Monday, April 8, 2013

What is Good?

What is good? 

What does that even mean? The more that I perform and write... the less certain I am towards that term's definition. It is because it is subjective. I have played both roles: reviewer and performer. When I am critiquing Art, I attempt to provide evidence to support my viewpoints with the understanding that my definition of "good" does not necessarily correspond to anybody else's definition.

I will always have my own perspective as a performer in a concert; this cannot be accessed by a reviewer. Thus, I am always curious as to what message a reviewer will glean from a performance. Take, for example, two reviews from Pro Coro's most recent Good Friday concert (Edmonton Journal; Bill Rankin - Edmonton Arts). There were points that I agreed with and disagreed with in both reviews.

Those reviews made me reflect, in general, on the relationship between critic and performer. As much as we wish to have one without the other, that will never happen. It is not productive to channel anger towards a critical entity that will always exist. It is easy to become a victim of a bad review when negative consequences such as unwanted publicity, decreased ticket sales, and a drop in Artist morale result. Thus, it is important for readers to be smart consumers and realize that a review only reflects one opinion. Reviews should not be treated like some kind of filter of taste in order to avoid experiencing Art and forming opinions of our own. Reviews should create artistic discourse. We may choose to stage, script, or sing differently in order to evoke an intended meaning but, ultimately, we have no control over the meaning audience members will generate.

Isn't that the entire point of Art? 

Frankly, I'm interested to hear what people say whether it is positive or negative, as long as there is justification for their constructed viewpoint. It also doesn't hurt if the review comes from an informed perspective so I can at least respect their views. Any discourse is valuable whether it is positive or negative because it signals, to me, that there was enough content to evoke a response. Constructive criticism propels Art forward. If we didn't have the voice of our inner critic to self-reflect, what would motivate us? As long as there is respect for performers, there should be a freedom to express honest opinions. It is a reviewers job to critique whether or not a production was effective - whether people want to hear it or not.

I would be lying if I didn't say that, as a performer, I always want to read a good review. It is positive reinforcement and validates the hard work done by my artistic community. My next question I asked myself was:  

Why do I need somebody's opinion to justify the work that we have done? 

I don't need anybody telling me. 

We should not be afraid of criticism, nor should we protect ourselves, or those we care, from hearing it. We all must experience negative emotions as a part of our human existence. It is an impossible goal to protect people from pain. Performers have the power to choose what criticism to take and what to toss. There will always be differing opinions. Thank goodness, because I wouldn't want perform anymore if Art didn't challenge audiences to form an opinion.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I wasn't too bugged by it. The tone of the article wasn't kind, but evoking an emotion is part of journalism.

As far as actual talking points, he had 2 - he found the Togni repetitive, and thought that mixing the instruments took clarity out of the choir.

For the first - meh - I think the piece was creative and this one is pretty subjective. I'll take that as it stands, some people don't like some music.

For the second - it just might be true, and this is one way we find out. Seems worth saying either way, and I don't think there's any shame in saying "We tried it, sound wasn't clear, but it was a cool idea", or else deign to work on clarity of sound if we try something like that again.

Either way, I find this type of criticism pretty easy to swallow.