Guidelines for music critics of The Hindu

The following guidelines have been drawn up for music critics of The Hindu. They have been adopted in consultation with critics and continuously revised

1. We expect our music critics to aim for a balance between writing expertly on the subject — and being accessible, without of course talking down to the reader. We do not expect all readers of the newspaper to be interested in the classical music reviews and articles. Critics, however, need to be aware that they are writing for a large, not an elite, readership.

2. Critics are likely to have their preferences with reference to particular banis or styles. But we expect our critics to avoid pre-emptive judgment of concert performances based on these preferences, which in some cases may even turn out to be highly subjective prejudices. We request our critics to assess the musician’s performance on the basis of the intrinsic merit of his or her concert, without in any way compromising independent critical judgment.

3. When a raga or song is praised, discerning readers expect the critic to indicate the basis of his or her assessment. Merely saying it was ‘excellent’ or ‘not up to the mark’ does not convey anything significant.

4. When a review is written, it is best to indicate the yardstick for such a review. Benchmarking might be difficult in a creative field like music but a deft reference may be made indicating the performance standards the critic has in mind. This will help readers and musicians to see for themselves the reason behind the criticism or praise — voice, depth of interpretation, clarity of words of songs, aesthetic touches (or a lack in this respect), programming, including song selection, and sense of proportion in allotting time to alapanas, neraval and swaras. If core classical values are referred to in concert reviews or articles, it is best to specify them, instead of letting readers and even musicians guess what the critic has in mind. If in a concert, an accompanist offered better quality fare than the main artiste, he or she must not get just a casual mention. The contribution of accompanists should also be highlighted — both the good and the negative aspects.

5. These days, it is not unusual for popular musicians to give 20 to 25 concerts during the Chennai music season. All these concerts cannot be expected to be of uniform and unvarying high quality. Empathetic critics will note the strain on voices, physical and mental tiredness, and other factors. Of course, if the quantity dilutes or seriously harms the quality and critical standards are not met, this must be pointed out without fear or favour. All good critics know that popularity is no guarantee of high quality performance.

6. Since hundreds of concerts take place during the December-January music season, critics need to keep in mind the newspaper’s space constraints as well as deadline requirements. New space has been opened up (from December-January 2005) by Music Season, the special supplements in tabloid format published during the main music season. Our critics and feature writers, along with the editorial desk and designers, are behind the success of this new seasonal offering. We must work together to improve the content and presentation and for this new ideas are needed. We, and the readers, expect reviews to be crisp and well written — a pleasure to read aside from educative. All good critics know that concentration during a concert helps form an overall impression of the performance. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by friends, acquaintances, or other factors.

7. Reviews must not exceed 500 words. While critical independence and stylistic distinctiveness will be respected in the editing process, the editing and publication of reviews are left to The Hindu’s editorial discretion. So also the publication of photographs.

8. Everyone knows that experience, or a lack of it, makes a difference to a music performance. Therefore this factor may be kept in mind while adjudging concerts by young musicians as well as seniors. How much weight to give to the experience or inexperience factor is up to the critic; we are just calling attention to the experience factor. Inexperience cannot be allowed as an excuse for poor music. Nor do we expect experienced musicians to sing well all the time. Critics will be doing a service to music by taking note of the potential and promise of young musicians and being constructive (which does not mean being uncritical). Of course, if the performance is poor, the critic is expected to bring this out truthfully. At the other end, a performer’s youth must not be a ground for indiscriminate praise in the name of encouraging a new generation of musicians. Critics are expected to assume some responsibility to the tradition — by promoting healthy musical trends and discouraging regressive or unhealthy trends.

9. Good critics tend to avoid sweeping generalisations and judgments.

10. Finally, the critic is an individual expert rasika, and writer on music. We know that many musicians and sabhas are extremely thin-skinned. They are not used to the robust and, at times, fierce criticism musicians in western countries get all the time (whether they like it or not). Our musicians and sabhas want only favourable reviews but that is decidedly not The Hindu’s expectation. We choose our critics and respect their musical knowledge, their integrity, their independence of judgment, and their writing style. It is your review and we know a subjective element forms part of this. It does not matter if you are alone in your musical judgment — as long as you make clear to readers the basis of this judgment, write insightfully, fairly, and interestingly, and comply with our deadline and word length requirements.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:51:28 PM |

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