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Classwork and assignments
This schedule might change, depending on how long some of our discussions take. Assignments might change, too. You’ll find links here to all reading assignments, and also to the optional listening, which (like the reading) you’ll be able to do online. I’ll e-mail all updates, including links to any assignments that change.
All assignments should be done by the date they’re listed under. We’ll be discussing them in class.
Introduction to this course. What do we think about music criticism and music critics? (class discussion)
More discussion of music criticism. How critics do their work.
Classical reviews, from the Wall Street Journal:
You’ll see that I added a long postlude when I put this review on the web. You don’t have to read this extra part unless you want to.
One pop review, from the late ‘80s, when I was chief pop music critic for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner:
“Vintage Talent’s Pop Wine: Rocking Chair’s Got ‘Re, James B” (about Aretha Franklin)
One of my reviews from the early ‘80s, when I was a columnist for the Village Voice, specializing in new music:
Ways to write about music
Jack Kerouac goes wild about jazz in his novel On the Road (the Beat Generation classic from the 1950s)
Two music reviews by Tom Johnson, my predecessor as new music columnist at the Village Voice:
optional listening: Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, which Tom writes about in this review
Rock critic and literary figure Greil Marcus goes into the heart of an early Van Morrison song, “Mystic Eyes.” (The song comes from the first album of Morrison’s first band, Them. Greil’s take on it comes from his book, When That Rough God Goes Riding, about Van Morrison)
George Bernard Shaw’s music reviews (written in London in the 1890s)
Reading assignment. Please compare these two reviews. How are they different? How are they similar?
Anthony Tommasini, “A Tale of Sex and Disdain in Wharton’s Berkshires” (from the New York Times, September 2, 1999)
no class -- Greg in San Antonio, adopting a baby
October 26 (class held by email)
More on Shaw
Five Shaw reviews:
“Municipal Bands and Opera Tricks” (excerpt)
“A Sentimental Voluptuary” (an attack on Brahms)
Virgil Thomson’s music reviews (written for the New York Herald-Tribune in the 1940s and ‘50s)
two reviews of a Jascha Heifetz concert in 1940, written by Thomson and by Olin Downes of the New York Times. Please compare them. How are they different?
Two more Thomson reviews:
“Schuman’s Undertow” (about William Schuman)
“Gloomy Masterpiece” (about Berg’s Violin Concerto)
read my outline of how to write a music review.
Discussion of how to write a music review
First paper due. Please write a two-page review of some music I’ll put online.
Please e-mail this and all other assignments to me. I don’t happily accept late assignments. If you’re going to be late with your work, you absolutely must let me know in advance, and arrange another due date
More on Thomson
Four Thomson reviews, of four pianists. I think the reviews are very different from each other. But I think they also have some things in common. What’s your view?
“Master of Distortion and Exaggeration” (about Vladimir Horowitz)
“Equalized Expressivity” (about Artur Schnabel)
“Dramatizing the Structure” (about Clifford Curzon)
No assignment. We’ll listen to Elvis’s very first record, and find ways to talk about it.
November 23 no class; Thanksgiving week
From Nick Hornby’s Songbook:
optional: listen to the song
From The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll:
Ellen Willis, “Janis Joplin”
optional listening: three Janis Joplin songs:
“Ball and Chain” (live)
Second paper due. Please write two or three pages about a concert you’ve gone to.
an essay on Charlie Parker (an excerpt from Crouch’s review of Bird, the Clint Eastwood film about Parker)
optional listening: Charlie Parker, “Koko”
Final discussion. Take-home exam due.
December 21 – no class; many of us will be gone for the holidays