Rock criticism was not a profession, much less an art, when Robert Christgau returned to New York after graduating from Dartmouth College in 1962, at the age of 20. The son of a Queens fireman would go on to do more than anyone to change that.
A string of freelance gigs ultimately led to a staff job at The Village Voice, where Christgau worked from 1974 to 2006.
His Rock&Roll& essays read like street dispatches filtered through the mind of an insurgent, slang-spouting academic, setting the agenda for an influential wing of rock criticism that regarded pop music as a portal to provocative intellectual inquiry.
Even more influential were Christgau’s Consumer Guide columns, each comprised of pressurized, letter-graded capsule reviews that articulate—and, at their best, simulate—the excitement of the music itself.
An edited transcript of their conversation was published in the Winter 2013 issue of Nieman Reports.
An extended transcript of their conversation is also available. Christgau, now 70, sat down with current Nieman Fellow Brett Anderson, restaurant critic and feature writer for The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, at his East Village apartment to discuss his career and the state of the profession he helped create. Video excerpts of their discussion are below:
1. Becoming a Critic (8:00)
2. Editing (6:47)
3. Advice for Young Critics (5:55)
4. On Twitter and Business Models (4:23)
5. Online Comments (4:49)
6. Using Personal Experience in Reviews (5:09)
7. The Future of Criticism (4:30)
The Extended Interview (1:05:36)
Video by Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson