Music after Modernism

Music after Modernism

Music after Modernism

Music after Modernism

Excerpt

Music is in a bad way. Like an empire shorn of everything but its history, it scratches out a tenuous existence living on the capital of the explosion of creativity which lasted from before Bach to World War I; since then, only isolated flashes of genius have redeemed an artistic period notable in general more for controversy and provocation than permanent achievement.

The evidence for this pessimistic evaluation exists all around us. There is no audience—enthusiastic, wide, committed, and paying—for the music of the last sixty years. While performers, themselves subject to lessening enthusiasm from the audience, can make careers only by concentrating on the old and avoiding the new, composers exist only in the protective embrace of foundations, universities, and government arts funding agencies. So plain is the situation that it deserves description and analysis from more than the standpoint of those who, like Henry Pleasants (in The Agony of Modern Music), believe that the true musical culture of our time is popular music; a similarly insufficient answer may be found in the writings of Harold Schonberg (the senior music critic of the New York Times) who implies that the future of music lies in the revival of bypassed elements of its past. No more helpful is the musicological exegesis (as in the journal Perspectives of New Music) of contemporary and avant-garde composition; of perhaps the least value is the kind of crass boosterism retailed both by artists' publicity agents and by such self‐ . . .

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