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music downtown: the rest

February 25, 2011

Somehow I got away from doing this.  I blame finishing the book while in Chicago and having other things to write about.  Somehow, I managed to get halfway through the John Cage bio begin again before realizing I never finished writing any notes on the end of music downtown.  It’s a good thing I don’t have anyone expecting me to do all of this.

The most striking aspect to the end of the book is how Gann bookends the collection with sections on people, and when putting together a book on music that seems to be very fitting.  Beyond the actual sounds made (boy, what I would have given for a companion CD to this text), music downtown is about the people who created the music considered ‘downtown.’  It’s possible the book is actually more about the people, their personalities, and their passions even more than the music.  The obituaries, all of them, are great, perhaps because you can tell he personally wanted to write them, instead of feeling a professional need to write them.

Listening to much of the music discussed in the book, I can’t say its all good.  In fact, a lot of the music I had not heard of at all until the book did not strike me as significant.  But that is okay-  music need not be timeless.  Part of the beauty of sound is that in its purest form, it only exists for a moment.  For a composer/performer to be important in 1992, they don’t need to be guaranteed important in 2011.  Music of its time and place is actually quite remarkable to me, and I’m glad I was exposed to it and could consider it.

Finally, its amazing how little is new when it comes to new music today.  Every few days I think about something I read from music downtown, and it’s probably going to sit in an accessible spot for a while so I can get at Gann’s statements.  How could I *not* think about some of the essays in music downtown when the Dead White Guy conversation was going on in the twitterverse (see his articles on the Pulitzer, or what are we, chopped liver? on programming at BAM and Lincoln center).  As much as the music may be of its moment, music downtown is a collection of essays that hold true decades later.

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