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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

[Unfulfilled opportunities in the arts: a symposium],   pp. [7]-24 PDF (17.0 MB)

Page 21

show biz in between. New musical ideas,
the real source of vitality in any musical
culture, remains in a curious limbo -
despised by the critics, ignored by the
intelligentsia and misguidedly supported
in their weakest aspects by the foundations
and academia, raided for ideas by pop
groups, jazzmen and background-music
composers, surviving in an underground
subculture and through recordings.
No one seems to have noticed, but the
nature, the "quality" of musical experience
has changed. Nearly all of the traditional
European views about musical life seem
obsolete. The "musical public," brought up
on bottled, imported, vintage stuff, will
not drink new wine from old bottles.
Perhaps they are right; the institutions they
support were created in another age for
other kinds of art.
That new institutions for new art must
come and are coming into being there can
be no doubt. But who's noticed, who
cares, who's looking and listening, who'll
help? Technology changes the whole
nature of musical culture and musical
communication. Young people -
passionately involved in music and
musically the most informed and with-it
generation in the history of the human
race - are alienated from the artificialities
of Establishment musical life. Rock is
their living musical art. Otherwise they stay
at home and listen to records.
Musical culture today is transmitted, not
through concert or operatic performance
but through recordings. Recorded sound
filters into every part of our lives and
profoundly affects even the performance of
all kinds of live music. Technology brings
music into every corner of our lives and it
makes every aural corner of the universe
raw material for music!
The revolution in the common shared
experience in less than two decades has
been overwhelming The Beatles, electronic
music, Ravi Shankar, Monteverdi, John
Cage, the New York Pro Musica,
gagaku, Varese, Vivaldi, the Mother of
Invention, Ives, African drumming, old
jazz and new - all these musical
experiences and many others have become
familiar parts of our everyday lives. Music,
once limited to a few traditional and
Popular styles is suddenly, astonishingly,
manifold. Suddenly, in McLuhan's
language, our nervous systems have been
extended around the world and we are
receiving impulses from all corners of the
global village. The entire musical
expression of the human race - as it has
been handed on to us and as it continues
to develop - is available to us along
with all the known and unknown sounds of
the visible and invisible worlds.
Can music be the same again?
Can we ever be the same again?
No one can be entirely unmoved and
unaffected by this. Yet no one seems to
have noticed. Not the critics, not the
conservatories, not the culture centers, not
the mass media nor the journals of the
intelligentsia, not the scholarly publications
nor the weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies,
not the symphony orchestras and opera
companies, not the foundations or arts
councils, not the managements nor the
university music departments, not the
music magazines nor the New York Times,
not the "world of music" nor the artistic
community nor the intellectuals. Nobody
in fact but just us folks.
Yet a whole new generation knows it. The
new audience - like the new music - does
not necessarily reject traditional modes and
media of musical expression; but it is
open to an immensely wider field of action
that technology has opened up.
Technology makes the entire universe of
sound available as raw material for
new art.
This is a revolution of unprecedented
proportions. It is a revolution that is taking
place, not in the traditional concert or
operatic platform, but in a kind of
sub-culture which flourishes across the
country. In a wider sense, this sub-culture
embraces every aspect of musical
experience outside the concert-opera
hall and interacts with the other arts and
the other senses as well. There is no
doubt that this whole development is only
in the infancy, that it remains to re-create
the entire cultural situation in which a
vital new music can flourish. There is no
formula for "great art" here; only an
attempt to understand the conditions under
which relevant new musical art can come
into being and flourish. This new
music and its larger cultural situation will be,

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