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Friday, March 25, 2005
Apparently, On Sequenza21 You Can Have It Both Ways

With regard to Corey and Judith’s recent exchange: it’s wonderful to have a forum in which the same situation can be viewed so differently. I agree 100% with Corey’s assessment, especially the last two paragraphs, and especially the comment that “These composers are hardly ever embraced by panels, foundations, musical institutions, or academic institutions, not to mention the Pulitzer people.” If I’m not mistaken (and someone correct me if I’m wrong), one of the reasons a composer “goes downtown” -- physically or metaphorically -- is because s/he is rejecting -- artistically, philosophically and/or socially -- the perceived ossification of the uptown scene. Isn’t that true?

Corey’s conclusion, that Downtowners need a strong sense of community in order to offset their alienation from uptown institutions, is right on target, and makes much more sense than complaints that Uptown ensembles don’t play enough (or any, depending on who you talk to) Downtown music. After all, there are practical problems in playing much Downtown music that Downtown composers have solved in their own ways, problems that make it very difficult to perform both Uptown and Downtown music well under a single umbrella. Corey speaks of “alternative production values,” a locution I haven’t heard before, and one that I think sums up one of the issues very well: if an Uptown ensemble performs Downtown music with Uptown production values, what is the result?

I suppose an answer could be found in the last twenty years of Philip Glass.

In any case, Downtowners need to create their own support base, as Corey says. Kyle Gann has done amazing work to get this started, even though he has at times expressed a sense of hopelessness in his mission. For my part, I think he has had and continues to have much more of an impact than he realizes. And I’ve told him so. As far as I can tell, one of his main complaints is that non-Downtowners are sometimes labeled Downtown when they are only Downtown-influenced.

At the same time, I agree with Judith 100% -- there is no need for her, in her creative life, to make a distinction between Downtown and Uptown. She has developed a personal voice from her own balance of internal and external influences. That doesn’t make her anyone’s enemy. Any rift there may be between compositional camps is not really her responsibility or concern.

Does anyone else see a surprising cosmic shift in all of this? A generation ago, Uptown was all about ideology, and Downtown was all about Anything Goes. Now Corey is laying out a Downtown ideology, and Judith is calling these distinctions a “non-issue” -- Anything Goes.

(And my apologies, Judith, but I said I wouldn’t comment on the importance of 12-tone music, not the Uptown/Downtown issue.)

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