Browsing through the artsjournal, I came across their annual music critics’ blog… The subject of the discussion was why there aren’t any BIG ideas in new music these days. Why does this sound like advertising executive talk? What’s the next big thing that’s going to sell? Actually, it is understandable that critics look for ways to understand the scene as a whole, but they are faced with a deconstruction process. Maybe the new style is Deconstructivism or simply No Style.

Due to the end of stylistic dominance – see my blog on the subject, archives 3-27-05, the critics are wondering whether there is actually nothing happening.

Fortunately, Kyle Gann is on the offensive with his discography list:

Thanks to him, its under 100 members are now officially ghettoized as downtown composers even though their individual styles are widely different, and the categories such as minimalism, post-minimalism and totalism are somewhat blurred. However, this visibility is still questioned by everyone else, and most of us are still nowhere on the real map of classical music. We also suffer from age discrimination, since many of us are baby-boomers, as if hipness were a matter of age …. But there is a good reason why baby-boomers became composers: they went through the sixties revolution at an early age. One of the results of this cultural revolution was to systematically question any given school of thought. Other generations may not have produced so many composers, and so many who do not belong to an existing establishment. Especially for women at that time, entering the traditionally male-dominated field of composing and was an active political statement as well as a musical one. Male or female, we are not easy to categorize, which means composers should be discovered solely on the basis of their own music, and even in relation to their earlier/later works, because styles are not necessarily consistent even for one single composer. We are actually making use of our freedom of expression.

Which means, maybe the new big idea is, STYLE IS OUT. We just went through 20 years of cross-culturalism and cross-pollination with virtually all the musical styles available worldwide. Under this climate, how can one expect a single dominant style to emerge? It is possible that composers are no longer interested in the idea of style! Has it occurred to anyone that style may be a thing of the past? To return to my women’s fashion metaphor (see my article Skirting the Post Classic Stretch published in New Music Box in November 2004, now available at, we don’t all have to wear mini-skirts. At one time, all women wore the same skirt length, but now, each and every woman has the freedom to choose her length. And every composer has the same freedom to choose not to follow any particular style but concoct one’s own. Moreover, the composer has the freedom to not follow his or her previous styles and to reinvent the next piece.

Corporations use style for conservative purposes: they require that their employees follow a dress code, which is an infringement on personal freedom – a small sacrifice to make in exchange for a paycheck. By looking for unified style in new music, one is acting like a corporation trying to update its dress code. The problem is, dress codes are out. Do people on the streets of New York follow a dress code? Take a look for yourself.

Besides, the reason why new ideas aren’t coming through is that the creative and original composers are not being presented by the institutions because of a pervasive ‘fear of new music’, and therefore no one can be exposed to their new, wonderful, horrible, or whatever ideas, and we are in a vicious circle. The conservatism of the presenters and the inadequacy of music programming, especially of pieces by women, have succeeded at preventing new ideas from coming to the fore; the true creators are in fact collectively shut out.

For further clarification and information purposes, I compiled the names on Kyle Gann’s abbreviated discography. I sorted them alphabetically by first names because we are – or should be – on first name basis.

Allison Cameron
Art Jarvinen
Beata Moon
Ben Neill
Bernadette Speach
Beth Anderson
Bill Alves
Carl Stone
Charlemagne Palestine
Charles Smith
Daniel Goode
Daniel Lentz
David Borden
David First
Doctor Nerve (Nick Didkovsky’s ensemble)
Eliane Radigue
Ellen Fullman
Elodie Lauten
Eve Beglarian
Gavin Bryars
Giovanni Sollima
Glenn Branca
Guy Klucevsek
Hans Otte
Ingram Marshall
James Sellars
James Tenney
Janice Giteck
Jean Hasse
Jim Fox
John Coolidge Adams
John Luther Adams
John McGuire
John Myer’s Blastula
Jon Gibson
Jonathan Kramer
Joseph Koykkar
Kevin Volans
Kyle Gann
Larry Polansky
Lois V Vierk
M. C. Maguire
Maggi Payne
Mary Ellen Childs
Mary Jane Leach
Michael Byron
Michael Jon Fink
Mikel Rouse
Paul Lansky
Paul Sturm
Phil Kline
Phil Winsor
Philip Corner
Phill Niblock
Rhys Chatham
Richard Maxfield
Sasha Matson
Stephen Scott
Tom Johnson
Tony Conrad
Wayne Siegel

  • Share/Bookmark
Leave a Reply