospect. The writing is either extremely technical or a load of flowery bullshit, whilst the majority of music journalists do not seem able to form intelligent opinions about music and performance. The result is that music is either not considered worthy of serious intellectual study or it is considered to be the exact opposite: too intellectual, too difficult; too esoteric.

The best writers on music today seem to be aware of this. They are frustrated that their friends will happily go to the theatre, an art gallery or read difficult literature, but would never go to a classical music concert. Shakespeare, but no Bach; Kandinsky, but no Stravinsky. In an attempt to reach out, some excellent writers have turned to the internet as an outlet. The blog, with its ability to host audio, video and photographs, is easily digestible for those like me who enjoy shorter articles. Happily, there are some great ones on the subject of classical music which are receiving pretty astounding numbers of hits. Here are some recommendations.

My favourite is Alex Ross’s blog, The Rest Is Noise. He is music critic for the New Yorker (a publication which puts all others to shame where arts criticism is concerned) and his first book ‘The Rest is Noise’ was a Pulitzer finalist and has earned the praise of non-musicians such as Tom Stoppard. His blog began as an online supplement to his book, but became an informal milieu of what is going on in music both internationally and in his home city, New York. He updates it regularly, and it is well worth keeping up with.

Next: ‘Boulezian.’ It is admittedly rather dense at times, but contains discussion of recordings (often in the form of embedded Youtube videos) and in-depth, eloquent concert reviews. It is written by Mark Berry, a former History student at Cambridge, and now lecturer in music at Royal Holloway.

If you’re interested in what it’s like being an internationally renowned and slightly insane British/Australian concert pianist Stephen Hough’s blog on the Telegraph’s website may be of interest. His ‘daytime interests include theology, art, hats, puddings… and writing about them.’ Hmm. Up-and-coming American pianist Jonathan Biss also hosts a blog on his website

Stephen Hough is kinda scary.

John Adams, one of the world’s most popular living composers. He is creator of the controversial opera ‘Nixon in China,’ and the popular piece ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’ and writes entertainingly and creatively on his blog. His posts often take the form of dialogues, featuring (presumably) fictional characters such as his talentless hick of a neighbour, who is somewhat puzzlingly named ‘Marcel Proost.’

Finally, for those who want to know what being an orchestral musician is like, the London Symphony Orchestra’s Tour Blog, written by flautist Gareth Davies, is fantastic. It gives a lively account of life in one of the world’s best orchestras, which happens to also be one of the busiest in terms of their touring, recording and concert schedules, so you get a touring musician’s perspective on places as wide-ranging as Hong Kong, Mumbai and, er, Brussels.

Please post other recommendations in the comments section below.