Friday, September 22, 2006


Over at the website of the American Music Junta Center, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz has done a survey of composers on the subject of productivity, as part of his "We Are All Mozart" project.

Readers of this page know that I am not shy of terminology borrowed -- and often quite loosely -- from the dismal science, but in this case I'm rather uncertain about the importance of production in a gift economy, like that of new music.

In general, the exchanges involving works of music in our community are of such modest monetary value that even a description in the most micro of microeconomic terms would be an exaggeration. But the exchanges we make must have real value by some other measure, or we surely wouldn't be bothered with the enterprise, let alone engage in it with such passion. A more useful description might rather be in terms of an exchange of gifts, with any accompanying exchange of money a matter of incidental if not random noise. But it's difficult for me to imagine that the value of a gift can be meaningfully or consistantly related to a level of productivity.

Moreover, if I am reading Báthory-Kitsz's article correctly, the implication is that high productivity in music has value in itself. It's far from clear to me that this should be so. Indeed, it is precisely because I can hear new music as an opportunity - when not an imperative - for resistance to the prevailing musical culture (as well as the larger culture around that music) that I have to reject a simple attachment of music-making to the prevailing work ethic.

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