Corporatism and Art

Kyle Gann has posted about a musicology class he spoke to at the University of Kentucky. He begins by describing the way the class' usual teacher structured the session:

The group had been reading my book American Music in the 20th Century, and he had each person prepare a question, the questions all asked in turn without being immediately answered; after which discussion could proceed with all the questions in mind.

I agree with Kyle that this sounds like a great way to structure an appearance by a guest scholar. It forces (or rather guides) the lecturer to relate the questions to each other and to answer them as a whole. The questions Kyle got led him to think about our current situation, which can be described as "music under corporatism":

We used to think the state was the government, but it's now become obvious that the state, in the U.S. at least, is the corporations that own and control the government, and the state's only interest, musically speaking, is in providing mass distribution to the music that can make the most exorbitant short-term profit, and squelching any musical outlet that threatens to pose competition to that profit.

I think this is a spot-on and very creative response. Corporatism dominates public life in the United States these days, and its effect on the arts is far from salutary. I don't have much to add to Kyle's analysis, I really just wanted to make sure you didn't miss it.

If I were to quibble, I would only object to the use of "populist" and "elitist" in this:

An elitist and a populist would certainly choose different paths through the socio-musical pinball machine, and there's little reason one might not be as successful as the other.

I know what he means, or rather what he means to mean, but I think it's a little sloppy, but not enough so as to undercut his very important argument.


  1. Anonymous3:48 PM

    Hi Steve,

    Seeing Kyle Gann mentioned as I visited by your blog today, was ironic timing as elsewhere in cyberspace a Kyle Gann Chronology of the Symphony to 2005 was pointed out to me.

    And, in the spirit of not that I'm sure just what it means, I noticed both that Gann did not include a single Wuorinen symphony (though he has written eight now); and that Wuorinen did not make your 101-piece cut, either.


  2. Karl--

    Thanks for reading, as always.

    There's no special significance to Charles Wuorinen not being represented on my list. The list is, obviously, not meant to be comprehensive. I like a good deal of his music, but I think there are other pieces on the list that are more prominent exemplars of what he does.