Gloss: It’s the Words, not the Music  
October 29, 2007
Reading Taruskin’s  “this is the way it went” summary of classical music’s 20th-century tribulations in The New Republic, I was uncomfortable: naturally – I’m in this business, and would like to know it’s a going concern.  But I did have to nod finally when I remembered the following:
I’m a big science-fiction fan.   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 to  Richard Morgan’s Thirteen.  Music references couldn’t be more different:  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,  even Stravinsky and Barber  — and sometimes talked about what the music did along the way, and how it made them feel.  Yet similar characters in newer sf  refer only to texted music, even in made-up titles — and the music is exclusively rock (not even jazz). 

This exposes a trend I’ve  noticed in the last decades:  We  now need  the presence – the “crutch” – of words, no matter the artform.  ( Think Jenny Holzer in visual art.)   

Whatever happened to the ability to revel simply in sounds, without engaging the sense side of our brains?

2 Responses to “Gloss: It’s the Words, not the Music”
  1. Actually, I think we’re moving beyond just words as a crutch to music — I’m seeing more and more signs of people also wanting images along with their words and music. The generation that grew up on music videos needs something to look at while they listen, and more and more concert presenters are looking for ways to put images on a screen while the musicians toil below or off to the side.

  2. Whether inevitable or not, that’s the way this is all trending.

    Music is increasingly parsed as ‘partnering art’ — but gotta be there, though.

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