Ken Lyen's Home
About
Ken's Links
Hakkas
London Revisited 2000
Letter from London 2006
Singapore Musical Theatre
Making the Grade
Exodus
Other
Writing Musicals
Musicals from Movies
Fred Ebb
The Story of Chess
Mama Mia
Bad Vibrations
Chestnuts 2003
Chestnuts 2004
Chestnuts 2005
Incubating New Musicals
List of Musicals on Film
Is Musical Theatre Dead?
Is Classical Music Dead?
Is Poetry Dead?
Why Read Poetry?
Etymology
New Words
Cull
Nothing's Wrong
Hippie Dictionary
Singlish Dictionary
Blog Dictionary
Best of the Best
English Spoke
Bilingualism
Reading in Decline
Too Many Books
Magic of Reading
Pablo Neruda
Graphic Novels
Writers Bar
Lost For Words
Encyclopedia Wars
Library in Cyberspace
The Bridge
Growing A Film Industry
Critics
Great Levellers
Rote Rites and Rongs
Beautiful Minds
Intelligence
Creativity
Create Talented Individuals?
Rise of the Creative Class
Perchance to Dream
Children's EQ
Gifted Education
Gifted Children
Mozart Effect
Confucius and Multiple Intelligences
Predicting Your Future
Mistyping Personality
Messy Homes
Does Age Matter?
Too Young for Philosophy?
Philosopher for Hire
Deconstructing Derrida
University Quotas
Ranking Universities
University Ranking Continued
The Future of Universities
If Thine Eye Offends Thee
If It Ain't Broke
New Exams for Old!
Too Many Test
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Childhood Memories
Voluntarism
Signs of Success
Follow Your Dreams
First Impressions
Handphone Etiquette
Handphones Silenced
Nanotechnology
Apple Of My i
Sex and the Media
The Greeks
Geographic Clangers
Domino Theory
Hello Kitty
Heels on Wheels
What a Racket!
Potty Training
Skip to the Loo
Corporal Punishment
Is Modern Art Rubbish?
Mona Lisa Grins
Vermeer
Sunday in the Park
Vision and Art
Fake
Gmail
Spam Glorious Spam!
Humble Pie
Sour Grapes?
Murphy's Law Calculator
Perfect Search
False Logic
Noah's Ark
Who Discovered America?
Palaces of Dictators
Queues
Backup
Joys of Stress
Games Academics Play
Virtual Reality Treatmemt
Autism
Autistic Underconnectivity
Asperger Syndrome
Pay Attention!
Attention Deficit
Dyslexia
Speech Delay
Almost Normal
Prozac Nation
Gilles de la Tourette
Singapore Medicine
Ignorance
Virtual Dissection
War Against Malaria
Into the Frying Pan
Back to Methuselah
Poetic Medicine
Cigarettes
Far Eastern Economic Review
History of the Singapore Musical
My Research
Singapore Idle
Best Countries
Brain Drain
Greatest Happiness
Remaking Singapore
Singapore Nobel Prize
Singapore MRT Map
National Day
Caste System
Doctors' Fees
Leadership and Teambuilding
Doctor Do-Much
Interview
Play it Again, Doc
A Dose of Music
Prescription for the Heart
Multiple Personality
Sayang
Fly By Night
Muggle
Rape of Nanking
Iris Chang
Anne Frank
Angela's Ashes
The Notebook
Hollywood Insider
Fahrenheit 9/11 Pirates
The Front
The Barbarian Invasions
Les Choristes
The Return
Road Home
Shower
2046
Farewell My Concubine
So You Want to be a Nurse
Roulette
Fences
School House Rockz
Makan Place
e-mail me

Critics


 

Critics

by Kenneth Lyen

As a composer and screenwriter, I am very aware of critics. Not unnaturally I prefer the critics who give me a good press, compared to ones who lambast my work, unfairly of course. My gripe is that I think critics wield too much power. They are a bit like doctors. They determine the life or death of a creative piece of work.

I remember my very first bad press. It was depressing because, to me, the critic was totally tone deaf. He did not appreciate music. I cursed him a few goodly curses. After I cooled down, I sent him a letter, thanking him for his review. By then, I genuinely meant it... I think. At least getting a bad press was, so I consoled myself, better than to be totally ignored. As they say, bad publicity is better than no publicity.

It is with great interest that I read the thread in the Talking Broadway bulletin board where a writer lamented the apparent inability of theatre audiences to ignore critics. S/he suggested that people should see the show and judge for themselves. However, one of the respondents said that s/he did not live New York, and relied on theatre critics’ assessment and recommendations before travelling long distances and spending $100 on a show. That's the reality.

Sadly the show that I received the bad press made a loss. I can only console myself that even Stephen Sondheim, Schonberg and Boublil, and many other geniuses (including Ludwig van Beethoven) had their share of bad press.

My friend Thomas, who brings independent films into Singapore, was also upset by a film critic who gave the Gus Van Sant film Elephant about violence in a high school, a very low rating. It resulted in Thomas making a loss with this film.

The Guardian Newspaper tries to give a more balanced view by having two reviews, often contradictory, on any one film. I prefer this system.

Nowadays I’m less upset by bad reviews. I try to see if they are justified, and make a mental note of what not to do in my next musical or film.

Here are some of my favourite quotes about critics:

"Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics." - Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

"You know who critics are?— The are men who have failed in literature and art." - British prime minister and author, Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881)

"As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker, so an unsuccessful author turns critic." - Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

"The greater part of critics are parasites, who, if nothing had been written, would find nothing to write." - Playwright JB Priestley (1894-1984)

"To be a critic is easier than to be an author." - Hebrew Proverb

"If I had listened to the critics I’'d have died drunk in the gutter." - Playwright Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

"Pay no attention to what a critic say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic." - Composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me." - Composer Max Reger (1873-1916)

"A critic is a man who knows the way but can'’t drive the car." - Journalist Kenneth Tynan (1927-1980)

"A critic is a legless man who teaches running." - Playwright Channing Pollock (1880-1946)

"Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp-post how it feels about dogs." - Playwright Christopher Hampton (1946- )

"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it’'s done, they'’ve seen it done every day, but they’'re unable to do it." - Playwright Brendan Behan (1923-1964)

Luckily I'’m not a critic!