Anwen Crawford is the music critic for the Monthly magazine and the author of Live Through This. Her critical writing on music, film, television and books has appeared in publications including the New Yorker. She is the recipient of the 2016 NSW Writer’s Fellowship.
What are the aspects of the ideal review?
I’m not sure that any review can ever be perfect, or ideal. Nevertheless, I think that interesting and rigorous arts criticism is characterised by a genuine engagement with both the specific artist and their wider field. A critic should set out without too many preconceived notions about what they might find before they’ve begun. We all have our biases, of course, but effective criticism is lively, curious, and enters into a conversation with both the work and its audience.
How did you come to criticism as a career?
I had a notion from quite a young age, even 12 or 13 years old, that I would like to write about popular music. I’m not entirely sure how I arrived at this idea, but certainly I was a passionate reader of the print music press, most of which, sadly, no longer exists. I am motivated now by a desire to give back the same pleasure and interest to readers that I once found myself, and can still find, as a reader. It’s a cliche but a true one: good writers are enthusiastic readers.
What’s one key tip you’d give to emerging critics?
Be curious. Stray outside your field. If you would like to be a book critic, that’s great, but why not learn about the history of film, too? Artworks and artists speak across time and medium to each other, and I think that good critics are aware of this, and excited by it.