How many times should a reviewer listen to a CD?

I don’t know the answer. But there has been an interesting piece – and comments – on the US National Arts Journalism Program’s website, discussing the issue.

Try this:

Hearing a record once, especially at a “listening session,” or even three-four times over a few hours at home, and writing even 300 words about it is totally foreign to the way people use recorded music–at least people who aren’t just trolling MP3 sites the way people used to listen to the radio….


Categories: miscellaneous

7 replies »

  1. This is a fascinating issue, and one in which I would argue that the authors are looking from completely the wrong perspective. All the comments in the link; and comments I have seen here before, are written from the perspective of the critic.

    But as a listener my view is exactly the opposite. I don't want a critic to tell me how “good” a CD is, that is inevitably a subjective opinion. I only want three things from a critic:
    1. In case I don't know the artists, give me a clue as to the style, genre and approach.
    2. If I do know the artists tell me if this is typical or atypical, if it reflects their live gigs or not, and if its similar or different to their previous stuff.
    3. Tell me if its a “good” example of their work and of the style/genre.

    All of that can be done by a fairly quick listen – so don't beat yourself up and feel you need to devote hours to each CD – it won't help me!!

  2. Peter, I completely agree with your points…
    I am not a Jazz critic by profession, but like many, I do form opinions. I listen to Jazz live and recorded, I never expect that a recording will be like a live gig and never like to compare. Having said that I do like to listen to live recordings, as they often have good or even historical vibe to them.
    When I listen to a CD I might do this in a variety of ways, at home intently, in the car (whilst concentrating on driving) or on the ipod whilst going back and forth to work.
    In all cases they are different environments and I am in a different frame of mind and may create a different opinion based on this. How can a critic know this?
    So like you I want to know the basics of an unknown act to me or if I know of them I would like to know if they are building on past work or doing something completely different.
    I hate star ratings but if I am introduced to a new artist and I start having a conversation over the top of it, it is not doing very well in my book, if I have turned it off it is doing worse! If I am getting into the groove, telling people to be quiet it is doing well…
    If I have ferreted it away and hidden I a locked room to listen to it, it is good.
    However for it to be very good I have to want to play it till I’m sick of it, Last year examples of this were: Magic Hat Ensemble, John Law – Congregation and some old school Oscar Peterson.
    How many times should a critic listen to a new release….
    I guess is up to the critic!

  3. Surely we can't dislike a thing on first listen only for it to end up in our fave list a few listens down the line?

    It couldn't possibly be, surely?

  4. Critics should always state their credentials. Any moron can review a cd or gig nowadays and post their “opinions” online. No one will know who this person is, or what their credentials are, or bother to check, but they will read it and often be swayed by it. More fool them you say, but this sort of thing is playing fast and loose with musician's income and careers.

  5. Interesting article! I set my blog up as a diary of my listening and other music related material.

    Sometimes I write a response after one listen, but I make that clear. I hope that as my blog grows, I would like to return to especially loved albums, after repeated listens, and write reappraisals. Because there are albums that I was totally disappointed with after the first 3-4 listens, but grew on me. On the other hand, there are albums which I thought I liked after one listen, but with which I quickly grew bored.

  6. Reviewers are the unsung heroes of the music world. Many of them provide hours of their time and sharp analysis entirely for free. Jon Turney for example describes himself as 'a reflective listener' and provides a valuable perspective and promotional tool for musicians. Anyone who is prepared to truly listen to music and write an opinion should be applauded!

  7. The listener needs to understand the reviewer in much the same way as a crossword puzzle solver needs to understand the crossword setter. You listen to the CD, form some opinions or at least have some thoughts and questions then read a review and see how your ideas and the reviewers fit together.

    Do this a few times with the same reviewer and you will soon understand where they are coming from (if they are consistent). Then you will know what they mean when they use certain phrases and even have a good idea whether you may like a CD without listening to it, eg. the reviewer may hate all the CDs you like, so you know when they say it's bad that to you it's probably good. Never take the reviewers comments at face value, learn to understand the person first.

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