Critic Is Large; Contains Multitudes, or "Masters Are Masterful"

Exploring Bartok's Legacy With Plenty of Energy
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 11/1/2011

Let's leave aside (by which I mean: let's don't) that the title editor made the random choice to capitalize one of the prepositions and not the other. In virtually every style format exactly zero percent of prepositions in titles should be thusly treated, but maybe it's some new quirk in Chicago 16 of which I'm not yet aware; because, hey: if you didn't change a bunch of shit, why would you need to issue a new edition? It's not like every editor in the world is basically required to buy one every time you...oh, right.

Figure 1: The University of Chicago, publisher of the aforementioned eponymous ubiquitous style guide. So that's how they fund their insanely wacky devastatingly influential school of economics.

Master is a term applied too loosely in classical music.

This is, unedited [by me: ed.] and verbatim, the opening sentence in this review; no words have been manipulated to make it appear more prominent than it is.

To declare someone a master makes it sound as if an artist had reached some benchmark of skill and insight, and every performance said master gave would automatically be masterly.

I'm not sure that "mastery" necessarily equates to "consistency," but, yes, that word is thrown around pretty casually.

In fact great musicians work constantly and continually challenge themselves.

Wow. Good thing I read the New York Times, because I just popped into existence about 45 seconds ago and thought that great musicians were, generally, incompetent but insanely fucking lucky.

But: fine. Overused designator. Too-oft typed moniker.

Maybe the definition of a master is elusive.

Wow; that's award-winning stuff right there. You think you can find insights like that in the Post?

Figure 2: The Post, winner of the "Miss Congeniality" award in the 2010 Best Partisan Rag Pageant.

But somehow you know one when you hear one, as was clear on Monday night when the pianist Andras Schiff played a recital before a full house of rapt listeners at Carnegie Hall.

Really? Let me get this straight, paraphrase-style:*

"Man, people sure throw "master" around a lot; it's vague to begin with and overuse just makes it kind of meaningless and trite. But man! You should've seen this concert! Dude was a master."

Know what? I got your master right here. Self-proclaimed is the way to go, unless you're going to wait for the Times to come around and, finally, declare you to be such.

Figure 3: True mastery is characterized by subtlety.

Become the ruling body.

*We are aware of all internet traditions.


Danny said...

I feel like "consistent" and "continually and constantly challenge themselves" are mutually exclusive, unless the challenges are all really easy.

Sator Arepo said...

I think what he was arguing against, Danny, was the idea that once you attain a certain level you're "done" and have "mastered" (in the true past participular sense, like "completed") the "task" of...being really good? I dunno. The frustrating thing is that AT is actually a scholar, and these little let-me-set-up-a-pathetic-straw-man-for-myself constructions are goddamn lame.

Also, good to see you.

Charles T. Downey said...

Come back from retirement -- Norman Lebrecht has stolen your schtick!


Sator Arepo said...

Huh, yeah; that's going to require...some...kind of...response?

Thanks, CTD.

young composers said...

I agree with Sator Arepo,the pictures and specially the information on Figure 2 is useful because it contains all of the obsessions which i was in look for!


Classical Music

Simon said...

Hey guys,

Love your work, and looking forward to new posts. Should I interpret the recent inactivity as a hiatus or a retirement?

Sator Arepo said...

Interpretation resides in the reader, or, at best, somewhere between writer and reader.

However, having said that, we're all just busy...but we haven't shut it down just yet.


Oliver Messy-Anne said...

Hello! I've just discovered this little treasury of snark and it has provided much merriment over the past few days. The somewhat florid nature of some of your target material lead me to believe that you might enjoy the work of Kai Christiansen (http://www.earsense.org/blog/?p=75). Strictly speaking they aren't reviews but program notes, but given the literary brilliance found within, that shouldn't present too much of an issue.

Hope to see new posts sometime soon!

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