My wife and I have made friends with an Austrian archeologist, taking her to some of the many concerts we attend.

She confessed recently that she was having to revise her opinion of new music, which she thought she didn’t like, because now she’s heard a number of new pieces that she liked a lot.

My wife asked her what new music she didn’t like.

“Well, you know, Arnold Schoenberg.”

“But Schoenberg’s not new – he is over 130 years old!”

“Well, I guess I never got past him.”

This speaks to some of the recent commentary on the S21 front page – the assumption that new has to mean “way out there,” when new should more logically mean “as close to who we are at this moment as possible.”

I love Schoenberg’s music, but I don’t ever experience it as sounding new – it sounds completely of its time and place, which is very different from the time and place I live in. Same is true of 1950s aleatoricism, 1970s minimalism, 1990s hip-hop.

It’s difficult to have perspective on what is old and what is new in music for some reason, so for kicks I like to compare it to film. Schoenberg is older than Charlie Chaplin. Does anyone consider Chaplin new?

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