I never fail to consult the Berkshire Review and New York Arts without being impressed by the responsiveness, sympathy, and understanding informing its contents. Perhaps above all, the Review takes the arts—from theater production to fiction, from film to music—as having values aside from those of commercial entertainment, values that have to do with what it means to be human, and what it might mean to be more human. When practised at this level, criticism, too, is one of the arts.
Novelist, Librettist, and Critic
You are to be congratulated on the breadth and quality of The Berkshire Review. What a lot of hard work! The Berkshire Review provides broad, ambitious coverage of art, books, dance, film, food & drink, music, photography, and places. It is a compelling platform for a variety of distinctive voices that offer entertaining, insightful, and informative reading.
Tom E. Hinson
Curator Emeritus, Cleveland Museum of Art
Last year a marvelous new source came online for reliable and well-written reviews of musical performances, as well as theater, art exhibits, and (promised for the future) books—including books on music. It’s called The Berkshire Review for the Arts. Note the preposition “for.” The editor, Michael Miller (who has taught courses in classics and in art history at Williams College and New York University) is absolutely devoted to the performing and visual arts. […] As the “for” in its title suggests, the Berkshire Review tries to draw attention to major artistic effort and achievement, not to tear it down for the greater glory of the smug critic (as sometimes occurs in, say, concert reviews in daily newspapers). […] The various newspaper accounts [of the BSO’s concert performance of Berlioz’ Les Troyens] were frustratingly brief, perhaps for reasons of space (the famous “shrinking newshole” in print journalism). Only the lengthy articles in the Berkshire Review—Miller attended both the Boston and Tanglewood performances, and wrote two separate reviews—gave me enough detail to “hear” the ways in which Levine and the various singers galvanized this lengthy but potentially powerful work.
Prof. Ralph Locke
Professor of Musicology
Eastman School of Music
I very much enjoyed reading this piece, and I salute your publication for actually doing real criticism, just about disappeared from these parts.
D. K. Holoman
Professor of Music,
University of California, Davis
Conductor, UCD Symphony Orchestra
I have just read your review of Katherina Wagner’s production of Die Meistersinger. I wish I had discovered this earlier, having just sat through a production on Saturday last at Bayreuth. I knew it was going to be controversial, but it was beyond anything I could have imagined. […] Your views on the production have been so helpful—giving me some insight into my rather mixed feelings. I knew somehow that this was an important production—one definitely had to think outside the box. […] Thank you for sharing your great clarity, insightfulness and scholarship. I needed something rational which would help me through the minefield. I usually trust in this type of situation “if ye seek ye shall find”, and of course I did. Your article was a revelation.
I just spent about an hour browsing through your Berkshire Review and am staggered at its breadth and depth. I found so many pieces I wanted to read. What a wonderful resource. […] I loved reading about (and seeing images from) Stan Lichens’ book with Lois Guarino’s essay.
The Berkshire Review is a gourmet feast for hungry thought-addicts.
We all should acknowledge with gratitude our place at the banquet table.
These are only some of the encouraging comments we have received since the launch of the Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts in October 2007, and all of us who have worked hard to provide our informed, in-depth reviews, previews, essays, and interviews—long-form, as the current buzzword goes—are grateful for the warm response we have received from artists, and the public alike. The Internet and the ever more sophisticated publishing technology it offers have made it possible to provide the best thought and writing we can achieve without having to raise capital for printing and distribution, and all the other expenses involved in a kind of publication, which, I regret to say, is headed towards obsolescence in our particular “niche,” the arts. Many excellent print publications in the arts have had to shut down, and others have tried to survive by opening themselves to commercial interests. Newspapers and weeklies, struggling for survival themselves, have been radically cutting back their staffs in the arts, so that all that is left are quick impressions of a popular, consumeristic nature. We believe above all that the arts are too important for the life of communities and human civilization to be treated as a casual amusement or as a variety of shopping. Even if the latest technology has allowed us to present our wind-powered labors—looking both to the past and to the future—to a substantial audience in a form that, while making the most of multimedia, remains primarily based in text, the costs involved in creating this content are considerable.
I’d also like to thank the readers who took the time to answer the brief audience survey we posted back in August and early September. We held the drawing, and the prize—a download of Pristine Classical’s splendid remastering of Robert Heger’s 1930 Vienna Philharmonic recording of Karl Goldmark’s Rustic Wedding Symphony—has been awarded, I’m happy to say, to a leader in the musical world who divides her time between London and the Berkshires…who “never wins anything.”
We learned some interesting facts we didn’t know before, which will prove extremely helpful in ensuring the future of The Berkshire Review and New York Arts. For example we learned that 69% of our readers have post-graduate degrees, some in music, as you might imagine, but others in Chemistry, Social Work, Law, International Management, and the Classics. 97% have bachelor’s degrees.
25% attend a performance in a theater, opera house, or concert hall or go to a museum at least twice a week, and another 28% once a week. 31% engage in these activities once a month. In reading, they show a strong preference for printed books (50%) and printed magazines (24%). Only 14% prefer ebooks and 12% online magazines…like Berkshire Review and New York Arts. They buy between three and five books a month, and they prefer live music to recordings, although some avidly buy CDs and audio downloads. One respondent frequents a library and buys no books or recordings at all, because she or he owns too many!
A large majority are content with the title Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, although much of what we publish concerns other localities, and the responses came from Australia, the UK, Canada, and all over the United States, which account for 65% of our readers. The vast majority of the rest live in non-English-speaking countries. The Berkshire Review, in fact, was never intended as a local publication.
Finally, and immediately relevant to our continuing ability to bring you our high-quality coverage of the arts, a surprising proportion of the respondents expressed support for a paid subscription. 44% are willing to pay a modest subscription fee, while 59% would prefer paying a tax-deductible contribution. We have, for reasons to be indicated below, decided to move to a subscription model. The step into a non-profit existence would be a serious one, and we are considering it seriously as well. If this change does in fact occur, it will not be soon.
To respond to another preference expressed in the survey, there may well be an annual or quarterly print publication of the best articles from our online edition.
Our mission is to report and evaluate the state of the arts with the seriousness they deserve. We believe that the arts represent the highest form of human achievement. In addition to providing rare pleasures which can be achieved no other way, the arts do somehow improve and educate people, and our task is to make them accessible to enthusiasts who are willing to engage with great works of art on their own terms. We abhor the condescending dumbing-down endemic in museum labels, concert and opera programs, and the general media, and our aim is to counteract it with serious but engaging commentary by knowledgeable critics.
Some of our writers are artists or professional musicians, others are academics, yet others are journalists and authors. Some are advanced in their careers; others are young—and we especially value their insight. Some may write as professionals in their fields, and others as dedicated and learned amateurs. For myself, as editor and publisher, writing, editorial work, administration, and attending events amount to a full-time job in itself, and there are considerable expenses involved. I’d also like to expand the services we offer you, particularly in our very popular previews and schedules, and none of this will be possible without paid support staff.
Lastly, nobody likes ads. For the most part they are ugly, stupid, and distracting, and they take up precious space better used for our own content. We prefer to keep advertising to a minimum of discreetly designed artwork representing products and services directly relevant to the arts. It makes far more sense if those who benefit most from our service, you, our readers, support the expenses of our ongoing work.
Free access to the Berkshire Review will remain open until November 19th, with occasional paywalls appearing experimentally on selected articles before then. After that, it will be necessary to have a paid subscription to access most items, although a random selection will remain free. It will be possible to subscribe for a month, six months, or a year. A year’s subscription will be $34.95 (=$2.90 a month), less than most tickets to the events you read about on the Review. A quarterly subscription will cost $14.95 (=$4.98 a month); one month will be $6.95. A subscription form for registration and payment will appear by November 21st.
Remember, a subscription to the Berkshire Review will be a perfect holiday gift for your friends. This is easy to do. E-mail us for instructions.
New York Arts, which is still young, will remain free for the time being. Subscriptions to the mailing lists and RSS feeds of both publications, which provide titles and excerpts of all postings, in order of publication, will remain free as well. Following us on Posterous or Tumblr, following @berkshirereview or @newyorknyarts on Twitter, or liking either on Facebook will provide the same free updates.
I hope you have enjoyed reading our reviews, articles, and previews, as well as listening to our podcasts of our interviews of great artists in all fields, and that you will understand why we find it necessary to impose a subscription fee for our publication, as printed media have done for centuries.
We need wind for our sails!