I have read with interest, and with a bit of frustration, all of the back and forth this past year about jazz critics, their role, their musical skills, and their role; and jazz players and their views on critics. Very little tended to be said about the listener in these discussions -- once in a while I saw something or wrote a comment, but for the most part I believe the discussion leaves out the role of the listener.
Today I was scrolling around and found some interesting views expressed by artists and critics in the Boston Jazz Blog. I want to present three quotes from artists that I believe express my point of view:
- From Terri Lynn Carrington -- "It is sometimes hard to accept criticism from someone that really does not know all that goes into this kind of mastery. On the other hand, there is something refreshing about hearing what people think or feel about any given music without knowing anything technical about it because we are communicating on many levels and to touch OR offend someone without them knowing exactly what it is we are doing is quite powerful… "
- From Dave Liebman -- "To be fair, shedding light on how an interested, experienced, non-musician listener reacts to one’s art can be of definite value. I tell students to put themselves in the audience (what theater people call the fourth wall) when they present something…meaning how is what you played perceived “out there?"
- From Nicholas Payton -- "Art is not to be analyzed, it is to be appreciated, and the moment one is listening with a critical ear, you have missed the whole point- to enjoy the experience."
Without debating Payton's larger commentary re critics, I take comfort in his quote, as it really sums up my feeling: buy a disk or go to a show, let the music wash over you, and then decide for yourself -- did YOU like it, did it move YOU? And if not, chalk it up to experience and move on. Try things, experience music outside your comfort zone if you can, get a feel for the full breadth of what is out there, and listen to the art, the effort, and the incredible creativity of the artist. In sports, it is often said that even the worst player on the worst team is still miles ahead of the rest of us, and I believe it is likewise in music, so be respectful of the work that went into the effort even if it is not your cup of tea.