The 1970s often vanish between a “long Sixties” and a “long Eighties.” Their
historiographic disappearing act disguises the fact that they were a time of substantial
change in the United States—culturally, politically, economically…and musically.
“Presenting the New” traces the intersection of material circumstances and artistic
production in New York, home to most of the Seventies’ trends in new music. Through
Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, I conduct a music-sociological examination of the
presentation of “new” music in Manhattan. The use of field theory usefully complicates
simple Uptown-Downtown narratives by including the “Midtown” institutions of Lincoln
Center and examining overlapping constituencies and attempts by agents of all
allegiances to expand their geographic and cultural presence.
The paper follows the activities of various figures in New York between 1968 and
1980. Pierre Boulez brought European modernism with him as the new music director of
the New York Philharmonic before his eventual, ambivalent departure for IRCAM (and
replacement by Zubin Mehta). Charles Wuorinen and Henry Sollberger’s Group for
Contemporary Music traded Columbia for the Manhattan School of Music, striving to
maintain operations despite shifting support. Steve Reich and Philip Glass moved from
presenting process minimalism in SoHo’s lofts and galleries to performing at major
venues both “classical” and “rock.” Meredith Monk carved and maintained a particular
niche from the intersection of multiple media. The Kitchen—SoHo’s premiere venue for
video and performance art—became orderly alongside its neighborhood, growing from
impromptu video nights to institutionalized festivals. Along the way, these artists adjusted their modes of presentation to suit their
changing audiences and goals. They also adjusted them to the shape of the field of
cultural production, which, like the general social and political field, grew increasingly
fragmented over the course of the Seventies. From a largely dualistic battle between
adherents of Babbitt and Cage, the struggle to define new music shifted to small, loose
associations of composers with myriad aesthetic practices. As the essential questions
defining the field of new music multiplied, the definition of “new music” itself changed,
losing its distinction from both popular and historical practices.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2012. Major: Music. Advisor: David Grayson. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 408 pages, appendices I-III.
Plocher, Joshua David Jurkovskis.
Presenting the new: battles around new music in New York in the seventies.
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