Observer pop critic Kitty Empire

Pop

Kitty Empire
Favourite pop critic

I have to declare a deep professional envy for Ann Powers (NPR, LA Times, etc), who is much better at articulating my thoughts than I am.

Favourite website
This sounds like a lie, but I try hard to avoid the surfeit of opinion out there until I’ve nailed down my own; the lyrics website Genius, though, is a key reference.

Favourite young voice
The Guardian’s Laura Snapes is the don.

Favourite music book
Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (1989) lit a fuse in my brain.

Another resource
A bit obvious perhaps, but Twitter knows everything, in real time; useful both for piece-sharing and outrage threads.


Observer classical critic Fiona Maddocks

Classical music

Fiona Maddocks

Favourite classical music critic
Jeremy Denk – he’s a concert pianist but when he writes (on, say, Bach’s Goldberg Variations) you have to read.

Favourite music website
What did we do before Bachtrack, an invaluable resource for live performance round the world?

Favourite music vloggers
TwoSet Violin: violinists Brett Yang and Eddy Chen reveal home truths via daffy humour.

Favourite music book
Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life (edited and translated by Robert Spaethling). All composers’ letters are interesting. These are a bible.

Another resource
CD liner notes. Streaming is great, but nothing replaces this invaluable source of information, often written by the performer.


Observer theatre critic Susannah Clapp

Theatre

Susannah Clapp
Favourite theatre critic

I don’t have a favourite per se, but I look with interest at what Ben Brantley says in the New York Times, particularly when he reviews British shows.

Favourite website
I don’t invariably look at any, but often at Exeunt for extended pieces and adventurous argument.

Favourite young theatre writer
I admire Natasha Tripney in The Stage: judicious and independent.

Favourite book about the theatre
I often consult The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance by Dennis Kennedy (and reread The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown and Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild with nostalgic enthusiasm).

Another resource
Looking at paintings and architecture gees up my eyes for the stage. Vilhelm Hammershøi’s pictures made me see light and space completely differently.


Observer architecture critic Rowan Moore

Architecture

Rowan Moore

Favourite architecture critic
Owen Hatherley is bracing in his anger, eloquent about his passions, and writes with a healthy dose of unreason, which are all good qualities in a critic.

Favourite architecture website
Municipal Dreams is an unending trove of knowledge and stories about housing and public works

Favourite young architecture writer
Otto Saumarez Smith, author of Boom Cities, a book on postwar planning, writes with balance and perception.

Favourite book about architecture
London: the Unique City, written by Steen Eiler Rasmussen in the 1930s, describes a city that is now so distant as to be dreamlike, and is wonderful on the interaction of buildings and society.

Another resource
The Architecture Foundation, of which I was once director, now runs a provocative and revelatory programme of events and talks, for which I can take no credit.


Observer dance critic Bidisha.

Dance

Bidisha

My favourite dance critic
Tobi Tobias, the stringent (some might say astringent) critic for New York Magazine. She died in February at 81 after a career that began with a feature on Twyla Tharp.

Favourite dance website
The Huntley Film Archives is an extraordinary resource of vintage, black and white clips that have preserved moments of dance from the 1890s on, including Anna Pavlova dancing the Dying Swan.

Favourite young voice
It’s a bit like the kids from Fame being transported to 21st-century London, but I like the student interviews from London Contemporary Dance School (also a venue for rising choreographers and dancers) on YouTube.

Favourite book about dance
It all began with Noel Streatfeild’s children’s classic about ambitious stage sisters, Ballet Shoes. For a heavyweight read, I love Lucy Moore’s Nijinsky. And for pure inspiration, the young American star Misty Copeland’s memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina doesn’t disappoint.

Another resource
I love footage of contemporary dance companies in rehearsal, and am currently obsessed with the young, hugely athletic Kenny Muntanga Dance Theatre.


Observer art critic Laura Cumming

Art

Laura Cumming

Favourite art critic
Tom Lubbock at the Independent and Arthur C Danto at The Nation: original writers, who see art as an experience both in and of life. Or I should say “saw”, for both are alas now dead, but I never stop reading them on the net.

Favourite website
The Art Newspaper – all human life is there: shows to dramatic showdowns, features, reviews, interviews, obituaries; the clue is in the word “newspaper”.

Favourite young art writer
Alice Spawls at the London Review of Books.

Favourite book about art
Arthur C Danto’s four volumes of criticism, especially Encounters and Reflections (though there are many others: John Berger, Anita Brookner, Robert Hughes, Rebecca Solnit, Bridget Riley).

Another resource
Tyler Green’s The Modern Art Notes Podcast is indispensable. The wondrously eccentric Journal of Art in Society blog is stuffed with strange connections, and I’m addicted to the tweets of artist Jane Hoodless, – startling images and two-sentence stories.


Observer film critic Mark Kermode

Film

Mark Kermode

Favourite film critic
I’ve always been a huge fan of the US critic Anne Billson – her knowledge of horror is up there with Kim Newman, and her BFI book on The Thing is terrific.

Favourite film website
The BBFC’s site not only provides comprehensive information on ratings, running times and cuts, but also often hilariously deadpan consumer advice (“strong language, violence, sex, all involving puppets”).

Favourite film writer
I first came across writer, director and vlogger Jack Howard through YouTube and Radio 1, and I’ve since recorded several podcasts with him. He’s sharp, funny, and very knowledgeable – and very young!

Favourite book about film
I was given copies of the Dilys Powell Film Reader and the CA Lejeune Film Reader when I was starting out in film criticism. Both remind me how far I still have to go.

Another resource
The Cinematologists podcast. Film scholars Dario Llinares and Neil Fox host a podcast and film club that bridges the gap between criticism, academia, film-making, and fandom. It’s a terrifically welcome forum for informed film debate.


Observer radio and podcasts Miranda Sawyer

Audio

Miranda Sawyer

Favourite critic
I always read, though don’t always agree with, Gillian Reynolds of the Sunday Times (for radio) and Fiona Sturges of the Financial Times (podcasts).

Favourite audio website
Searching for podcasts can be tortuous, but there are a few hubs if you’re stuck: Radiotopia and Gimlet for interesting, properly produced American shows and Wondery for true crime. BBC Sounds can be useful, but is still frustrating.

Favourite young audio expert
Matt Deegan is an audio obsessive. He runs Fun Kids Radio, works at audio consultancy Folder Media, and set up the British podcast awards with Matt Hill. He understands the ins and outs of UK radio and podcasting like no one else.

Favourite book
[There isn’t a reference book I use, mostly because the audio landscape is changing massively at the moment. I read other journalists’ collections for inspiration (Clive James, Lynn Barber) and dip in and out of the odd radio memoir: I enjoyed Eddie Mair’s A Good Face for Radio and John Humphrys’s A Day Like Today.

Another resource
Twitter is an immensely useful resource. A simple question such as “What family podcasts are you enjoying?” will give you reams of answers worth checking out Plus I follow some great audio makers such as Helen Zaltzman, Eleanor McDowell, and Cathy Fitzgerald, so I can hear about their shows and the others they’re enjoying.


Euan Ferguson

Television

Euan Ferguson

Favourite TV critic
Alison Graham in the Radio Times: alarmingly unafraid to challenge metro sensibilities. I think of her as my Vera.

Favourite TV website
I use, although don’t really like, Digital Spy,. It’s a bit silly-gossipy but handy for TX dates. Variety is good for thoughtful, informed criticism of shows coming out of the US.

Favourite young TV critic
Janice Forsyth’s afternoon show on BBC Radio Scotland has many hugely informed young critics of both TV and films… and they get space, time and laughter to air their views.

Favourite book about TV
I have the entire Clive James canon behind me, funny and wise.

Another resource
I was given Harold Evans’s Newsman’s English 35 years ago, part of a lovely silver-backed series on editing and design. It urges one to be clear and concise.

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