From Darmstadt to the Shopping Mall

From Darmstadt to the Shopping Mall

The public’s behavior is either friendly or indifferent, unless they are intimidated because their spiritual leaders are protesting. As a whole they are always rather inclined to enjoy something they have devoted time and money to. They come less to judge than to enjoy.”
—Arnold Schönberg, “My Public” (Der Querschnitt 10, vol. 4, April 1930)

“Fuck knows what for… but you shouldn’t be doing music for fun … When something happens and before it can be mimicked and you haven’t got a word for it, that’s the ultimate success.”
—Bill Drummond at the Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna, Austria, November 11, 2013

I’m finally back at my desk in New York City after orbiting the entire planet. Thanks to flying east for the entire journey, I crossed the International Date Line only once and therefore gained a day, although I actually spent nearly 42 hours in flight. However, that’s quite an improvement over making such a journey in 80 or 81 days. Yet even with all the technological advances that make it possible to travel in such a manner relatively painlessly (so far the jetlag has not completely kicked in), it’s still something of a marvel. While I’ve been all over the world, this is something I had never done before and I remain utterly awed by it since it really provides a perspective on the size of the planet we live on and the significant distances that separate us from one another.

Those significant distances go a long way toward explaining why people in different parts of the world continue to perceive things in different ways, despite all the possibilities for shared experiences via the internet and, for better or worse, the ubiquitous global chains. E.g. no matter where on the planet I was these past two and half weeks, golden arches were always in my periphery. But it is difficult to claim that anything besides those chains is “universal.” In fact, the adjective “universal” is perhaps the most hubris laden epithet in common parlance. How can people who have never traveled beyond our own planet make claims for anything outside our own world?

JUbiquitous Golden Arches

A shared experience for millions of people daily in Vienna and Hong Kong? Well, not exactly.

And yet such a claim of “universality” has been made for various European cultural traditions, such as classical music and the continuance of its legacy through so-called contemporary or new music. Undeniably, throughout the 20th century and now into the 21st, important contributions to this particular mode of music creation, performance, and presentation have been made by composers and interpreters from nations all over the globe. Curiously, however, this type of music making doesn’t happen with the same intensity everywhere. There have been few additions to the canon of “classical” music from Africa, or most of southern Asia and Oceania. And yet, despite the efforts of extremists in various parts of the world, some form of music is created, performed, and listened to in every nation on the planet; music is one of the few pan-terrestrial human activities.


A sculpture of a giant ear outside the studios for Austrian radio station ORF in Vienna, where a 2013 ISCM concert was held, is an immediate indication that there’s interesting stuff to listen to inside there.

The International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM), which has convened an annual contemporary music festival since 1923 (alternately called “World Music Days” and “World New Music Days” by its members—more on that later), has had sections based in countries on all six human-habited continents but the aforementioned geographic lacunae are mostly absent. South Africa has been the only African nation that has regularly participated in ISCM. And, as a further reminder of how much still needs to be done to insure greater global inclusivity, outgoing ISCM President John Davis (who hails from Australia) reminded the delegates attending the final 2013 General Assembly (on November 14 in Vienna) that the ISCM’s 2010 convening in Sydney remains the only time that the festival took place in the Southern Hemisphere. The first official ISCM gathering to take place outside of Europe was in Haifa, Israel in 1954 and the next did not occur until the organization’s one and only official convening in the United States in 1976—only one of three ever to occur in the Americas. (The others took place in both Toronto and Montreal in 1984 and in Mexico City in 1993. According to ISCM’s records, there were also “unofficial” assemblies were held in 1940 and 1941 in New York and San Francisco respectively, before the war caused the society to be on hiatus until 1946.) But over the last quarter century there has been a concerted effort to involve more of the world. ISCM has held five World (New) Music Days festivals in East Asia: in Seoul, South Korea (1997); in Yokohama, Japan (2001); and three in Hong Kong (in 1988, 2002, and 2007). The final of these (2007) also included events in Macau.


If the hair doesn’t bring in new audiences, nothing will!

Of course, the only way to make the ISCM an organization that is more representative of the new music that is being made all over the planet is to have a broader definition of what constitutes “new music” and, more specifically, a definition that is considerably less Eurocentric. This will be a challenge for many of the delegates who seem to still cling to a Darmstadtian new music aesthetic, which was an aesthetic that informed a great deal of the music I heard during the ISCM concerts I attended two weeks ago in Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria. (The 2013 festival was actually spread across three cities, but I was unable to get to the first of the three host cities—Košice, Slovakia. However, I was happy to see that some of the Košice programs featured some clearly un-Darmstadtian fare. The composers whose works were performed there included Christian Wolff, Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski, Per Bloland, Louis Andriessen, British conceptual minimalist Christopher Fox, Lithuanian microtonalist Egidija Medekšaitė, and Slovakia’s own Vladimír Godár, whose music has been recorded by ECM.) Unfortunately I was only able to attend a total of eight of the ISCM concerts that occured in Bratislava and Vienna, a mere smattering compared to what I was able to experience when I attended the ISCM WNMD in Zagreb, since this time around the festival was concurrent with the 2013 conference of the International Association of Music Information Centres (IAMIC). Though both events were happening in the same cities, activities were all too infrequently synchronized.

William Rowe

William Rowe

What proved to be the most varied was a concert of works for unaccompanied chamber chorus performed by Poland’s Camerata Silesia Katowice conducted by Anna Szostak at the Mittlerer Saal in Vienna’s Urania Observatory on November 13. Among the concert’s highlights were a somewhat surreal composition by Indiana University undergraduate William Rowe (who created his own text for the piece as well) and an extremely unusual piece incorporating non-linguistic syllables as well as some extended vocal techniques called The History of Songs and Words by Japanese composer Yasunoshin Morita, which fetched him the 2013 ISCM Young Composer Award. It was also a joy to hear the premiere of the work that was commissioned from last year’s Young Composer Award winner, Paestum by Eric Nathan, an extremely well-paced and finely orchestrated composition for large ensemble which was enthusiastically delivered by the Melos Ethos Ensemble in the Small Hall of the Slovak Philharmonic in Bratislava on November 8 just a few hours after I arrived there. (I had an opportunity to record a conversation with Eric the next day in between various conference sessions which will appear on this site at a later date.)

Eric Nathan (center) with some American fans following the performance of his ISCM commission

Eric Nathan (center) with some American fans following the performance of his ISCM commission: Barbara Jazwinski, FJO (left), Stephen Lias and Ed Harsh (right).

Kyle Gann

The world would be a far more interesting place if this man was in charge of programming the music piped into shopping malls.

A few of the aforementioned Darmstadtian partisans definitely got their feathers ruffled by Kyle Gann, who was invited to give a talk about the state of new music in the United States during a series of Symposia sponsored by the ISCM open to the general public which were held at the Vienna Conservatory on November 13. After speaking eloquently and passionately about the current compositional landscape, which he attributed to a “decentered pedagogic tradition” and a “marginalization of composers” that has greatly increased over the last quarter century, Gann offered three examples of recent American music—works by Corey Dargel, William Brittelle, and Judd Greenstein. While I wish his range of examples would have been more stylistically, geographically, and socially diverse (all three are Brooklyn-based white men in their 30s), I laud his provocative attempt to subvert the aesthetics of the new music cognoscenti who decried all of what he sampled as indistinguishable from pop music and music that was reminiscent of what is played in shopping malls! (For more details, read Gann’s own account of what transpired.) From my vantage point the music that best meets the criterion for being new is music that challenges our expectations and somehow makes us question our assumption and definitions; at this late date (68 years after the death of Anton Webern), music coming out of the Darmstadt aesthetic, and indeed a whole lot of other stuff we generally describe as “new music,” does not meet those criteria.


Webern’s star still shines in Vienna.


Though, to be perfectly honest, the most talked about composer in Vienna is still this one.

The public day of the IAMIC Conference, which was held at Vienna’s Arnold Schönberg Center on November 11 also had its share of polemical interchange. The day got off to a fiery start with a talk by Dieter Hasenbach about how to measure success indicators for music. Hasenbach immediately challenged the sometimes hermetically sealed new music environment by stating that “without an audience, music might as well not happen.” But he riled some of the audience when he explained that although the marketplace fails for many types of music, specifically those that are deemed the most culturally worthwhile, no public subsidy will increase the demand for it and that ultimately it “does not make sense to subsidize training for a field where most people will fail (9 out of 10).”

Franz Kasper Kröning offered a fascinating account of how beauty has changed its meaning throughout history. According to him, it morphed from something that was transcendent and conjured the divine in Medieval times to something that accurately mirrored nature or was scientifically correct during the so-called Common Practice period, the era that spawned most of the works that have become the standard repertoire of classical music. But he argued that in the 20th century what mattered most, and was therefore beautiful, was what was socially relevant and that nowadays what is important is what is successful and that success is mostly measured in commercial terms. Karim Fanous evangelized for the digital revolution and how it has enabled a greater proliferation of music as well as a greater opportunity for anyone to reach a wider audience than anytime in human history. Samples he offered included the Harlem Shake and Psy’s Gangnam Style. But Bill Drummond (who is probably most well-known for co-founding The KLF and for subsequently burning one million British pounds) was not convinced and questioned whether viral online phenomena could actually build a sustainable career. David Keenan, a Scottish music journalist who writes for The Wire, gave an impassioned talk about the Texas-based outsider musician Jandek in which he decried commercial popular music stating that “most pop culture says you must say no to yourself…what would saying yes involve?” In the concluding panel, which was held in German, Gerald Bast, a professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, offered some of the most salient comments of the day (which I quote via the real-time translation that I listened to on headphones):

Why are we discussing success? What do we need that for? There has been a tendency for the past twenty years to quantify everything… Why do people make art and why do they stick to it? It gets hard after graduating, one can start to be more successful in a different field. A better question would be a serious discussion about why we need art and why artists exist. Which part of society is represented by political parties? Not the artists. Nobody questions why billions are being given to the banking sector and nobody screams out that this money should go to education and to the arts and to improve the living conditions of artists. It’s a waste of resources.

Although the IAMIC sessions concluded on November 12 and the ISCM sessions concluded on November 14 and I was on vacation from then until now, first spending a day in Berlin and then a week in Hong Kong, which I flew to with a brief stopover in Doha, Qatar, my mind remained fixated on many of the discussions that transpired in Bratislava and Vienna and what it would take to create a truly world-wide new music scene. I failed to find music of any kind in the insane Duty Free mega-emporium that greeted me when I arrived in Doha though some interesting occasionally microtonally inflected instrumental music was piped in on the P.A. system of both the Qatar Airlines’ Berlin-Doha and Doha-Hong Kong flights before take-off. There were some fascinating old Arab movies available to view via the in-flight entertainment though none were subtitled and all were from Egypt (which I learned from doing some subsequent online reconnaissance after landing in Hong Kong).

Doha Duty Free

I couldn’t spot any recordings in the massive duty free emporium that awaits arrivals to the airport in Doha, even folks like me who arrived in the middle of the night, but there were tons of perfume, designer bags, and even cars for sale there, plus–one concession to regional geography–plush camels.

In Hong Kong, I did not have a lot of time to search out music (I was mostly there for family stuff), but I did pick up a pile of qin recordings from the gift shop of a rock garden that is maintained by Buddhist nuns. I also went to several record shops which were mostly located in the myriad shopping malls which dominate the islands and peninsula that comprise the Hong Kong Special Administration Region. While I didn’t wind up acquiring any additional recordings at any of them, I managed to buy over 80 DVDs of motion pictures from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Mainland China, including a bunch of Cultural Revolution era propaganda films. Many of these motion pictures undoubtedly will contain music that I will want to explore further, but that will have to wait until I get over my jetlag.

Hong Kong Records

One of the two branches of Hong Kong Records in Kowloon, which I wound up visiting twice.

On the ride back from Hong Kong yesterday, first to Seoul and then finally to JFK, I tried to listen to as much recent pop fare from South Korea, Japan and the various Chinese speaking territories (which are commonly referred to respectively as K-Pop, J-Pop, and C-Pop) as I could get through. Much of what I heard of this music in the past has struck me as somewhat watered down versions of Western pop music, but I hate to dismiss anything out of hand and certainly haven’t heard enough to have anything remotely resembling an informed reaction to it. I was intrigued by Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Never Ever,” which opened with some really oddball electronic timbres, as well as Nana Nizuki’s “Synchrogazer” which featured some strange chord changes. The thing that grabbed my attention the most, however, was a recording of an indie rock group from China whose album I listened to from start to finish. The album had the word “Hertz” in the title, but by then the battery on my PalmPilot was wiped and I could not turn on my smartphone on the plane, so unless I’m able to find a way to locate a list of Korean Airlines in-flight entertainment offerings online I might be out of luck ever hearing it again. The Google queries I did for Chinese indie-rock hertz left me empty-handed.

Korean Culture at the Airport

It was nice to once again briefly visit the spaces devoted to traditional Korean culture, including traditional music, at Incheon Airport during my layover between flights from Hong Kong and to New York City on Sunday.

But as I was listening for new sounds among the East Asia’s popular music acts, I kept thinking of some of the comments that were made following Kyle Gann’s presentation. The moderator for the symposia that day, Andreas Engström (editor of the Swedish Nutida Musik), spoke briefly in a panel later that day about the underground music scenes in Egypt and Lebanon and how it is worlds away from most of the music that gets programmed during the annual ISCM World Music Days. A truly international representation of new music needs to be open to everything, but such an aesthetic position won’t be readily embraced by the folks who were reminded of shopping malls when they heard the examples of recent American music Kyle Gann sampled during his talk in Vienna. There’s a bit of bittersweet irony in all of this. If only we could get the new music we love played in shopping malls!

Coat Check

One final anecdote from my time 2013 ISCM experience that’s worth mentioning was my encounter with a coat check attendant at the Vienna Conservatory who was wearing a John Cage t-shirt. My coat check number was 101 which led to a fun conversation about Cage with her.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

19 thoughts on “From Darmstadt to the Shopping Mall

  1. Corey Dargel

    If these Damnstadt people knew anything at all about *current* popular music and shopping-mall music, they would (I hope) realize that the opposite of “popular” is not “inscrutable,” and the opposite of “muzak” is not “etudes.”

    I suppose the Damnstadt people are the best candidates to answer these questions: How does a composer get to a point at which s/he is able to reflexively dismiss something that seems simple? What does it feel like to be incapable of appreciating the deceptively simple, music that buries layers of complexity beneath an appealing surface? Is a simple surface unappealing? Do simple chord progressions always lead to stupid lyrics, boring rhythms, and dumb melodies? Do precisely calibrated noises have more aesthetic weight than precisely calibrated pitches?

    My problem with the Damnstadts is that they seem to have lost their ability to appreciate and evaluate something that’s uncomplicated. There are plenty of brilliant composers and songwriters who work (at least at first) with uncomplicated material. Isn’t that a legitimate way to approach a new composition? Should I ask Meredith Monk, Terry Riley, Philip Glass? Oh, damn it all to stadt, they’re all Americans!

    Perhaps the Damnstadts believe that their incomprehensible compositions represent some alternative to capitalism. Perhaps that’s why their primary insult is that simple(r) music is “shopping mall music.” I personally do not embrace capitalism, nor do many composers I know. I am not getting rich (or even necessarily making a consistent living) off of my music. Meanwhile, the Damnstadts write unrelatable, thorny, (pseudo-)intellectual, (pseudo-)scientific compositions which are incapable of engaging with capitalism in any subversive or progressive manner. After all, the Damnstadts have their academic salaries and/or academic prospects to keep them going, and they’re *not* for sale, at least not once they’ve received tenure.

  2. Dan Joseph

    While it’s surprising how persistent the “atonal, aperiodic and impenetrable” (from Kyle’s article) tradition continues to be, in Europe at least, what’s more surprising is that this tradition apparently continues to threaten (or at least rile) contemporary composers here in the USA. As far as I’m concerned, and I imagine I’m in good company, who cares? I mean, I’m fine with Darmstadt, complexity, atonality and the rest of it – I studied it, practiced it, still listen to it – but we long ago reached a more egalitarian, open-minded condition here where we can deal with all the many and diverse voices that make up our musical culture. Why then are we still threatened by strict European modernism?

      1. Dan Joseph

        That may also be true Kyle, but my comment was really prompted by Corey’s comment (above) which suggested to me someone who is certainly riled up, if not actually threatened. Whatever the case, I continue to be surprised by the appearance of this particular dichotomy in our musical discourse and the often angry tone it (still) occasions.

        1. Kyle Gann

          Corey was riled up because the Austrians were affronted by his music (and Britelle’s and Greenstein’s) and one of them said it only made him think of a shopping mall. Corey wasn’t at the festival and didn’t hear any European modernist music, and so we don’t know whether he’s threatened by it or not. Assuming that one has a right to get riled up when one’s music is publicly dismissed on superficial stylistic and ideological grounds (and I won’t press the point), I don’t see that it makes any difference which aesthetic direction that dismissal comes from. Personally, I’m deeply attached to a lot of European modernist music. The situation does not seem symmetrical in that regard. My experience is that they get a lot more threatened by our music than we do by theirs.

          1. Dan Joseph

            That’s all reasonable enough Kyle, and I won’t try to further interpret anyone’s comments. I will admit however, to being rather allergic to the kind of inflammatory language that serves only to, well, inflame, especially when directed at a group or ideology that is well-known for, among other things, its dogmatism. But you bring up an interesting point that I’m not sure I’ve ever considered, that adherents to a strict modernist musical aesthetic, European or otherwise, might in fact feel threatened by a more accessible, tonal or otherwise stylistically different music. That’s a dynamic I would like to learn more about!

    1. kea

      I don’t think any contemporary composers/performers/listeners feel particularly threatened by any other groups of contemporary composers/performers/listeners. The “threat” per se comes from all the other musics that have a real claim to supersede contemporary classical music, artistically and intellectually—both classical music of the past, which continues to be more popular among audiences than contemporary classical music regardless of how challenging or accessible it may be, and pop music, which is the only kind of music out there with actually *universal* appeal and one which influences many classical composers, yet one from which they prefer to distance themselves.

      As such, every artistic faction believes its way forward is the one that will “save” contemporary classical music from irrelevance, unaware that that irrelevance has been a reality for two generations. Composers (and performers and listeners) therefore feel the need to take sides. Certainly it is true that nowadays there are no stylistic restrictions or barriers on what a composer writes—but there is another very real restriction, that being which audience will listen to your work, and who you will wind up hanging out with based on the kind of music you write.

      I mean, let’s say you’re a fledgling composer, and your favourite music is Mahler and Bruckner and that sort of thing, so you want to write something post-romantic in a similar style, which will make audiences feel the same way you feel when you listen to your favourite Mahler symphony. Yet when you present such a work to the mainstream classical audience, so much information will be lost—the audience isn’t musically educated, they can’t follow the intricate counterpoint and motives you wrote, they won’t buy the four-hands piano reduction and bash through it on their piano because they don’t *own* a piano, the dissonant intensity of your climax pales in comparison to what they hear at the movies or on your average punk rock album et cetera. Moreover, they’re mostly old rich white capitalists and maybe you don’t like hobnobbing with them and trying to get them to bankroll your next opera et cetera.

      So perhaps you decide you want an audience that’s more musically educated, liberal, inclusive, etc, and decide to go for the academics. But for the academics, anything too “classical” is uninteresting. You’ll never get some highly respected professor analysing a Rochberg symphony as a piece of pure music the way he would a Beethoven symphony. In order to appeal to the academics and get them to sponsor you you need to write music that’s boundary-pushing, forward-looking, constructivist, of its time, etc, etc. Moreover, you need to become a fervent supporter of this sort of continuation of the classical tradition (while aware of the gender/race/class exclusiveness of that tradition), and look very suspiciously at anything that seems too commercial. (Howard Skempton is okay, Michael Nyman is borderline, and under no circumstances admit to liking John Rutter.)

      Or perhaps you look at the whole academia thing and can’t stand the elitism, pettiness, turf wars, ivory-tower mentality et cetera. Then maybe you decide to throw your lot in with the experimental/postminimalist crowd—which is most likely the freest in terms of restrictions, encompassing all kinds of sound art, musique concrète, installations, theatre, crossover events, improvisation, et cetera. I personally suspect the people are also the nicest, but it’s hard to be sure. But once again, there are compositional restrictions you have to abide by, otherwise all those people will lose interest. You can’t write anything that relies too much on a traditional sense of line, and particularly (once again) you can’t write anything too “classical”; most of the time you also can’t write anything too complex, dissonant, atonal, etc, though for that kind of thing opinions vary widely (it’s always okay to say you like Feldman, and AMM is usually a good bet; avoid saying anything remotely positive about Boulez, Carter or Ferneyhough).

      Obviously, I’m exaggerating recklessly. The mainstream audience isn’t as bad as all that. Lots of academics are minimalist or neo-romantic in stylistic orientation, and none the worse off for it, nowadays. Thanks to the New York School (Cage, Brown, Wolff, etc) “downtown” is also not the opposite of “dissonant”, and the increasing popularity of composers like Ligeti proves that “accessible” and “challenging” are not mutually exclusive. Still, there are pretty clear boundaries. You won’t hear a new piece in the vein of Shostakovich or Hanson at a venue like Café Oto or Roulette. The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival won’t include anything by David Lang or John Adams. And while you might get a Lachenmann portrait concert at Avery Fisher or the Wigmore Hall, it’ll be half full, and the audience members will leave nasty comments on the website. Certainly no one out there can hope to have a foot in all three worlds and have their name survive. That’s just the way of things—different audiences, different expectations.

  3. Michael

    It’s interesting to read various viewpoints on this subject. Personally, I believe that American jazz, followed by American and British rock and pop, superseded all Western “classical music” intellectually, technically, expressively, and spiritually beginning around the time of Charlie Parker, a revolutionary musician who Stanley Crouch has brilliantly described as “Kansas City Lightning” in a new book I have not yet read. In fact, venturing outside the realm of music, I sometimes wonder if Charlie Parker’s music somehow assisted American consciousness to defeat the dreaded Blitzkrieg of Nazi Germany by imparting a previously unknown intensity, speed, and fantastical precision. (I do not know if Russia was familiar with Parker’s music during this period.)

    Music created by, and spawned by Parker, followed by John Coltrane, represents the most powerful influences on composers of our time together with the classical music of India. This includes those influenced by the music of Steve Reich and other “minimalists”, who owe this debt as well, regardless of how cognizant they may be of primary sources. Even Milton Babbitt, following in the tradition of Schoenberg and Webern, etc., acknowledged the enormous influence of jazz on his musical output.

    So, as you see, my personal perspective on the various schools of composition discussed above is how they relate to jazz, rock, pop, and the traditional music of India and other world cultures, as opposed to each other, which is like discussing ice cream and steak by forgetting that they both emanate from cows.

  4. Dr.DotDotDot

    These arguments aren’t new. Composers thought that Medieval polyphony was to complex and didn’t convey text. So, Renaissance composers developed a more homophonic approach to music. Romantic composers argued about programs versus Absolute music. Composers have hated complexity or simplicity essentially forever. It will not change. Threats of any kind keep people keenly aware of their surroundings. And are they really threats? They don’t stop anyone from writing notes on the page. If we all just met and agreed on everything, would that solve or prove anything? I don’t think so.

  5. Corey Dargel

    Oh, God, I’m not at all threatened by the Damnstadts. I simply pity them because they don’t seem to be able to appreciate simplicity, singularity, and economy of means. I don’t care whether or not they like *my* music. Their approval means almost nothing to me, and there are plenty of other composers who write simple(r) and/or similar music in various incarnations. I named a few of them in my initial post, but they were all Americans, alas.

    It’s a shame that the Damnstadts don’t seem able to evaluate, much less appreciate, music that is unapologetically uncomplicated.

    1. kea

      It’s not really about simplicity or complexity. Plenty of Darmstadt-approved music is extremely simple and uncomplicated, from Stockhausen’s Stimmung to the works of Antoine Beuger to current European darling Hans Abrahamsen (Schnee, etc). Similarly the music of Reich, Young, Glenn Branca, etc, can often be dauntingly complex. The only thing that grants a certain kind of music approval in *any* musical circle nowadays—uptown, downtown, Darmstadt, Vienna, Huddersfield, Montréal—is who the composer knows: where they studied, which musicians their works are associated with, what sort of audience (and sponsors) they get et cetera. If you lived in Berlin, took a few classes with Helmut Lachenmann, knew a guy from the Quatuor Diotima, incorporated a few “extended techniques” into your music and swathed it in academic verbiage—and changed nothing else—you would probably be a hit in Darmstadt. And totally unknown in New York.

  6. Corey Dargel

    It is also a shame to read elaborate but ultimately irrelevant posts by people who may be sadly brainwashed by academia. All they can do is qualify this and qualify that and explain that there is no need to express individual opinions as long as qualifiers are available. Does everyone now just go straight from undergrad to grad school without any professional experience between the two? If so, then our future as artists is even bleaker than I thought, and that’s pretty serious given how much of a pessimist I am.

  7. Dr.DotDotDot

    If you are talking about my post, I don’t understand your anger. You also make sweeping generalizations about “Damnstadts.” You also assume that you are responding to one. People are only brain-washed when they allow themselves to be.

  8. Corey Dargel

    OK OK, I admit that my last post — “It is also a shame to read elaborate but ultimately irrelevant posts…” — was hastily written. But I promise I wasn’t aiming it at any single person, nor was I trying to express “anger” so much as disenchantment. I should have been more articulate.

    Sweeping generalizations are good for debate. They don’t always hold up, but like clichés, they are not always incongruous with reality. But, so, yeah… you should definitely call me out on that, but maybe you could provide something more than just the *observation* that I am making sweeping generalizations.

    I challenge the statement that “[p]eople are only brain-washed when they allow themselves to be.” I assume that brainwashing can *only* happen when the person being brainwashed is (at least partially) unaware of what’s happening. If a person is cognizant of being brainwashed, then that person is not actually being brainwashed but rather indoctrinated, yeah? Anyway, I do apologize for using such a loaded word as “brainwashed.” I was being unfair and insensitive.

    I always appreciate the exposure to different perspectives. Thank you for that.

  9. jose halac

    Being a composer from Argentina and having lived in New York for 15 years puts me pretty much in the middle of everything and nowhere at the same time. Here, in a small province called Cordoba, you´d be surprised how much this aesthetic conflict is mirrored by groups of Argentineans who separate in the same groups and tendencies! I can´t really understand that one very well myself but it´s always been known that we´ve been a sort of European-colonized society and it´s been really hard for marginal people who try other type of stuff (namely using popular or folk traditions, aboriginal and minimalist American, rock, repetition, tonality etc) to be considered “serious” composers. Also, orchestras here all alike don´t really like playing any type of new music other than that reflecting old classical European flavours like Shostakovitch, as the most daring style they go for. So, we have a rather big community of contemporary music composers, exactly separated by the same linear thinking. European-modern types, and the New York downtowners types with subtle local coloring. And the same goes on in Mexico, Chile, Brazil..with great exceptions…..It´s hard to know how to get out of the loop. I myself teach to embrace diversity but then festivals (mostly run by academics) make students “learn” what is to be programmed and what is just simple and banal music. It`s a loop. The only way out is to jump out, be yourself and get your own damn festival going, which is what I do, at my university. And by the way: to me the better distinction is not “lachenmann-extended technique vs post tonal-minimal” in this conflict but a more musical one, which is “spaced out-un-barred non rhythmic spatial music vs rhythm-meter, barred, motion-motor constructions”. That distinction puts together Steve Reich with Beat Furrer (both of whom I like a lot) and makes a bit more sense to me. Great reading you all. thanks…

  10. David Coll

    It doesn’t seem that this website is a good place to find out about the really interesting changes going on at Darmstadt (with their new director, Thomas Schäfer), but I would like to say that the most recent ‘other’ non-‘darmstadt sound’, if you will, is a sound that doesn’t fall upon lines of nationality as much as it has beforehand, so this is perhaps a nice tiny little development. But about the World Music Days, it seems clear to me that this festival needs a location where there is a pre-existing festival already in place, and then its cash infusion can add a bit more flexibility to widen its geographical scope. It’ll be tough, but having a World Music Days in the states again could go a long way to elevate this dialogue, which right now is happening more at darmstadt than at the WMDs. It would take a lot of organizing, but this could happen with some resource sharing. How about Chicago?

  11. Jose Halac

    Hi David Coll: Is there a web site or a place to find out about what is happening at Darmstadt, with audios or videos? Thanks.

  12. Pingback: Getting past difficult pronunciations to answering some difficult questions — the 2014 ISCM World Music Days – ISCM – International Society for Contemporary Music

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