(b New York, NY, Feb 18, 1908; d Dec 31, 1977). American journalist. After studying English literature, he worked for Billboard from 1934 to 1973, although he left during World War II to serve in the US Coast Guard. Ackerman began his career as a reporter and covered several subjects including vaudeville, radio, and TV before moving to music. He became music editor in 1949. His tenure at Billboard accompanied the emergence of rhythm and blues, country music, and rock ’n’ roll. Ackerman championed these new styles, recognizing their roots in earlier music traditions and their impact on popular music and culture in general. He published several articles in High Fidelity and received numerous awards including an honor from the Recording Industry Association of America for his outstanding service to American music. He also served on the President’s commission to select music for the White House Library and in ...
Joseph E. Morgan
Andrea F. Bohlman
(b San Francisco, CA, April 13, 1945). American dance critic. She studied at the University of California, Berkeley (BA 1966), and wrote on the Ballets Russes for her doctorate in comparative literature at Rutgers University (1984). With an enthusiasm for dance that has anchored her prolific career, Acocella was the senior critic and reviews editor for Dance Magazine and became the dance critic for the New Yorker in 1998. She has written about dance for many other publications including the Financial Times, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, Art in America, and the Times Literary Supplement. In her books Acocella demonstrates a sustained interest in connecting the public with artistic personae and their voices, as illustrated in her biography of Mark Morris (1993), the essay collection Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints (2007), and three edited volumes of artists’ writings (...
Joseph A. Brown
(b Knoxville, Nov 27, 1909; d New York, May 16, 1955). American novelist, screenwriter, journalist, poet, and film critic. Son of Laura Tyler Agee and Hugh James (Jay) Agee, James Agee graduated from Exeter Academy and Harvard University (1932), before becoming a staff writer for Fortune magazine, eventually writing film reviews for both Time (1939) and The Nation (1942). On assignment from Fortune, Agee worked in collaboration with the photographer Walker Evans on the study of Alabama tenant farmers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Boston, 1941). His book of poetry, Permit Me Voyage, was published by the Yale Series of Younger Poets (New Haven, CT, 1934). In 1951, Agee published the novella, The Morning Watch(Boston). He was the principal author of the screenplay for The African Queen (1950) and The Night of the Hunter (1954...
Ricardo Miranda Pérez
(b Mexico City, Dec 5, 1938). Mexican musicologist, writer and critic. He studied at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música under Armando Montiel, Esperanza Pulido and José Pablo Moncayo. He was also a pupil of Otto Mayer-Serra. At the beginning of his career he dedicated himself to composition, which led him to take courses at the Paris Conservatoire as well as spending time in Darmstadt, Venice and London, where he took instruction from Daniel Lesur, Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna and Pierre Wissmer. Among his most important compositions are works for stage and film, which have earned him several prizes. Nevertheless, his most important work is in the fields of criticism and research, although his valuable contributions in the fields of theatre and opera production must also be remembered. As a critic, Alcaraz has played a fundamental role in making diverse repertories known in Mexico, ranging from ancient to contemporary music. He has insistently disseminated and analysed the Mexican repertory, particularly that of the 20th century. His knowledge, combined with a keen sense of humour and a stance legendary for being radical and uncompromising, has made him into one of the most authoritative and recognized critical voices in Mexico and Latin America. As a musicologist, Alcaraz has occupied himself with the discussion and assessment of the Mexican school of the 20th century. His works on composers such as Carlos Chávez, Rodolfo Halffter and José Pablo Moncayo are fundamental, as are his numerous essays on authors such as Rolón, Carillo, Huízar, Revueltas, Sandi, Galindo Dimas, Enríquez and Estrada. As a music critic, he has written for over 20 years (since ...
revised by Malcolm Turner
(b Providence, RI, July 31, 1863; d Rome, June 2, 1937). American critic. He was educated at Harvard University, where he studied music under J.K. Paine, graduating in 1885. In the same year he became music critic to the Providence Journal, after serving his apprenticeship in general journalism. In 1889 he became private secretary to US Senator Dixon, and at the same time held the post of music critic to the Evening Star, Washington. In 1891 he relinquished both posts to join the staff of the New York Tribune, on which paper he held various editorial posts, particularly that of assistant critic to H.E. Krehbiel, until 1902, when he became music editor of the New York Times; he retired in 1923, remaining on the editorial staff in an advisory capacity.
Throughout his career Aldrich was notable for the breadth of his musical knowledge and the soundness of his judgment; in general he was sympathetic to modern music, though vehemently opposed to extreme trends. As one might expect from a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters he was distinguished for the excellence of his style and for the wit and urbanity of his writing. He collected an important library of books on music, which he catalogued during the leisure of his later years; it remained intact in the possession of his heirs until ...
Robert Paul Kolt
(b Portland, OR, Dec 15, 1906; d Richmond, CA, Aug 19, 1999). American pianist, organist, accompanist, educator, and critic. After childhood training in piano and organ, Allen received his formal music education at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, OH, (BM, 1928, MM 1936), where he studied piano with George C. Hastings and Frank H. Shaw; in the interim he studied with Gordon Stanley and James Friskin at the Juilliard School (1928–9). He taught at Howard University, Washington, DC (1929–35), and at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee (1936–43, 1951). Allen held a fellowship from the US Department of Education to study piano with Egon Petri in Kraków, Poland (1938–9). When his visit was cut short by the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, he used the remainder of his fellowship to study with Isabelle Vengerova at the Mannes College of Music in New York City (...
(b Atlantic, PA, Dec 15, 1888; d Stamford, CT, Feb 28, 1959). American playwright. After studies at the University of North Dakota and at Stanford University he taught in North Dakota and California. In 1918 he moved to New York, where he worked for several years as a journalist before establishing himself as a playwright. His writings include several verse dramas, radio plays, film scripts, music dramas, essays, and one volume of poetry.
Anderson had a lifelong interest in the musical stage. For many years he was associated closely with Kurt Weill, with whom he collaborated on Knickerbocker Holiday and Lost in the Stars, a dramatization of Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Uncompleted works with Weill include Ulysses Africanus (whose leading role was intended for Paul Robeson) and Raft on the River, a musical adaptation of Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Weill and Anderson also collaborated on a scenic cantata, ...
revised by Ora Frishberg Saloman
(b Boston, Oct 24, 1848; d Vevey, Switzerland, Feb 19, 1913). American critic and writer on music. In 1869 he graduated from Harvard College, where he studied music with J.K. Paine. He was the influencial music critic of the Boston Evening Transcript from 1881 to 1903 and also wrote programme annotations for the Boston SO. Apthorp sought to elevate standards of musical appreciation and performance. His criticism consisted essentially of enlightened opinion intended largely for the general public. Apthorp was a modernist who helped to disseminate information about new music and ideas to Americans in the later 19th century. He translated writings by, and wrote a biographical sketch of, Berlioz (New York, 1879/R), and compiled a catalogue of Wagner's published works which appeared in E.L. Burlingame, ed.: Art Life and Theories of Richard Wagner (New York, 1875). He published Musicians and Music Lovers (New York, ...
Andrea F. Bohlman
(b Alexandria, LA, Jan 8, 1935; d San José, Costa Rica, March 16, 2001). American music critic. Ardoin studied composition and music theory at North Texas State College, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Oklahoma, and at Michigan State University. After completing army service in Germany, he began his professional career in New York City as an editor for Musical America and Philharmonic Hall, where he was responsible for program books. Before relocating to Dallas, he also contributed to The Saturday Review and The Times of London. In 1966 he became the music critic for The Dallas Morning News, a position he held until his retirement in 1998. Ardoin’s passion was opera: he contributed regularly to the Metropolitan Opera’s radio broadcasts and wrote four books about Maria Callas, among them a survey of her recordings (The Callas Legacy, 1977) and a reflection upon her teaching (...
Elizabeth Titrington Craft
(b Melrose, MA, Nov 28, 1894; d Huntsville, AL, Jan 13, 1984). American theater critic and author. Upon graduating from Harvard University in 1917, Atkinson taught English at Dartmouth College and worked at the Springfield Daily News and the Boston Evening Transcript before joining the New York Times as its Book Review editor in 1922. He held the post of drama critic at the Times from 1925 to 1960, with the exception of a wartime stint as a foreign correspondent. After retiring as drama critic, Atkinson wrote a Critic at Large column for the New York Times until 1965.
Arguably the most influential theater critic of his time, Atkinson was respected for his integrity as well as incisive, literate reviews. He reviewed such well-known and now canonical plays and musicals as Our Town, South Pacific, The Crucible, and West Side Story, but he was also known for his instrumental attention to Off Broadway during its emergence as a separate institution. Although Atkinson purposefully kept some distance from theater society during his tenure as critic, the theater world showed its appreciation upon his retirement. He received both Obie and Tony Award special citations as well as an honorary lifetime membership to Actors’ Equity. Atkinson was also a Pulitzer Prize winner, having earned the correspondence award in ...
(b Elgin, Scotland, Sept 6, 1838; d Bloomfield, NJ, 21 June, 1925). American organ designer, architect, author and art expert of Scottish birth. After working as an architect in England, he immigrated to New York City in 1892, where he worked for a short time with his brother William in the architectural firm of W. & G. Audsley. His interests were widespread, and he wrote several books on architecture, oriental art, and religious symbolism. One of his major interests, however, was the organ. He consulted on various church organ projects, had an organ in his home built to his own design, and was instrumental in the design of the five-manual organ built in 1904 by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for Festival Hall at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, upon which the noted French organist Alexandre Guilmant performed 40 recitals. This organ was later purchased by John Wanamaker, and became the foundation of the large organ in Wanamaker’s Philadelphia department store. Audsley was the author of four influential works on organ design: ...
Caroline Polk O’Meara
(b New York, NY, 1961). American music critic and musician. He graduated from Columbia University in 1983. In the 1980s, he was a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, writing hundreds of pieces for the magazine. His success as a critic corresponded with the rise of “alternative” rock in the early 1990s, and he wrote cover articles on Nirvana and the B-52s during that period. Azerrad has published two books, Come As You Are: the Story of Nirvana (New York, 1993) and Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground (1981–1991) (Boston, 2002). Come As You Are was the first book about Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, written with the support of the band and published before Cobain’s death. Our Band Could Be Your Life is a collection of essays about 13 of the best-remembered underground bands from the 1980s and 1990s, and includes new interviews and archival research. ...
(b New York, April 17, 1926; d New York, Feb 1, 2007). American writer on jazz and broadcaster. After graduating from Cornell University (BA 1951) he joined the staff of the New Yorker. For the Saturday Review (1953–7) and then for the New Yorker he contributed reviews of jazz concerts, recordings and books, as well as interviews with jazz musicians; many of these articles have been reprinted in a continuing series of books. He has also published poetry. In 1957 he conceived the idea and was adviser for a television programme, ‘The Sound of Jazz’, broadcast live by CBS. Balliett’s writings are eloquent and highly stylized. His interviews portray his subjects with dignity, and his reviews often create effects that parallel those of the music being discussed. At his best, in an assessment of style or a description of an improvisation, Balliett provided insights more penetrating than many formal musical analyses....
(b Escondido, CA, Dec 13, 1948; d New York, NY, April 30, 1982). American rock critic. Bangs’s parents were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses; he was raised mostly by his mother after his father died in a house fire in 1955. Bangs began writing freelance reviews for Rolling Stone magazine in 1969, and would go on to write for Creem, The Village Voice, Penthouse, Playboy, New Musical Express, and many others. He wrote a 1980 book on the new-wave act Blondie and co-authored, with Paul Nelson, a biography of Rod Stewart, but the published works for which he is best known remain the two posthumous anthologies of his rock criticism: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (New York, 1987), edited by Greil Marcus; and Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste (New York, 2003), edited by John Morthland.
Bangs was inspired by the drug-fueled stream- of-consciousness style of Beat poets like William S. Burroughs and the confrontational, subjective New Journalism of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe. Alongside John Mendelssohn, Nick Tosches, and Richard Meltzer, Bangs was grouped into the subset of early rock critics dubbed “the Noise Boys,” whose wild, digressive, slang-filled style contrasted with the more sober, academic approach of Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau. Bangs was an advocate of what would come to be called “punk rock,” celebrating its return to the raw, amateur spirit that defined the earliest rock ’n’ roll. He wrote critical pieces on many of the scene’s seminal acts, including The Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground. “I finally realized that grossness was the truest criterion for rock ’n’ roll, the cruder the clang and grind the more fun and longer listened-to the album would be,” Bangs wrote, and his prose aspired towards the same energy. Bangs died from respiratory and pulmonary complications related to the ingestion of Darvon....
[Jones, (Everett) LeRoi]
(b Newark, NJ, Oct 7, 1934). American writer. He studied piano, drums, and trumpet privately and attended Howard University (BA 1954). In the early 1960s he achieved wide recognition for his poetry and plays and for his writings about jazz, which included articles for Down Beat, Jazz, and Jazz Review; a selection of his writings, many from Down Beat, was published in 1967 as Black Music. His book Blues People (1963), the first full-length study of jazz by a black writer, is both a sociological inquiry, using blues and jazz as a means of understanding how African Americans became assimilated into American culture, and a superb discussion of the cultural context of the music in the United States. Besides his activities as a writer, Baraka has been involved in many black cultural and community projects. He was a founder of the Black Arts Repertory Theater-School, which was in existence from ...
(b Créteil, France, Nov 30, 1907; d San Antonio, TX, October 25, 2012). Cultural historian, critic, and teacher of French birth. Born into the artistic environs of French modernism, he wrote widely on Western culture and its documents, founding the discipline of cultural history at Columbia University, where he spent his academic career.
After leaving France for America in 1920, he attended Columbia University (BA 1927, PhD 1932) where he lectured on contemporary civilization from 1927, becoming assistant professor (1937), professor (1945), Seth Low Professor of History (1955), Provost (1958–67), and University Professor (1967–75). He also served as president of the American Academy of Arts (1972–5, 1977–8), and was made an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University in 1960.
Barzun regarded culture as a fabric of interwoven ideas which historians should trace through time, and between which exist a series of links: “because culture is a web of many strands; none is spun by itself, nor is any cut off at a fixed date.” He viewed music through the prism of a broader culture, typified in the scope of ...
(b Berlin, Sept 11, 1882; d New York, March 7, 1937). German critic and writer on music. He studied the violin with Rehfeld, the piano with Sormann and theory with Horwitz. After working as a freelance violinist in Berlin and as a conductor at Aschaffenburg (1902–3) and Görlitz (1903–4), he became music critic of the Berliner neueste Nachrichten in 1906; in 1909 he moved to the Berliner allgemeine Zeitung and in 1911 became chief critic of the Frankfurter Zeitung (1911–23). Bekker’s position was an influential one, and he took full advantage of it, helped by his brilliant style and his extensive theoretical and practical knowledge. He was a judicious advocate of Mahler, Schoenberg and Schreker, but less enthusiastic about Strauss and Berg. Pfitzner attacked Bekker in Die neue Aesthetik der musikalischen Impotenz (1920); in that same year Busoni formulated his aesthetic of ‘Junge Klassizität’ in his correspondence with Bekker, parts of which were published in the ...
David J. Hough
[Geddes, Norman ]
(b Adrian, MI, April 27, 1893; d New York, May 8, 1958). American stage designer. He studied briefly at the Cleveland School of Art, but had no formal education after the age of 16. His first wife, Helen Belle Sneider, became his collaborator, and ‘Norman-Bel-Geddes’ was their nom de plume for articles on art and the theatre, until their divorce in 1932. Notable designs for Montemezzi’s La nave for Chicago Opera (1919) and Henry Hadley’s Cleopatra’s Night for the Metropolitan (1920) attracted Broadway attention, and his innovative approach was soon recognized. At an early stage of his career he discarded the proscenium arch and planned open-stage projects. For a commission in 1924 to design Vollmöller’s morality play The Miracle with Humperdinck’s music for Max Reinhardt, he converted the theatre into a Gothic cathedral. His work for Broadway included Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road (...
(b Bethlehem, PA, July 22, 1898; d New York, March 13, 1943). American writer. He wrote poetry and prose with great facility, producing a wide variety of works: light verse, short stories, novels, essays, reviews, and long poems. Though their quality is uneven, they include several important works, notably the epic poem John Brown’s Body (New York, 1928) for which he received a Pulitzer Prize. Many of Benét’s subjects come from American history or folklore. Among the many American composers who have been drawn to his poetry are Randall Thompson, Leslie Bassett, Gail Kubik, and Douglas Moore (who also set poems by Benét’s brother William Rose Benét, 1886–1950). Moore was a lifelong friend of Benét’s, and the two worked closely together on the one-act opera The Devil and Daniel Webster. This tale first appeared in 1936 as a short story in the Saturday Evening Post. Its spectacle of bringing the dead to life and the drama of its final courtroom scene make it excellent material for the stage. The opera version, first produced in ...
(b New York, NY, May 15, 1912; d Boston, MA, Oct 7, 2003). American composer and critic. He was a student at the Townsend Harris High School, the College of the City of New York, and New York University (BS 1934). During these years he espoused leftist politics and was a member—along with Bernard Herrmann, Jerome Moross, Israel Citkowitz, Vivian Fine, Elie Siegmeister, and others—of various radical composers’ groups including the Young Composers Group that formed around Aaron Copland. He was a fellowship student in the newly formed Professional Division of the Longy School of Music (1935–7) concurrently with graduate studies at Harvard University (MA 1936), where he trained in musicology with Hugo Leichtentritt, aesthetics with D.W. Prall, and theory and analysis with walter Piston . From 1937 to 1939 he studied theory with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He taught at Mills College (1939–42...