Taruskin and Katz

As many of you know by now, Richard Taruskin has published a lengthy essay-review of three new books on music in The New Republic. ACD has the particulars here, along with a representative quote. I admit to being surprised that ACD didn't castigate Mr. Taruskin for a good number of his ideas--I think he would have called me an "idiot" had I written some of it.

I haven't digested all of Mr. Taruskin's food for thought, but it is definitely worth a read.

Ivan Katz, writing in The Huffington Post, calls for a revolution in concert program notes. I completely agree. He rightly bemoans the credential lists that routinely pass for artist profiles, as well as fatuous descriptions of musical phenomenon. Others have written about this problem before, maybe somebody will take notes (as it were) and do something about it.

[Edited on 8 Mar 14 for spelling and usage.]


  1. I agreed with the Taruskin comments which I quoted in my post. Had you, the charlatan John Cage, or the Easter Bunny made those comments, I would have agreed with them as well. It's not the source with which I agreed, but the comments.


  2. Understood.

    But I was noting that you have railed against many of the ideas in Mr. Taruskin's article ever since I've been reading you.

    And the only thing John Cage was a charlatan at was being a charlatan.

  3. I was noting that you have railed against many of the ideas in Mr. Taruskin's article....

    Indeed, and still do. But I repeat, in my post I was responding ONLY to that portion of Taruskin's article which I quoted.


  4. Anonymous12:10 AM

    Hi everyone. I'm a fan of Tarusking, but I cannot condone what he's done in these reviews. I've started a series of posts at my blog.

    John Gibbons

  5. Anonymous3:52 PM

    Good grief, AC! Are you auditioning for the spot of Classical Music Critic on Fox News?

    I often read you with enjoyment. Strong opinions -- even when I disagree -- can make for strong reading. My problem is where you seem to imply it's something like a moral lapse to admire composers and musics you dislike.

    Yes, I admit it. I like John Cage. And I like some -- not all -- of the serial music I know.

    De Gustibus, et. cet.

    Bill Brice

  6. Bill Brice wrote: ...you seem to imply it's something like a moral lapse to admire composers and musics you dislike. Yes, I admit it. I like John Cage.

    Moral lapse? I think you have me confused with Johnson or Taruskin. Nothing I wrote could be reasonably construed as a moral indictment of anyone or anything; neither the charlatan Cage nor those who admire his acoustic experiments, much less of composers and musics.

    Or do you merely object to my characterization of Cage as a charlatan? He could hardly be characterized as anything other — that is, if you take his claim that he was a composer seriously. He was nothing of the sort by any measure that a composer of music is judged a composer. That he insisted on calling his noisemaking music is proof-positive of his charlatanism. As a philosopher or acoustic investigator and experimenter, however, a much different case could be made as I’ve elsewhere written. In those domains, the man was, I think, a gifted practitioner.


  7. Interesting disussion indeed! That leads me to make a test “in corpore vili” (my own body, I mean): in my personal preference-list of music genders, classical music has by far the first place; pop music (“light music” as we call it in Italy) comes well after.

    So, classical music, yes... but what kind of it?
    Wagner=Cage? Richard=Johann? Bach=Stockhausen?
    No, no! Wagner, Strauss (R), Bach... and (in casual order) Mahler, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schubert, Ciajkovski and many many others (including Verdi, Rossini, Bellini and Debussy, Berg, Stravinski, ...)
    And then: Maderna, Cage, Berio?
    No, no: then Strauss(J), Suppè, Delibes, Lalo, DeFalla... and then the “light music”, yes, from Sinatra to Celentano (although not the Spice-Girls, that I leave to my daughters...)
    Cage, Berio, Stockhausen? No, thanks: not for me. And - interestingly enough - no Monteverdi either!

    Conclusion: what kind of a music-listener am I?
    How would Adorno classify me? And Taruskin?

    I spend hours studying Wagner or Mahler or Mozart scores - let alone listening to their creations... - does this certify enough of my seriousness towards music? But if so, since I never thought to buy a Maderna’s score (and any of the “metal-jackets” CDs) nor to dedicate any of my time in listening to that composer’s or to those “artists” music, am I to be accused of infantilism and defined as a music-uncivilized, or simply as a “routine-addicted” guy?

    Is there any scientific observer-analizer (freudian perhaps...) that can explain me my own behaviour? Does it depend on my chromosomes? On my “way-of-life”? On my unconscious “fear of the unexplored”? On mere accidental causes?