Music of the Dystopia

What does the work of our composers today, in 2017, tell us about the disintegration of the US?

Robert Musil & Hermann Broch both wrote titanic novels (The Man Without Qualities and The Sleepwalkers) about the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But those works came after the fact. Both were written after WWI. (They may have been in the works before WWI.)

Perhaps the best forshadowing of things to come was Schoenberg's work from before WWI--op. 11? How decentered and decentering that work was.

I'm looking for dystopian music in the US.

  • David Lang's Frag
  • Some music by John Halle
  • Scott Johnson's Johnny Somebody might point toward David Foster Wallace. (Johnson is a bit older.)

Those composers today who are doing well, sometimes give us glowing artifacts of their own self-satisfaction, as their careers thrive, even while they are complaining about the present state of affairs. We have composers of the radical chic, like the armchair communists in Italy. The artist might be critical of the established order, but their music comes from a place that is too rosy, healthy and productive. We have to look elswhere for evidence of disintegration. Are there artists who are atuned to disintegraton and make that palpable in their music? Are all sovereign composers enfranchised? Are there hidden composers?

Speaking for myself, I see my music being about music, which is a happy and positive state of affairs. Is it the case that when art can be about the art, politics and political struggle are more likely to be sidelined? **We, who are dealing with musical problems tend to feel that art about political struggles or political issues is less than fully soveriegn.**

Those who produce art, right up to the brink of the collapse of the system that supports them, tend to be happy people, enfranchised. They might be like Brahms, not born rich, but eventually fully vested.

Stephan Zweig was very happy and much appreciated, right up until he was forced to UK, and later to Brazil, where his fate was very sad. AS far back as 1895, Vienna's Mayor Karl Lueger had all of the disturbing qualities of Hitler. Zweig worked productively almost another 20 years.

I'm a Marxist.

Do we have Bohemians bucking the system, living in poverty? We have armies of millennials living in Brooklyn who do not have wait tables or burn manuscripts, rising to the top of their artistic fields.

Music happens in moments of abundance, in places that are florishing. And even then, the music will not necessarily be memorable (music in Great Britain between Purcell & Elgar, American music before Ives).

We don't have a contemporary Brecht/Weill If we had such a pair, we might not even notice.

We are specialists doing music for music's sake, repelled by anything else. We live in bubbles. We have opinions about politics, but we have no influence on politics.

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