Not Satisfied

Not Satisfied

“[T]he composer of what we will, for the moment, designate as “serious,” “advanced,” contemporary music … expends an enormous amount of time and energy … on the creation of a commodity which has little, no, or negative commodity value. The general public is largely unaware of and uninterested … But to assign blame is to imply that this isolation is unnecessary and undesirable. … [T]he composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute, and voluntary withdrawal from this public world … By so doing, the separation between the domains would be defined beyond any possibility of confusion of categories, and the composer would be free to pursue a private life of professional achievement, as opposed to a public life of unprofessional compromise and exhibitionism.”

—Milton Babbitt, “Who Cares If You Listen?”
(originally published in High Fidelity, February 1958, and available online here)

“The contemporary American writer is in no way a part of the social and political scene. He is therefore not muzzled, for no one fears his bite; nor is he called upon to compose. Whatever work he does must proceed from a reckless inner need. The world does not beckon, nor does it grant reward. This is not a boast or a complaint. It is a fact. Serious writing must nowadays be written for the sake of the art. The condition I describe is not extraordinary. Certain scientists, philosophers, historians, and many mathematicians do the same, advancing their causes as they can. One must be satisfied with that.

—William H. Gass, from “A Revised and Expanded Preface”
(written between May 26, 1976 and January 26, 1981) for his book, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories (New Hampshire: Nonpareil, 1981), pp. xviii-xix.

“[E]veryone who is deeply into music has figured out how to download music for free, despite the best efforts of the record business to stop them, and has far, far more music downloaded to their laptops and iPods than they will ever have time to listen to in their entire lives. Gigabytes and gigabytes of meaningless data. These same students invariably report that they have actually listened to all the music they paid for. If a virtual tree falls in a virtual forest and no one opens the file, does it still make a sound?”

—Bob Ostertag, “Why I No Longer Give Away My Music”
(posted at On the Commons, June 6, 2013)

“Perhaps if we dedicate some time to exploring how classical can be listened to just like any other genre of music, we can view it as an art form that’s easier to confront and enjoy. … Your hipster friend might judge you if you’ve never heard of The Decemberists, but I can promise the classical community isn’t so damning.”

—Mary Sydnor, “Classical Covers”
(posted on Drexel University’s online magazine, The Smart Set, June 6, 2013)

Washington D.C.

It was somehow appropriate that the nation’s capital was the meeting place for a group of music creators who hope to create a network that would give them more power.

I was unable to write anything for these pages last Monday since I spent most of the day in Washington, D.C. in a series of meetings with a group of music creators from all over the world. Many of these people had come to the nation’s capital for the General Assembly of CISAC, an International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, which most of the world’s performing rights societies—including the USA’s (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC)—are members of. This ad-hoc group of music creators met in advance of the “official” CISAC convening essentially to talk about possible common ground between individual music creators worldwide and to look for ways that such a common ground could form the foundation for a viable network. But before I attempt to recount some of the conversations that transpired during the day and to explain a bit more what I believe the goals are of some of the people spearheading this initiative, I want to address the extensive and possibly excessive citations above. I believe these four quotes not only relate to what I witnessed in D.C., but also strike to the heart of what I believe could be a paradigm shift both within the composer community as well as a possible game changer in how we interface with the public at large.

The opening citation herein, by Milton Babbitt from his now infamous 1958 essay (admittedly more infamous for its title, which he did not choose, than for its content which few people who decry it have actually read), came flashing into my mind as I was on a train headed from New York City to the District of Columbia and was attempting to read a book of short stories by William H. Gass. (I was reminded of Gass after reading his introduction to the most recent edition of Robert Coover’s gargantuan McCarthy era parody, The Public Burning. I was actually disappointed that my train journey prevented me from hearing Coover recite some of his prose at a concert of music by Daniel Felsenfeld, who has written extensively for these pages and who had recently set some of Coover’s words to music.) Anyway, I was shocked to discover in Gass’s introduction to his own collection of stories a bleak assessment of the situation of contemporary writers in America that was exactly the same as Babbitt’s view of the role of contemporary composers written a generation earlier. While many readers here might judge the views of both Babbitt and Gass as elitist and disdainful of the general public, I would contend, rather, that both were satisfied with what they perceived as being their role in society, for better or worse, and that nowadays, most composers—at least the most vocal ones, myself included—are not satisfied with such a marginalization of either our own efforts or the efforts of our colleagues.

I’ll go out on a limb here and state that part of what enabled both of them to feel content with their position in the greater society was the belief that there were two kinds of artistic creation—work created for the sake of the art itself and work created for monetary success. In the beginning of the 21st century, there is no clear either/or; everything has become completely blurry from both an aesthetic and an economic standpoint. I would argue that there never were only two “kinds” of music, but now those two larger buckets hold no water. I would also argue that the wall that divided the “two kinds of music” from one another was equally harmful to both sides and that there is no music, no matter how erudite the methods used to formulate it, that cannot be appreciated by a wider audience than it currently has. And aside from the ubiquity of music that is created without the slightest regard to the genre distinctions of earlier eras, the monetization of any kind of music making is still undergoing a massive transitional process. When I used the expression “outside the commercial mainstream” to describe the majority of the music we feature on NewMusicBox, Eddie Schwartz–author of the Pat Benatar’s 1980 blockbuster single “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” president of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), and the prime mover behind a newly formed alliance called Music Creators North America (MCNA)–asked me how much music I thought was commercially viable nowadays.

In an essay I quoted from above, Bob Ostertag, a composer whom I would have clearly placed in the “outside the commercial mainstream” camp once upon a time, explained how he is now forced to charge people for his music just in order to make it available in places where people actually look for music and listen to what they find there. And Mary Sydnor, a 22-year-old contributor to Drexel University’s online magazine and the author of my final citation, opined that the so-called classical music community is actually less elitist than many denizens of pop culture. All of which brings us back to that gathering of music creators in D.C.

DC Music Creators Meeting

Alfons Karabuda (standing on the left side of this photo), President of the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), opens up the meeting of music creators at the House of Sweden in Washington D.C.

Most of the North American attendees I encountered came from, for lack of a better term, the various worlds of “pop” songwriting (country, rock, etc.). But among the Europeans were Martin Q. Larsson, president of the Society of Swedish Composers, a representative organization for composers of “contemporary classical composition,” and Tomislav Saban, secretary general of the Croatian Composers Society (HDS) which organizes the Music Biennale Zagreb. (I initially met Saban, who is also the vice president of the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, a.k.a. ECSA, during the ISCM’s 2011 World New Music Days which was hosted by the Biennale.) Also present was Lesley Thulani Luthuli, the executive producer for the South African-based Wala Entertainment, who has recently formed the Pan African Composers and Songwriter Alliance (PACSA), a group that will hopefully address the shocking inequities of royalty distribution to African musical creators that I learned about during the IAMIC Conference in Greece last year.

A recurring theme during the talks in D.C. was the need to articulate to the general public the need for music to be disseminated on the basis of fair trade. Some of the people who spoke proposed that music creators should look to the fair trade coffee movement of the past decade as a model for how to proceed. Many coffee drinkers are willing to pay more money for their coffee if they believe that their money will reach the farmers who actually produced the coffee. The creators of the music are like those farmers in that, as Eddie Schwartz put it, “We create the one essential element in an enormous value chain. Creators need to determine fair compensation; it shouldn’t be imposed on us from anyone else.”

Another pressing concern that several attendees spoke about is the need for performing rights organizations (PROs) to be based in the territories where they collect royalties. This is predominantly an issue for Europeans since there is growing momentum for PROs from various EU member states to compete with one another rather than to be the exclusive representative for creators within their own national borders. Opponents of this new business model claim that it will weaken PROs based in smaller countries and as a result will erode the culture of—as well as ultimately hurt the economic livelihood of creators based in—these smaller countries. According to Patrick Ager, secretary general of ECSA, “Exclusive assignment is a necessity of culture in Europe.” Another major issue that was on a lot of people’s minds was the negative impact of direct licensing, specifically the lack of transparency in the negotiation of such licenses. Perhaps no one put it more succinctly than Nashville-based songwriter Rick Carnes, the charismatic president of the Songwriters Guild of America: “If we can’t be a part of the process, then we’re not going to approve the process.” Like a classic labor leader, Carnes pulls no punches. He asserted that “whatever happens to any creator happens to all of us.” Seemingly taking a page from cognitive linguist George Lakoff (author of the provocative Don’t Think of an Elephant), Carnes asserted that the community of music creators needs to come up with its own language rather than argue positions using the frames that other constituencies—whether its technology companies, record labels, publishers, or anyone else—use for them. As he said, “It is important to have arguments based on your principles, not just Google’s principles.”

None of the people I met in D.C. last week were content to create music in a society that doesn’t value it, either aesthetically or economically. We should not be content either.

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.

22 thoughts on “Not Satisfied

  1. Daniel Felsenfeld

    What needs to be created and created quickly is a “green” or co-op version of streaming service, where one can pay a higher rate and be assured that a clear percentage of the money goes directly to the artist. That way people can make the decision to buy or not buy, because I have a feeling that the bulk of the people who use, say, Spotify to listen to music have no idea how dreadful that is for the artist. It isn’t about theft or not; it is about giving people a clear and easy way to get what they want in an honest fashion.

  2. Mischa Salkind-Pearl

    Thanks, Frank, for the description of this meeting. I’m particularly happy with the notion expressed that compensation needs to be determined by the creator.

    A pretty pessimistic view, but one which plays off of Daniel’s implication above that the industry will find a way to take most of the money spent on any product: Nearly everything in music can be stolen. Intellectual property, sheet music, recordings; you name it, people can avoid paying for it. Maybe, as Daniel suggests, this is not malicious on the part of our audience, but just ignorance.

    I think there are two solutions: one is to provide the audience a way to bypass particularly odious streaming services like Spotify by enacting regulations which inform the audience of where money goes.
    The other is to look at what cannot be stolen: live performances. I’m no expert here, but I have the strong suspicion that much of music’s economic future lies in live performance.

  3. Marc Geelhoed

    Hi Frank,

    It seems like you’re talking about two separate forms of valuation an audience can place on an artform, that of social influence, and that of revenue generation. I think Babbitt and Sydnor were referring to the first, while Ostertag is more concerned with the second, on the basis of their quotations. Listeners haven’t turned to composers as public intellectuals for a while, nor have they turned to novelists, as Gass notes. Philip Roth has spoken a lot about this recently, too, in that a large public doesn’t read novels to be engaged. No one gets outraged by a novel anymore, or a symphony. But, they do get outraged by stand-up comedians – they can still hit people’s buttons, largely, I think, because they do it very quickly, and clips can be slid around online very easily.

    Given the short attention required to follow a comedian’s jokes/commentary, and the *guaranteed payoff,* they get the social influence today, and the best can be the giant revenue-makers for themselves. This doesn’t explain the lack of politicization in pop/rock music, but maybe alights upon why composers and novelists have a harder time of achieving success beyond their peers. Cheers.

  4. John Borstlap

    The ‘blurr’ referred to in this article, as a result of boundaries between genres dissolving, prevents any evaluation of music production because that needs a value framework to assess new works against. Art works do not exist in the abstract but are part of a broader cultural context which is in the first place a tradition, and in the second place the context where this tradition fits in.

    And evaluation of music production, be it serious, entertainment, pop, folk, whatever, is the only workable basis of a financing system, in which all parties can receive what is their due. That is why the CISAC and the various PROs cannot, in my view, create viable solutions to the problems of music creators in the modern western world – the best they can achieve, if ever, is a bureaucratization of payments, royalties etc. while ignoring the evaluation question, with the result that an immense bulk of inferior music (in whatever genre) creates a barrier for the things which are worthwhile (for the music listener), if only he could find-out. Modern media don’t help, in contrary, they contribute to the blurr and the dross, there are no longer filters.

    The evaluation question however, is crucial because music ‘consumers’ would want to be able to make choices based upon value, however subjective and irrational or non-existent. Genre, existing repertoire therein, i.e. history, provides something offering a grip upon the music listener’s problem: there is so much to choose from.

    The economic side of music creators has fundamentally different meanings in the different genres. Pop music, most of jazz, folk, rock etc. etc. is entertainment, not art music. There is nothing wrong with entertainment but it should not pretend to be art music from which we expect something else: more serious stuff. Entertainment should be paid for entirely by the consumers and it is a totally market-directed form. This turns the royalty question into something different from composers of serious art music, which – qua genre – belongs to high art. Of course, nowadays this term is considered outdated and elitist and anti-democratic, but dropping its implications results in lowering serious music to the level of entertainment and then it seems logical to discuss problems of both genres as if existing on the same level of evaluation, which is wrong. It is impossible to find any solution if the finances of rock groups are discussed in the same context as composers writing a serious work for a classical symphony orchestra, or for an ensemble with experimental electronics.

    There is a difference between apples and bananas, but they are both fruit. The difference between apples and bicycles is so wide that discussions about economics which should include both items quickly run to ground. Thus it is with these music conferences….

  5. Coin Eatock

    “But to assign blame is to imply that this isolation is unnecessary and undesirable.”

    I’ve always wondered about the sincerity of Babbitt’s contention that the serious composer (a category in which he certainly included himself) ought to have no truck with popularity. So I ask: if Babbitt’s music had become popular – if his recordings flew off the shelves, if critics praised him to the skies, if performers clamored to play his works, if he was the subject of glowing articles in Time and Newsweek, and if he was invited to appear on the Johnny Carson Show – how would he have felt about this turn of events? Would he have shrugged his shoulders with indifference? Would he have asked himself what he was doing wrong? Or would he have found public adoration gratifying and rewarding?

    I’ve long believed that most high-minded composers who turn their noses up at popularity are lying to themselves, and to the world. But in Babbitt’s case, I don’t know how honest he was in his stated views. (I never met the man.) So I’m wondering if anyone reading these words who did know him can respond to my question. How would Babbitt have responded to popularity, if it found its way to his doorstep?

    1. John Borstlap

      More relevant than this question seems to be: from where did the babbittry stem? Why would a composer of serious music, of Art Music, want to isolate himself from the (his) audience? It is crazy to condemn ALL audiences of classical music as being philistine, conservative, etc. etc. and blame commerce for its ‘depraved taste’. It is the post-Schönberg obsession that music should, in its stance against a ‘commercial’, ‘vulgarized’ music life, be more like science: pure, objective. That idea took away the psychological and spiritual dimensions of serious art music, its aspirational aspects, and composers focussed upon the material level: its sound, ultimately resulting in ‘sonic art’. So, a kind of quasi-scientific sound research endeavor and indeed, you don’t need an audience for that: audiences have been written-out of the situation altogether. THIS is the real cause of audiences’ indifference towards contemporary music, and not ‘conservatism’. Music is NOT science…. it is an art, and art has too many subjective elements to be able to function as objective science. And who needs sound science? There is already real science, also in the electro-acoustical field.

      1. Phil Fried

        There is a long list of scholars whose writings for general interest publications caused major consternation. Simply put Babbitt’s argument is of the all or nothing variety. Not my favorite line yet this kind of argument makes many appearances on these very pages and is not limited to any particular style.

        Babbitt’s music was and is extremely popular. So popular in fact that many performers refuse to perform any other serial music. For example you can hear Babbitt at many bang on a can festivals. His popularity could be related to the fact that he stayed with his vision.

        As a post-Schönberg composer myself I have no idea what obsession you refer to.

        After one of his concert I remember there was a line to shake his hand was over a block long. 100’s of people.
        He knew all there names too.

        1. John Borstlap

          Every art form has its own audience, there are even people who really enjoy looking at Duchamp’s urinal and go home with a profound feeling of satisfaction. In our democratic modern world, there is nothing against this. But this does not mean that it is not wrong to place Duchamp in the same category of Velasquez, Leonardo or Monet; that is not undemocratic but just common sense. There are distinctions between things, even in a modern democratic society.

          Babbitt’s work is not music, but sonic art, and of course sonic art will have its sonic audience, but it is not a musical audience. The order reigning in Babbitt’s serial works is not related to the natural order of harmonics, on which the tonal system is based, and thus inaudible for the listener. But a sonic listener listens, and enjoys, the colorful surface level with its jumps and changes and rhythmical intricate patterns. But this has nothing to do with music. In music, the sounds are related to tonality, in terms of tones which create an ‘inner space’ of expressive relationships which can experienced as such by the listener. In music, order is located at another level. It is the claims of babbittry et al of being music which creates the problem; serialism is a form of concept art and thus a new genre of art, and has nothing to do with music which has an age-long tradition behind it.

          If I listen to snaps of Babbitt as music, I can only experience it as pretentious crap by an utterly unmusical person; listening to it as sonic art it is quite nice for while. But please don’t call it music and its author a composer.

  6. Phil Fried

    “..If I listen to snaps of Babbitt as music, I can only experience it as pretentious crap by an utterly unmusical person;..”

    Strong evidence of three things; 1)that Babbitt bashing and bashing serial music in general is trendy
    2)belief trumps reason. Babbitt = Duchamp? 3) This was never a conversation -a good tittle to your post would be “who cares if you reply”

  7. Mark N. Grant

    Mr. Bortslap, it’s a very problematic business to call a composer an “utterly unmusical person” even if you have legitimate questions about his/her works. I’ve been in sympathy at times with your arguments in these pages, but IMHO now you’re undercutting your own cogency by making a reductio ad absurdum. Is it your point that all nontonal music is unmusical ipso facto? Because your comments read that way. Leaving aside the question of whether nontonal music can be musical and beautiful (the answer to me obviously is yes), let’s note that many composers of nontonal music have written beautiful tonal music as well. I heard Milton Babbitt’s early (1941), dissonant but conservative Mass in a live performance conducted by Harold Rosenbaum here in NYC a couple years ago; the music was beautifully crafted and it sang. I could never call the composer of this piece an “unmusical person” no matter what crabbed direction he chose to pursue later in his compositional career. (BTW, Babbitt also wrote Tin Pan Alley-style popular songs early on.) Similarly, what do you make of Webern? Do his serial utterances place him as a person beyond the pale of musicality? Then how do you account for his early tonal and romantic orchestra piece “Im Sommerwind”? The same question perhaps could be posed of Edgard Varèse, whose self-destroyed early works some Varèse scholars are convinced were highly tonal and perhaps Straussianly romantic.

    All of which is not even to mention Arnold Schoenberg’s tonal works. And the invention of dodecaphony nothwithstanding, no one could possibly have been more acutely aware of “the natural order of harmonics” than Schoenberg, one of the greatest of all music theorists.

    1. Colin Holter

      I applaud Mark’s points here and want to add that although Borstlap is of course free to define for himself “music” as “tonal music,” the spectrum of aesthetic experiences he’s likely to enjoy will be vastly blander for it. Maybe Babbitt (who was born almost a hundred years ago, by the way, and is no sense a contemporary upstart) didn’t produce what Borstlap considers “music,” but what if Borstlap amended his definition of music to include Babbitt’s work? That seems like the smart move for a richer life. I hope he considers it.

      1. John Borstlap

        In contrary: including sonic art within the definition of music would make the territory merely poorer and blander, as would be evaluating Duchamp’s urinal or Manzoni’s tinned excrements or Andy Warhol’s kitschy Monroe prints as being on the same artistic level of Velasquez, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Ingres. Any person with some intelligence and aesthetic experience will know that a urinal cannot be put in the same context as a Raphael portrait – the only connection may be that a museum will have toilets in the building.

        I think it perfectly normal to enjoy things for what they are and for what they mean: a banana is for eating, the Sacre is for a profound musical experience, a sunset for aesthetic pleasure (very oldfashioned), lobster for a party dinner, sonic art for the surface interest of sound patterns.

    2. John Borstlap

      It is a matter of definitions: nontonal music is a contradictio in terminus if music is defined as an art form in which tonal energies flow through a ‘bedding’ of rhythmisation and metrical markings, which is ony possible if the tones relate to each other on the basis of the natural harmonics (the harmonic series). I meant ‘unmusical’ in a literal sense, of being ‘not music’ but something else. Sonic art is in itself not a disqualification, but the claims of sonic art to be music is undermining the meaning of the term ‘music’ AND the meaning of sonic art. Sonic art can be beautiful (Boulez quite often, late Webern, Morton Feldman), but the pretense that it is music is an offence. That conventional music theory, i.e. the result of all the academic writing in the sixties, has – in general – tried to write-up sonic art as music, does not alter the reality of the distinction between music an sonic art. It was a kind of mass psychopathy at the time when scientific ideas invaded the musical territory under the pretext that serious music had to be ‘progressive’. The presentation of sonic art as music is the real cause of the splitting-off of ‘modern muic’ from the central performance culture which is rooted in the most fundamental principle of the art from, from Gregorian chant onwards: tonal relationships which create audible coherence.

      That convention has accepted sonic art as music, in spite of its defects as music, does not mean it is therefore true.

      And then…. tonal music can be very dissonant, like Shostakovich’s. It is not a matter of consonance versus dissonance, it is a matter of basics. As long as misunderstandings continue to florish, contemporary music will be stuck in its own dead-end street, where it has become very crowded because of the loss of artistic (musical) norms. So when I use the term ‘unmusical’ I mean it in the sense of: obviously not understanding how music ‘works’, like Boulez conducting the ’76 Ring with bad balancing, absence of ‘breathing’, much too fast tempi and the like: he could not let the music ‘speak’ for itself because he thinks that the music resides in the notated text, and that playing the notes correctly, preferably in a high tempo, will ‘cleanse’ the music from ‘tradition’, like cleansing an old painting from the dust but removing the colours as well.

      As for Webern: a whole book could be written about his ‘Werdegang’ from music to the dead-end of freezed sonic art. The same for Stravinsky: a slow dying of the expressive capacities of music, his late serial works – like Berg, with snippets of music, vague and nostalgic recollections of music as an art form – creating something like a tomb. What happened in the last century was a tragedy, not a liberation: composers let themselves be seduced by the myth of progress and the cult around Schönberg (Adorno). It was all a result of war trauma, as the German musicologist W.A. Schultz convincingly argued in a striking essay in 2005 in ‘Lettre International’.

      As for Varèse…. that was, in my opinion, also someone who sacrificed his musical capacities for the myth of ‘progressiveness’. And I believe the Strauss connection: one time, a musicologist informed me that Varèse once used a busy page of Strauss’ ‘Salome’, transposed the upper half of the page a semitone upwards so that the whole would sound with rubbing dissonance, even more than the original, and incorporated it in one of his atonal pieces. That is the way such people ‘invent’: through rational operations, in an attempt to get the stuff of music under intellectual control but throwing-out the baby with the bathwater.

      As for Schönberg…. I don’t want to wind you up… but his writings bristle with misconceptions, like: chords can become trivial by overuse, or that a dissonance is something that can be emancipated, or that a combination of notes in its inversions maintains its identity…. can all easily be refuted. It is tortured thinking with the pedantry of the autodidact attempting to acquire credibility on an academic level. I am an admirer of Schönberg – that is, up till his opus 23 when he got off the rails. I think we are much too much in awe of such composers… they can make grave mistakes like anybody.

  8. Phil Fried

    As I have pointed out before many theorists have argued that Schoenberg and his followers 12 tone music is tonal. Hugo Leichtentritt for one. Other theorists have stated that many tonal features appear in Babbitt’s serial music. Enough tonal features for me suspect that Leichtentritt’s ideas (musical coherence is essentially tonal)is behind this point of view for Babbitt as well. Personally I don’t see why non-tonal music can’t be coherent on its own.

  9. John Borstlap

    The tonal system, as it is based upon the natural harmonic series, is hierarchical. Within this system, relationships (intervals) have different degrees of binding. The dodecaphonic system was meant to avoid such hierarchies, hence the filling-up of the ‘chromatic field’ by the series. Indeed you can build suggestions of tonality in the series, but the system works against the principle of tonal hierarchies, which is something that you can HEAR. (For instance, Schönberg’s Variations for orchestra sounds terrible: like a caricature of Brahms but with all the notes that Brahms had carefully left-out; although the first couple of bars are really very good because of being aurally tonal – after that, constipation sets in.) That Schönberg et al sometimes use suggestions of tonality, does not make their work tonal. Tonality is a natural ‘gravity’ force, and in music the various gradations of this force, creating hierarchical differences of relationships, provide the possibility of the effect of musical energies flowing from one density to another. This flow directs the music, the narrative, the scructure, all the parameters of real music, and can create a dynamic effect; dodecaphonic & serial music is static, in spite of all the foreground activities. You can HEAR that…. And in music it is this type of varied densities which can be experienced aurally. The notion that Babbitt’s work is tonal, is a misconception of what Babbitt actually did and what tonality actually is, that is not so difficult to assess.

    And what academics say about contemporary music should not be taken too seriously, often they miss the point completely.

    1. Phil Fried

      “And what academics say about contemporary music should not be taken too seriously, often they miss the point completely…”

      Including yourself.

      1. John Borstlap

        Very funny…. I am not claiming to be an academic and / or omniscient. I give my opinion and the arguments supporting it, that is what discussion means.

          1. John Borstlap

            Well, it may as yet be that the ‘lecture’ offers some fresh insights for people who have not noticed the distinction between music and sonic art, or have not thought of considering such things before. That has nothing to do with ‘lack of respect’.

          2. NewMusicBox Staff

            Time to take it outside, boys. As we just posted below:

            Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.

  10. NewMusicBox Staff

    Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.


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Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.