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Ir'repons'ibility

March 09, 1986

Martin Bernheimer's review of a concert at UCLA by Pierre Boulez conducting his new work, "Repons," was a lovely example of a critic seemingly intent on reminding people why so many of us think so little generally of critics in the first place ("Electronic Avant Garde at UCLA," Feb. 13).

As a long-time professional musician and composer, now retired, I left the concert convinced that this had been one of the great musical experiences of my long musical life. I was thus quite unprepared for the snidely insulting tone of Bernheimer's review.

The article was curiously lopsided. After a long, sarcastic, feebly witty prelude, setting the stage as it were--but carefully avoiding talking about the musical composition itself--a few substantive remarks were finely made.

But the grudgingly offered complimentary words--"fascinating," "intriguing permutations," "remarkable clarity," "elegant balance"--are overshadowed by all the atmospheric fog spewed out before.

It's just that this critic so transparently carries around such a very large chip on his shoulder when it comes to certain avant-garde music that it skews his priorities when reporting on the likes of Boulez or Philip Glass.

Aside from priorities, it is to be regretted that a critic allows himself to become so bemused by a knack for turning a phrase, or for being witty, that his true function--reporting on artistic value in a judicious and balanced manner--is confused and perverted.

JACK W. CHAIKIN

Palm Desert

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