[I couldn't resist the temptation for the subject line, but in fact I
understand - and somewhat agree with - the article. To maintain "fresh
ears" requires effort.]
From Terry Teachout's Saturday Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column:
Is it possible for a critic to know too much? Not a chance.
The unhappy truth is that it's far more common for us not to
know nearly enough about the art forms we review. (If you doubt
it, ask any artist.) But I've also discovered that the accumulation
of knowledge can inhibit our ability to appreciate an artistic
experience. I know middle-aged opera buffs who never seem to
enjoy the performances they attend. Whenever they go to "La
Traviata," they always end up spending the whole intermission
grousing about how the soprano wasn't as good as some half-forgotten
diva they heard in Milan 37 years ago. They've lost the knack
of enjoying the performances they're seeing-not to mention the
piercing beauty of the music they're hearing..
The more you learn about an art form, the harder it becomes to
enjoy it in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. The literary
critic R.P. Blackmur had this phenomenon in mind when he observed
that "knowledge itself is a fall from the paradise of undifferentiated
sensation." Go to "Swan Lake" for the first time and you'll be
blown away by the flood of gorgeous new sights and sounds that
spills over you. Go 20 times and you're more likely to notice
that the orchestra played out of tune and the ballerina did 31
fouettes instead of 32.
That's not snobbishness. It's connoisseurship, and it's a good
thing-unless it gets between you and the immediate experience
of art. Gratuitous pickiness is a soul-killing trap against
which the critic must always be on guard..
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