A young composer gave me a CD recording of his music. After a few weeks he asked me for my comments on it. I refused, saying, “I don’t make comments on people’s music”. He was nonplussed. I suppose it seemed to him only normal that I would have a reaction, and then wish to share it. Fair enough. But I didn’t. There are reasons for that.
The first reason is that when giving criticism, you are adopting a certain stance towards a person. You are making them the centre of attention. So even before the talk starts, something has started. Maybe you don’t really want to put yourself, or them, in that position.
The second reason is the quality of the talk itself. As soon as you say “you are that”, the composer or the performer replies “no I am not that”. Or if you say “your piece is that” then comes the reply “no it is not that”. Pretty soon you can be in a tug of war, if you’re not careful. So I have learned to avoid making statements like “your piece reminds me of Stravinsky” because the reply will come back “well actually I never think about Stravinsky, he doesn’t interest me – in fact I identify far more with Bartók”. By this time (if you are me) you are angry. You have just heard an entire page of Agon more or less directly quoted in this guy’s score. So now you are ready to kick him in the nuts, not because he stole something (who doesn’t?), but because he is a bullshit artist.
The third reason for not getting involved in commentary is that you’ve wasted half an hour of your life on this guy and he’s not going to pay you for that time.
Meanwhile, if he had any respect for you, he is rapidly losing it, because you have shown that you take him seriously by entering into a dialogue. He doesn’t take himself seriously. He’s a bit like Groucho Marx [“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”]. That’s the fourth reason.
There are other reasons. Sort them out for yourselves.