Monday, May 12, 2008

Old/new quote/unquote

Donald Rumsfeld:

"Now, you're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east. And there are a lot of new members. And if you just take the list of all the members of NATO and all of those who have been invited in recently -- what is it? Twenty-six, something like that? -- you're right. Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem."

Kyle Gann:

"...and we agreed today that, if the old music world was France, Germany, and Elliott Carter, the new one is more typically The Netherlands, Serbia, and Downtown."

*****

The Obama era can't come fast enough. The world is a subtle, diverse, and complex place, and quality can be found anywhere, as well as disaster. We need to be more grown-up about this rather than continue to trade in petulant blanket categorizations and prejudices. The "old worlds" were never as monolithic as all that, and a failure to recognize that is just echoing the sins of those who most benefit from the monolithic image. (Need anyone be reminded that it was that "old European", German Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who stood up to Rumsfeld in advance of the Iraq adventure and stated as clearly as possible that he "was not convinced"?) Yes, let's call out the old institutions and the Boulezes or Carters of the world when they play ugly musical politics, but let's also take music as music, rather than the music-political currency of a given faction or cohort, even if we risk giving the music of others more respect that was ever or will be shown in return. Yes, there are (and will always be) musical factions and cohorts, gathered by various forms of affinity, convenience, or caprice, but in the real new music world, these are no longer distinct communities primarily built around geographical borders and ethnological affinity defending a common repertoire but are instead networks of aesthetic affinities sharing information and resources with overlapping but not exclusive repertoire.

2 comments:

sfmike said...

Bravo. "The Obama era can't come fast enough." is an exquisite phrase. I'm coupling it up there with newly minted Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing's matter-of-fact prediction of Obama's assassination.

PWS said...

Don't "downtown" fetishists like Gann (whom I like and am half-joking about here) do the exact thing as Boulez, but substitute "post-minimalism" for "post-serialism" or whatever? I am reminded of the story of Stravinsky and Copland. Someone called Copland a "good American composer" to Stravinsky. "Why must he be an American composer? He is just a good composer."

That said, give me Carter's Symphony of Three Orchestras any day over Jark Greyson's 19 studies of Klee for klaviertron and wind machine.