In a brilliant essay titled "Against Aesthetics", the poet, literary critic, and essayist William Logan (whose writings and even whose name were previously unknown to us) writes what ought to be a fundamental instruction manual for critics of all the arts. He writes primarily as a critic of poetry but, mutatis mutandis, everything he says is equally valid for critics of classical music and opera as well. Writes Mr. Logan:
A stranger asks me to write an Aesthetic Statement. He demands my notion of the ideal poem, so he’ll know the secret of my love of some poems and my distaste for others. I feel his pain. Perhaps he wants to prosecute me should I praise a poet who deviates from my Platonic ideal. An aesthetic statement is of little use to a critic unless he’s a lover of manifestos, a maker of quarrels, or a host who treats his guests like Procrustes. Aesthetics is a rational profession for the philosopher, but for the working critic it’s a mug’s game. To write about your aesthetics is no better than revealing your secrets if you’re a magician, or returning a mark’s stolen wallet if you’re a pickpocket.This is must-read stuff — for MSM professionals as well as for us mere blogger amateurs.