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What's a Counter Critic?
Written by Ava

Now here's a man who's a conservatory trained composer and conductor, who's dabbled in guitars, who's tried his hand at songwriting, and who helped set up a forum for discussion on NY's live music scene and its music critics.

He's the Editor at Large for Counter Critic, a site that provides a forum to discuss a plethora of arts and music reviews written by NY's professional critics. He's written songs. He's strummed a few guitar chords. He's even written an opera score! Whooo, I gasp for air just thinking about all of it!

What hasn't he done? Why, get interviewed by Jemsite on his musical talents, of course! Well, that's all about to change...

While Ryan does believe everyone is a music critic in some way, he still continues to stay open minded. Read on to find out how he does just that and more.

What's a Counter Critic?

Someone who criticizes critics.

Tell me about your site of the same name.

The idea behind "Counter Critic" was to create a forum for response to mainstream criticism by offering an irreverent digest of arts reviews written by New York's professional critics. Think of it as a sort of watchdog for arts criticism. With the blog format, readers could also voice their opinions about critical writing.

What's your experience with guitars?

I bought a guitar in 1998 with the idea of becoming singer/songwriter. All the songs were going to be about being *** and having *** sex. But I don't play the guitar with any regularity. The calluses tend to come and go with little spurts of inspiration. I recently wrote a couple songs on the guitar. I know just enough chords to sound like I know what I'm doing.

So you've written a few songs? How difficult do you think it is to be a songwriter?

To be a songwriter? Or to write songs? For me, writing songs comes fairly easily. But being a songwriter, continuing to work at the craft and to put your work out there, that's far more difficult to keep up.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I'm fairly mainstream in my tastes, although I tend to get obsessive about certain artists and just listen to them over and over: As a kid, it was Amy Grant and Madonna (go figure). Then the Cranberries, The Carpenters and the soundtrack to "The King and I" in high school. In college I discovered Ani di Franco, Bjork, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and the Second Viennese School. In the last decade I really got into Tori Amos, Erykah Badu and Kate Bush. Oh, and I had a fabulous love affair with Rufu's "Want One" a few years back.

What is it that you love about Ani DiFranco? What sets her apart from other indie performers? What do you say about her guitar playing?

You know, her songs are super confessional and political; not everyone's cup of tea, but I get drawn into it. She's not afraid to make ugly sounds with her voice. I also think no one else does quite what she does with the guitar; the complexity, the subtlety, the virtually limitless sense of coloration and emotion. It's all there. And she just kicks ass.

So you used guitar sounds from Garage Band to create a score for an opera. Tell me about that.

I was looking for a way to approximate the sound of a harpsichord with Garage Band. GB's "clavichord" (?) sound has this annoying release tick that just wasn't going to work. But I found that the "steel string" guitar sounded pretty close, particularly in the higher registers. So I started scoring the music for the opera with that. Then the score just developed naturally to include the synthetic "acoustic" guitar and "electric" guitar. I think it gave the work a fresh sound.

Do you think guitar is being used more and more in other musical genres where you wouldn't normally expect it?

Classical music and the guitar certainly do have a long history, and a fairly vibrant present. There are entire festivals dedicated to classical guitar music. In terms of popular music, the guitar is the most ubiquitous and iconic instrument of our time. I really don't know where it could go that it hasn't already been.

How important is an audience to a performer?

My feelings about the audience are split. I believe the presence of the audience has an undeniable effect on live performance. But I don't know that the audience is necessary in order for art to be made. It's a semantic argument, but one that fascinates me.

Would you say you're more of a person who watches others performer and be a critic or a performer yourself? Is it better to be part of the audience or the one performing?

There is no feeling like performing live for an audience. It is truly one of the best feelings ever. However, some of my experiences as an audience participant have been supremely inspirational, and virtually life-changing. So, I'll take both, if I can have them. Being a critic is a different story. The critical perspective can create a distance between you and the work; criticism necessarily does that. But I try to stay as open as I can to new experience.
 
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