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Interview with musicologist Valentina Sandu-Dediu

Friday, 24 November 2023 , ora 13.34

What is the jury looking forduring such contest?

The jury has not been given an easy task, but it will surely be a pleasant one. They require three articlesfor the contest - two chronicles and a record or a book review. So, there are various things needed. What could the jury be looking for - one made out of musicology teachers - other than following some guidelines, such as writing and expressing oneself fluently in Romanian? That being said, I believe that the tie-breaker will actually be set by common knowledge, the imagination, and, especially, the music knowledge ofeach and every young artist who will write about music events.

There are no preset recipes. We will adapt to what we receive from the candidates, but I am sure that it will be a success. It is an exceptional initiative, even though is not something new for us. This contest has reached its 30th edition. I have been by professor Grigore Constantinescu's side throughout many past editions, but this year, the contest has a new shine to it and also new, promising awards.

In your opinion, what are the most notable qualities of a music critic?

Flair would be one of them, objectivity, and vast music knowledge - not in a particular order… vast music knowledge is something that they acquire during their school years, of course, but it is also something that comes up by permanently leading a musical life and staying up to date with everything that's happening - all the trends, all the institutional ideas of festivals, philharmonics or opera theatres and so on. Staying up to date with new editorial and record publications and, if it's possible, literary prowess as well… for me it would be of utmost importance. What I mean is, we are not indifferent to the way one writes. We could take a look at our writers and take stylistic examples from them. I always recommend that young artists read Romanian literature. There are also stylistic exercises available, and, of course, each and every one's talent.

Are music critics essential within the cultural world?

They are, indeed, if they perform their duty right. First and foremost, music critics are like a vehicle of music education for the general public. And there are multiple types of education, as there are multiple types of a public. Music critics can specialize on entertainment music, pop, jazz, any music genre, on academic classical music, contemporary music and so on. Or, they could even cover up all of the above. In any case, they are first and foremost a vehicle of public education and information. It is very important that information finds its source in someone that knows what they are talking about, especially during an age where information is one click away from us. Any information about anyone, in just a few minutes. Sometimes, though, you need information and don't know who to ask, and you need someone to guide you, since there are specialized domains out there and you need something more than the first piece of information that comes up, you need a guide. The music critic could be such a guide.

Moreover, the music critic could act as some sort of a balance instrument for those involved in the musical act, for performers and composers… and musicologists, to a small extent, if it's about books. Although, for performers and composers, a good music critic always acts as a barometer, since you could easily reference their opinions according to your needs. Of course, I'm saying this again, in the sense that the music critic is, themselves, efficient. By which I mean, they should meet all of the criteria that I was talking about earlier, and, at the same time, they should have a smart and balanced approach towards the musical phenomenon that they are analysing. There is no place for anger, frustration, negativity or, exacerbated appraisal, on the contrary, within any domain of criticism; no statues erected or demolished on the spot, metaphorically speaking. These are of no use. A rational and benevolent attitude is needed for a musical phenomenon… not for the artists or actors of such phenomenon. And so, that would be all.

What advice do you have for young musicologists?

To read as much as they can. That is all the advice I could give to a young musicologist. If they like this job and want to pursue a career, they should read a lot, anything really, not only musicology (that's a given). To read literature, to read anything they like, but to read!

As it's the case for composition, or even when it comes to performing, only by reading, reflecting, listening, will you come up with new ideas. They don't come up out of nowhere.

Interview by Ariadna Ene-Iliescu
Translated by Adelina-Maria Mănăilescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu