I never expected The Score to last eight months, let alone eight years, a veritable eon in newspaper publishing. It's time for me to stop before I go stale. I do so happily; I need to spend more time on my own music.
As a composer, my feelings for the strange business of writing about music are best encapsulated by Hector Berlioz (1803–1869). Famed for concocting that seminal symphony of the Romantic Era, the Symphonie Fantastique (1830), Berlioz anchors a lineage of composers great and small who wrote about music to propagate their aesthetic beliefs, discover and publicize fellow musicians, and, of course, put food on the table. In his Memoirs, the great French composer and critic reflected: "In justice to myself, I can at least say that never for any consideration whatever have I been put off expressing in the most ungrudging terms what I feel about works or artists that I admire. I have warmly praised men who have done me a great deal of harm and with whom I am no longer on speaking terms. Indeed, the sole compensation that journalism offers me for all its torments is the scope it gives to my passion for the true, the great, the beautiful, wherever they exist. It is sweet to me to praise an enemy who has merit—as well as being a duty which any honest man takes pride in fulfilling."
I had immense help: I want to thank my editors Jennifer Maerz, Dave Segal, Megan Seling, Jonathan Zwickel, Eric Grandy, and Jen Graves, along with copy mavens Scott McGeath, Anne Mathews, Amy Kate Horn, Kim Hayden, Gillian Anderson, Jesse Vernon, and everyone else who perused (and sometimes rescued) my paragraphs before a looming deadline. All of you made me a better writer. I'm grateful to art and layout gurus Kelly O, Aaron Huffman, Dan Paulus, Madeline Macomber, and Ananda La Vita, as well as to the numerous artists whose photos and illustrations elegantly accompanied this column.
Devouring acres of music while writing The Score humbled me. Writing in the Village Voice about "the critic as composer," Kyle Gann declared: "He is not allowed to believe, as other composers so often do, that his own compositional idiom is the only valid one. Faced with the entire panoply of current styles, and obliged to spend some time inside the head of every composer he hears, he has hammered home on a weekly basis the contingency and relativity of his compositional choices." Amen.
If I end up following in the footsteps of other composer-journalists who wrote terrific music, including Berlioz, Robert Schumann, Claude Debussy, Roberto Gerhard, Virgil Thomson, Benjamin Boretz, Tom Johnson, and Gann, I shall only be too happy. Farewell!