Music journalism  

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"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture".

This page Music journalism is part of the music series.Illustration: Sheet music to "Buffalo Gals" (c. 1840), a traditional song.
This page Music journalism is part of the music series.
Illustration: Sheet music to "Buffalo Gals" (c. 1840), a traditional song.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Music journalism is criticism and reportage about music. It began in the eighteenth century as comment on what is now thought of as 'classical music'. This aspect of music journalism, today generally classified as music criticism, comprises the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of music and its performance. Modern music criticism is often informed by music theory consideration of the many diverse elements of a musical piece or performance, including (as regards a musical composition) its form and style, and as regards performance, standards of technique and expression. It was expressed, for example, in journals such as Neue Zeitschrift für Musik founded by Robert Schumann, and is continued today in the columns of serious newspapers and journals such as the Musical Times. Today a major branch of music journalism is an aspect of entertainment journalism — covering popular music and including profiles of singers and bands and album reviews. Magazines featuring such journalism include Rolling Stone, Creem, Urb, College Music Journal, New Musical Express and The Source. See also music critic.


The English composer Charles Avison (1709-1770) has the distinction of writing the first work on musical criticism in the English language. It was an Essay on Musical Expression published in 1752. In it Avison criticized the music of one of his contemporaries, George Frideric Handel.

Before about the 1840s, reporting on music was either done by musical journals, such as Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (published by Breitkopf & Hartel), and then by Rieter-Biederman (from 1798–1882), or the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (founded by Robert Schumann), and in London such journals as the Musical Times (founded in 1844 as the Musical Times and Singing-class Circular); or else by reporters at general newspapers where music did not form part of the central objectives of the publication.

Several changes — possibly education, the Romantic movement generally and in music, popularization (including what some referred to as Lisztomania), among others — led to an increasing interest in music among the general papers, and an increase in the number of critics by profession, and of varying degrees of competence and integrity, of course. The situation here was distinguished from that before the 1840s, in that the critics now — on the whole — were not also musicians; and so this could be considered a turning‐point of a kind.)

One source for the claim that music criticism underwent a fundamental change in the 1840s–50s, is a letter by Liszt, and admittedly, given the time and the context — the beginnings of the War of the Romantics — the contrast he describes may be produced by nostalgia for a time when artists critiqued artists (his own ideal, as his writings are interpreted by Alan Walker).

Popular music journalism

Popular music journalists can be either staff writers or more frequently, freelance writers. The work includes single, album, DVD or concert reviews, interviews/profiles, equipment reviews (e.g. guitars, amplifiers, microphones) and features. A record label or musician’s promoters will often send free recordings, DVDs and press releases to a magazine or freelance writer seeking to arrange reviews or interviews with the artist. Announcements of future expected recordings might be made available by some recording companies along with PR releases. The job of music journalist is typically low-paying, and for this reason many music journalists hold other part or full time jobs. Where criticism of classical or art music usually deals with the music itself (drawing on the analyses to be found in such journals as Musical Times), that dealing with popular music is overwhelmingly to do with performers, with some attention given to songwriters, producers and other individuals in the music business. There is a far greater emphasis on the appearance (clothing, hair style, life-style choices) of performers than has been the case in music journalism dealing with classical music performers, but the influence of pop-music journalism can increasingly be observed in the treatment afforded individuals such as Nigel Kennedy. Magazines featuring such journalism include Rolling Stone, Creem, URB, College Music Journal, New Musical Express and The Source.

See also

music critic, rock criticism

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Music journalism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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