Okay, now that we’ve had a chance to come up with every piece from 1970-2005 we can think of that deserves our love and affection, and bemoan the unfairness of skipping over so many great composers that were left off The List, it’s time for me to get back to what I was looking for originally.
Alexander Radvilovich asked me what pieces since 1970 had the same effect that Le marteau had on the 1950s and Sinfonia had on the 1960s.
So it’s time to look back over the list and pick out one piece from each decade that had the most widespread influence. Elodie Lauten has written about The End of Stylistic Dominance and Rodney Lister has testified to the shift in media attention since the 1970s, and it is true that both of those cultural shifts have muddied the waters. But could it still be possible to point to one work that had the broadest influence on other composers? Not necessarily the “best” piece, or the piece that has “stood the test of time” (whatever that means), and certainly not the piece that had the most impact on any one of us individually. I’m looking for the composition that, due to a complex set of factors (innovation, quality, prominent premiere, timing, luck, etc.) made a sizable proportion of composers of the time stop in their tracks and reconsider their artistic paths.
Looking back through the 70s list, my vote goes to Einstein on the Beach. Not anywhere near my favorite work from the period, but the attention it got and the impact it had is undeniable.
Runners-up, in no particular order: Drumming, Final Alice, Shaker Loops, Rochberg Third Quartet.
Of course, none of these comes close to Star Wars, on a certain level. But I just can’t bring myself to put that in the same category. And I’m sorry to say that Ligeti (whose name rhymes with SPI-ghet-ti) isn’t in here either.
Again, I’m not making a case that these are the best pieces of the decade. They are certainly not my favorites, especially with 20-20 hindsight. But I think they meant the most in the shifting mindsets of the time.
Do you agree? I’m looking for responses from people who were there, composers who are now in their 40s and up. We will need the input from younger composers when we get to the 1980s and 1990s. I’m going to assume that it’s too soon to say anything about the 2000s.
Jerry, I know you are dying to get your favorite — Bernstein’s Mass — on this list somehow. Sorry!