The mission of The International Review of Music (“iRoM”) is fundamental: to examine and appraise music of all genres using the highest possible critical standards.
As difficult as the creation of beauty might be, recognizing it and understanding its properties are no less problematic. To discern the extraordinary among the commonplace, to analyze the creative process itself, to boldly unmask crass commercialism in all its seductive dressings: these are tasks that challenge all contemporary reviewers of the arts. Nowhere are these tasks more challenging than in writing about music.
In an age when “everyone feels they’re a pop music critic” — to quote a critic’s remark at a recent entertainment department meeting at a major newspaper — a knowledgeable, responsible critical perspective on music might seem to be an anomaly. Loose opinions, backed by incidental and ephemeral knowledge of music, often suffice as credentials for a blog, a magazine or newspaper piece. Whole careers have been built on gossip masquerading as criticism. The democratization of the Internet has encouraged private ignorance to become public currency, while establishing illusory standards of quality.
The editors of iRoM would strike a blow against this trend. We have been musicians, composers, producers and writers. We have experienced the art of music from all sides: as players, listeners, record label executives or newspaper critics. Many of us have played with greats and hacks alike and paid our dues in the trenches. We have knowledge, objective ears and a respect for the context which is so often lacking in today’s media coverage.
Duke Ellington famously said that genres were not important, that there is simply good music and bad; we agree. And it is both a challenge and a pleasure that today’s Balkanization of musical genres complicates evaluation based upon that seemingly simple, but infinitely complex premise. Classical music reaches from transformative interpretations of the great European legacy to the boundary-breaking explorations of contemporary composers. The blues may contain a simple harmonic structure, but the degree of subtle variation in expression is infinite among blues performers. Jazz functions at a startlingly high level of technical proficiency and inventive improvisation, while reaching out to find common cause with the world’s kaleidoscope of musics. Hip-hop – which has become a mega music, style and fashion industry — may lack melodic or harmonic development (although new trends defy that easy categorization), but its emphasis on the primacy of language has given new meaning to the concept of lyrics. Rock is no less vital than it was with Elvis’ first record in 1956. World music is a bottomless treasure chest of unimagined sounds. And the stark honesty of country music has helped it to become a more widespread phenomenon than at any point in its history.
Criticism’s legitimacy and value are self-evident. At its best, it provides an insightful aesthetic perspective while performing a useful informative service. Its legacy is as notable as the music it has reviewed and examined, in commentaries reaching from George Bernard Shaw to Alex Ross, from Leonard Feather to Gary Giddins, from Lester Bangs to Jon Pareles and beyond. The International Review of Music will make every effort to honor, maintain and expand the qualities of thought and analysis established by these fine critics. We invite other, equally motivated observers to join us in continuing to make the dialogue on music provocative, illuminating and informed.
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