How We Got Here

In the initial post about what happened to music and society post-Nixon I wanted to talk about the entire music scene, rather than certain genres, because that’s when it got so tricky to keep them apart. Is Shakti folk music? Is Skies of America classical? Is The People United Will Never Be Defeated protest music? I’m not trying to answer those questions which in any case are rhetorical.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming outpouring of information about jazz recordings became an unstoppable tidal wave. It will soon be preserved in a new interactive web site, both as a user-updated list and a site for opinion and discussion. I think that’s a great achievement — a people’s history of jazz in the seventies and eighties — and no doubt it will make more listeners, young and old, aware of the riches of jazz in the “middle ages.”

But as promised I’ve tried to make an “Ethan’s List” of more or less classical (concert music?) composers and compositions year to year starting in 1973. Guess what? I gave up. It was at once too huge a task and too minutely refined: it’s much harder, I feel, to compile accurate information about what these composers were writing and when. I’ve also been kind of busy running a trumpet festival

Anyway, I’d much rather see Steve Smith, or Greg Sandow, or Kyle Gann compile this list. But I can’t just keep starting things and letting others do all the work…so…the short list:

Muhal Richard Abrams, John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Milton Babbitt, Francois Bayle, Luciano Berio, Leonard Bernstein, Carla Bley, Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez, Glenn Branca, Henry Brant, Bob Brookmeyer, Earle Brown, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Elliott Carter, Ornette Coleman, John Corigliano, George Crumb, Luigi Dallapiccola, Anthony Davis, James Dillon, Lucia Dlugoszevski, Mark Dresser, Henri Dutilleux, Morton Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, Fred Frith, Phillip Glass, Gerard Grisey, Sophia Gubaildulina, Barry Guy, Lee Hyla, Ben Johnston, Mauricio Kagel, Oliver Knussen, Joan La Barbara, Helmut Lachmann, Tania Leon, George Lewis, Gyorgy Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Bruno Maderna, Michael Mantler, Luigi Nono, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Wolfgang Rihm, Christopher Rouse, Frederic Rzewski, Essa-Pekka Salonen, Gunther Schuller, Stefano Scodanibbio, Stephen Sondheim, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Toru Takemitsu, James Tenney, David Tudor, Anatol Vieru, Charles Wuorinen, Iannis Xenakis, John Zorn, Ellen Taafe Zwilich.

This is a completely subjective list and many are “the usual suspects” while others may elicit a small “huh…” There’s no political game here and no agenda other than to name composers active in that period who have been influential for me. And again, to illuminate a period in time when the music scene is generally described as fallow.

And I’ve left so many important names out (surely exposing nothing but my own biases and limited exposure)! Why do we still think of the post-Vietnam War era as so artistically weak? These are all composers whose work in the period pioneered new musical territory and influenced a generation.

UPDATE: I keep thinking of more composers, but I promised myself I would not go back and add more…