Thursday, October 06, 2011

From a Diary I:iv

Life in the archipelago. There have always been differences, controversies, feuds, even, among musicians, composers in particular. These differences can have a productive effect, especially when it concerns aesthetics, styles, or technique (e.g. Artusi and Galilei), but too often they are counterproductive turf wars over the modest resources, rewards, and spoils our micro-economy has on offer. My sense is that, over the last forty years or so, disputes of the former sort — over musical issues — have become less heated and less salient except as fronts or proxies for the musically unproductive material disputes (our mad battles for crumbs) of the latter sort. (Thus a label like experimentalist or complexist or traditionalist or technologist or whatever can become, when dolling out prizes or positions, a cover for nepotistic or tactical awarding.) In general, while The New Music could once be divided into a manageably small number of factions, and composers, musicians, and audiences could keep aware of the major genres, styles and ideas floating around, the situation now is more like an archipelago — computer people here, circuit bender and hardware hackers there, analog synthies over there, noisy folk right here, pen and paper holders to the east, software engravers ot the west, bands, choirs, big bands, school orchestra composers in that direction, grown-up orchestra people to the left, opera people to the right, "new opera" people somewhere in the middle, composers with your own ensembles go find an island or get a raft!... — with lines of communication not always as clear as one would expect, sometimes due to chance or habit, sometimes to protective territorial instincts. My sense is that things are much more amiable between factions since we've moved to the islands, but this has come at the cost of some decline in the productive exchange of musical goods and ideas.

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