Saturday, March 04, 2006

Music Downtown

I have recently acquired Kyle Gann's latest book Music Downtown. Although I have just started the book, I have read many of his writings over the past years, and I really look forward to his latest. His style is always provocative and thoughtful. I have read through the introduction, which is about a definition of Downtown, Midtown and Uptown music in New York. In Uptown,

"it had become common to justify music theoretically, showing by charts and diagrams that pieces of music were good, even when you couldn't tell by listening what they were about."

The Midtown composers

"continue to write symphonies and concertos, wear tuxedos and formal attire to concerts, and do their level best to ignore their maginalization in a world in whihc they are subject to the whims of their star conductors and soloists and made to feel that their music is inferior to even the minor opuses of the dead masters such as Brahms and Mendelssohn."

Downtown music

"was a deliberate rejection of Uptown the sense of employing an extravagant and difficult-to-follow technical apparatus....preferring more "natural" ordering devices such as chance, machine logic, natural numbers, and the harmonic series."
He is of course here using New York to show how music divided into the various camps, but one can see it as New York being a model of what actually happened in music all over America (after all, he uses the writings of Thoedor Adorno as the basis of his argument) in the late 20th century.
It should be an interesting read.


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