Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

UR Doing It Wrong

July 13, 2011


This week, the Los Angeles Times’ “Culture Monster” “blog” waded into commentary about Twitter by naming 25 folks interested readers might want to follow in various areas of the fine arts - Art, Architecture, Classical Music, Theater, Dance, and Jazz. The list reads something like the nominees for the Grammy Awards, a few contenders with legitimate merit mixed in with name checking acknowledgement of popular best sellers and familiar faces. Of course, the LAT has not been known for its savoir-faire in the realm of social media. But rather than parse the dos and don’ts of this particular list of Twitter picks, what caught my eye most was the list of contributors to the selections at the bottom of the article.
-- Marcia Adair, with David Ng, Charles McNulty, Christopher Knight, Christopher Hawthorne and Chris Barton.
Notice anything? That’s right. The LAT solicited input from all of its major critics in the various mentioned fields except for its primary classical music critic, Mark Swed. Why that’s the case is unknown to me. But I might guess that it could do with the fact that Swed has expressed a disdain for social media and on-line communication generally. He stated as much in person during a 2010 panel discussion that he and I sat on in 2010, so the notion that he might actually not know who is worth following on Twitter when it comes to classical music would fit in with such a world view.

Which raises the question, is having that kind of knowledge important? If your work is writing about music or art in a public forum, is it part of your duty to stay up on what’s going on, on-line? Certainly I think everyone would agree that staying up on developments in your area of expertise, like music, is a necessity. And one might also argue that being up to speed on what colleagues are writing about might be part of that job as well. But what about what is going on in social media? Certainly many of the artists involved in producing the work under discussion are participating actively in arenas like Twitter and Facebook. And while not every word of it is newsworthy or worthwhile, some of it is. And avid followers of the arts, many of whom are the primary consumers of a critic's work, are certainly following all of this information right alongside what is being written in the inches allotted for criticism in the LAT. I guess my feeling is that in 2011, writing about music and art also means keeping up with some awareness of what is being said in the virtual world as well. And in the meantime, go out there, and follow whoever you want. If you want some additional Twitter pics for classical music I'd start with @JoyceDiDonato, @amandaameer, and @nightafternight. As for me, I’ll be here and maybe on Google+ as well.

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I completely agree with you Brian- in fact, the "likes" on the FB for A Beast are set-up to get a stream of information and news from performers and arts companies I'm interested in keeping up with. As you point out, a lot of it is junk, but there's also good information which shows up first in these social media streams.
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