What is New Music
Towards The Future: New Music in the 21st Century

Towards The Future: New Music in the 21st Century

To open the final essay in this series, I would like to provide summarized definitions of New Music and contemporary music:

New Music is an artistic praxis which aims at generating alternative sonic-aesthetic models to those determined by the prevailing material conditions. New Music offers a glimpse of potential futures: it is a token of different material realities. It is necessarily linked to some of the most advanced facets of modernity, such as the pursuit of self-critique and a belief in the possibility of material progress.

Contemporary music embodies pieces written by composers who have been trained in higher education institutions and write for European classical music ensembles. Contemporary music may also be composed for electronic or electroacoustic instruments, or generated through computer-assisted compositional means. This music assumes attributes of European classical music and builds its own ontology upon them. Contemporary music may reject certain ideas associated with classical music in order to differentiate itself, but that does not make it less engaged with classical music on a conceptual basis. In the U.S., contemporary music exists as a conglomerate of artifacts cemented into two fundamental pillars: European classical music and academia. 

At this point, I could prescribe what creating New Music should mean today, but I am afraid that this would be an entirely pointless endeavor. My view of reality is partial and any suggestions that I may have will be based on rather limited knowledge and personal experience. Furthermore, I would not want to interfere with the vast multiplicity of aesthetic paths that artists may generate by reducing the potential of New Music to the judgement of a sole individual. Instead, I believe that sharing brief examinations of musical pieces that appear to have some connection to the project of New Music may be a more productive action to take.

I will focus on three examples of works by the following artists: Kendrick Lamar, Ryoji Ikeda, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Kendrick Lamar: “Wesley’s Theory” and “For Free? – Interlude,” from To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Before delving into this further, Lamar’s work is not notated. This is an important feature, since it implies that New Music is not necessarily a notational practice. New Music may be expressed through notation, but it can also operate through recordings, oral traditions, and a wide variety of platforms.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly was released in 2015. This hip-hop album investigates a variety of political topics, such as racial inequality, structural discrimination, and police brutality. Here I would like to focus on the first two tracks, which appear to explore a few peculiarities that one may encounter in New Music.

“Wesley’s Theory” is the opening track. It presents a simple backbeat pattern in 4/4, which does not change significantly throughout, except for the occasional intrusion of a drum break. In addition, a low and dynamic bass line, as well as several synthesized sounds established as short melodies and cells, add sonic variety to the monotony of the rhythmic pattern. The words introduce a dialectical relationship between the two verses. The first verse represents a Black American artist who has had access to fame and capital, though she or he does not use these resources outside the logic of capital (“I’m gonna buy a brand new Caddy on fours; Trunk the hood up, two times, deuce-four; Platinum on everything, platinum on wedding ring (…) Uneducated, but I got a million-dollar check like that”). The second verse anthropomorphizes corporate America, which structurally subjugates Black Americans by promoting debt and consumerism (“Anything, see, my name is Uncle Sam, I’m your dog; Motherfucker, you can live at the mall; I know your kind (that’s why I’m kind); Don’t have receipts (Oh, man, that’s fine); Pay me later, wear those gators”). One should remember that “Wesley’s Theory” is based on Wesley Snipes’s tax evasion case, which led Snipes to serve three years in jail. About that situation, Lamar pointed out that “no one teaches poor black males how to manage money or celebrity, so if they do achieve success, the powers that be can take it from right under them.”[1]

The second track, “For Free? – Interlude,” is centered around a critique of how corporate America constrains Lamar’s desire—explicitly, Lamar refers to sexual desire, but one could speculate that there is a larger component to desire here, such as the freedom to explore one’s humanity outside structural oppression. However, I do not want to focus on the lyrics. Here, I am particularly interested in the accompanying musical background, which has evident stylistic characteristics found in the works of post-bop bands such as Miles Davis’s second quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Both this particular feature and the backbeat in “Wesley’s Theory” suggest a historical correlation between both genres (hip-hop and jazz) by virtue of aesthetically stating the rather obvious connection between this music and its Black American creators. This formal quality, expressed across both tracks, seems to point to a view that criticizes the hijack of Black American culture on behalf of a logic entrenched in racism and the perpetuation of poverty.

Lamar’s work may indicate that Black American musicians, regardless of the specific aesthetic qualities they have explored in the past, have been ‘pimped’ by corporate America. Radical Black American art has been commodified, with everything that this implies. An example of that may be in the fact that post-bop has become a standardized genre—treated as the quintessential form of jazz—which is studied today in prestigious conservatories and music schools, where economically and racially privileged students learn and master its stylistic particularities—at the very least, this is something that needs to be addressed. In other words: this art, which originally operated outside and beyond the expectations of a complacent culture industry, may have now lost the power to provide some degree of ideological friction. Lamar’s critique may suggest that the potential for disruption of this art may have possibly vanished.

Consequently, in the two tracks above, I would argue that New Music is generated by: (1) the anti-establishment content of the lyrics and (2) pastiching stylistic qualities from historically black genres such as hip-hop and jazz, which potentially enhances critical readings of the history of black music through the capitalist economy. Whether Lamar provides an alternative view of the material conditions—what should be done considering these circumstances—remains to be seen. (A deeper analysis of the entire album would perhaps lead to a definitive conclusion.) That said, both tracks discussed here present a highly critical view of not only discriminatory socioeconomic structures in the U.S., but also of the assimilation of radical Black American culture—in the form of music—by these very structures.

Ryoji Ikeda: the transfinite (2011)

Ryoji Ikeda is primarily known for his electronic music albums, which tend to use minimal and repetitive materials often expressed through a representational aesthetics based on glitch and temporary computer malfunction. the transfinite is an audiovisual installation piece:

There is much that could be said about the transfinite, but I would like to focus on the interrelatedness of two aspects that I personally find significant: the overwhelmingness of the experience and the semantic implications of the audiovisual materials employed.

Nick Srnicek has argued that,

Ryoji Ikeda’s work on dataphonics is exemplary of this approach. Wielding massive datasets and numbers that defy human comprehension, Ikeda has built installations and soundscapes that operate at the very boundaries of human sensibility. The sonic frequencies of his music often just barely enter into the range of human auditory capacities, and his visual installations are designed to overwhelm and incapacitate. The technical sublime emerges here: where perception recoils at an incomprehensible vastness whilst cognition and reason sits back and black boxes it. The sublime here is the parallax tension between a horror at the level of sensibilia and conceptual understanding at the level of cognition.[2]

the transfinite may be understood as a representation of the vast complexity of underlying networks that form the present world. It is a constant flux of monolithic information, which swamps human sensorial experience with exceedingly fast changes in light and sound. As Srnicek contends, it is “designed to overwhelm and incapacitate,” an argument with which I would agree. I would also like to point to the fact that the viewer/listener is located inside the piece: the spectator truly is in a position where she or he has to navigate through these streams of data. In addition, I would suggest that the nature of the sounds employed conveys a landscape that resembles that of encrypted data, thus contributing to the illusion of the impossibility of deciphering the true meaning of these materials.

As I see it, the transfinite functions as a rather clear parallel to how global markets operate today: high-speed algorithmic trading which allows capital to fluctuate internationally at extremely fast speeds. Simultaneously, people—biopower, as Michel Foucault and later Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri would describe it—have neither the physical ability nor the means to change their geographic location at a similar rate. the transfinite operates according to the same paradoxical logic: digital data is highly dynamic, while spectators are physically stuck in this ever-changing space.

While the transfinite may be an excellent example of a representational aesthetics of early 21st-century capital, I am not sure whether it provides a critique of this situation, let alone an alternative. I will leave this up to the reader’s discretion.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110: I. Moderato cantabile, molto espressivo (1821)

In spite of having been dead for almost two centuries, Beethoven is a paradigmatic composer of New Music—here the word “New” emerges as a major contradictory entity. Beethoven produced a body of work which, in my view, exemplifies the two fundamental priorities of the modern project of New Music: (1) the critique of (possibly flawed) traditional models and (2) the creation of newer (perhaps more productive) alternative means. The surface of the composer’s discourse—the rhetorical tools rooted in functional tonality—is certainly old and familiar to many, but I am not sure that his ability to question, deconstruct, and reassemble musical discursivity has been recognized by large audiences yet. Beethoven, as Adorno and Charles Rosen have argued, is possibly a Classical and a modernist composer at once. (This has also been contended by Michael Spitzer in his book Music as Philosophy[3].) In fact, one could speculate that Beethoven is the ultimate New Music composer, since the object of his critique—the Classical style—is a consistent stylistic formation relatively easy to categorize and scrutinize. From Haydn to Mozart, to the likes of Muzio Clementi and Johann Christian Bach, the Classical style demonstrates a highly systematic approach to formal development. What we know as sonata form is an example of this aesthetic. Sonata form is rooted in a dialectical means of organization, in which two contrasting themes (A and B) in different keys are ultimately reintroduced (and reconciled) in the original key of the movement after having gone through multiple potential organizational options in a developmental section. This form, in its most basic iterations, was commonly used in some movements of instrumental sonatas, chamber music, and symphonies, and was a fundamental pillar of Central European notated music in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Beethoven was thus a composer working in this tradition.

The first movement of Beethoven’s thirty-first sonata for piano is an excellent instance of the composer’s interest in disrupting the traditional logic of sonata form. Firstly, though, it may be of help to provide an example of the quintessential structural organization of sonata form. Here is the first movement of Clementi’s first piano sonata in C:

Clementi’s first piano sonata in C

One can easily see the two themes introduced in the exposition: A in the tonic key; B in the dominant. The dialectical opposition of thesis (A) and antithesis (B) blossoms in the development, while the synthesis of the two appears in the recapitulation, where both themes are now reintroduced in the original tonic key.

This model is significantly challenged by Beethoven:

Beethoven’s thirty-first sonata for piano

The movement opens with a similar discursive approach to the Clementi, with the addition of introductory material. Among the many special peculiarities that one could discuss here, what is particularly striking is the insertion of a false recapitulation, which reintroduces the A theme in the predominant key (IV) instead of in the tonic. This practice, however, had already been pursued by earlier composers. One may think of Haydn’s Symphony No. 55 or Mozart, whose first movement of the Piano Sonata K. 545 introduces the A theme in the recapitulation in the key of the predominant. Nonetheless, in the example above, it seems as if Beethoven wanted us to be aware of this structural discrepancy, to the extent that one can perceive mm. 75-78 as his deliberate attempt to write a tonal correction. The third measure in the attached excerpt from the score, where the key signature changes, may be considered to be an interruption and repurposing of the previous material:

Beethoven Key Correction

That a composer would think of writing a measure of music whose main purpose is to raise consciousness of and point to the “mistake” committed by a false recapitulation is something that impresses me very much. This compositional move suggests Beethoven’s awareness of the tradition he operates in, which I suspect he did not take for granted, but rather assumed as a historical artifact open to further problematization. It is this externality of tradition, paradoxically accomplished by the deepest knowledge of its intricacies, that allowed Beethoven to generate a New Music. The alternative here lies in the possibility of thinking musically beyond the Classical style, in particular outside sonata form. Or, demonstrating that musical expression may be successfully achieved (and enhanced!) outside of a particular tradition.

At the expense of losing nuance, if I were to oversimplify my language, New Music is an emancipatory project largely dissatisfied with the world, which thus attempts to project the possibility of other worlds. On the other hand, contemporary music is music created today based on rather superficial aesthetic qualities (instrumentation, gesture, harmony, counterpoint, texture, timbre) found in European classical music. This distinction explains why I define some of Kendrick Lamar’s work as New Music, while it cannot certainly be understood as a form of contemporary music. That is also why there may certainly exist New Music that uses some aesthetic features from contemporary music. In addition, New Music does not have to be new: Beethoven has strong New Music qualities—whether these convey any real potential today or not is an entirely different conversation. To sum up: New Music is ultimately an anti-establishment (and by that I mean all forms of anti-establishment: economic, cultural, educational, artistic) ideologico-aesthetic project, whereas contemporary music does not have to be.

As a composer myself, I do my best to write New Music. Whether it is notated or not, whether it uses recent technological developments, whether and how it uses Western instruments: these are—to some extent—secondary aspects of my music. Ultimately, I am at a point in my career where my priority is to create works that do not accept a given tradition as a natural artifact. I try to persistently reevaluate the knowledge I have gained over years of study, as well as the tools that I have been given throughout my formal education. This does not come from a dogmatic position, but rather from an experimental hypothesis. My contention is that music may serve to open alternative paths for human existence, through which we may gain access to uncharted phenomenological territories.

At a time when our most immediate collective reality is not only mediocre, but also dangerous and pathologically against the creation of fairer worlds, I would like to believe that there is some work to be done in our field, where perhaps we can reclaim creativity and imagination through the difficult—yet hopefully productive—process of constant self-critique, rigorous historical analysis, and the development of a holistic praxis that is skeptical of the thoughtless reiteration of obsolete models.

At the very least, I would suggest that it is our social responsibility to stick our fingers into the small cracks in this wall of concrete located in front of us—that is, a standardized and commodified existence—which has robbed us of the possibility of imagining a better future.

1. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6517089/kendrick-lamar-to-pimp-a-butterfly-caterpillar-album-title.

2. Nick Srnicek, “Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics in an Age of Crisis,” presented at The Matter of Contradiction: Ungrounding the Object, Vassivière, France, 8-9 September, 2012.

3. Michael Spitzer, Music as Philosophy: Adorno and Beethoven’s Late Style (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).

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.

7 thoughts on “Towards The Future: New Music in the 21st Century

  1. Michael Robinson

    I wish to focus in on one aspect of this interesting discourse I find misleading. But I don’t wish to single out the author alone for being part of a mind-set taught in academia that has misunderstood and continues to misrepresent history.

    “…historically black genres such as hip-hop and jazz…”

    Why does the author and others find it necessary to deny the central contribution to jazz of those who supplied it with the actual material for improvisation? If one focuses on jazz from the swing period up to modal jazz (my favorite jazz with some notable exceptions), it simply doesn’t exist without jazz standards, predominantly composed by artists who happen to be Caucasian, and even mostly Jewish. It was the genius of the music and lyrics of these songs that synergized with improvisers of genius to create something uniquely American; a country made up of diverse races and peoples. Not only that, but key improvisers who help define swing and modern jazz are the same, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Getz, Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Levey, Bill Evans, and on and on. Why does the author and others find it acceptable to insult the memory of artists like Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis by patronizing a great art form, jazz, by insisting upon such a distorted view which they thoroughly disagreed with, wrongfully feeling that those great artists require to be artificially bolstered by excluding their essential colleagues of different racial and cultural backgrounds.

    In a 2013 comment in The New York Times, in response to The President of the Cool by Ishmael Reed, singled out by that publication, I noted that jazz “…came about through a confluence of displaced ethnic groups: African Americans from Africa [taken against their will as slaves] who became the primary improvisers of “modern” jazz, and Jewish Americans from Europe and Russia [who escaped pogroms and the Holocaust (UCLA historian Jay Winter has stated that Hitler saw the Armenian genocide and did it again)] who became the primary composers of the songs used for improvisation. There are many important exceptions to these generalities, of course.”

    If the author or someone else in academia or elsewhere wishes to argue that jazz standards don’t matter and that jazz would have been the same or just as great without those songs (in addition to the blues form), well, I suppose we could build a time machine and go back, perhaps beginning by asking Charlie Parker where he would be without Cherokee, All the Things You Are, Just Friends, Embraceable You and Lover Man, all just a few of the works of genius that ignited his prodigious imagination. But be careful, Bird might also mention how he memorized Artie Shaw solos (in addition to those of Lester Young), revered the music of Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz, and was inspired to achieve new levels of instrumental virtuosity after hearing Jimmy Dorsey. (We won’t even get into how European classical composers of the time influenced him as well.)

    I believe the author is correct in describing hip hop as historically black, but he sadly perpetuates an unfortunate misnomer in the case of jazz, which is absolutely an art form created by black and white peoples.

    I love African American artists as much as anyone, and Snoop Dogg is more gifted than anyone of his generation and younger in jazz today. I wouldn’t dare insult my African American brothers, such as Richard Davis, by pretending that their contributions are so weak as to be threatened by the inclusion of their colleagues from different backgrounds. Quite the contrary: the truth of collaboration makes the music and us all stronger.

    Is it against the law of some imaginary, nightmarish phantom jazz police force to keep it a secret, for example, that Cecil Taylor reveres Dave Brubeck and Anthony Braxton reveres Lee Konitz, or that Lester Young and Miles Davis revered Stan Getz? Are African American jazz artists not allowed to love and be inspired by other jazz artists based upon the color of their skin or a different heritage?

    The author is correct in suggesting that an understanding of jazz is central to understanding composers of our time, and that is why I have focused in on what I feel is his erroneous description of jazz. Without knowing jazz one doesn’t really understand composers as diverse as Milton Babbitt, Steve Reich, and myself too.

    Lastly, terms like New Music and Contemporary music bore me to tears. I am only interested in individual composers whose work transcends time.

  2. Paul H. Muller

    Glenn Weyant , creator of the ANTA project is a sound artist who is making new music critical of the injustices of the border wall with Mexico. Detail here: http://www.sonicanta.com/

    “The Anta Project blurs the lines between sociopolitical art and experimental music. By reinventing the barrier fence into an electro-acoustic instrument, Weyant breaches on the controversial issue of US border control… A solid piece of work- thank you.” – Signal Fire: A Blog For The Arts of Social Change: Angela Goerner

  3. lawrencedillon

    If I had grown up in famine-plagued Rome in the 1760s — as Clementi did — if I had experienced the chaos of a society reduced to starvation by greedy and disorganized authorities, I might be able to see his clear-cut sonata as work that is “dissatisfied with the world, which thus attempts to project the possibility of other worlds,” as you described Beethoven’s. Certainly it is easy to see Clementi’s approach as a rebuke to the through-composed rambles of the generation that preceded him.

    By contrast, Beethoven grew up in a well-run community. Is it possible his background encouraged him to direct his approach to form differently?

    In other words, revolution is contextual — it is not the same project from one society to another, even from one generation to another.

  4. jack

    you can not talk or commentate your way through music to make it ‘new’ music. copy-pasting styles over a fixed format is no grounds either for ‘new’ music. ‘new’ music is not a cosmetic, surface thing. this is rule number one i’ve noticed since a kid that pop music teaches us. to ignore what we are really listening to and experience (the 4 square) is dishonest. new music has to be made from the ground up, from the structure, from the whole experience. maybe that’s very astute philosophizing in your first example, but that’s not grounds for ‘new’ music. cutting and pasting ‘styles’ over something is not going to cut it for me as ‘new’ music. it’s very pictorial, representational, it’s very moral and pedagogical (oh, i haven’t thought of that? how astute of you!), but what are we listening to, how does it work? we are still getting off on making groups of 4 from the local level up. that’s what this is about. that’s where the ‘satisfaction’ comes. consciously or unconsciously we are counting to 4 at the small and large level and not breaking that circle. filling this pre-defined square is what this and all pop music is about. let’s not fool ourselves. it’s the same old meat and potatoeos of all pop music. we’re getting off on counting to four from the local level up. pairing off symmetrical things and making groups of four. this is what we’re experiencing. why do we never talk about this part? how come that’s acceptable as ‘new’ but someone who wants to be informed by say Russian romanticism god forbid is not worth talking about? we talk in such detail about how beethoven works, the nuts and bolts, (i think we make way too big of a deal out of false-recaps by the way; see this is why it’s so good! you think he’s gonna get to the resolution but it’s false. wow, that’s so anti-establishment! he’s breaking the rules! really? come on it’s just what the material needed maybe, it’s not necessarily better than a different piece beethoven made without a false recap… why is he even doing sonata form at all if it’s so anti-establishment? maybe we should be listening to some contemporary folk singer of beethoven’s day rather? that drunk guy in the pub singing about the woes of peasant life, he was the real ‘new,’ not this beethoven. ) but when it comes to pop it’s all just philosophy, words and context? sorry but you’re going to need to do more than that for it to pass off as ‘new’ music for me. there’s nothing necessarily more ‘new’ or relevelant about your music just because it talks about policitcal, socio-economic, ‘relevant’ topics either. in fact, most of the time, i think political music is false and cringeworthy. if the person really cared or had any decency they would shut up and do something about it. often i feel like people that make ‘political’ music are just using it as a platform to project their own ego and to bring in larger numbers of people to like their experience. after the paris attacks i walked into a supermarket and some annoying pop song was singing ‘paris is burning’. it made me want to puke. ai wei-wei lying on the beach, posing as a washed-up Syrian refugee is equally disgusting. singing some agressive, swearing lyrics doesn’t make your music more ‘new’ or ‘relevant’ for me. if i’m a quiet type that doesn’t like to swear, is my experience less ‘new’? maybe i want to focus on what we do after the establishment is torn down. there are lots of people out there with lots of different views. why should we profile a certain person’s experience as more ‘new’ or important than another’s. what if i don’t like the cool, rock-star attitude with a bare chest and leather vest? what if i find those kind of people annoying? if i don’t like to swear and be loud and agressive am i less ‘new’, less ‘relevant’? if i don’t like to scream in front of a million people am i less ‘new’? what do you do when it’s over? when there’s no ‘establishment’ to so-called rail against? i’m not speaking against ‘new’; i’m speaking for it. i’m into ‘new’ experiences, making things that didn’t exist before, inventing things, tapping into things that feel more relevant to the way the world really works and emotions really work. give me some Georg Friedrich Haas or some Morton Feldman or some Gyorgy Ligeti or some Klaus Lang or some Jurg Frey. i don’t think the world cycles around in such a four-square manner as we are taught in pop. i don’t think all emotional experiences should be made through the dogmatic circle of verse-chorus (with a swell on the chorus! and a pre-chorus or a bridge thrown in here or there!). i don’t think all phrases should have to be symmetrical. i think the world and the universe is made up of a way more intricate symmetry. to pass off all ‘new’ music that tends to have an annoying academic audience as not ‘new’ but only ‘contemporary’ is american populist capitalist dogma and propaganda. to look down on intelligence and emotional depth and tell me i’m not allowed to think when i make music if i want to be ‘new’ is one of the tenets of the pop establishment. to say you won’t give your opinion but then to prescribe that ‘new’ music must be ‘anti-establishment’ is self-contradictory. some of it can be. i’m very anti-establishment in life. i can’t stand american style supermarkets with air-conditioning and music (i prefer the german chain aldi) , hearing mainstream american tv and movies with their bloated soundtracks makes me cringe, and i hate fat sofas, bubbly cars, and cheaply built suburban houses with thick grass and no trees to name a few lame examples. i also don’t like how new music, or art in general, can be fostered in ivy-league upper middle class american universities. and i don’t deny that the ‘new’ music world is without its problems (yes, i call it ‘new’ music not just ‘contemporary ‘). but i don’t invalidate the music people make because it mostly gets heard in ‘established’ places. to pass practically all new music off as only ‘contemporary’ but not ‘new’ because it has a so-called ‘elite’ audience is disgusting (i can’t remember if that was said in this article or a previous). i can think of a perfect example of this in a certain country where the minister of culture was a former punk rocker and one day sent a fax to the ‘elite’ national school of music without warning saying he would close it down and instead give the money to a new music academy for pop music. sure i don’t like a lot of things about the image of most classical music schools but that doesn’t mean that their work is completely invalid. besides there’s nothing necessarily ‘elite’ about the contemporary classical/new music audience. if anything they’re the ones who are the most dissatisfied and ‘punk’ about how music works (or maybe ‘curious’ is a better word). this is no guarantee that anything they do will be interesting, and sure lots of it is useless bourgeouis dabbling, but the contemporary classical/new music world can be the most shunned unglamorous community of dorks. the ‘elite’ music of today is the pop world. it’s not like people in the pop-world aren’t self-righteous. why should we be giving so much credit to beethoven by the way if he was funded by elite aristocracy? bach wasn’t ‘new’ because he was funded by the church? the real ‘new’ was the drunk guy bach heard in the pub where he ripped off one of his pieces? new music can be anti-establishment but it’s not like everything that’s new has to be ‘anti’. that’s one way of looking at it, but maybe it can also be ‘pro’ something? maybe we don’t know yet all the reasons why it’s new or what it’s for and can do? how can we if it doesn’t exist yet? shouldn’t ‘new’ be about discovering ‘new’ experiences we don’t know yet? anyway, for me, your first two examples are not anti-establishment at all. if anything they only confirm the established notion that is banged into our heads everyday everywhere we go in the ‘contemporary’ world about how music must be made. sure some idea of ‘anti-establishment’ can be one, but there may be others. to establish another set of rules of what we’re allowed to call ‘new’ is just another form of establishment. look, i’m not interested in some kind of follow-up hand-wringing and comments about what’s new and not. lots of people have lots of different ideas. but lets not box it off and establish a new arbitrary criteria: must be anti-establishment, check! depends what you mean by that. depends how you interpret what someone does. honestly i’m not surprised at all that these kinds of ideas are floating around. for me often the things that should be the most anti-establishment, say punk music, are the most fascistic music based on the most established hole in the wall rules. the american capitalist system has room for dissent. that’s what quote on quote ‘anti-establishment’ pop music is for. it swallows dissent for you on the weekend or on your time off and then you can continue your normal work day 9 to 5 monday through friday having checked that box off. to look at the latest pussy riot music videos and tell me that’s ‘anti-establishment’ is a joke. i’m not going to get into an argument about what’s new and not, but i’m not going to have someone write populist/capitalist dogma in academic lingo and box off practically all contemporary classical/new music as simply ‘contemporary’ but not ‘new’, even if i don’t like it all. i don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but that’s basically what’s going on. and then this pop music here, with its smart lyrics and pastiche of styles, is the real ‘new.’ it’s nothing new nor surprising though; i’ve heard this drift often from random people to some extent, only it’s expressed here with heavy academic lingo. no hard feelings by the way; just needed to ramble out some thoughts since this is ‘newmusicbox.org’. goodbye and good luck! (by the way, the Ikeda has potential, but overall is too enslaved to the 4-squareness of pop music, or fixed units, for me, to call it ‘new’ music. not ‘new’ for me.)

  5. Jason Cress

    “My contention is that music may serve to open alternative paths for human existence, through which we may gain access to uncharted phenomenological territories.”

    You have my vote.

  6. Joshua Banks Mailman

    I especially am on board with “My contention is that music may serve to open alternative paths for human existence, through which we may gain access to uncharted phenomenological territories.”


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