The internet moves fast. Consider YouTube: I distinctly remember checking YouTube about a year ago for videos related to contemporary music and coming up empty handed. Yesterday, however, I whiled away a solid two or three hours checking out performances of Carter’s Triple Duo, Nono’s …sofferte onde serene…, Lachenmann’s Ein Kinderspiel, and Xenakis’s Synaphaï, among others.
Many of the viewers who comment on these videos are amazed to learn that music like Carter’s, Nono’s, Lachenmann’s, and Xenakis’s exists. One respondent even revealed that he found a video of Tristan Murail’s Tellur “mindblowing.” I can’t cite statistics, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that YouTube gets more people interested in new music than all the symphony orchestras in America put together.
Take a moment to consider that possibility. Wouldn’t it be depressing if the leading provider of exposure for contemporary music were a huge website full of user-supplied video content? Is anyone looking at YouTube and seeing a gauntlet thrown contemptuously in the dirt, waiting to be taken up in righteous indignation? If they aren’t, those artistic directors, conductors, and grant committees certainly should be. When the next OK Go-style video phenomenon takes up a Kagel piece as its subject matter, we’ll have cause for celebration—but we’ll also have another good reason to ask why we aren’t seeing and hearing more Kagel in real life.