Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music festival in May, started last year, seems to be introducing some vitality and a much-needed reinfusion of American energy to that institution’s spring season, with an innovative approach that celebrates interesting programming and seeks to open up the programming process to audiences.
In the same spirit — putatively — it’s launching a competition for The best arts blogger in America. Do you maintain a blog, in English, about some cultural topic? Register here, before March 21, to put yourself in the running a prize of $2500 and tickets to all the Spring for Music events for this second season (May 7-12).
All you have to do is prepare for four rounds of competition. The first question is “New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. Is it still? If not, where?” That ought to bring out the knives in California. Come on, Out West Arts and Iron Tongue of Midnight: throw your hats in the ring. Posts must be up by March 23, and the top 16 bloggers — selected by a panel of judges and by popular vote — will advance to the next round.
The point of the contest is to find new voices, draw wider attention to individual blogs, and, of course, get the festival’s name on a broader map: all perfectly reasonable goals. (I’m reminded of the Washington Post’s Next Great Pundit contest.)
I am, however, slightly bothered that it seems predicated on the persistent idea that bloggers are something vaguely unofficial — synonymous, in the minds of many arts administrators, to “that new element we suddenly must court now that traditional coverage is shrinking.”
Best arts blogger in America? Somehow, I doubt that Alex Ross or Terry Teachout or Jeremy Denk will be participating in this, though actually nothing in the guidelines prevents them from taking part. Would winning such a contest get Tim Mangan’s blog reinstated by the Orange County Register? Not likely. Would it help bloggers make the leap from mere “blogger” to sanctioned ”music critic,” as James Jorden, for one, has done? Perhaps.
The “best blogs,” in my own view, are the ones that offer the most personal expression, the quirkiest points of view, the most entertainment. I’ll be curious to see what writing on an assigned topic, over four rounds, may or may not bring out. It would certainly be fun to see what some of the abovementioned bloggers might make of it — but like any competition, it offers the pros not much incentive to enter, since the gain of winning is relatively small and the risk of losing, geometrically worse.
At the same time, I’d love to see some local contenders get into the fray: Ionarts? DMV Classical? Who would you nominate? What for you are the prerequisites of the “best blogger?” Oh, and by the way... IS New York still the cultural capital of America? Comments welcome.