Gloss: Itâ€™s the Words, not the Music Â
October 29, 2007
Reading Taruskinâ€™sÂ â€œthis is the way it wentâ€ summary of classical musicâ€™s 20th-century tribulations in The New Republic, I was uncomfortable: naturally â€“ Iâ€™m in this business, and would like to know itâ€™s a going concern.Â But I did have to nod finally when I remembered the following:
Iâ€™m a big science-fiction fan.Â Â Recently, I read a compendium of short fiction culled from the early golden-age (the pulps period), including some early Asimov, and then moved right on toÂ Richard Morganâ€™s Thirteen.Â Music references couldnâ€™t be more different:Â Space explorers of the future in the early stories routinely reference purely instrumental music, citing composers quite up-to-date for their day — Bartok, Shostakovich,Â even Stravinsky and BarberÂ — and sometimes talked about what the music did along the way, and how it made them feel.Â Yet similar characters in newer sfÂ refer only to texted music, even in made-up titles — and the music is exclusively rock (not even jazz).Â
This exposes a trend Iâ€™veÂ noticed in the last decades:Â WeÂ now needÂ the presence â€“ the â€œcrutchâ€ â€“ of words, no matter the artform.Â ( Think Jenny Holzer in visual art.)Â Â Â
Whatever happened to the ability to revel simply in sounds, without engaging the sense side of our brains?