The Newest Philistinism: History-Phobic Composers

This column is an open letter addressed to whichever young composition students may chance to read it: A colleague of mine who teaches at a leading conservatory (this is not about him but about observed trends) recently lamented to me that his composition students tend to express little curiosity in any musical repertoire predating World War II(!). But, he added, while most of them will not take the initiative to learn/listen on their own about/to Bartók, a few of them do respond with enthusiasm when prodded to “check them out.” Oh, and yeah, they do know Ives. This floored me. And not because it was only yesterday that Bartók was hardly “the past.”

How could any student enrolled in a reputable conservatory need to be persuaded to be interested in the great legacy of past composers? I personally recall brochure material from one of the major conservatories in the 1970s addressed to parents that advised (I’m paraphrasing only slightly): if your son/daughter has to be persuaded to seek out and listen to canonical classical music for pleasure, then what the hell is he/she doing enrolled in a conservatory?

Imagine a graduate seminar for creative writers who read only Don DeLillo and Richard Ford and don’t even investigate Tolstoy, Dickens, or Keats. We already have a president who has no evident intellectual curiosity beyond his pre-established worldview. Now we’re going to found a new composer movement of musical “Dubyaism”?

Curiosity about history and intellectual curiosity are indissoluble. You don’t have the option of separating them, although you may think you do. Definition of intellectual curiosity: the investigation of phenomena that are beyond your immediate familiar experience. Without such curiosity about the power of music of the past, there is an impoverishment of aesthetic perceptions, and a malnourishment of the ear and the brain, that precludes the creation of great music. There is only infantile solipsism and, too often, the faux elevation of trivia. For true learning, history is not an option, it’s an obligation: it means you get up off your mental behind and make it your business to learn what went on before. If you are an aspiring composer, you have a duty—not to school or teachers, but to yourself—to do that. You can dislike the past, you can ultimately choose not to use the found past, but you cannot pretend it isn’t there and still consider yourself educated. Music history didn’t start with John Cage, Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, Radiohead, the Velvet Underground, or whatever your post-1945 tastes and fancies.

For centuries the cornerstone of learnedness in the Western world was the classics: the study of the Greek and Roman civilizations and languages, even though they were millennia behind the “real time” present. For a few centuries aspiring composers had to write canons, fugues, practice species counterpoint, and learn solfege…until now. I recall reading an interview by the late Donald Martino expressing outrage at his young composition students’ insouciant, cavalier rejection of doing these classical things. Sure, it’s a lot easier to lay down and overdub audio tracks than to write a fugue. Hey, Berlioz and Wagner had no KontaktGold or other soundbanks to help them orchestrate, but they figured it out with their own low-tech tools: their brains and ears. Sometimes I think the bare fact that there was no electricity, and no recording, available before about 1880 is the most salient thing people should remember about music composed before 1880. And that thousands of hours of music composed before then still are regularly performed today.

So to the history-averse in the 21st-century young composing community, I say: You wouldn’t have made the cut a mere thirty years ago in conservatory admissions. Try to wake up and smell the Proustian “madeleine” of the pre-1945 canon, before your brains become ossified tissue for an Oliver Sacks study.

(Next week I’ll go back to being nice.)

77 thoughts on “The Newest Philistinism: History-Phobic Composers

  1. SonicRuins

    While it is regrettable that there are those who only appreciate music written post-Stravinsky, it has been my experience that the opposite exists as well, and maybe to a greater extent. I know quite a few young composers who can’t stand anything by Cage…in fact, know very little about anything contemporary. I can say the word spectralism, and all I’d get would be blank stares.

    On the other hand, I’ve encountered very few composers who don’t have some deep appreciatation or love for pieces in the canon, like the late Beethoven quartets, or Dufay motets, or a Brahms symphony or something.

    Or maybe I’m just hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    Reply
  2. Colin Holter

    A colleague of mine who teaches at a leading conservatory (this is not about him but about observed trends) recently lamented to me that his composition students tend to express little curiosity in any musical repertoire predating World War II(!).

    Has it crossed your mind that the root of this problem might lie not in the composition students of America but rather in its conservatories? If your friend had access to non-conservatory composers–individuals whose curricular demands are perhaps less restricted–he might have a sunnier view of the situation. Having come to read a great deal of DeLillo, Pynchon, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hardy, Melville, Shakespeare, &c. &c. by way of required gen-ed classes (and later finding that these authors had become personal passions of mine), I feel kind of bad for the musician whose formal training leaves no room for the other canons. Likewise, maybe the conservatories aren’t so hot at conserving/enshrining the great works of the past in their pupils’ consciousnesses–or, for that matter, choosing students who are devoted to the quadrivial sphere of music rather than to the pursuit of the big career. Not having attended a conservatory, I can’t say for sure. As I’ve recently detailed, I’ve been trained by state schools; I’ve certainly tried to demonstrate in my NMBx writings that my knowledge/appreciation of the traditional literature is competitive, even when such a demonstration might be tasteless and/or self-aggrandizing. Little did I suspect that such showboating would pay off under volleys of tut-tutting from Mark N. Grant.

    Moreover, Lin is absolutely dead-on: For every young composer who values Berio over Berg, there are five who would rather listen to Les Noces than La Lontanaza Nostalgica Utopica Futura. Among my peers, taken broadly, literacy in the past 25 years of new music lags far behind literacy in the preceding 75. If your friend has the bad fortune to work with student composers who follow only the hippest and shiniest art at the expense of older and browner material, he is in a tiny minority–and I can name any number of universities where he might feel more at home.

    By the way, for my thoughts on Bartók (which, I’m a bit ashamed to say, may not contradict the findings presented in Mark’s piece), read my thing on Wednesday.

    Reply
  3. Jeremy Howard Beck

    Oh, these kids today…
    Isn’t this what young people do? When I was in music school (and not just college), there were the “general” music history classes, which focused almost entirely on repertoire from the Renaissance through Mahler and stopped there. Then there were the “composer” classes which started with Schoenberg and stopped with Stravinsky. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to analyze The Rite of Spring, Poeme Electronique, etc., not to even mention Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Bach…

    At a certain point, I started listening almost exclusively to newer music because I had just analyzed all the rest of it to the point where I needed a break!

    Reply
  4. davidcoll

    theres just not enough on the last forty years of HISTORY that people are interested in- earlier stuff is important to study, but not in the same way- since the goal of being a composer is to compose in the present- to be contemporary- in my opinion that is more important than history- trying to escape history is a great youthful thing- you’ll never win, but its a worthwhile fight.

    Reply
  5. Colin Holter

    I hope Grant gets back on here and comments soon, because I have been literally shaking with anger since I read his piece. I hope that came through in my response.

    Reply
  6. rtanaka

    It was only later on that I became more interested in older music. — Elliott Carter

    I think it’s pretty normal for younger people not to be too interested in older music til’ later on. I started out writing electronic music, sort of made my way into minimalism cause there seemed to be a connection there, then sort of worked my way backwards. I didn’t get what was so great about Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc. til’ later on, I think. A lot of it was probably just a matter of appreciation of their craftsmanship…making the most of very little — melody, harmony, counterpoint, thematic development, working within confined forms etc.

    Some of these things you might just not appreciate until faced with some life-experiences. One person had told me that appreciation of Mozart doesn’t come until you’ve reached a certain point of maturity. I think to some extent, this is true.

    Reply
  7. philmusic

    “…the late Donald Martino expressing outrage at his young composition students’ insouciant, cavalier rejection of doing these classical things. ..”

    Well why would composers want to learn techniques that would make their music less viable in the current marketplace?

    Complexity is out. Cool, (as you have mentioned those cool people before) and fashionable is in.

    Many folks don’t realize that when they try to avoid influences they simple duplicate the work of others, who have already tried rejecting influences years ago. Or find themselves simply adhering to their “first” musical influences and prejudices.

    On the other hand new musical pathways are opened through the intersections of old and new concepts and who can predict how this might happen? I can’t.

    Just because I feel that compositional technique is the source of all musical advances does not mean that I think that all composers should be just like me. Or, just because they share my attitude does not mean that those would be the only composers that I would respect. That’s ridiculous too.

    I think I’m sounding like a teacher?

    Its unfortunate Andrew Imbrie is not alive today to weigh in on this topic. My condolences to all of his friends and family.

    Phil Fried

    Phil’s Page

    Reply
  8. Lisa X

    Mark, This is America, where people from every corner of the world come and make music. Even ten years ago when I was at conservatory, us students were as or more curious about the other continents as we were about Europe. And we weren’t ashamed of it. Sure, I could have found a better place to go to school. But I didn’t know better, I was 17 and thought if you want to study music you go to music school right? Dead wrong. I had to make time for a variety of musical interests within the oppressive conservatory environment. With my history, counterpoint, analysis, orchestra, chamber music, orchestration, etc. you don’t think I studied enough dead white guys? You seriously want students to spend their free time brushing up on more dead white guys? And you have the audacity to question the intellectual curiosity of those who have interests that lie outside your master cannon. Fuck that!

    Reply
  9. SonicRuins

    “Hey, Berlioz and Wagner had no KontaktGold or other soundbanks to help them orchestrate, but they figured it out with their own low-tech tools: their brains and ears.”

    I’m also offended by the notion that young composers today can’t hear anything without a sequencer or the computer. Some of my friends that are my age- (18-25) still write with pencil and paper.

    I certainly do. With that said, it’s great to have tools like Sibelius, Logic or the more complicated programs like Patchwork and MAX…I don’t see what the problem is.

    Reply
  10. philmusic

    Moreover, Lin is absolutely dead-on: For every young composer who values Berio over Berg, there are five who would rather listen to Les Noces than La Lontanaza Nostalgica Utopica Futura.

    This is also very, very correct. Please notice that I did not comment on the alleged “…colleague of mine who teaches at a leading conservatory” hhhmmmm? sound a little funny to me –might we inquire for a name?

    Phil Fried

    Reply
  11. rtanaka

    Studying the works of “dead white guys” is important only to the extent that its influences are all around us to this day. Whether we want to admit it or not, the world operates under certain standards and there’s not much any of us can do about it. But if there’s a desire to see something change, then I think we have an obligation to know what we are working with — otherwise it’s just turning a blind eye to the fact that these structures are very strongly ingrained into our culture. Knowing how things work doesn’t necessarily have to be an endorsement of its practices.

    Although I can sympathize with Lisa’s sentiments quite a bit…I know I didn’t get a single credit during my schooling for practicing my improvisations, but it ended up what I’m probably going to focus on for the rest of my life. I guess it was frustrating and didn’t help my self-esteem much, but I think that “finding yourself” is something that needs to be done outside of the school curriculum. The schools are there to set a standard of some sort, to make sure that the majority of its graduates gets a general overview of its history. But as far as where to go from thereon, it’s largely up to the individual student.

    Reply
  12. MarkNGrant

    I hope Grant gets back on here and comments soon, because I have been literally shaking with anger since I read his piece. I hope that came through in my response.

    Colin, you and your friends are clearly not anywhere close to the type of music student I was referring to. You’ve demonstrated an amazing intellectual range in your NMBox posts, especially for a person of your years. I admire your intelligence greatly. Relax, this was not an ad hominem directed at you or any one person.

    Reply
  13. A.C. Douglas

    A colleague of mine who teaches at a leading conservatory … recently lamented to me that his composition students tend to express little curiosity in any musical repertoire predating World War II(!).

    You mean a student can gain entrance to a conservatory today without intimate knowledge of, at very least, the major works of (also at very least) Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schuman, Schubert, Berlioz, and Wagner?

    Explains a lot.

    ACD

    Reply
  14. jbunch

    Not to pick on you too much but…
    There’s no mention at all of anyone knowing anything about non-Western music (or popular music)? Perhaps without meaning to do so, you have – as Lisa X pointed out – created a canon of dead white guys? This is only part of the problem with the conservatory/public music school deal. The other part is, despite the fact that at the school I teach, the “common practice period” gets 3 out of 4 semesters as opposed to the Cambrian explosion of the 20th/21st centuries – students end up knowing as little about the philosophical and theoretical meta-texts of that period as they end up knowing about the bread and water mechanics of the post WWII stuff. OK. To echo a colleagues very insightful comment, if I knew bridges were built by engineers with this kind of education, I’d swim across the damn river!

    Reply
  15. davidcoll

    rtanaka: “Whether we want to admit it or not, the world operates under certain standards and there’s not much any of us can do about it.”

    Don’t sound so skeptical! There are things we can do, whether we’re speaking musically or socially- make actions that are contrary to those standards. Often they catch on.

    Reply
  16. William Osborne

    The most meaningful understandings of postmodernism analyze systemic social structures that produce unjustifiable privilege and biased perspectives. The issue is not to reject the profound accomplishments that artificially created human privilege has given history, but to separate those accomplishments from their gendered, racial, and classist cultural perspectives.

    We should not reject the work of Mozart and Bach with racist and sexist declarations that they are white and male, anymore than we would want to reject the work of Ella Fitzgerald because she was black and female. Instead, we want to examine the systems of artificial privilege that allowed dead white males to achieve what they did, and to bring those advantages to all people. This requires studying the history of Western culture’s high art, including an analysis of the systemic social structures that limited the creation and reception of its profound accomplishments to only a select few.

    China is an interesting case in point. Western classical music is being brought to a new gene pool of about one billion people, which is resulting in a new wave of human genius in “Western” classical music coming from people who are not white, and often not so male either. Here are a couple examples I find enjoyable.

    Su Meng performing Paganini’s Caprice no. 24 on the guitar:

    (Lang Lang gone made at the piano and inadvertently creating an astounding bit of performance art:

    Mark, please remember that when your thoughts meet the most hatred and vituperation, it is sometimes an indication that you are writing truths that need to be heard.

    (Unfortunately, I can’t take the time to participate in these discussions, and to avoid the temptation I won’t be back here to even read responses. To much to do – including among other things, possibly writing a new report about the Vienna Philharmonic, which aside from some token gestures, excludes women and non-Caucasians.)

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

    Reply
  17. bermane

    Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
    Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948, pp. 72-74

    The split in the theory of knowledge which took place at the time of the Renaissance is enough to account for that form of ignorance which is egotism. Under the world view possessed by medieval scholars, the path of learning was a path to self-depreciation, and the philosophiæ doctor was one who had at length seen a rational ground for humilitas. Study and meditation led him to a proper perspective on self, which then, instead of caricaturing the world with the urgency of its existence and the vehemence of its desires, found a place in the hierarchy of reality. Dante’s In la sua voluntade è nostra pace is the final discovery. Thus knowledge for the medieval idealist prepared the way for self-effacement.

    An opposing conception comes in with Bacon’s “knowledge is power.” If the aim of knowledge is domination, it is hardly to be supposed that the possessors of knowledge will be indifferent to their importance. On the contrary, they begin to swell; they seek triumphs in the material world (knowledge being meanwhile necessarily degraded to skills) which inflate their egotism and self-consideration. Such is a brief history of how knowledge passes from a means of spiritual redemption to a basis for intellectual pride.

    In Greek fable, as in Christian, it is asserted that there is a forbidden knowledge which brings nothing into the world but woe. Our generation has had ample demonstration of what that knowledge is. It is knowledge of the useful rather than of the true and the good, of techniques rather than of ends. If we insist that our problems are philosophical, we cannot expect a return to selflessness without an epistemological revision which will elevate the study of essences above that of particulars and so put in their proper modest place those skills needed to manipulate the world. Nothing can be done until we have decided whether we are primarily interested in truth.

    In the absence of truth there is no necessity, and this observation may serve as an index to the position of the modern egotist. Having become incapable of knowing, he becomes incapable of working, in the sense that all work is a bringing of the ideal from potentiality into actuality. We perceive this simply when his egotism prevents realization that he is an obligated creature, bound to rational employment. The modern worker does not, save in rare instances, respond to the ideal in the task.

    Before the age of adulteration it was held that behind each work there stood some conception of its perfect execution. It was this that gave zest to labor and served to measure the degree of success. To the extent that the concept obtained, there was a teleology in work, since the laborer toiled not merely to win sustenance but to see this ideal embodied in his creation. Pride in craftsmanship is well explained by saying that to work is to pray, for conscientious effort to realize an ideal is a kind of fidelity. The craftsman of old did not hurry, because the perfect takes no account of time and shoddy work is a reproach to character. But character itself is an expression of self-control, which does not come by taking the easiest way. Where character forbids self-indulgence, transcendence still hovers around.

    When utilitarianism becomes enthroned and the worker is taught that work is use and not worship, interest in quality begins to decline. How many times have we heard exclamations of wonder at the care which went into some article of ancient craftsmanship before modern organization drove a wedge between the worker and his product! There is the difference between expressing one’s self in form and producing quantity for a market with an eye to speculation. Péguy wished to know what had become of the honor of work. It has succumbed to the same forces as have all other expressions of honor.

    Reply
  18. rtanaka

    Don’t sound so skeptical! There are things we can do, whether we’re speaking musically or socially- make actions that are contrary to those standards. Often they catch on.

    I’m talking about the completion of a degree. I will be honest and say that I was not a very good student in school and barely made it out of the curriculum. Some people I know…well, they dropped out in defiance of the institution. I would not recommend doing this, unless you’re into getting yourself screwed, or in a position to waste a lot of time and money. Part of growing up is understanding the fact that you can’t always do what you believe in, and that at times, you have to to fulfill certain obligations as a matter of survival. That’s where the importance of craftsmanship comes into handy, because it shows you how to find freedom within certain structures that initially may seem confined. In some cases, it can even be critical of itself!

    I think it’s generally accepted that if you’re going to be enrolled in a Western classical composition program, you’re making a conscious decision to narrow your focus toward something specific. If you are writing music in a classical style (old or new) using classical instruments and classical performers then it would be sort of silly *not* to have a strong background knowledge of its history. If you’re more interested in African drumming, maybe a different program would’ve been more suited. If you’re trying to study African drumming while enrolled in a rigorous program geared toward composition, I think you’ll be in trouble on both ends of things!

    The issue is more about not being half-assed more than anything, I think. I think it’s wonderful to be interested in a wide variety of subjects — and school is, after all, supposed to expand your horizons and conceptions about the world. But one problem I see with some younger students is that a lot of them are “open to anything” but aren’t willing to commit themselves to anything long enough to get a good understanding of how things really work. I had one grad student once actually tell me that they were questioning the idea of working hard in itself. You see, normally people work hard to get to where they are, but being contrary to that…uhh, what?

    Reply
  19. pgblu

    From the John Adams article linked above:

    [Cage] seemed to have little or no emotional connection to the “great works” of the Western canon. In one of his many anecdotal stories he wrote about hearing a chamber piece for clarinet by Mozart and how he’d noticed that the clarinet sounded like a square wave oscillator. Mozart’s clarinet music was dear to me and remains so inspite [sic] of my own radical changes of style. Nevertheless I could understand from this anecdote that Cage listened to music in a manner completely different than what I was accustomed to.Cage’s reponse [sic] to classical music was that of a listener who lacked what Carl Jung called the “feeling function” necessary to feel what others feel when they hear a powerfully affecting piece. Instead of being alive to the subtle emotional shadings in Mozart’s music, Cage heard the acoustical sound of a clarinet, almost as a laboratory instrument might analyze a waveform. What interested Cage was how that sound reached his ears and what its acousticals [sic] properties were. He was deaf to the Mozart insofar as it was “music.” He was unmoved by its expressive beauty and indifferent to its historical or stylistic connotations. He wanted to hear like an animal, receiving and processing a sound, whether it came from a clarinet or from a leaky drainpipe, on its own terms, without its cultural connotation.

    This strikes me as an amazing testament to the author’s utter tone-deafness to political, cultural, and philosophical issues, and I’m frankly glad it’s preserved for posterity.

    Sure, Cage’s suggestion that the clarinet sounds like a ‘square wave oscillator’ is a rather sterile observation, but this doesn’t mean he lacked the “feeling function,” just that he evaluated its effect differently (i.e. far more skeptically) than John Adams might. In the political and cultural climate that Cage experienced, where a sophisticated propaganda machine was at work to mollify the American public specifically by manipulating its emotional states with apparent ‘virtuosity,’ one shouldn’t wonder that he sought to point out and become sensitive to the mechanisms by which humans respond to sound. In this sense, his art intended to serve a political purpose. It seems that Adams’ critique is that Cage’s approach wasn’t “meaningful” enough. In fact, what’s uncomfortable about Cage is that his music seems to carry more meaning than we’re willing to admit, even if it’s all purportedly the result of “chance operations.”

    I know that’s pretty far off-topic, but that propaganda machine does still exist today, and it’s no less urgent for our time than for Cage’s to have those wheels of reflection continue to turn. Hmm, sorry for the mixed metaphors there.

    PS I realize it’s unfair to criticize one excerpt, but the remainder of the article doesn’t manage to dispel the impression that Adams is the reactionary par excellence here.

    Reply
  20. philmusic

    Dear Bermane:


    It’s amazing how much space
    can be filled with a cut and paste

    Phil Fried–and I kept this one short!

    Reply
  21. coreydargel

    A well-read music scholar who believes in the illusory narrative of music history may very well be the worst candidate for a progressive creative musician in the 21st century.

    One of the hallmarks of modernity (i.e. industrialism, technology, bureaucracy) is that there are ever-narrowing areas of expertise. Everyone’s an expert on something. So let the music historians tell us how century-old music relates to the current day, and leave the composers to write fresh music for the 21st century.

    How could it surprise you that a young composer is not thoroughly inspired to listen to a piece of music from a time and place that he or she has no way of relating to? It’s not as if their teachers are knowledgeable (or capable) enough to submerge the students in the culture, art, and politics of the time when these “masterworks” were written, so it’s not surprising that Bach’s music, as lovely as it is in its absolute abstractness, has no social or political immediacy for today’s creative musicians.

    If you understand how music works, in an abstract sense, then you can get as much out of listening to Radiohead as you can out of listening to Beethoven. No one should be required to accept, much less embrace, the traditional trajectory imposed on the arbitrary and power-centric course of how music history has been chronicled. We need creative musicians who are not beholden to the intellectual shackles of historical “progress.”

    So stop being reactionary and stop administering scholarly aptitude litmus tests to creative musicians. So much has changed in the last fifty years that students have enough of a challenge digesting the music of the last twenty years, much less the last five-hundred years. And who are you, anyway, to say that the best understanding of music history starts with the distant past and not the recent past?

    Oh, and read some Foucault.

    Reply
  22. rtanaka

    In fact, what’s uncomfortable about Cage is that his music seems to carry more meaning than we’re willing to admit, even if it’s all purportedly the result of “chance operations.”

    Not really. Chance operations are just mathematical procedures, which is why nowadays you can just google up the “I-Ching” and find it codified in software form. Randomization has never been known to produce real information in a communicative sense, but it does produce “junk information” as a way to encrypt its data from potential perceivers. It’s an artificial process layered upon already existing information, very much a reaction toward pre-existing information, since it makes no attempt to create anything new. (Hence, the idea of the “found object”, “ready-made”, etc.) It does, though, serve to destroy any sort of resemblance of a narrative or a progression, which is what it was intended to do. (Hofstander’s Godel Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid can go more into detail of this, if you really want. Hofstander, while coming from a Western perspective, does have a much better understanding of Zen as well, as compared to the composer.)

    It seems that the dismissal of the historical narrative does in fact exist, and it’s found all over the place right here as we speak. (Mr. Grant’s article did manage to hit a nerve, it seems.) History does have its causal relationships. Classicism is a reaction towards baroque complexity, Romanticism a reaction to Classical rationalism, Modernism to Romantic nationalism — these things happen for specific reasons often with very specific outcomes. It’s pretty disturbing that people would be so quick to reject, at least in my view, something so obvious.

    As mentioned a number of times earlier, this sentiment (including the idea of being anti-political) emerges from New England Transcendentalism, a very much American thing, which is a philosophy with a history in itself — how ironic! How does one plan to change anything if they can’t even be bothered to learn about the lineage of their own medium? You can’t react against something that you don’t understand, it just doesn’t work that way.

    Reply
  23. philmusic

    “so it’s not surprising that Bach’s music, as lovely as it is in its absolute abstractness, has no social or political immediacy for today’s creative musicians. so it’s not surprising that Bach’s music, as lovely as it is in its absolute abstractness, has no social or political immediacy for today’s creative musicians.

    [unless they go to a church where Bach is played.]

    I think we see here the conflict of two highly trained schools (Teams) of thought each one trying to exclude the other and trying very hard to prove their respective points.

    In this corner Team “Tradition” represented or rather proposed by Mark-already quoted and questioned.

    And in this corner Team “Relativist” represented by Corey.

    “If you understand how music works, in an abstract sense, then you can get as much out of listening to Radiohead as you can out of listening to Beethoven. .”

    Well perhaps maybe, if its just listening and not performing– of course its possible I just don’t understand how music works.

    There must be a middle ground here I think.

    The question I would ask both is the study of counterpoint as intellectual for a creative musician as the study of Foucault?

    Phil Fried

    Reply
  24. Colin Holter

    But there’s a difference, Ryan, between history and the historical narrative. Mark’s point–that we should be well-versed in history, in things that happened, music that was written, etc.–is right on, absolutely, but that’s not the same thing as buying into a narrative, which after all is ultimately a product of ideology. Grout and Palisca offer you the history, of course, but it’s selectively presented, designed to be construed as a narrative. The best example I can think of has to do with postwar music: “Serial music was big for a while, but then composers decided they wanted a more direct way to their audiences’ hearts, so they went back to writing tonal music.” This is a piece of ideology masquerading as a description of events, a narrative disguised as history. One benefit of knowing the history is that it gives us the capability to evaluate the narrative in a critical manner.

    As for the other thing, I just don’t have it in me to argue with you about Cage today.

    Reply
  25. coreydargel

    You would be wrong to assume that I don’t know my music history in the traditional sense. But I think music history is wrapped up in the problematic (and IMPOSED) narrative of those in power (this is as true in academic and cultural matters as it is in political and social matters). I think none of us fully comprehends the way those in power shape history and so-called “historical narratives.”

    We can look at music history without having to conform to traditional means of interpreting it. One way of doing this is to look at what has been, and who have been, left out of music history, and a sensible way to do that is to start with the recent past and work backwards to the distant past.

    Reply
  26. Colin Holter

    I see that Dargel and I wrote almost kind of the same thing at almost kind of the same time. In the distant future, historians will look back on this day in puzzlement.

    Reply
  27. rtanaka

    Oh, I agree about the narration thing. There are obviously badly produced historical accounts. But history does have its cause-and-effect, which should be made clear that shifts in attitude and style are not random, spontaneous occurances. Things happen for a reason — sometimes the reasons aren’t very god, but they are there nonetheless. The Iraq War, for instance, was in planning since the early 90s after the Gulf War by the PNAC. Had more people known about this, perhaps there would’ve been more ways to avert the situation that we are in right now. But, alas, people couldn’t be bothered.

    Nobody is immune from outside influences. Every style and genre has its respective ideologies and the avant-garde is no exception. It should be on the onus of the composer though, to be self-aware of the fact that they’re part of something greater than what they concieved of themselves. Sometimes people end up towing an ideology without even knowing it. Sort of like religious fundamentalists who, when questioned, turns out to know nothing about their own book.

    Reply
  28. pgblu

    I don’t have the energy either
    Not really. Chance operations are just mathematical procedures, which is why nowadays you can just google up the “I-Ching” and find it codified in software form. Randomization has never been known to produce real information in a communicative sense, but it does produce “junk information” as a way to encrypt its data from potential perceivers. It’s an artificial process layered upon already existing information, very much a reaction toward pre-existing information, since it makes no attempt to create anything new. (Hence, the idea of the “found object”, “ready-made”, etc.) It does, though, serve to destroy any sort of resemblance of a narrative or a progression, which is what it was intended to do.

    Well, you’re not contradicting me… I’m not just talking about the process, but rather also about the result. Listening to Cage is like listening to one’s own mechanisms of perception (he hopes), and the listener is invited to explore the nature of ‘meaning’ when confronted with something that is, in its manner of operation, purportedly meaningless. If that isn’t an apt artistic reaction to a political reality, I don’t know what is.

    I don’t expect you to understand that, though, Ryan. You haven’t wanted to before, so why should this piddly post change anything?

    Reply
  29. rtanaka

    I don’t expect you to understand that, though, Ryan. You haven’t wanted to before, so why should this piddly post change anything?

    Heh, I’ve already mentioned before that his art is a expression of polical anarchism, and the “result” is merely that. Either you glossed over it or there was a kind of misunderstanding but either way, I understand you — all too well, I think. Of course in accordance to chaos theory, it is always easier to destroy than to create, so the oft cited sentiment of his works being a source of “limitless possibilities” comes as a result of there being many ways to destroy the same object. There’s only a couple of ways to build a castle, but many different ways to demolish it — it’s an expression of angst.

    I just wanted to dispel the notion that his works are anything but destructive. Of course, anarchism as a political philosophy is a joke, not found anywhere near industrialized or civilization nations, which might also be worth mentioning. How many people do you know take Cage seriously in the realm of philosophy and politics? Are any of his ideas applied, appreciated, or seriously debated upon? I know the answer to this in dealing with various people outside of music, but perhaps others have had different experiences than I did.

    Reply
  30. philmusic

    …the best example I can think of has to do with postwar music: “Serial music was big for a while, but then composers decided they wanted a more direct way to their audiences’ hearts, so they went back to writing tonal music.” This is a piece of ideology masquerading as a description of events, a narrative disguised as history.

    Colin, I thought that this was a cover up! Fortunately, I did not get the memo.

    Phil Fried

    Reply
  31. coreydargel

    There’s an interesting tendency by certain folks to confuse skepticism with apathy, to dismiss the “young” as shallow just because they are skeptical of the way information is handed down to them.

    Often times, this dismissive attitude — which includes ridiculous rhetorical questions like, “How can you be against something if you haven’t studied it?” — is represented by scholars who are too engulfed in, and pampered by, the System to be critical of it. They might be just a little jealous of the young for not yet succumbing to the “this is the way things are” rationale.

    Reply
  32. rtanaka

    Well since we’re on the topic and today is a slow day at work, maybe it’ll be good to mention how this all relates to Cage’s misunderstanding of Zen. One common misconception of Zen koans is that the equovication the “other-worldliness” of the statements with the Western notion of the paradox. Something like this (randomly took off of a google search):

    A monk asked Dongshan Shouchu, “What is Buddha?” Dongshan said, “Three pounds of flax”.

    Some people might say, that’s craaaazy, get a chuckle out of it then give up on finding a solution. This comes from the Western practice of abandoning logical structures when a paradox is discovered in the midst of something. But, if you look at the statement closely, the answer of Dongshan may seem counter-intuitive, but there is no contradiction. The mental training involves finding solutions to this unseemingly impossible problem.

    If you read very closely, most koans are fairly “close-ended” in the sense that there is something specific asked by the interpreter to look for. Some of the actions and responses might seem out of this world, but it’s not the same as throwing something “contradictory” into someone’s face, like the avant-gardists tend to do. What it does, hopefully, is sort of push the mind into looking for various “paths” toward the same result. After a while, one realizes that there are many (maybe even infinite) different ways to arrive at the same result — but since the mind has to eventually choose something to think about, the mindset then becomes geared toward intuition.

    The questions that Cage typically poses in his works (particularly his late conceptual stuff) by contrast, are “open-ended”. The materials he selects often contradict themselves, which sets up the initial framework of the piece, posing as a sort of a puzzle or question for the musicians and audience to “figure out”. Of course a paradox has no solution, so like most of his works, the music just goes on a downward trajectory. It’s an open-ended pathway to nothingness.

    I’ve talked to a few anarchists before. They take all the comforts of living in a civilized society for granted, while resenting the obligations that come with it (like paying taxes, following the law). I mean, look at Somalia and various other nations in Africa — their governments tend to be so weak that many of them could arguably be called an anarchist/anarcho-capitalist nation. Oh, but there’s the whole genocide all-the-time and having no human rights thing, which makes it kind of bummer to live there. Bottom line, anarchism is a self-centered and naive political philosophy, and pretty much all of history is a verification of this point of view.

    I see Cage’s music as an extension of this, although its ideology can be maintained by a healthy disinterest (or selective interest) in history. Like all good dogmas, circular logic helps to insulate itself from external influences.

    Reply
  33. pgblu

    anarchy
    John Cage said: “Anarchy is the most just form of social organization, and when humanity is ready for it, that is the kind of organization we will have.” (that’s a paraphrase)

    The reason this is no longer debated is because no one seriously thinks that people will ever be ready for anarchy, not because anarchy is somehow less than ideal. But John Cage’s music remains a valid way of creating a pathway in that direction — if one understands anarchy as the only set of conditions under which spontaneous self-organization can be expected to take place, and not as street mobs making the rules (or some other commonplace connotations of anarchy). See Bakunin as one of the last serious anarchy theorists, though it still is being debated today on the margins of the political discourse. Just last week I saw a book called “Anarchy: arguments for and against” in the bookstore (not the shelves of a university library, a bookstore).

    Art is where these utopias can and should be debated, I think.

    OK, that’s enough off-topic skulking for me.

    Reply
  34. benglovi

    It was years after I had completed a graduate degree and was teaching that I realized that I really didn’t appreciate or fully understand music history until I had played and listened to even more music than I performed when I was a student and a young professional. If you play and listen to enough music, you don’t really have to study music history with special diligence (unless you want to be a musicologist) because the music begins to speak for itself — you learn in a very natural way that Bach and Haydn are stylistically different even though their lives overlapped.

    I’m not agitating for dropping music history as a subject in any music department. But I was a reasonably dedicated student, and by nature I’ve always been curious about a lot of things. In spite of that, I feel that I learned my way by rote through a good deal of my undergrad music history. Really learning a piece of music is a time consuming experience, and how else do you get a sense of a composer’s style — you certainly can’t do it just by reading about it in a book or by listening to a few selected excerpts. You can learn about Picasso without going to every museum in the world that displays his works because there are good reproductions available in books, but you either have to perform or listen to as much as possible of Stravinsky’s music with a part or score in front of you until you begin to understand what he’s about.

    I’m not going to argue that a student must listen (or is maimed for life by not listening) to this or that piece of music. I’ve played and listened to a lot of music in various genres, and because I grew up in a home where everything from klezmer to Spike Jones to traditional jazz and classical repertoire (with occasional detours to country and cantorial liturgy) was fair game, I feel fortunate that I haven’t had to make any special evaluations except that there is excellent and not so good music in almost any style. Not to worry — if I were to be exiled to a desert isle and were given only one choice, I would select Mozart over Ray Price. But a student is not going to have a very good idea about how to write a string quartet by focusing on Johnny Cash, nor is s/he going to learn how to write in a jazz idiom that swings by listening to a lot of Max Bruch.

    What concerns me most as an educator who is winding up a 43 year stint (without a hazardous duty bonus) is any student who lacks curiosity. I’ve found that most students, if exposed in a non-threatening way to almost any music (as in not coming across with a “you don’t know which end is up if you don’t enjoy this” attitude), will react in some way that can be used as a point of departure for discussion. I personally find that the music of Alban Berg is more accessible than that of some of Schoenberg’s strict dodecaphonic pieces. But I recall that I had a frustrating argument with a conductor who said that the “Five Pieces for Orchestra” wasn’t music. That’s scary! He had been spooked by reading (I think it was Leonard Feather’s) “The Agony of Modern Music.” There’s plenty of bad criticism to accompany very good music.

    I don’t think that it matters if a student finds Cage more intriguing as a philosopher than as a composer, or loves Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” as anachronistic as it may be. I worry about any musician or composer who isn’t aware that the music even exists. And that includes Duke Ellington and Josquin as well, not to mention at least a passing acquaintance with world musics.

    My guiding premise is that you can’t know enough about your profession. It isn’t a matter of should versus shouldn’t. It’s not a matter of liking or not liking this or that. Either you care enough to be informed or you don’t. I have no research to back the idea, but I suspect that those who are the most successful in any field know more rather than less.

    Reply
  35. Lisa X

    I think its important to understand that we organize ourselves using many systems simultaneously. Anarchy just happens to be the most common, most peaceful, and most banal one. Every time we make consensus, working together without force or the threat of force we are practicing anarchy. Trouble is we haven’t been able to expand these everyday cooperative triumphs to a larger scale and are currently at the mercy of those who use more brutal methods to keep large scale organizations working.

    Also, while Somalia does not currently have a proper state it is in no way a true anarchy. War lords certainly govern almost everywhere. There is no lack of government, just no state.

    Also, some of you miss the point about music history. I think everyone agrees that we need to be constantly listening, studying, and enjoying the past. The problem is that the past is huge. To focus on a short sliver of time on just one continent does not make sense for most students in this country.

    Reply
  36. Herb Levy

    Whether or not your main point is correct, if you’d ask people who teach creative writing, most of them would be happy if their students read Delillo & Ford, let alone Tolstoy, Dickens & Keats.

    In most programs, creative writing students are all about “self-expression”. The way these are usually structured it’s more common for someone to be able to get an MFA in creative writing without having to read any work besides their own and those they’re in classes with than it would be for someone to get an MFA in composition and not have studied at least some “classic” works.

    Reply
  37. davidcoll

    so often…
    theres people dissing cage that haven’t even bothered to really listen to his music. I was like that only about 4 years ago, and once i realized just how much i enjoy his music thing were clear. We can talk all day about his problems w/philosophy, zen, lack of attention to detail or whatever, but make sure you give his music a real chance..

    Reply
  38. rtanaka

    I find Cage’s music to be very boring, because it always has the same downward trajectory. There is no functional harmony, or developmental ideas, because it is, and is meant to be, static. The typical response to this is that the listener ought to be interested in the concept behind the music itself, and Cage has been fairly honest about the fact that the process is more important than the result. So, being interested in philosophy, I decided to give it a chance and learn about what goes on behind the scenes. But, turns out that his philosophy isn’t even all that interesting either, because his knowledge of both Western and Eastern philosophy are extremely tenuous on both accounts.

    His earlier works show some ingenuity (the prepared piano idea is pretty brilliant, for example), but after a certain point it seems that he just fell into an existential crisis and started repeating himself on the idea of nothingness. Yes, I spent a good several years listening, attending concerts, doing research about him. At one point I did enjoy it too, but it was just a phase for me.

    The obvious fact is that these concerts are predominantly populated by composers (and performers, to some extent) but the audience, by in large, doesn’t really care. Maybe if this was 50 years ago things would be different (where anti-social-realism was in vogue), but non-musicians tend to find Cageian works pretentious and self-serving. They are correct in this assessment, especially if you read into the history of how it came to be, and the reasons why it was supported during the Cold War-era. Yes, history is important.

    I find it ironic that fact that the first thing composers say when people don’t like that kind of stuff is that they’re being “close-minded” or “reactionary”, yet at the same time it doesn’t stop many of them from being dismissive of other types of musics they don’t like. If people’s tastes really come down to a matter of subjectivity, then the audience should reserve the right to dislike it too, and they should be accepting of that. And if that kind of ideology is really “open minded”, then, by their own account, they should be forced to “like” everything. In practice of course nobody is never quite like this so it exists as a non-existent ideal. In general, I find the philosophy to be fairly disingenuous and dishonest, and it’s pretty painful to see people contradict themselves so blatantly without even being aware of it.

    In the article, Adams was willing to admit that Cage’s ideas had some merit in them, after spending some years idolizing him. I’m willing to bet that he knows more about Cage than many of his detractors and defenders — if you actually read the article as a whole, it’s very obvious that he had spend a good deal of his college years studying about him. This doesn’t seem to stop the accusations of being a “reactionary” and whatnot, just because he came to the conclusion that perhaps the aesthetic wasn’t doing himself any good.

    Besides, Cage was music was a product of a simpler era where the world was divided between individuality and collectivism due to the Cold War mentality. Now we have more complex issues to deal with — globalization, terrorism, social issues…why anybody would write something like that in this day and age, I don’t know. Lack of knowledge of history, perhaps?

    Reply
  39. marknowakowski

    The responses to Mark’s article are very telling. I found that in conservatories, educators often cling self-consciously to the past European greats, while in Universities, they are often in a headlong rush to claim that some obscure form of African drumming has equal merit with the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. I think that both positions are absurd.

    That being said, the prominence of the “dead white guy” is completely justified. Just walk into any music library, and tell me which continent did the best job of preserving, teaching, and promulgating the work of her geniuses. Which continent has the most universities, the most music schools? The anti-Euro-centric reations on these posts say more about the biases of the posters, then they do about any perceived inequality in the system. (All this, coming from a guy who loves obscure folk music and finding ways to insert it into his own work…)

    Reply
  40. Colin Holter

    I find Cage’s music to be very boring, because it always has the same downward trajectory.

    not true

    There is no functional harmony, or developmental ideas, because it is, and is meant to be, static.

    not true

    The typical response to this is that the listener ought to be interested in the concept behind the music itself, and Cage has been fairly honest about the fact that the process is more important than the result.

    not true

    So, being interested in philosophy, I decided to give it a chance and learn about what goes on behind the scenes.

    not true

    But, turns out that his philosophy isn’t even all that interesting either, because his knowledge of both Western and Eastern philosophy are extremely tenuous on both accounts.

    true but it doesn’t matter

    Plus none of this has to do with Mark’s column.

    Reply
  41. rtanaka

    Yeah that’s some great points there, Colin. No no no! I’ve already addressed points 1 and 2 in various forms, so I won’t bother with them unless you actually have a substantial counter-argument. For number 3, Cage: Composition as a Process from the man himself.

    4 you cannot invalidate, because it’s a subjective statement about my own experiences, although it does highlight what I said earlier about being selective about subjective matters. I guess subjectivity only applies when its in your favor? While claiming that music is a subjective experience, some people sure are quick to bust out the “expert opinion” factor if it turns out that people don’t like what they’re doing. Just another contradiction, I suppose.

    Of course this has everything to do with Mark’s column. It was brought up a few times by myself and others, but nobody seems to want to talk about the history of the very things that they claim to love. (For the avant-garde, it would be matters of the CIA, Cold War, and patronage funding.) I think Cage’s ideas are uninteresting but since it’s part of the world I’m living in, I feel obligated to study it. Almost anything can be interesting from a historical perspective — turns out that he epitomizes a lot of different things that were going on during that era, and it finally makes sense why he became famous.

    Prior to studying Cage’s history (yes, there is a lineage, rooted in Satie, Ives and the Dadaists and such) I just had sort of a vague idea that I didn’t really like him all that much, but at least now I can articulate the reasons why I moved away from that sort of thing. Even in some of my works, his influences appear in them, although usually in the form of a parody. This does, though, put me in a situation where I’m in dialog with previous traditions (like Cage, tonality, Schoenberg, etc.), instead of trying to compose something from scratch, which is kind of an impossibility anyway. The whole point of history is to be self-aware of why things are certain ways, and where their roots are in relation to the present. This means, yes, having to study things that you don’t particularly like all that much.

    Reply
  42. Frank J. Oteri

    He had been spooked by reading (I think it was Leonard Feather’s) “The Agony of Modern Music.”

    Actually, the author of that infamous book was Henry Pleasants.

    FJO

    Reply
  43. SonicRuins

    “That being said, the prominence of the “dead white guy” is completely justified. Just walk into any music library, and tell me which continent did the best job of preserving, teaching, and promulgating the work of her geniuses.”

    Please don’t get me started on how problematic that statement is…

    Someone please chime in…

    Reply
  44. Chris Becker

    The Library Of Dead White People
    …I was going to but I was thinking Mark may have just posted his statement without thinking it through.

    Mark, you might want to check out John Miller Chernoff’s book African Rhythm and African Sensibility and Michael Veal’s recent book Dub for some data regarding the preservation and transmission of music outside of the European canon.

    Reply
  45. coreydargel

    A few brief comments:

    Don’t confuse stubbornness with ignorance. They are not the same thing.

    It’s not relativism; it’s radicalism.

    Listening to Bach in a church is not exactly a comprehensive way of experiencing Bach’s music in its own time and place.

    You can nit-pick with the specifics of History all you want. You can claim that certain kinds of music don’t deserve to be a part of history. But then you buy into the imposed structures, and that’s not a valid rebuttal to the claim that History itself is fatally flawed. You only see the evidence that the powers-that-be want you to see. The trick is to look at what’s been excluded. There are rules for who gets to be in the History books, and only recently have we been able to subvert those rules with a modicum of democracy in the realm of information technology. It’s only a start, but let’s just say that history ain’t what it used to be.

    Reply
  46. marknowakowski

    Actually, it was completely thought through.

    I think Mark is reacting against the rush of many students and educators to discard our peerless musical tradition, or perhaps to equate it with other musical forms/styles far too lightly. As I often comment: If what we do is not somehow special, then why bother?

    I also think that he is being attacked here for taking the anti-trigger-happy-musical-democracy approach. I may not agree with him entirely, but applaud him for making a (rare on this site) definite statement. The most telling and individually prejudiced words on this post are not Mark’s article, but many of the responses to it.

    Reply
  47. kontrabass47

    2 cents
    Its seems like everyone has added their comments. I am currently a graduate student. When I started in undergrad, I knew very little of the classical canon. Thats what going to college is for. Undergraduate students need to familiarize themselves with the history of music. I do have a problem with graduate students not knowing this history. Graduate school is where one can learn all the new stuff. I hate being forced to take classes in music history over and over again. There is so much to learn and so little time in the day. It would be great not to have any electricity around so I could spend every waking moment studing music. -jon crane

    Reply
  48. rtanaka

    As I often comment: If what we do is not somehow special, then why bother?

    That’s not really a comment — it’s a rhetorical question that assumes itself as being self-evident, which it is not. “Why,” indeed? Do you have an answer to the question that you posed yourself? I could very well ask the inversion of it — “Why must something be special in order to be bothered?”

    Don’t answer it though — it’s rhetorical.

    Reply
  49. Chris Becker

    Mark M. I was responding to your post: ” Just walk into any music library, and tell me which continent did the best job of preserving, teaching, and promulgating the work of her geniuses.” Not Mark G.’s essay which I don’t have a problem with. He’s just posing a question for the peanut gallery to munch on.

    I think Corey has hit things on the head more than once – there’s a lot of good posts here – even though not every one is in total agreement. Nothing wrong with that…

    I’ll add the film “Daughters of the Dust” to the books I suggested…

    Reply
  50. pgblu

    They keep pulling me back in
    Despite Colin’s eloquent rebuttal (not true), I did want to respond, as briefly as possible, to Ryan’s post in my own words.

    I find Cage’s music to be very boring, because it always has the same downward trajectory. There is no functional harmony, or developmental ideas, because it is, and is meant to be, static.

    If you find something boring, I doubt you’d write about it quite so tenaciously. But to complain that Cage doesn’t use functional harmony is for me the very definition of reactionary. It’s like saying Chinese muralists are boring because they didn’t employ perspective or chiaroscuro in their paintings.

    If you actually read the article as a whole, it’s very obvious that he had spend a good deal of his college years studying about him…
    …why anybody would write something like that in this day and age, I don’t know. Lack of knowledge of history, perhaps?

    I did “actually read the article,” and I am fairly confident in my understanding of history.

    However, I think a critique of Adams and an assessment of Cage should be separate debates. I was not upholding Cage as a model of aesthetic or philosophical perfection, simply saying that his work (and I do mean the product no less than the process) raised political, social, and philosophical questions that are still relevant today in the sense that they demand a response. He is indeed vulnerable to most of the criticisms that Ryan levels against him, but how one incorporates such criticisms into one’s own work will decide whether one is essentially reactionary or progressive in one’s way of doing things.

    This can get complicated. Cage’s work is important for me because it highlights, in a straightforward fashion, the listener’s contribution to the act of ‘sense-making’ as distinct from the composer’s. This is simply because, from the outset, the composer abdicates all responsibility for the ‘sense’ of what he’s doing. Ryan and I definitely hear Cage differently (leaving aside the fact that Cage’s various indeterminate musics are all very different from one another as well), and for me it’s fascinating to observe how that music continues to invite sense-making, in the same way that I can hear a chirping cricket and a distant songbird as enacting some kind of two-voice counterpoint even if they don’t consciously respond to one another.

    The reactionary response would be: “Come, let’s drop all this silliness and do something that makes sense.” — which ignores the fact that this notion of ‘sense’ depends on a contract between listener and composer that isn’t there — or is only there between, e.g., Adams and the concert-goer who grew up in his own culture.

    The progressive response would be: “How can I, in my work, acknowledge the sense-making mechanisms of the listener in such a way that the listener is invited/liberated to explore these?” — which takes up the Cageian gauntlet, but endeavors to investigate more fundamental and/or more specific mechanisms of sense-making, rather than, like Cage, abdicating responsibilty and framing that phenomenon in a general, abstract, positivist fashion. How is it progressive? Since it empowers the listener to reflect on the nature of musical meaning, think of it as a kind of “propaganda-proofing,” since the flux of musical meaning surely can be equated with the flux of non-musical, e.g., political, medial, or social meaning.

    I say none of this with apodictic certainty. I wouldn’t mind someone setting me straight about John Adams and demonstrating that he’s really a progressive, aesthetically speaking. I just don’t hear it… and urbane references to the surface features of counter-culture are not enough.

    (Well, that wasn’t brief at all, but I hope I’ve defended my honor now a bit)

    Reply
  51. rtanaka

    This is simply because, from the outset, the composer abdicates all responsibility for the ‘sense’ of what he’s doing.

    Right, so the destruction of logic or syntax, which is closely related to the idea of paradox. It distances itself from the act of communication (or using Habermas’ definition of it, the act of consensus) under the justification of preserving one’s individual subjective interpretation. I think we’re largely in agreement of what its doing, but I just don’t see it being all that useful on my end of things.

    Perhaps from a historical perspective, there was a necessity to do it at the time., and I’m willing to admit that it has done some good, like breaking the boundaries between artforms, which made interdisciplinary collaborations a possibility. I would like it, however, if people were more self-aware of the fact that when they are using his methods they are doing something very particular with very particular results, based on a particular type of ideology. It is not completely “open” process, and Cage’s disavowal of jazz is probably the most damning example of this. When I was younger I was appealed by the fact that Cage’s works seemingly projected an ever-expanding methodology but now I know that it is untrue — the freedom it projects is merely an illusion.

    Take a look at this for example — works which take absolutely no craftmanship and instead, focus solely on the novelty of the act itself. Not only is this a very common thing to do, but it is getting into “reputable” places like the Guggenheim, and there are many musical equivalents of it found in music as well. This is a common trend found all over art right now.

    Notice the suppressed anger of the editor that you can see leaking through the headline title. Now, I am working at a very good library with very intelligent, well-educated, open-minded people. People who you would think would be ideal listeners for our works. But, they see something like the above and cannot help but roll their eyes, even if they might be polite about it. They simply do not show up to our concerts, and don’t feel much remorse when our funding gets pulled.

    My interest in Cage has nothing to do with “liking it”. I stopped liking it years ago and its become a signifier for me to avoid certain concerts done in that manner of style. But I find it embarrassing to have to explain myself that, just because works like the above are what’s getting legitimized these days, that is not what I do as an artist. Really, I mean really, our image is in very bad shape right now, and I’m being lumped into it, which is making my life much more difficult. I hope I’m not bursting anybody’s bubble here, but these sentiments are already in the air already, all over the place.

    The one thing that nobody seems to want to talk about is the possibility that perhaps the problems that the “fine arts” face today is internal. Commercial music has seemingly taken over as our most relevant cultural force, even among the educated classes, so I don’t think this can be discounted. Composers complain about this trend all the time, but they often present no solutions — the bottom line is that if the product doesn’t move them, they will not support it.

    While no composer is perfect, I have had much better success getting a response showing Adams to people than any of the music done in the avant-garde style. Sid Meir’s landmark video game, Civilization, for instance, uses Adam’s work as its soundtrack for the “modern” era. I’m pretty sure this is bound to cause an uproar among some people — yes, it does generalize things a bit — but I think Meir’s decision to use his music was pretty sound. One person I talked to described his music as a sort of reflection of modernity, with its usage of repetitive patterns combined with postmodern influences coming from many different directions. This is quite a brilliant observation coming from someone who has had no musical training, and completely in line with the intentions of the composer. It creates a connection between the artist, audience, and society — so then of course it is not surprising that he enjoys a level of success with what he does. A number of people I know now cite that game as a reason toward their interest in contemporary classical or classical music in general. Yes, this is a good thing, don’t you think?

    Well that’s all I have to say, I think. All I ask is for some self-reflection on the matter, because it is much too easy to blame external influences for our problems. As Gandhi said, “become the change you want to see in the world.”

    Reply
  52. MarkNGrant

    it’s not surprising that Bach’s music, as lovely as it is in its absolute abstractness, has no social or political immediacy for today’s creative musicians.

    “lovely as it is in its absolute abstractness”– Aha. I see. So Bach’s music is comparable to wallpaper, perhaps. Or interior furnishings. Or some other nicey-nicey artisanal product. But so manifestly deficient is it in immediate referentiality to Mr. Corey Dargel’s self-perceived bubble, it must fail, not his, but THE “litmus test” of Art. Since Corey Dargel’s and his contemporaries’ music is clearly of a higher order of “immediacy” than Bach’s, it follows that any aesthetic claims of such “non-immediate” work are trumped. I suppose that Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Shakespeare, too, are of no immediate social or political interest, and that they are lovely in their absolute abstractness.

    If you understand how music works, in an abstract sense, then you can get as much out of listening to Radiohead as you can out of listening to Beethoven.

    In other words, if I can understand how vitamins and minerals constitute all foodstuffs, I can get as much nourishment from eating potato chips as I can from a full-balanced three-course meal.

    Often times, this dismissive attitude — which includes ridiculous rhetorical questions like, “How can you be against something if you haven’t studied it?”

    Come again? Do we need a professional grammarian to parse the above statement? Or maybe St. Thomas Aquinas? Oh no, wait, I’ve heard it before: from Groucho Marx, who sang it in the movie Duck Soup: “Whatever it is, I’m against it!”

    Listening to Bach in a church is not exactly a comprehensive way of experiencing Bach’s music in its own time and place.

    Another bon mot from our historicity-emancipated visionary’s ahead-of-the-cusp wisdom. Sorry, words fail me here….

    I’d like to say here to one and all that the work of the greatest of the so-called European western artists is the patrimony of the human race. Not the patrimony of any one select group, but of the whole human race. Whether or not they”re “dead white guys,” they are billions of dead white guys who didn’t create great art, whom we don’t remember. We remember Bach and Beethoven’s work, not their dead whiteness. We wouldn’t think about them as people if their work didn’t exist.

    Even Pierre Boulez, who declared Schoenberg is dead, conducts the great masters (do I even need to say this?).

    P.S. Mr. Dargel, read Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence. I understand you’re talented. You’ll grow out of this oedipal phase, I hope.

    Reply
  53. coreydargel

    Despite Mark’s dismissal of me as immature, I will attempt to respond to his condescending post.

    Mark, it seems that your interpretation of my comments about “absolute abstractness” is not at all what I meant to imply. I am not in favor of labeling anything a “masterpiece,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t value abstraction. On the contrary, I’m totally against demystifying the abstractness of music. I would not describe Bach’s music (or Mondrian’s paintings for that matter) as wallpaper. However, I do believe that a 21st-century composer has every right to approach and interpret music history however he or she chooses. Obviously a music-lover listens to music, but who are you and who am I to say that he or she should listen to Handel before being able to fully appreciate Stravinsky or Meredith Monk? Another problem I have with your position is that labeling something a “masterpiece” usually implies that it should stand on its own (indeed, in an abstract way) outside of the time and place of its creation. Is that what you mean by wallpaper? Some wallpaper I really like to look at, but you can rest assured that I don’t care so much if it doesn’t match my bedspread.

    Your comparison of Radiohead’s music to potato chips and Beethoven’s music to a full-balanced three-course meal simply betrays your own prejudice and therefore deflates your argument as self-serving. I think it’s funny that you don’t see the irony in that.

    What I meant by “How can you be against something if you haven’t studied it?” is that there is this ridiculous expectation by defenders of the status quo that anyone who refuses to accept it must first have internalized it. I realize now that “studied” was too vague a word. The title of my post would have been a more accurate statement: “How can you be against something if you weren’t FOR it first?” In other words, this is the kind of logically deficient, offensive remark that the old-guard throws at the new guard, as if to say, “I know the canon better than you; therefore, I have the authority to say that the canon is valid, and you have no such authority.”

    I have read The Anxiety of Influence, FYI, and I appreciate it. However, it does not refute the points I’ve been trying to make, and one could argue that Bloom (and his very outdated Freudian mindset) is admittedly beholden to the fundamentally flawed narrative of history, even as he criticizes the Western canon. Furthermore, I disagree with Bloom’s position that artists are in any way threatened by their influences. So, I’m not exactly sure what your point is about reading The Anxiety of Influence. Perhaps you could teach me by explaining what you mean.

    Finally, these paragraphs that you wrote are just about the best example of flawed logic in this whole series of posts.

    I’d like to say here to one and all that the work of the greatest of the so-called European western artists is the patrimony of the human race. Not the patrimony of any one select group, but of the whole human race. Whether or not they”re “dead white guys,” they are billions of dead white guys who didn’t create great art, whom we don’t remember. We remember Bach and Beethoven’s work, not their dead whiteness. We wouldn’t think about them as people if their work didn’t exist.

    Even Pierre Boulez, who declared Schoenberg is dead, conducts the great masters (do I even need to say this?).

    Let me just respond by saying this: There are plenty of dead white guys and dead white women and dead Japanese children and living Indonesian men and women who have created great art. Unfortunately for them, the Western European arbiters of taste did not see fit to include them in the historical literature.

    Yes, Daddy, I will try to grow out of my oedipal phase. Thanks for being so non-threatening.

    Reply
  54. rtanaka

    It all depends on your definition of “progress”, I suppose. If you think anarchism is “progress”, well then, what is there to say?

    At least this thread managed to bring out some of our political leanings, and I think that our preferences in music are reflective of the kinds of approaches we take to it. I am, for the record, a supporter of the U.N. and a proponent of global democracy, so I think this probably explains a lot. We live in an interesting time where economy and communication are trancending political boundaries, and there is I think, a lot of room for artists to make a difference at this point in time. This thread has been interesting either way.

    Reply
  55. JKG

    It’s the students…
    who, without direction or discipline, who generally major in music composition because it’s quite a glamourous and interesting lifestyle compared to say, being an educator or an accountant. Unfortunately, many composition students over the past hundred years should NEVER have studied serious music in the first place, yet thanks to the dissolution of the concept of ‘talent’ and the need for stringent, objective analysis (which is the only way a non-talented professor can ever judge anything), there are now scores of ‘composers’ who couldn’t move an audience artistically if their lives depended on it. We might as well have a program in the colleges called “No Composer Left Behind.” If, in fact, the onus of this situation rests with the institutions/professors themselves, then it is obvious to me these were once the ‘students’ of the non-talented. Not every composer lacks ability, yet it’s funny that those with the least amount of musical and artistic saavy tend to squeal the loudest when things aren’t according to their particular world-view.

    Reply
  56. pgblu

    No, I just see myself as providing an alternative to misinformation, poorly thought-through neo-conservative agendas, and innuendo. If someone else would do this, I would immediately and gratefully stop posting.

    Reply
  57. rtanaka

    All the mornings of the world.

    No, I just see myself as providing an alternative to misinformation, poorly thought-through neo-conservative agendas, and innuendo.

    That’s just your subjective opinion though. ;) Maybe at this point you realize that I’m just making fun of the Cageian aesthetic by using its own arguments against itself — a few examples here and there immediately points out the fact that there is a double standard between what is said to be ideal and what is actually asserted. While supposedly advocating equality and peace, it doesn’t seem to stop anarchists from being judgemental of things they dislike…think of the consequences of a political system built on such a shoddy premise! It’s not surprising that warlords tend to immediately take over in areas that resemble that sort of thing, because in practice, societies that lack a common infrastructure pretty much predictably turn into a free-for-all power grab. All of history pretty much supports my point of view, and to try to impliment it again would just be repeating past errors.

    It’s funny you would call the arguments that I’m making neo-conservative, because I’ve studied Marx in some detail and I use the idea of the materialist dialectic a lot in my works. (Adorno, ironically, was also a Marxist — he called it the “negative dialectics”, carried his predecessor’s anti-capitalist views and turned it against popular culture and collectivism in general.) I’m not nearly as extreme as Cornelius Cardew, but I’ve always been a supporter of liberal politics. And the same with Adams, if you look at the content of his political works. It’s sooo obvious. So calling him a neo-conservative just doesn’t make sense at all, but I guess if making sense isn’t really much of a priority, then I guess it doesn’t matter, eh?

    Reply
  58. Frank J. Oteri

    It has always gnawed at me that Cage—for all his open-mindedness to the musical possibilities of all sound—could not appreciate jazz or rock. There’s even a famous anecdote about him walking out of a Glenn Branca concert. If he couldn’t appreciate it the first time around, why didn’t he keep listening to it again and again as he advised all of us to do when we hear something that bores us?

    Of course, no matter how much we protest, we all have opinions that close us off to the totality of experience. I fight my opinion demons every day, and thank Cage for getting me to do that, even though he himself was never quite able to rid himself of all of his opinions and I undoubtedly won’t be able to ever rid myself of all of mine, either. But I mostly thank Cage for his music: not only for his otherworldly prepared piano pieces and his fabulous works for percussion ensemble, rather, principally, for his late number pieces which contain some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. But alas beauty is subjective.

    Reply
  59. Colin Holter

    That’s just your subjective opinion though. ;)

    It’s also my subjective opinion.

    Notice I’m not smiling and winking.

    Reply
  60. rtanaka

    Notice I’m not smiling and winking.

    You said that music is 100% subjective. By your own assertion, you are forced to accept the fact that my opinion is also 100% valid. But you don’t. So you are contradicting yourself. Quite blatantly, in fact. Audiences notice these kinds of things, you know…

    Also, if you’re opinion is 100% subjective, then there should be no agreement with another poster. “It’s also my subjective opinion,” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because if two people are seeing the same thing in the same way, then it implies objectivity. This is kind of where contemporary philosophy stands right now in this point in time, with people like Rorty, Habermas, Kuhn — the idea that objectivity is determined by the social consensus. It’s derailing a bit, but perhaps people should know about this because this idea is used as a justification for a lot of things right now — for the arts, mainly in interdiciplinary projects.

    Thanks Frank for your well-balanced post. Like I said, his music is not without some merit, but it is of a particular agenda, and people should be aware of its limitations. I think the tendency is to sometimes get caught up in the exploratory aspect of the music without realizing that it can often be so confining and limiting.< ?p>

    Reply
  61. pgblu

    Subjective opinions like “The sky is blue”
    A neo-conservative agenda is one that equates commercial appeal with democracy. In such a view, music that is created without a commercial angle in mind, that believes in the existence of immanent, critical musical issues, of philosophical questions that can be addressed by musical means, is therefore anti-democratic — and then we allow ourselves the innuendo that equates Cage (on two occasions!) with warlordism.

    He did not throw molotov cocktails into government buildings; all he did was write music that engendered exactly the sort of crucial debates that are taking place here.

    I just think it’s rich that a composer who is deft at the art of pastiche would compare themselves to Cage. I am pretty sure Cage would have walked out of any John Adams concert in the first few minutes.

    It is a mistake, Frank, to equate Cage’s aesthetic with an anything goes, tolerance-at-all-costs mentality. He had an allergy toward jazz and rock, yes, but also toward Beethoven. He had quite a few blind spots in this regard, if you want to call them that. He had trouble hearing past the cult-of-personality aura that came with these genres (and in fairness, he has that in common with a good number of their fans), rendering him unable or unwilling to hear what was new and revolutionary in Beethoven or Branca.

    Cage (and this is the thing I have in common with him) was uncomfortable with the idea of music as a medium of community building, especially where there isn’t a community in the first place. Community is built through social action and interaction, not through facile aestheticized showpieces affirmative of faux universality. But in this regard he failed (which I don’t) to distinguish between, for example, the Eroica symphony and Wellington’s Victory. To him, it was all propaganda.

    To my ears, perhaps sensitized by too much weird music (now I’m winking too), Adams sounds like propaganda: propaganda for some false image of global community which seems tolerant and all-inclusive, but actually perpetuates a musical aesthetic very much of its own (elite) culture. Just to render it in newspeak for once: John Adams’ compositional procedures simulate multiculturality by papering over the features of ‘otherness’ in cultures that are not his own… and in fairness to him I’ll say that such a project is doomed to fail no matter how well it’s done. It begins with writing a piece for an equal tempered piano and calling it China Gates, and includes setting poems by medieval Mexican poetesses but pouring the whole shebang into the mold of oratorio form.

    Perhaps progressive music in this spirit is not possible at all. But if it is, I have more faith in deconstruction than in pastiche as a way of getting there. And you know as well as I do that Cage’s approach is not the only form that deconstruction can take. Those who simply, uncritically continue with Cage’s methods aren’t worth my time, either.

    And for the record (can’t believe I have to say this) I am also glad of the existence of the U.N.! I simply distinguish between the negotiational, humanitarian, and advocacy work they do and the extracurricular grandstanding and posturing. For me, John Adams isn’t John Bolton, he’s Karen Hughes.

    Reply
  62. pgblu

    If two people are seeing the same thing in the same way, then it implies objectivity. This is kind of where contemporary philosophy stands right now in this point in time, with people like Rorty, Habermas, Kuhn — the idea that objectivity is determined by the social consensus. It’s derailing a bit, but perhaps people should know about this because this idea is used as a justification for a lot of things right now — for the arts, mainly in interdiciplinary projects.

    Q.E.D. — even more so when a whole community, i.e., not just two people, is saying the same thing. Try Habermas or Rorty in the original, rather than from the Stanford website. Before Rorty passed away, the two of them were kind of friendly philosophical ‘adversaries’, so a bit dangerous to lump them together; still, your point is well taken (and borrowed for use against you)!

    Reply
  63. Colin Holter

    If renouncing my assertion that music is 100% subjective will permit me to maintain that you are wrong with a clear conscience, so be it. Threatening me with the “audiences notice this” line will get you nowhere, by the way; audiences haven’t noticed me yet, and I don’t expect them to start any time soon.

    Thank you, Frank, for mentioning the number pieces. Ryan, if you haven’t heard 13, please at least give it a shot. I would kill to have written 13.

    Reply
  64. rtanaka

    If renouncing my assertion that music is 100% subjective will permit me to maintain that you are wrong with a clear conscience, so be it.

    Good. The whole point of this was to point out the fact that the aesthetic does not eliminate composers’ preferences as it says it does. I think we should be honest about this fact at this point in time — I don’t know what your experiences was like, but I was fed that the above was a virtue of the method while I was in school.

    The problem with classical music in general is that a lot of people tend to look at the past in idealistic terms rather than historical terms, so then of course their self-esteem is shot when they realize that they are nothing compared to the great masters. Maybe some humility is good but classical musicians often have a dreary attitude towards everything since their training is often done through negative reinforcement, and our poor job-satisfaction rates are reflective of this. I think after some years now I finally managed to distance myself from that sort of mentality and feel much happier about myself.

    This did require a switch in mentality toward the idea of music, though. So instead of listening to Mozart and thinking “why didn’t I do that?”, I think of it more as an survey of an earlier time, as most musicologists do. Then I don’t feel like I have to compare myself to previous greats all the time and just focus on trying to be myself with the tools that the past has provided for me.

    Reply
  65. pgblu

    The problem with classical music in general is that a lot of people tend to look at the past in idealistic terms rather than historical terms, so then of course their self-esteem is shot when they realize that they are nothing compared to the great masters.

    You have either decided to make the ‘bait and switch’ into your favorite technique of argumentation, or you are the most diffuse thinker I’ve ever had the pleasure to deal with. In either case, I think I deserve a vacation now. Happy holidays to all from pgblu!

    Reply
  66. MarkNGrant

    “Disinterested intellectual curiosity is the life-blood of real civilization” — G.M. Trevelyan (submitted to me by NMBox reader C. Ikehara– thank you!)

    Reply
  67. philmusic

    Replying to Mr. Dargel is always problematic as he keeps changing the subject:

    A few brief comments:

    Don’t confuse stubbornness with ignorance. They are not the same thing.

    HUH?-

    It’s not relativism; it’s radicalism.

    Suggesting that a rock band is the same as Beethoven is relativism–whether this constitutes a radical idea and useful for artists is up for debate. I hope its not just self justification.

    Listening to Bach in a church is not exactly a comprehensive way of experiencing Bach’s music in its own time and place.


    Again a change of subject– first Mr. Dargel mentions social aspects, now he changes it to time and place.

    You can nit-pick with the specifics of History all you want. You can claim that certain kinds of music don’t deserve to be a part of history. But then you buy into the imposed structures, and that’s not a valid rebuttal to the claim that History itself is fatally flawed. You only see the evidence that the powers-that-be want you to see. The trick is to look at what’s been excluded. There are rules for who gets to be in the History books, and only recently have we been able to subvert those rules with a modicum of democracy in the realm of information technology. It’s only a start, but let’s just say that history ain’t what it used to be.


    Since I never “claimed” the above again this has nothing to do with my post–again Mr. Dargel changes the subject to where he is most comfortable, so he can spout off about the “we” who are “changing” history.

    He did not answer my question:


    The question I would ask both is the study of counterpoint as intellectual for a creative musician as the study of Foucault?

    Though I am flattered that he might claim me as a fore-bearer, I disagree that this is merely an inter-generational issue. Foucault is so old school.


    Phil Fried

    Reply
  68. coreydargel

    Phil,

    Surely you don’t expect me to explain a statement as simple as “Don’t confuse stubbornness with ignorance. They are not the same thing,” if all you have to say in response is “HUH?” Was that a joke? Oh, duh, I just got it! Good one!

    Okay, now let’s get slightly more serious. In an earlier post, you had explicitly put me in the “relativist camp,” but that is inaccurate. I am not merely suggesting that we should find different ways of interpreting the historical narrative; I am instead suggesting that we call into question the very foundations of historical narratives and historical progress.

    Suggesting that a rock band is the same as Beethoven is relativism–whether this constitutes a radical idea and useful for artists is up for debate. I hope its not just self justification.

    This is a really poor and reductive evaluation of my argument. Of course Beethoven and Radiohead are not the same! I never said that.

    Perhaps I can clarify for you: I do not dismiss the intricacies of Beethoven’s music and compare it to potato chips. I wouldn’t tell a composer who wanted to study Beethoven that he or she should be studying Radiohead instead. But it seems certain people in this discussion would do the opposite. They would tell young composers to stop wasting their time with salty, vinegary Radiohead and learn their Beethoven, as if composers should rather be traditional music historians! The only justification for that point of view is to claim that Beethoven’s music is better because it’s part of the canon and Radiohead’s is not. That thoughtless, lazy mindset is what I’m arguing against.

    Listening to Bach in a church is not exactly a comprehensive way of experiencing Bach’s music in its own time and place.

    Again a change of subject– first Mr. Dargel mentions social aspects, now he changes it to time and place.

    Actually I mentioned time and place first. Here’s what I wrote in my initial post:

    “How could it surprise you that a young composer is not thoroughly inspired to listen to a piece of music from a time and place that he or she has no way of relating to?… it’s not surprising that Bach’s music… has no social or political immediacy for today’s creative musicians.”

    It’s seems as though maybe you and I are thinking of “social aspects” in different ways. Maybe you were suggesting that being in a church and listening to Bach’s music provides a social community of fellow church-goers. That’s very nice, of course, but a gathering of people in a church in which Bach’s music is played does not result in the kind of “social and political immediacy” or “time and place” that I was referring to. But again, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t listen to Bach’s music. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t have the same immediacy (for some composers) as other, more time- and place-appropriate musics.

    You can nit-pick with the specifics of History all you want… but… history ain’t what it used to be.

    Since I never “claimed” the above again this has nothing to do with my post–again Mr. Dargel changes the subject to where he is most comfortable, so he can spout off about the “we” who are “changing” history.

    Sorry, Phil, I wasn’t responding only to your post. I was responding to a few different posts. Perhaps that’s why you though I kept changing the subject: because I wasn’t responding solely to your comments. At any rate, I can assure you that it really doesn’t have anything to do with my comfort level. I’m sure I’ve pissed off enough people who serve on the occasional grant panel that I really can’t be too concerned with my comfort level.

    He did not answer my question:

    The question I would ask both is the study of counterpoint as intellectual for a creative musician as the study of Foucault?

    I did not answer your question because I thought it was kind of banal. But since you insist… First of all, I don’t know how you would measure the degree to which something is “intellectual.” And even if you could measure it, the question seems to suppose that knowledge is a means to end rather than a valuable thing in and of itself.


    Foucault is so old school.

    First of all, I hope I’ve never dismissed anything solely on the grounds that it is outdated or old-school. I believe I’ve always tried to explain my point of view in a substantive way. At any rate, I happen to think that Foucault’s writings (as “old school” as they may be) are particularly relevant to this discussion. If my point of view seems old school to you, you’re welcome to criticize it for that reason.

    Though I am flattered that he might claim me as a fore-bearer, I disagree that this is merely an inter-generational issue.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you mean “merely a generational issue,” not “merely an inter-generational issue?” It is the original post-er, not me, who made this a generational issue. He did so in his very first sentence.

    Reply
  69. philmusic

    “..Surely you don’t expect me to explain a statement as simple as “Don’t confuse stubbornness with ignorance…”

    I suppose it was wrong of me to expect you to explain yourself.

    Phil

    PS- you still didn’t not answer my question.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.