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April 30, 2015 | Thursday

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Guest blog: Branimir Pofuk: Music criticism – a missionary work

(photo credits Layla Barake). Branimir Pofuk is a renowned journalist, music critic and columnist from Croatia. Few days ago he was in Pristina to attend the DAM Festival (International Festival of Young Musicians), one of the most prominent cultural events in Kosovo. The EU Information and Cultural Centre hosted his workshop on musiccriticism with local journalists.

EUICC: Can you please tell us how you first got involved in journalism and as a music critic?

Pofuk: When I was a student of Musicology in Zagreb, one day, back in the late 80s, the editor of culture at Radio 101 came to the Music academy and asked who would like to work as a music critic. I began, I liked it, I had great mentors among senior colleagues and that was it. My voice was heard and later on I was offered to work for different magazines and newspapers. Therefore, the music criticism and journalism are for me since the beginning two wings of the same bird, two things that are complementary and can not be separated.

EUICC: Why is music criticism important for the audience?

Pofuk: For those who attended a concert, it is important to be able to compare their own experience, which is the most important, with some other opinions, if possible with someone they could and should trust. But, for me it was always more important to address those people who were not there, to describe it to them and to share with them the feelings – of course if there were some – to show them what did they miss and to get them interested to be in the concert hall by themselves the next time. Many people have to be encouraged by education and through media to come to the classical music concerts because sometimes they think that they don’t belong there, that it is only for  “the elite” or that they are not educated enough to understand it. And that is all wrong.

EUICC: What has surprised you most about working with artists?

Pofuk: I was and I am still surprised at large when I meet great and famous artists and then I find in them someone simple, someone humble, of good nature and kind. Not all of them, but most are like that. Also, in my experience, the artists are able to speak about the most complicated things in the most simple words. They have some intuitive and deeper knowledge about the world, life, death, universe, time, silence, eternity… because they learn about it through the music. Other art genres too, but music and its secret and still universal language has a special place.

EUICC: What do you find most challenging about music criticism?

Pofuk: To find the right balance between the objective reporting and subjective impressions. There is not one music, but, there are as much “musics” as many hearts and minds are listening to it. Music sounds in the air act according to the laws of pure physics, but resonates in each of us in a different way, because each of us is also a unique instrument.

EUICC: You have been recently in Kosovo in the framework of DAM Festival working with journalists that cover cultural events. In your view how much they know about music criticism?

Pofuk: Almost nothing, and it is important that they are aware of it. But, since they are working in culture departments in different media and reporting about culture and artistic events, they have to develop themselves by working and learning on their own. I was impressed by how much they are dedicated and devoted to their profession and also to the professional fundamental rules of journalism. If you lack the knowledge and experience in respective field, it is the best way to stick to the basic rules of the profession. And they are doing so. In that way they are protected from making mistakes in informing their audience.

EUICC: What would be your message for someone who is thinking of becoming a music critic?

Pofuk: As a music critic today, when culture and particularly classical music are the species in danger, I see this role as a missionary work. The biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten from a musician was: You are one of the rare music critics who actually loves music. I was honored by such a statement.