Critic: Assessing the NYC new-music scene 30 years ago, and today

Posted on: June 12, 2018

“Thirty years ago, the American contemporary music world was a macrocosm of Manhattan geography,” writes Justin Davidson in a lengthy essay in Friday’s (6/8) New York Magazine. “Uptown composers, cerebral members of the avant-garde guild, clustered around Columbia and dreamed of taking curtain calls at Lincoln Center. Downtown composers spun out ecstatically leisurely works in lofts and art galleries … Fortunately … as the city has become more global, I have watched the music world get healthier, more complex, and less hermetic…. In music, New York is finally living up to its reputation for globalism, transience, and cosmopolitanism. Dutch composer Louis Andriessen; Esa-Pekka Salonen, a Finn by way of London and L.A.; Irishman Donnacha Dennehey; Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdóttir; Chinese-American Du Yun; jazz guru Wynton Marsalis; Egyptian-American composer Mohammed Fairouz; Russian-born Lera Auerbach; jazz pianist Vijay Iyer; electronica guru DJ Spooky; indie rocker Bryce Dessner; Californian Andrew Norman—all of them and many more are fixtures of New York’s ‘contemporary classical’ programs … Audiences for symphony orchestras have traditionally expected perfect performances of precertified masterworks; greatness is the baseline. But audiences for new music have a more forgiving attitude: if tonight’s program disappoints, tomorrow’s may inspire.”

Posted June 12, 2018