DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Issues: How do you describe music to people who may have no idea what you're talking about?

By John Terauds on March 14, 2013

cartoon

I had a shock of recognition as I read British music critic Jessica Duchen’s post today on U.K. site CultureKicks on the difficulties of writing or speaking about music if your audience doesn’t know the basics.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Duchen writes about the self-censorship of the critic who wonders whether it might sound pompous to use “crescendo” in a review.

It made me think of all the times I’ve stared at my computer keyboard while writing a review for the Star. Do I use the correct plural for tempo, or do I leave it colloquial? If I write about a cadence, will the reader confuse it with rhythm or tempo? Is there any point in mentioning a transition from major to minor?

How many musical terms is an average reader familiar with? Anyone who has seen even one episode of American Idol has heard the term “pitchy,” and I’ve even started hearing it used in (pop) musical circles. So if I write flat or sharp instead of pitchy, or describe problems with intonation, does this make me sound like a snob, or, worse yet, incomprehensible?

Duchen writes:

Perhaps due to the near-abolition of music lessons in school during the 1980s, a lack of discourse in the media, or the lingering misery of compulsory Grade V Theory exams for those of us who were musical kids, traditional musical vocabulary is vanishing from all but the most academic publications. Even Howard Goodall’s The Story of Music on BBC TV found the doughty presenter having to explain something as basic as an octave. This really is equivalent to identifying the letters of the musical alphabet. One term we do need to lose is ‘dumbing down’ – because the truth is closer to ‘de-skilling’.

She suggests we need a new language to describe music. But that’s a lot like reinventing the wheel.

But for anyone who has to communicate about music, it is a very important issue.

You can read the full post here.

John Terauds

 

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | Tafelmusik Crowns Its Fall With Lively Marriage Of Instruments And Voices

By John Terauds on November 30, 2017

Royal occasions demand extra from everyone and everything, including the music, and Tafelmusik is pulling out its finest in a concert featuring both the orchestra and Tafelmusik Chamber Choir this week.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

SCRUTINY | Soundstreams Electric Messiah With Beats Becomes A Tradition

By Hye Won Cecilia Lee on December 5, 2017

Sans church pews and reverence, Soundstreams third annual Electric Messiah continues to guide an old tradition with new ideas.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

SCRUTINY | Mezzo-Soprano Simone McIntosh Stays True To Her Growing Reputation

By Joseph So on December 6, 2017

Mezzo Simone McIntosh gave a scintillating recital of songs by Edvard Grieg, Francis Poulenc, Alban Berg, and Frank Bridge at Wirth Vocal Prize showcase.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.