Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city

Kyle Gann directs us to an article by Jennifer Higdon on her early experiences with the music and ideas of John Cage. He describes it as "the frankest admission and most thoughtful self-analysis I've ever seen of why an Uptown composer doesn't like (some) Downtown music".

Hmmm. The thing is, I don't consider Cage to be a downtown composer. Mr. Gann's own definition of downtown music is helpful, but it's more indicative of what downtown isn't rather than what it is, as he himself suggests. I don't consider Morton Feldman downtown, either. Much of Stockhausen fits Mr. Gann's definition better than Feldman or as well as Cage, for that matter.

Everything's waiting for you.


  1. Agree wholeheartedly, especially since Feldman patently is not a composer whose music "does not confine itself to the ensembles, performance tradition, and musical rhetoric of European classical music". If Feldman is going to be Downtown, we'd have to put Webern and Scelsi in the downtown camp, too. Of course, that wouldn't work since they (and your suggestion of Stockhausen) aren't American. Shouldn't L. Andriessen be downtown? Nyman? Hmm...

    I do suppose some of Cage's works would put him in Kyle's category of "Conceptualism". But as we know there are many works he composed that simply don't fall into any category, let alone those listed in Kyle's definition of downtown.

    Higdon's article discusses her evolving opinions of issues that she finds unique in Cage's works, not to a movement or group of composers as a whole at all.

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