Richard Taruskin’s Wisdom

To composers imbued with a 19th-century world view, artistic traditions are transmitted ”vertically.” Nineteenth-century music historiography is an epic narrative of texts arranged in single file. It assumes that artists are primarily concerned—whether to emulate or to rebel—with the texts of their immediate precursors. These assumptions have led to an obsession with lines of stylistic influence, with stylistic pedigree, ultimately (and destructively) with stylistic purity or, worse, progress. This is the altogether anachronistic view most classical composers still imbibe in college or conservatory.

— Richard Taruskin, “A Sturdy Musical Bridge Into the Twenty-first Century”, New York Times, 24 August 1997. Reprinted in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays.

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