Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sticky Situations

I’m a critic, right?  It has been suggested to me (in various mocking tones) that my hyper-critical nature makes me well suited to this kind of job.   In many ways I agree although some of the less complimentary versions of hypercritical may not be my favorite adjectives.  I can criticize anything, if pushed.

But how do you criticize something that isn’t meant to be performed?

I went to go see Sidi Goma, who played the last night of Toronto’s Small World Music festival.  This is a group of black Muslims from India, and their show presented both their religious and celebratory music.  

And now I come to the problem – how do I write a review of this?

I could just talk about the show in general terms, but that’s an article, not a review.  I could try and take the music out of context – but the context is kind of the point, here.  I could try and put it entirely in context, but it isn’t being performed on a holy day in a temple – it’s being presented to an audience from a stage.  Or I could try and do both, but the contradictions are making my head hurt.  

So what can I do?  

If I don’t make a value judgement, I am being both safe and patronizing – not giving this concert the same critical attention that I would a symphony.  

And why don’t I just write up some nice short thing about community and happiness and how great the concept is?  Because I was bored, for grand swaths of it.  An hour of droning in a language I don’t understand from a culture that is completely unfamiliar to me can get old.   So I can’t give a completely positive review to something I didn’t entirely like, but I have to make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of the fact that it IS a good thing, I DO think it’s important, and they DID do a good job, even if I was dozing at times.

It’s a sticky place to be.

1 comment:

lily said...

This is the hardest thing that you will face as a critic but I have to say, knowing you, anything that you write will be coming from a wise place. So I wouldn't worry. Because you are a kick ass writer and I never get over it. You may be the enemy but I'm oh-so-glad that you're my friend.