Criticism by numbers

Three things to consider, when regarding an expressive work:

1) How well it says what it’s trying to say
2) Whether what it’s trying to say is worth hearing
3) Whether there’s worth to what it actually does say

When you’ve found all your answers, the order in which to weight them is: 3, 1, 2.

Author: Azure

It's me!

14 thoughts on “Criticism by numbers”

  1. this reminds me of something that ben folds said once about how some music is valid but not good, and some music is good but not valid, and how hard it is to find music that is both good and valid, or something, i’m not sure, because at that point i was trying to figure out how he defined “good” and “valid,” and my brain got tired and wandered off. your thing is more eloquent, maybe.

  2. Yeah, pretty similar idea. A lot of the stuff that grabs me does a terrible job at what it’s trying to do, yet winds up saying something else that really intrigues me. So that would be “valid”, but not “good”.

    Likewise, much of the stuff that bores me is an excellent statement of something that I find redundant or obvious. And then there’s not much more to read into it. And I suppose that would be “good” but not “valid”.

    As it were.

  3. I guess the difficulty in finding something both “good” and “valid” is that it requires intending to do something worthwhile, and achieving precisely what you want.

    The problem there is that creativity and reason are uncomfortable together. It’s like marrying order and chaos. It takes a special kind of brilliance to balance it out.

  4. We just finished covering Narrative Paradigm theory in my senior-level Communication Theory course, which views communication as essentially storytelling. Walter Fisher, who developed the theory, said there are two ways we evaluate stories: narrative coherence and narrative fidelity.

    Coherence is pretty simple. It just refers to whether or not the story makes sense. Does it have internal consistency?

    Fidelity is a little more complex. First, a listener/audience member determines what value is being expressed by the narrative, or at least what the listener’s interpretation of that value is. Second, the listener compares that expressed value with the listener’s interpretations of the broader values of what Fisher called the ideal audience, what the listener might perceive as the meta-audience. The listener compares the expressed value to the values of the meta-audience (or at least the listener’s interpretations of those values) and judges a narrative’s fidelity based on how closely those values align.

    Fisher claims this is something all humans do with any narrative, consciously and unconsciously, and Fisher claims all communication (excluding phatic-communication) is narrative.

    Anyway, just some semi-relevant thoughts on the subject of value and judgment.

  5. A book was just written examining how Brian Wilson’s mental illness may have contributed to his musical genius prior to leading to his breakdown; I heard a radio interview with the author. (Actually a podcast. Sept 26th episode)

    Your last two sentences remind me a lot of what was said there: how, with Pet Sounds, Wilson’s growing psychosis allowed him to make all sorts of new connections in his mind, but he was still organized enough in his thinking to be able to work and make an album from it. With SMiLE, he was slipping, and lost the reason to balance his illness-fueled creativity.

  6. Yes, but there’s all sorts of traps in applying the idea too broadly. To his credit, the author is well aware of that, and in the interview he does a great job of conveying both the uncertainties in what he’s suggesting and the ideas that people should not infer from it.

    here’s the mp3 link, it’s about the last 10-15 minutes of an hour-long program.

  7. I figure that’s pretty implicit!

    What I mean is that there is always a fragile balance. It’s hard to be a writer and an editor at the same time, and once you’ve tipped it’s hard to find your way back.

    Sergio Leone is an example, strictly from a creative standpoint. I know little about him as a person except that he was always wacky and impossible to deal with.

  8. So, I mean. Artists often hit this “sweet spot”, if you will, where they do their best work — and then they start to go nuts. If not personally, then certainly creatively.

    Well, one of two things happens. Either they lose that reason and restraint, or they lose that creativity and they fall into rote structure.

  9. Yeah, I can agree with that. In either case, they lose something of the earnestness and modesty needed to produce meaningful works.

    People have (half-jokingly) observed a similar phenomenon of engineers — particularly electrical engineers — becoming fanatically devoted to certain pet crackpot theories as the move past middle-age.

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