Monday, March 10, 2003


Jim Lindstrom writes:

“The San Francisco Chronicle [has run] a piece about the challenge of finding originality after a century of such outlandish newness from the likes of Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, James Joyce and others. The article [suggests] that perhaps the twentieth century pining for newness stemmed from cataclysmic world events: two world wars, [the] threat [of] nuclear annihilation, the fall of alternatives to capitalism. If that is the case, the writer continues, [maybe] today's fragmentary, transitional, uncertain world outlook does not warrant such brash newness, but [rather] a thoughtful revisiting of overlooked ideas of the twentieth century.

“... [By contrast] this fall I attended the weekly Composers' Forums at University of Illinois, where the focus was different each week, but always related to new music. In the final Forum, a professor -- a self-proclaimed member of the ‘old guard’ -- spoke to us about the disappointing conservatism in today's young composers (read: artists, in general). In response a 20-something graduate student shot back -- and I paraphrase: "The twentieth century produced a wealth of new ideas. The conceptual production of that century is second to none. Rather than calling today's young composers 'conservative', I would call them 'thoughtful.' The aim of seeking newness can be an empty goal if one never flushes out the capacity of any one system to really produce anything." I'm inclined to agree … the depth of twentieth century conceptual thought towers over the depth of actual pieces of work from the same era ...

“When art outsiders today ask, ‘Where are our Bachs and Shakespeares?’, I think this is what they are getting at. The general public doesn't care about conceptual production. They want their Beethoven's 5ths and their Mona Lisas. Perhaps the 21st century will be remembered as the concretization .. of the brilliant conceptual output of the 20th century.”

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