18. August 2007 · 4 comments · Categories: Ramble

I think we musicians are sometimes simply unable to appreciate hearing music. We are taught early on to be critical. We are taught to listen and pick away at anything we hear. I can’t tell you how many times I hear students (and frequently students who have miles to go, and whom I wish would be more critical with their own playing) harshly critique a concert that was actually quite excellent. I want to grab them and say, “Listen first to enjoy. Embrace the music!” I suspect they are somewhat afraid. Maybe it’s a fear of liking something they then hear (or read) from others wasn’t good after all. Maybe it’s just that they have to feel better about themselves. I dunno. But it’s pretty sad.

And yet I have found that I, too, sometimes come in with an attitude of “Prove it!” when I enter the hall. (Something I did recently and for which I’m sorry.) I hate it when I do that. My attempt is to go to concerts with an attitude of, “I will be blessed.” It works. Really.

I’m not saying we can’t critique. I just think we sometimes lose something when our attitude is one of skepticism, cynicism, or simply a harsh heart (and ear) when we enter the concert hall. Maybe it would be best to say, “I will say two positive things for every negative one spoken.”

This thought has come to be via this video of a sweet young cellist who, it seems to me, clearly has some fine talent. One person commenting on the video writes:

He’s a total noob to the cello… He looks at the fingerboard almost all the time. I stopped doin that when I was 9

Sigh. What a hard heart. Looking at his bio it says he’s 43. If that’s truly the case, shame on him. If he’s a younger student, as I suspect, I just feel sorry for him.


  1. Jeannette Clemons

    Child Psychiatrists note:As we develop emotionally and intellectually, we go from being very literal, very concrete (this is also related to moral development!) to being (HOPEFULLY!!!) more abstract with the ability to tolerate different points of view, interpretations etc. And this seems to be ACROSS the board from rules for GAMES to rules of “Life”/religion and ?maybe? music? Anyway, I see hypercriticism as a developmental stage necessary for developing an “ear” as well as musical taste…MOST classical musicians that I know get “over” it in their 20s, and timing of this may be related to amount of exposure to varied styles of playing and types of MUSIC (ie a classical musicaian that enjoys country and rock may be different than a musician who can only stand Bach.). It may actually be related to the development of tolerance for varied belief systems… AND the kid playing cello really has a nice sound! Good for him!

  2. Now would you guess, as I did, that the “43 year old” might actually be younger? (What is a “noob” anyway?! I guess I’m quite out of it. Maybe slang for newbie?)

  3. Jeannette Clemons

    According fo Wiki, noob is equal to “dude” in NYC and NJ; to as you know can be deprecatory or laudatory (like “Baaaaad”) so who knows. and
    Yes! I would guess an earlier (than 43) developmental stage!(That does not necessarily correlate with chronological age..)

  4. noob most definitely means “newbie”. and I think it’s as simple as insecurity and/or jealousy when someone feels the need to constantly criticize others…. especially when those “others” have done something fine and beautiful. Maybe it is necessary to develop a critical ear, but you sure don’t have to vocalize it to anyone else!