Music criticism workshop summary

The participants of the workshops accompanying the International Stanisław Moniuszko Competition of Polish Music in Rzeszów formed a vivid and diverse group, united under the banner of music. They all came from different backgrounds: some were students, others had already graduated, and one was a doctoral student of the Academy of Music in Cracow. Almost half of them were musicology students/alumni, and the majority also had some musical education background, having played different instruments (piano, violin, organ, guitar); one participant, however, picked up musicology as a student of Romance studies.

The above facts and figures, handpicked from the participants? resumes, demonstrate their passion for and knowledge of music. It goes without saying that knowledge is a prerequisite for becoming a competent reviewer or critic, but it is by no means a guarantee of professional success in the field. Admittedly, music is an art that lends itself to objective analysis, for example that of the formal aspects of a musical piece. And yet, music is also experienced since it appeals to our emotions, feelings, sensations, which are always subjective. In both cases, one needs the verbal capacity to express one?s thoughts and reflections.

It was precisely the way in which words are used that was at the heart of the workshop I conducted with the aspiring music critics in Rzeszów. Appreciative of their knowledge, I tried to help them formulate what they wanted to convey about music, so that they understood that every text, written or spoken, is a complex form, much like a piece of music. One must be able to convey one?s reflections at the fundamental level of sentences that refer to the successive fragments, movements of a work, concerto, or performance. At the same time, these individual sentences must yield a lucid whole, one going beyond a mere collection of loose thoughts and taking what one seeks to convey to a higher plane of general reflection. As is the case in music, such a whole must attain a clear and coherent form.

The above abilities are not sufficiently taught at universities, which are more geared towards sparking scholarly passions. The reviewer?s skillset is primarily acquired through practice, which is why workshops such as the one in Rzeszów prove extremely useful.

Jacek Marczyński