Thanks, everyone, for the comments on the list below. Even the grouchy responses are appropriate.
When I first brought this up last year, it was in reply to Russian composer Alexander Radvilovich’s question of what the most influential pieces have been since 1970. I told him that there were so many strands in new music over the last 35 years it would be impossible to make a coherent list.
Then I tried an experiment: I asked S21 readers what they thought the most influential pieces were. I tossed out a half dozen suggestions, and the responses poured in, resulting in the monumental list as it now stands. When I first posted it, I noted the fact that it ended up being something other than was intended – you can read my comments about influence in the original list here
Clearly, we did not end up with an objective list of most influential works. However, we do
have a list of pieces from the past 35 years that have all had profound impacts on somebody
other than the composers. The size and variety of the list makes quite a statement about the diversity of our languages and the sheer number of ways to touch an audience, for those who question the communicative powers of new music.
And yet, as long as the list is, anyone at all familiar with new music could easily add a few equally deserving titles.
So, if we wanted a Most Influential list, we might start by hacking this one down to size. What if we decided to include only the works we all
agreed were most influential? I suspect we would soon whittle the list down to zero. And that’s the answer, in effect, that I gave Radvilovich. Which is certainly no more coherent than this list.
But the subjective world I live in makes me want to keep adding pieces. I’d rather delete the title “most influential” and call the list something else, something like “music that mattered, 1970-2005.” As such, it would serve as a resource for the curious, the uninitiated, and even the well-informed – I find it hard to believe that anyone has heard everything here.
So, Ian, Evan, Tom, Glenn, Jacob, David, Anthony – if there is a next edition of this list, you will find your suggested amendments included. And Adam: check with Rodney Lister – I think he was the one who nominated Babbitt’s Triad