While Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noise is winning awards over thisaway, its recent release in England gives a chance for the other side of the ocean to beat him up on it a bit. BBC3’s current Music Matters program (archived for the next seven days) has a pleasant chat with Alex which, as soon as he makes his exit, turns downright hostile. Poet James Fenton and writer/critic Morag Grant nicely rake him over the coals for a certain American myopia, reductionism and dismissiveness.

The “what about the Brits?” question doesn’t trouble me much (especially as Britten is pretty well covered), but many of their other gripes are the same ones I share. [note: If you want to go right to it, on the BBC iPlayer pop-up click the "15 min" fast-forward button; you'll be right in the middle of Alex's chat, and just before the crtic's response.]

50 Responses to “Alex Takes Some Lumps”
  1. Elaine Fine says:

    Good point. Frank Bridge was far more than “an imaginative composer of Debussyish tendencies” (p. 215) who was also a pacifist (p. 217). Actually, I have never noticed Debussyish tendencies in Bridge’s music. What piece would Alex Ross be referring to in this description?

  2. David Toub says:

    BFD. If they don’t like it, perhaps they should write their own book.

    I’m sorry, but we do such a pathetic job in this country of creating greater awareness of new music composers that if Alex is guilty of not mentioning every British or other ex-US composer, then I think it’s a sin that should be forgiven.

  3. Alan Theisen says:

    Amen, David.

    AMEN!

    You can’t cover everything in a book. Ya just can’t.

  4. Nathan Brock says:

    Yes, but….

    As much as I enjoyed the book, and as much as I understand that one can’t cover everything, if you were to read it without any other idea of twentieth-century music (and surely he intended it as just such an introduction) you would think that music in Europe almost completely disappeared, or at least became irrelevant, sometime after the mid-60s. I think that an excellent first half is somewhat marred by a generally negative attitude towards experimental post-war music, particularly of the European variety; it seems to me that he’s more or less setting up a foil for (primarily American) minimalism and post-minimalist music, which is viewed in a (to my mind) more positive light. (I don’t see any anti-British bias per se except in a general neglect of Europe as a whole.)

    Any book is of course going to contain biases; Paul Griffith’s similar book (Music since 1945) has the opposite problem – he treats European trends as central, and American music as peripheral. The concern here is that Ross’ book has gotten such wide attention that it could well become a standard text that people read as an introduction to contemporary music (whether or not he intended it that way) and that those of us who view ourselves to some extent as educators are going to need to be aware of the point of view of the book and its potential effect on our students and audiences.

    Perhaps the time has come for us to have a discussion of the book on this site? It’s surely going to be a significant book for our community, and some examination of it might be in order.

  5. Nathan Brock says:

    Just to be clear, my comment above refers only to the post-war half of the book, not the earlier parts, which are excellently balanced.

    And I don’t mean to criticize even the latter half too strenuously; Ross does a very good job, and his coverage of American music is spot-on. I just think that it could have used a little tweaking.

  6. Eric Lin says:

    While it’s true that the recent European scene gets short shifted (lots of names get left out), but it’s not as if a lot of the “major American composers” (and by that I mean the few people who get disproportionate amounts of commissions from orchestras and the establishment like Higdon or Corigliano gets a lot page space. I think the latter was mentioned once, the same as more obscure European names (at least for Americans) like G.F. Haas.

    There is undoubtedly a disproportionate percentage in the book dedicated to American minimalism…but that’s about it. I honestly don’t see how any other “school” (American or otherwise) of late 20th/early 21st century music is being advantaged or disadvantaged in the Alex’s book. Ultimately, the book focuses more on early 20th century music. Everything post 1970 or so is not given that much space anyway.

  7. Well I, for one, was completely disappointed in his lack of coverage of Douglas Lilburn, Ross Edwards, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Toshiro Mayuzumi, Martin Wesley-Smith, and other composers from the Pacific Rim.

    Just kidding…

    I will duly await a work by a British author filling in the gaps that is equally compelling writing.

  8. Bill says:

    The good news for Alex is that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I can’t wait now to read his book and see what all the ruckus is about.

  9. tom izzo says:

    I don’t believe there are many people who realize that there are still composers roaming the earth. If Alex’s book lessens the “blank stare” factor it’s o.k. by me, regardless of whatever biases might be present within it’s pages.

  10. jodru says:

    Although I agreed with the German reviewer on almost every point, I do think her framing of the book as authoritative is way off. I wrote earlier that the book is a fantastic read but an almost inept history.

    However, Alex never presents it as anything but his personal reading of the 20th century. I don’t know how that German reviewer could have missed it. It’s a refrain Alex repeats again and again throughout the book, for instance when he takes his massive detours into Sibelius and Britten.

    As a reading of recent history, it is thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking, and I don’t really see what else can be asked of the book. It’ll be a good 50 years before someone can write some semblance of an authoritative history of 20th century music, anyway.

  11. Dean Rosenthal says:

    I wonder what Charles Ives would have thought; prizes? For horses. Ives himself? Priceless. And barely touched upon. Anthony Braxton? Ruth Crawford Seeger? Check out what’s missing, at least when it comes to the real history of American music in the 20th century, at least. Of course, Ross was entertained by the history of the 20th century (what’s the deal with picture of Hitler amongst the composer? Where’s Kennedy? What happened to Woodstock?), not the history of the whole of 20th century music in the West. As for working ten years long for us, the time he spent writing the book, we could be reading rather a few seriously perspicacious volumes (instead of none) if not for the self-centered bullet points: I think Hitler was bad, Britten is my favorite composer, perhaps, I love Salome, I went to Steve Reich’s place a few times, here’s a chapter on race relationas, ad infinitum…Why don’t I write a good book about all this, you might say? I’m not an author, critic, or musicologist, perhaps, and I have zero interest in flogging my opinions all over the marketplace. I’m not going to see he’s un-American, but in reality he was a Europhile and a New Yorker caught up in his own ego. And you should just try to get him on the phone, wow. That’s just wrong.

  12. Jerry Bowles says:

    Although I’ve never met, or attempted to meet, him face to face, I have to say that Alex has been a very good friend of Sequenza21. So The Rest is Noise is not the definitive history of 20th century music; it’s the best American critic writing today’s take on those things that interest him most. It should be judged on that basis.

  13. Ben.Harper says:

    Only the British could begin a debate over the history of 20th century music by wondering whether it gives enough props to William Walton.

    It shows how badly this genre of music has been marginalised in today’s society that Ross’ book is being treated like the one black employee in the company: expected to speak for all minorities on all issues.

  14. Jerry, I couldn’t agree more, but I take exception at the descriptive “best” you write to express. American critics are far beyond Ross in many ways. I suppose, perhaps, he’s the best classical music critic at The New Yorker, whatever the “best” means.On the other hand, Russell Platt is a good ‘un, I’m sorry. I think it’s that I want greatness; I’m disappointed by Alex every time I read his writing. Still, no one’s forcing me to keep up with him, and so for that I blame myself.

  15. But on second thought, “The best American critic writing today’s take on those things that interest him most” is a pretty good blurb. Perhaps the judgement was clear to you, and the basis for the judgement you write to express is, very neatly, your opinion. For me, there’s no judgement to be made on that basis.

    Still, I’ll stick to my point: Russell Platt might be best, whatever “best” meant. As for America, I write to express my desire for a new music criticism, based on some other feature.

  16. Kyle Gann says:

    I’m so tired of the Brits shoving their immature wunderkind composers down our throats, and whining about being left out of music history in general, that I wouldn’t give a flying f**k about any criticism coming from that country. As for the Germans, after reading the book I wrote Alex a message complimenting the accuracy of his pessimistic assessment of that country’s current activity.

  17. Jerry Bowles says:

    Our old friend Pliable has a discussion going on this topic too:

  18. zeno says:

    Well, I hope that Mr Ross finds time — as I’m sure he will — to review — and subsequently — chronicle both “The Minotaur” and “Daedalus”…

    (I personally thought that Mr Ross, in his book, could have made a fascinating case study out of Witold Lutoslawski and his impact on the international classical music world especially in the 1980s when the Polish workers and intelligentsia were leading the conscience of the world and the regime was declaring martial law; Reagan, Schultz, and Rumsfeld were aiming ever more tactile warhead over the Fulda Pass; and Lutoslawski was composing perhaps his finest works on commissions from the symphony boards of directors of far off Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. Mr Ross however claimed that he apparently felt that he didn’t yet have the requisite ‘perspective of hindsight’ to treat the 1980s and 1990s in greater depth. … I hope to read Rest Is Noise more deeply once my wife and mother each finish with my copy.)

  19. zeno says:

    “tactical nuclear warheads” … back to coffee. Sorry.

  20. Tim R-J says:

    A Brit writes:

    To be fair (and this is a point I’ve repeated on Overgrown Path), the “British composers” comment is a remark made only at the start of the segment. Heard in context it is transparently a ruse to get some ‘heated discussion’ going round the table. As it is, neither reviewer rises to the bait and both find plenty else to get their teeth into. (In fact, the response to the ‘Is there too much American music and not enough British’ question is to compare the relative coverage of Copland vs Debussy and Ravel.)

  21. zeno says:

    “I will duly await a work by a British author filling in the gaps that is equally compelling writing.” (mell c.)

    Offhand, I nominate the commissioning of new, comprehensive surveys of ‘twentieth century’ music from Michael Hall ( ‘Leaving Home: A Conducted Tour of Twentieth-Century’) and Andrew Ford (‘Composer to Composer’ and ‘Illegal Harmonies:
    music in the 20th century’). …

  22. Ben.Harper says:

    Tim, I couldn’t help but hear the initial criticisms from Grant and Fenton as a backdoor way of agreeing with the interviewer, but that just may be because listening to the British complain about other countries’ parochialism when writing about music makes me ROTFLMAO.

    Zeno, Andrew Ford could write “A History of 20th Century Music: From Alfred Hill to Graeme Koehne”.

  23. Edward Lawes says:

    “I’m so tired of the Brits shoving their immature wunderkind composers down our throats”

    Its even worse if you live here.

    I dont hate Ades et al but I havent heard a piece by that ‘lot’ I like yet, I dont hear the point in it (it has a right to exist though, some dont seem to think so), but I do hate the marketing/hype and the lack of diversity in performance (not much range/choice) and all the self aggrandising anti-‘intellectual’ inverted snobbery regards the ‘continentals’ is annoying (the British press are good at this)

    Not much interesting music happening here as far as I can tell (certainly not in Birmingham anyway, outside of free/improv/noise stuff which is going quite well so it seems)

  24. Edward Lawes says:

    Oh p.s. regards Germany, try this version of Lachenmann`s 3rd string quartet brilliantly played (imo) by the JACK Quartet (my favourite Lachenmann piece so far)

    Its too easy to generalise about 80odd million people, probably (I would love to visit Berlin, keep hearing good things about it)

    http://www.jackquartet.com/recordings/

    Some other good stuff in there also, a great performance of Tetras by Xenakis for instance, some news from them……Right now we are slated to record all four of the Xenakis Quartets in November for release on Mode Records on following year. We will also be recording the Piano Quintet Akea with Aki Takahashi in June for Mode Records for a probable release at the beginning of 2009

    See their site or Facebook group for more details/news etc

  25. Tim R-J says:

    Ben – OK, we can be parochial at times, but I didn’t think Kyle’s accusation of “whiny Brits” was justified on this occasion; and I do think that a lot of the rest of the book’s criticism in that review was justified, whether anyone gives a “flying f***” what we say or not.

    I take your point about “the one black employee” – TRIN shouldn’t try to cram everyone in (I personally think Adès gets too much space anyway, and I’d glad swap some pages of Britten for, say, a mention of Nono) – but it does need to come with a big health warning that this is a partisan view of music history, something that almost no other review I’ve read seems to have noticed (actually, most say things like “what a refreshingly un-partisan history this is”).

  26. Tim R-J says:

    Crap, change “a mention of Nono” to “a little more Nono” – there are of course a couple of short paragraphs in there.

  27. As for the ‘limited emotional range’ of German contemporary music, it’s also a matter of perspective. Encapsulating all of Lachenmann’s work and influence with one of his own least favorite quotes (to wit, “My music has been concerned… with the exclusion of what appears to me as listening expectations performed by society.” (very strange translation, by the way, or did he say that in English?)) makes me shudder. Lachenmann would surely shrug off that “mantle of greatness,” or any other intimations of cult status, as quickly as possible if given the chance.
    Someone ought to translate “Musik als existentielle Erfahrung” someday. That would really move the discussion forward a bit, at least on that front.

  28. Steve Layton says:

    Speaking of getting to know Lachenmann, New Yorkies are smack in the middle of a small Lachenmann festival at the Goethe Institute:

    http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/ney/kue/en2934096.htm

    He’s actually present and talking at tonight’s concert, with one more show tomorrow. So no excuse, y’all.

  29. Kyle Gann says:

    Tim, I should have specified that I was thinking solely of the British music-critical establishment, not of British musicology, British composers, or anyone else on the island. England’s music critics are the envy of the English-speaking world. They have so many newspapers, and such an active discourse, and they are clever, brilliantly articulate, possessed of enormous vocabularies, musicologically inclined, elitist, pompous, anti-American, and – in a manner of speaking – relentlessly Uptown in their sympathies. They occupy the prestige place in their profession, and they know it and capitalize on it. In order to get a top critic post in the U.S. you either have to be one of them, like Paul Griffiths or Andrew Porter, or imitate them as closely as possible. Since the American music critics are completely intimidated by them, they wield an inordinate and inappropriate impact on our musical life here. Their habit of lionizing 22-year-old geniuses has lately been spreading to the U.S., with predictably tiresome results. I do my best to counter their influence when the opportunity arises.

    This does not reflect on British musicologists, who, as you know, are open-minded, often fascinated by American music, and express whatever musical Anglophilia they harbor with modesty and even irony. Nor on British composers, who come in as many different stripes as American composers do.

    In my early years at the Village Voice I was once introduced to Andrew Porter. He began to extend his hand, but when he heard my name, merely sniffed and turned away. I felt the same way, but I was, at the time, more polite about it.

  30. Rodney Lister says:

    What (or whose) view of music history isn’t partisan?

  31. Dean Rosenthal says:

    I think asking the question you ask, Rodney, is mind-blowingly unsophisticated, the kind of question that leads governments to tell us that “stuff happens” and that waterboarding is ok. You might as well drink the kool-aid.

  32. Kyle Gann says:

    Well, I think everyone is partisan and everyone should be. The problem is when the powers that be arrange it so that admission to the club is contingent on one’s being partisan in a certain direction. That’s when dangerous elites are formed (look at the Bush administration). Much healthier to include as wide a diversity of partisan viewpoints as possible, like Sequenza 21. The downside there is that, no matter what you say, you’re bound to offend someone. But it’s better than the other downside.

  33. About the diversity here at S21. I haven’t seen a diehard expressionist post here in a while. They seem to have all been scared off! ;) Where’s Evans or Aaron? Or Jason or… It’s just us (sic) post-minimalists now it seems.

    I’ll add this to the critics discussion… nobody listens or cares about what critics say anymore. Kyle, if you were to proclaim Ms. X to be the greatest composer in the world, like you kinda did for Feldman, that composer would not suddenly have commissions coming out of their ass.

    Everything is up for grabs. Nobody ‘makes’ careers – what makes careers now is ‘getting’ connected through Yale/Berlin/Amsterdam AND being a composer/performer AND having rich parents. And that’s shaky now too…

    Wait until this global economy blows up. New music will be in a whole different world of hurt then.

  34. Rodney Lister says:

    Sorry, if I’m unsophisticated, but I noticed that the question didn’t get answered, it was just dismissed–along with a put down to me for my asking. Wanna try again?

    In fact one of the things that’s so striking is that the story is bound to be (inescapably) influenced (slanted, if you like) by the teller of the story, and the story changes. Up until a certain time, the story of the 20th century music was that atonality and twelve-tone music were the result of an evolution going back to Brahms and Wagner, if not to Beethoven, and were both historically inevitable, which meant that anybody who didn’t write that way was simply not worthy of consideration. That’s clearly not the story told any more. Today the story tends to be more that twelve-tone music was some sort of dark conspiracy (in cahoots with Elliott Carter, I guess), comparable to the Soviet Union, and that it was finally foiled by Steve Reich and John Adams and Phil Glass, which meant that Schoenberg and Babbitt and Carter and Boulez were basically not to be considered valid composers.

    Neither story is exactly wrong, but neither is exactly right, either, and exactly what the story is is different depending on whether its being told by Adorno or Taruskin or Gann or Ross. Patrick Daniel Moynehan famously said that every man was entitled to his own opinion, but every man wasn’t entitled to his own facts. I’m not quite so sure about that. I guess what I’m saying is that merely saying that what somebody writes is partisan is not to say much of anything about what they’ve said, but just implies, easily, and without engaging with the substance of what they’ve said, that there’s something wrong about it.
    Kind of like saying that somebody’s unsophisticated and causing waterboarding because they’ve asked a question.

  35. I have to say, I can’t disagree with Kyle, purely on a partisan basis, but I also think that part of the reason why The Rest Is Noise is such a partisan view of history is that it hews to the elitism suggested, and I think that’s unfortunate and damaging. Ultimately, that’s what troubles me about Alex Ross, the author.

    Alex Ross, the critic, is a different animal, but the upside, to me, if you really know your stuff, is that his elitism doesn’t come through as much. If The New Yorker magazine isn’t considered elitist, dangerously so or otherwise, as wonderful a publication as it is, then I don’t know what elite might look like. I’m a subscriber.

    I admit that my subscription to Guitar Player ran out years ago, and so I suppose I ought to be doing some thinking about what that means to history.

  36. Chris Becker says:

    “I’ll add this to the critics discussion… nobody listens or cares about what critics say anymore. Kyle, if you were to proclaim Ms. X to be the greatest composer in the world, like you kinda did for Feldman, that composer would not suddenly have commissions coming out of their ass.”

    That’s what I used to think…However, once I started actually getting reviewed and getting commissions and grants (though not out the ass), my perspective re: music criticism and its impact on a composer’s career became a little more nuanced.

    Also re: diversity. I think Sequenza (which none of my musical collaborators read or are even aware of) like all music blogs occupies and cultivates a niche. A broad and interesting niche – but it is a gang and there are just some people outside of the gang who are not going to feel like they are a part of this community. I think – like a lot of other music blogs – it represents a small cross section of composers. I don’t bring that up as a criticism – that’s just how it reads to me (a composer who I think out of the regular posters and contributors here – only Tom and Steve have actually listened to…thanks guys!)

  37. David Toub says:

    Rodney, I’m not sure anyone has said that serialism and dodecaphony was some sort of dark conspiracy. At least I wouldn’t say that, and doubt anyone else here with working neurons would, either. And while some minimalism might have been, subconsciously or otherwise, a reaction to the academic crap that was (and still is) being written, the honest reality is that minimalism was an evolution straight out of serialism. La Monte Young’s works from the mid-50’s were all 12-tone. His seminal Trio for Strings from 1958 is as 12-tone as Webern and Babbitt, although it sounds so much different from, say, Babbitt’s Partitions written just a year earlier.

    But you also need to consider the context. While La Monte was in the middle of academia at UCLA and then Berkeley (then #2 only to Harvard, at least as LMY described it; I think he’s forgetting the U of Chicago, personally…), his music at that time was just not understood by most folks in those circles, with the possible exception of Lukas Foss. Seymour Shifrin didn’t get Trio for Strings at all, although to his credit, he didn’t exactly expel Young, either. So while minimalism is an outgrowth of serialism, with Webern in particular held up as a model by Young, I suspect that others would state that it was a counterpoint to serialism and even, in some ways, the music of Cage.

    I see minimalism as something inspired by what came before it, be it Palestrina and Gregorian Chant or Schoenberg, just as Webern was an outgrowth of Brahms and Isaacs.

    And as much as some of us might rag on Babbitt and Carter and Boulez, I don’t know that anyone here would have ever claimed they were not ”real“ composers. I don’t even know what a ”real“ composer means.

    I would be comfortable saying, however, that while not rising to a conspiracy, there was certainly a strong preference in uptown circles during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s (if not beyond) for music that was constructed, could be analyzed to death vis a vis most of the entries in Perspectives on New Music, had tons of markings throughout the score with circles and arrows and a diagram explaining what it all meant, wasn’t extraordinarily long in duration, and where different instruments all played different things. Generalized downtown music, in which people largely all played simultaneously, with few if any written markings, incorporated improvisational elements, were written for groups of performers that rehearsed many times because they liked to (rather than because they were making money) and often were of long durations were neither discussed nor welcome in those uptown circles.

    As I like to point out, Rodney, just look at the tables of contents forPerspectives on New Music over the years and count how many articles by or about Milton Babbitt exist versus anyone from Downtown. Other than a few articles, such as Kyle’s article on The Well-Tuned Piano, 1-2 dealing with Reich and 1-2 regarding Feldman, there ain’t much downtown stuff there. I think Perspectives on New Music is a reaonable proxy for the “accepted” musical environment in those days. The music of Schoenberg, et al wasn’t a conspiracy, but its overreaching presence in academic and general classical music circles certainly raises the images of pod people and the invation of the body snatchers in my mind.

  38. There is a conspiracy in the 20th century and that’s away from music written from purely immersive musico-intuitive understanding; replaced by all types of pattern-based repetitious programming models – all academic. Minimalism, 12 tone, polyrhythmic/totalist patten-producers – they’re all machine-based composing mechanisms.

    To quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that…” ;)

    That conspiracy has yet to be reported on – the unifying machine -based model of music composition.

    Frankly, I think it’s been driven by the academics in colleges. Once we turn the arts into the artisanal they have to churn out 40 or so composers a year in undergrads, most of those guys are clueless unmusical types. Have to teach them some way to compose!! ;)

    And the critics attach themselves to these processes and defend these machines BECAUSE of the clout of academia. Not because of any inherent interesting music.

  39. David Toub says:

    So Jeff, does that mean you’re not a fan of repetitive, pattern-driven music? ;-)

    Actually, I’m not sure I have ever seen a true connection between minimalism and the academy. Certainly in recent years, there has been some analysis going on in selected academic cirecles around minimalism and new music in general, which I don’t think is unhealthy. But apart from, say, Tenney’s Chromatic Canon and a few other works that were serial in nature, I have never seen any truly pattern-based minimalist piece that was not intuitive. I’ve yet to notice any nonintuitive processes going on in any of the scores I own of Reich’s early pieces. There are processes going on, to be sure, but those are all intuitive choices. How many times to repeat something, when to add or subtract from a pattern, and the notes themselves are all intuitive. Granted, Reich and Glass are both tonal composers, and tonality is a system, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they feel obliged to follow traditional rules of tonality and counterpoint (and one listen to Glass’s Music in Similar Motion, with all its parallel fourths/fifths should dispel any idea that they stuck to traditional rules).

    While not truly minimalist, at least in the classic sense of the world (I’d prefer the term “intentionally sparse”), Feldman was well-known to have rejected the use of systems and relied entirely on his intuition for most of his music.

    I agree with your last point, however. But that’s nothing new—-academia has dictated musical norms for the past hundred years or so.

  40. paul bailey says:

    jeff,

    aren’t the “pattern-based repetitious programming models” that you describe are more of a product of the 1970’s (early glass, reich, young, rzewski)? i wasn’t aware that process based pieces were still in vogue?

    since then i think there has always been a wider range of composers that show a “musico-intuitive understanding”, from terry riley’s improvisation based “rainbow in curved air” as well as the more recent lloyd rodgers “black book” modular compositions.

    i agree that many of those strict minimalist process compositions work better conceptually than in live performance, but i think you are using a rather wide brush.

    its also interesting that you are the second person i have recently talked to that has made a connection between academia and minimalism. as far as i have experienced the most notable thing about the early minimalist composers is that many of them made their music outside of the academy. sure they now take commissions and residencies, but i still think 75% of college composition faculties would not identify their music as “minimalist or post minimalist”.

    is their a academic post-minimalist junta i have been missing? do tell!

    cheers,

    paul

  41. paul, I think in general that any process-based composition model is very dangerous. The fact that processes are being taught as a viable system is infinitely more so.

    It’s my feeling that there is a reliance and an expectation that there will be some type of extra-musical mathematical mapping to almost all composition these days. That is telling… We claim we are free of the constrictions of serialism because we use white notes, but is our imagination truly free?

    And David mocks me, like a lot of my friends do, for bashing minimalism… :) Layton is always saying I’m a minimalist. As I’ve written a zillion times, my music is based on the repetitions of the groove, not of a model. Jerry Lee Lewis and The Meters are the model. Not a number or a pattern or a program.

    To get back to the thread… the maintenance of the current academic historical paradigm is the goal of criticism these days. Not the truth.

  42. Kyle Gann says:

    nobody listens or cares about what critics say anymore.

    Jeff, did I say anyone did? You are really full of baloney sometimes, trying to make yourself look brilliant at everyone else’s expense. And that goes for everything you’ve said to Paul and David, too. Grow up.

  43. Steve Layton says:

    Ooo, haven’t had a composer brawl in these parts for a while, cool!… :-)

    Maybe “minimalist” was a bad choice, Jeff. But that groove makes you a Riffimalist, one of the main stems of the Minimal bush.

    I certainly never saw any minimal-process-mafia in academia (and processes are really about the mind, Jeff, not the machine!), but Jeff’s on to the more general problem when he talks about losing some of our “musico-intuitive” license: the rise of “pure” musicology and theory in academic study, decade after decade has created a whole culture that feels compelled to demand or provide analytical *justification* for every composition, both the whole and its innards. It’s led a few to realize some pretty amazing visions, but by and large has deadend more than it’s inspired.

  44. paul bailey says:

    i know its an unpopular but pragmatic view (to many of my colleagues), but the essence of music theory is describe what composers do. i think steve makes a good point and the argument really lies with some musicologists and theorists who choose to make the simple needlessly complex.

  45. Tim R-J says:

    Thanks for the clarification upthread Kyle, although I’m not sure I recognise in the current state of British newspaper criticism much of an active discourse, or too many reviewers who are “clever, brilliantly articulate, possessed of enormous vocabularies, musicologically inclined”! Classical music criticism (and new music even more so within that) has been almost wiped off the pages in the last decade, and even that handful of critics who are any good are given practically no space to say anything (let alone expand on their particular sympathies).

    The promotion of assorted prodigies is just symptomatic of the strength PR companies have in directing the press: you’ve got 80 words left in your review, do you attempt a critical engagement with the aesthetic values of the work, or do you regurgitate the marketing blurb? If there’s excessive promotion of such musicians, it’s precisely because the discourse on new music here has been forced into stagnation by disinterested editors.

  46. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kkq9uaG8aDw

    Lachenmann quoted in context, rather than out of context.

    If that’s too hyperbolic for you, then I’ll just say, “An interesting clip.”

  47. Rodney Lister says:

    I just ran across this in The House That George Built by Wilfred Sheed (which, incidentally, I recommend to anybody anytime, but particularly anybody who likes what he calls “jazz songs.”) Anyway:

    If any one person ever really owned history, it would immediately stop moving at whatever phase the owner liked best.

  48. edward lawes says:

    I note that my comments have been taken out of context here, bizarre, a total nobody like me gets quoted when commenting on a blog, slow news day? (why not challenge me here so I can defend my views?).

    http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/03/indeterminacy-in-music-blogging.html

  49. Phil Fried says:

    If there is any criticism about Mr. Ross’s book or his reviews its simply this; that his writings reflect the “current” spirit of our “American” times.

  50. Kame says:

    Does anybody know if there exist a transcript of the interview? I’m asking because the BBC wouldn’t let me listen to it (“it seems you’re outside the UK”) and I’m really interested in it, particularly because I just purchased the book and a second point of view would be nice before I start digging it. Thank you.

  51.