For Christmas, my mother, who is 91, gave me her international travel journals – accounts of trips she took outside the US from 1956-1982.

Eight international trips in twenty-six years isn’t a lot by today’s standards but, for a woman of her time and circumstances, it represented a concerted effort to experience new lands and cultures.  Especially when seen against the backdrop of her heritage – her parents never left the US – her ability to explore the world was an immense leap, made possible by much improved means of travel.

Reading these journals gives insight into a vanished relationship between carrier and passenger.  Difficult to imagine an airline offering free champagne to everyone on board today.

When I was a teenager, I learned a lot about new music by going to my local library.  There I found recordings and sometimes even scores, of the latest works by Stockhausen, Cage, Boulez, Carter.

There was a period, say 5-15 years ago, when teachers lamented the decline of public libraries, which no longer carried these materials.  Now that gap has been filled: the www gives the young and the curious access to more kinds of music than we could have imagined in my salad days.

We’ve entered college audition season and, as I interview dozens of hopeful, young composers, I am repeatedly astonished by the depth of their awareness of the new music scene.  I meet young men and women who, without having spent a moment in an institution of higher learning, are fluent in Lang, Adams, Bolcom, Gann… you name it.  It’s pretty awesome, in the traditional sense of the word.

Just as astonishing, though, are the ones who show up without the least knowledge of anything, the ones who have found some music software and developed a fair proficiency without exhibiting the slightest curiosity about what anyone else might be doing with some of these same ideas and tools.

When I see them, I think of my mother.  Given an ability to travel that far outstripped that of her forebears, she took advantage and saw a decent chunk of the world.  That, to me, is the assumption: to every generation more is given, and more is expected.

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