Q: Who are you guys?

A: Empiricus is a dead philosopher who suspends judgments about most beliefs. He enjoys watching people flip coins. He also enjoys Diet-Coke, because they said to.*

Sator Arepo is an 8 year-old chess master from Talinn, Estonia. He enjoys Byzantine archeology, serial music, and suede.*

Gustav, our newest contributor, is a very tiny, very angry robot and retro-funk DJ.* He enjoys 80s TV themes and hopeless National League baseball teams.

*May not be true.

Actually, we are three young-ish academic musicians and/or graduate students who think that today's level of criticism and discourse about music is outlandishly poor. Modernism, after all this time, is still largely derided and misunderstood. Concert reviews are all-too-often dominated by fluffy, vague descriptions of music that could apply to anything. The lack of coverage of "classical" (or "serious", even worse) music in the mainstream press has fallen so far as to be dead.

While snarky, our critiques of criticism, theory, and music are intended to take to task these shortcomings. We hope our work is amusing, insightful, and amusing. Also, we like alliteration and excessive punctuation.

But seriously, to a greater or lesser extent, critics shape public opinion of music. We at the Detritus would argue that, contrary to notions that contemporary “classical” music is not accessible to today’s audiences, “classical” music is chock full of easily graspable ideas and beauty. However, when critics ignorantly deride music they, themselves, do not understand, they are effectively cutting their readership off from potentially enjoying certain music. And, after all, as “classical” musicians, the audience is our livelihood. By criticizing the critics we demonstrate that one who writes about music in a public forum or daily must, at the very least, maintain a high level of journalistic, and sometimes academic, integrity, regardless of her/his personal tastes.

We are not necessarily suggesting a corrective at this time (except to hire better-educated critics). We understand the time, space, and financial limitations afforded to music writers. Sometimes, though, critiquing the critics is important.

This is an experiment; your comments and suggestions are most welcome. As well as any links to your blog, home page, or hilarious articles you might think we would enjoy.

Two new things, frequently asked.

1) A note on copyright.

We support copyright law (as artists) as necessary to the artist's living. We do feel, however, that what we do here falls under the rubric of Fair Use. Our intent is not to profit in any way from our meta-criticism. If you think there is a legal problem with any of our posts, please contact us. That said, we think it's pretty clear that our project easily fits into the Fair Use laws (especially as pertaining to parody).

2) A word on anonymity.

Recently, we've taken a little flak for remaining under noms de blog. This is a fair criticism. We have had long discussions about the ethics of anonymity. However, we believe that the blogosphere is, by nature, a faceless forum for all to voice their opinions--this is its virtue. In that spirit, our criticisms and snark exist for one purpose: to incite thought and dialogue. The purpose, in our opinion, does not require real names. Therefore, we opt to remain anonymous. Our opinions on this matter may change, however. But...

We understand that some of what we do is inflammatory, although, we hope, in the service of our stated purpose. This is why we are easily contactable and whole-heartedly committed to dialogue.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: Somebody had to, and no one seemed like they were going to, so we did it. Also, grad school is insanely tedious.

Q: What kind of music do you like?

A: Broadly speaking, we like good music, in any genre.

Q: Why, then, do you focus on “classical” music?

A: Simple. We’re “classical” musicians.

Q: Why is “classical” always in quotation marks?

A: “Classical” is really a misnomer. It may refer to the artistic period (roughly 1740-1810 or so); it may refer to Western art music; it may refer to the stuff before Schoenberg. So who knows? Sometimes, the use of “classical” is negatively charged to mean “stuffy,” “old-fashioned,” “elitist,” etc. By subjugating the term with quotation marks, we thereby acknowledge the ambiguity of its definition. There are other terms out there, for which one could easily make a supportive case, “which” we may or “may not” surround by “.” So, in short, to save time explaining this every time it happens, here it is in the FAQs.

Q: Can I leave a comment?

A: Of course you can. Just be relatively civil. Your comments are very, very important to us. This blog has a dual purpose: 1) To draw attention to and make fun of bad music writing, reviewing, etc. and 2) to foster interaction between the musical community, as well as anyone with an interest in the kind of stuff we do. That said, your comments, questions and links are very much appreciated. We are always looking for new materials, feedback and criticism of our work! We really can't emphasize enough how much we value your input.

Q: How do I make a Sazerac cocktail?

A: Ingredients:

Sazerac Rye Whiskey, or other comparable high-quality rye
Pernod pastis liqueur
Simple syrup (boil 1 part water and one part sugar, let cool)
Peychaud's orange bitters

Rinse out a rocks glass with Pernod. (You can pour it back in the bottle or drink it, whatever.) Put 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) simple syrup and 3-5 dashes of bitters in the glass and muddle them. Fill the glass with ice, add rye. If the drink is too strong, you may add a little water to dilute it; however, I recommend you just let the ice melt a little. Delicious and old-timey!

Q: What's with the Composer of the Day?

A: Well, it's a knock-off from AlterDensity's "Historical Image of the Day" (there's a link to it in our Blog Roll). By doing this, we intend to promote composers and their music (it's entirely unsolicited; so there is no real bias in who we choose), while providing slight relief from the general snark. Additionally, if you're unfamiliar with a particular composer, it's a great place to become acquainted with him/her. We provide links to their work and webpages. Also, the pictures are fun to look at!

Q: Anything else, for now?

A: Go Red Sox!


Anonymous said...

So how DO I email you? I can't seem to find it on the website. Saw you caught the 8 instead of 10. (ROCO person here). Our next concert is May 3rd!

Joshua Kosman said...

few other arts suffer so much from negative public perception than “classical” music.

Let's rethink the grammar there, shall we?


This blog has a duel purpose

could scarcely be more precise, based on available evidence.

Empiricus said...


At the moment (this is new and has bugs), apparently you can only email me (empiricus). Just go to the contributors part on the right-hand side and click on me. There should be a "contact me" link that contains my email address. There you are. Please, please email me/us (the news will quickly get to Sator Arepo, too). Also, I will force Arepo to make his/her email public, too.

Empiricus said...


Hyperbole, hyperbole, hyperbo-public. Catch us when you can! Please. Especially, when we say duel, as opposed to dual, which we don't mean to do.

I wish we had editors. (sigh)

Love you (for the most part), but no free passes,


Sator Arepo said...

Fixed a few things in the FAQs, spelling errors and the like. My email is now publicly available.

Thanks for reading!

S. Arepo

Anonymous said...

Having just discovered your blog (via Lisa Hirsch), I am laughing too uncontrollably to be able to type a comment to you about how great these posts are.

Oh well. Sorry. Maybe I'll manage to tell you another time.