Survey Looks at Demographics, Tastes, and Ethics of Classical-Music Critics

Classic Arts News   Survey Looks at Demographics, Tastes, and Ethics of Classical-Music Critics
A survey about classical-music critics released in May by the National Arts Journalism Program found that a majority of the critics are white males in their early fifties.

The survey, which was co-sponsored by the Music Critics Association of North America, took place between May and August of 2004, and 181 North American critics participated in it.

Topics covered by the survey included the critics' demographics, their work situations, their approaches to criticism, their beliefs about the purpose of their work, their influences, their tastes, and their ethics.

More critics work as freelancers than not; 49 percent identify themselves as freelancers, and 47 percent hold full-time staff positions.

The survey found that more than 90 percent of critics feel that "it is [their] job to educate the public about classical music and why it matters." The topics they most enjoy writing about are orchestral music, standard repertoire opera, and chamber music; their least-favorite topics are pops and outdoor concerts, crossover music, and jazz.

Only 20 percent of reviews focus on works by living composers. One section of the survey found the critics relatively unfamiliar with many contemporary composers—too much so to rank their opinion of the composers' work.

Opinions of contemporary music vary; more than half the critics surveyed felt that composers were not "breaking genuinely new ground these days," although four out of five felt that "we can be proud of the new classical works that we have created in Canada and the U.S. over the past 25 years."

Younger critics—those 46 and younger—are more likely to be open to contemporary composers.

The critics' top five favorite historical composers are Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms; their top five contemporary compsoers are John Adams, Arvo P‹rt, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ned Rorem, and John Corigliano.

The full survey can be downloaded from

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