New Music

by Barry Drogin

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To The Editor:

In "New Music, Please, but Not in a Ghetto" [Oct. 29], Anthony Tommasini writes, "Critics should keep urging major orchestras and ensembles to program contemporary music." The place to do this urging is not in Sunday opinion articles, but in every review of those orchestras and ensembles. Or, more radically, critics should realize that the very act of covering concerts of standard repertory pieces perpetuates the notion that something newsworthy is going on.

It's like Olympic sport coverage can the performer go higher, faster, longer than predecessors? The performers complain that new music takes too long to rehearse, is too difficult, and so on; aren't they, in fact, acknowledging that they are not as good as their colleagues who perform contemporary music? And yet they get the majority of attention, coverage and praise.

Long ago, I heard performances of the same late-20th century symphonic masterpiece by the American Composers Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. The Philharmonic performance was boring, muddy and uninspired; the Composers Orchestra performance was brilliant, exciting, and showed off the piece to its best advantage. And yet New Yorkers assume that those better-paid Philharmonic players are better. How would they ever know?


The author is a composer and a member of the board of advisers of New Music Connoisseur magazine.

[Exactly as it appeared in the November 12, 2000 Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure Letters section.]

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