No Takedowns

The choral world was abuzz yesterday with links and discussion of a takedown review of our most famous living composer.

Sorry, I’m not linking to it.

I have enjoyed good hatchet jobs before – it’s a very particular and virtuosic form with a long history, stretching back to include things like Dorothy Parker’s hilarious takedown of The House At Pooh Corner and further back to George Eliot in the 1850s. The recent takedown of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in the New York Times left me with my jaw on the floor.

But for the takedown to work, it’s got to do one thing I can no longer stomach. To go all in, you have to dismiss the humanity behind whatever you’re taking down. The composer’s takedown, like all in the genre, goes beyond unbiased review to viciously ridicule the composer. Search for the Fieri piece and the words describing it include vicious, blistering, scathing, and brutal.

I am not one of this composer’s many super-fans; I like some of his music, and can take or leave some of it. But any thoughts I share in public will respect his underlying humanness.

At home I might criticize a work of art, but I promise I’ll never write something that doesn’t bear in mind the people behind the art, and their inherent worth. As a rule, I’d rather write only about art that moves me, and leave the rest in silence.