Keeping it Real?

I am haunted by the J. Evans Pritchard scene from Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams, as Mr. Keating-as-Robin Williams, has his charges read aloud the formula for the “Pritchard Scale” from their poetry textbook, only to dismiss it as “excrement” and order them to rip it from the book. There are many things to ponder here, not the least of which are the implications of what amounts to a kind of proto-progressive book burning (did we really need to hand the Right the raw meat of our violently purging ideas we don’t like and then destroying the evidence?). But that’s not what most concerns me at the moment. It’s the idea that Pritchard’s valiant but misbegotten attempt to quantify poetic greatness amounts to a zero-sum game, one in which an admittedly narrow and unimaginative aesthetic yardstick must be expunged utterly, to be replaced by an approach in which the only viable path to appreciating poetry is for the reader to be carried away on waves of emotion to their own unique, entirely personal understanding. Unique and personal understanding is certainly the destination most of us would want for our students; the nagging question is, how will they get there? And on what will that understanding be built? And are we so certain, in the year of our lord 2020, that waves of emotion are the mode of transport we most want them to take?

J. Evans Pritchard never existed, of course; he’s a personified abstraction, based in part on the real-life scholar and prolific textbook author Laurence Perrine, in whose widely-used text Sound and Sense a version of the “Pritchard Scale” text appears. Let’s agree that we don’t want our students, or anyone for that matter, grading works of art with an instrument that locates greatness at the highest point between axes measuring constructive technique and meaning. As an interpretive construct, an aesthetic glyph, it is absurd, pitiable, freighted with analytical hubris. But as a way of facilitating the first, halting attempts to understand why we should care about poetry, or by extension any art, beyond a purely sensory, and likely binary (that is, either on or off) aesthetic experience, is it really irredeemable?

It may be obsessive, loony even, to argue pedagogy with a fictional character, but for millions of moviegoers, especially of my generation, Mr. Keating is a living voice of liberation, not just an expression, but the expression of the overthrow of a discredited, oppressive and hegemonic cultural system; for those who love Dead Poets Society (and they far outnumber those of us who don’t), Keating is a real presence, a lodestar in throwing off the shackles of their own emotionally impoverished educations. So I’m not engaging in friendly debate here with Wile E. Coyote, I’m taking on a cultural icon. And I’m here to tell him he missed a golden opportunity to educate his students. By ripping the Pritchard Scale from the book he deprived them of the chance to engage with Prof. Pritchard and to try and understand why he wanted to construct his daffy scale in the first place. A guided application of the scale’s two-axis formula would quickly reveal its limitations, and with them the futility of attempting any absolute aesthetic judgement. At the same time, it would give them a window into the shared need to understand the relationship between what is being said and how it is being said. Having done none of this the students lose the opportunity to grapple with the problem of quality, of assessing a work and then constructing a meaningful artistic measure that allows for an evolving, conscious relationship to everything from one’s own guilty pleasures to works deemed essential to the canon. More than that, they lose the chance to enter into the maintenance of that canon, to understand its significance to culture while at the same time interrogating it, criticizing it, demanding its transformation. With the right teaching the “Perrine Scale” could be a subversive tool rather than a cudgel of numb intellectual conformity.

My purpose here is not simply to beat up on Dead Poets Society. Others have already taken that on, most notably Kevin Dettmar in his Atlantic article from a few years back, Dead Poets Society is a Terrible Defense of the Humanities. I’m more interested in the long term impact on music culture of a now multi-generational reaction against Modernism and what one might call an aesthetics of construction, in favor of a Keatingesque aesthetic of personal assertion. Why assertion? Because the phenomenon I’m trying to describe is one in which the assertion of personality replaces the expression of a genuinely personal creative voice, one heard first as spiritual force and then revealed as the product of a deep technical practice. In other words, a personality that speaks clearly and powerfully because it has found the necessary constructive means to do so. It has the requisite chops.

That technique is a dirty word in much recent music-speak, whether around classical or pop music, will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever read a review of Coldplay. Thrummed repeatedly for being trite, weepy, and simplistic, they are most viciously trolled for being too good: for arrangements too beautifully realized; melodies too expertly constructed; textures too rich and sonorous; production values too high; or, as a New York Times review put it back in 2005, “not having an unconsidered or misplaced note” on the entire album in question (in this case, X & Y). I’m not a huge Coldplay fan, and I share with many of their critics a concern for the robotic precision expected of performers in a time largely defined by recorded music. What I’m startled, and disheartened by, is that on every other point the criticisms are vague, ephemeral, emotionally charged; there is a quality of deeply incensed lashing-out that makes them often funny to read, but hysterical and wholly ineffectual, like getting mad at the weather. On the subject of technique, however, they become precise, well-documented, and weirdly Javert-like in their determination to hunt Coldplay down and force them to answer for their sins. There are other bands that have enjoyed Coldplay’s level of success with, as the Times put it, “moony high school girls and their solace-seeking parents”, but they are not consigned to the same lower circle of hell as are Chris Martin and company, and the reason seems to center on this issue of technical precision. Apparently no one this good should be this popular.

Were it a matter of the band being dismissed as merely technical I’d get it. I experience my own Gethsemane moment each week when my daughter gets to watch a few episodes of her beloved Sophia the First on Netflix, and I hear the Disney song factory cranked up to a near-apocalyptic pitch, producing songs of technical perfection proclaiming the joys and perils of the Disney-princess life, songs I loathe and yet cannot for the life of me get out of my head (Why is she allowed to watch, you ask? Do you have a 5-year-old? Never mind. I know many strong, defiant, brilliant young women who went through their Disney-princess phase. Check back with me in a year). From the deeply problematic Disney mythos to the work of Leni Riefenstahl examples abound of technical brilliance being put in the service of the morally repugnant. But Coldplay hardly falls into this category.

No, one suspects that somehow the band has been tarred with that soviet-style brush of all-purpose condemnation, of “not keeping it real”. In music this accusation carries a particularly venomous charge, and is hurled without warning even by artists of other disciplines who themselves are highly skilled, exacting craftspeople, but who like their music raw and unadorned. The more out of tune, rhythmically feeble and vocally paint-removing the better. In the unintentional but no less viciously racist group-think of some corners of the Left, the fiercest of this opprobrium is reserved for African American artists who are deemed not sufficiently “black” by virtue of their technical sophistication. Thus, Robert Johnson or Big Mama Thornton, good; Earth, Wind & Fire, or Prince, bad. That both Johnson and Thornton were, in their respective styles, also highly technically accomplished seems not to register at all.

One would think that this attitude would not obtain in classical music criticism, but one would be wrong, at least where composers are concerned. Performers are still held to a technical standard that often drowns out any mention of expressive imagination or interpretive intelligence; instrumental and vocal technique are given the status of a god, or maybe, more to the point, a golden calf. This is less true in online journals that cater to a highly informed readership, but in the major media outlets performative athleticism, leavened here and there with references to “delicacy of phrasing” and “intimacy of utterance”, still rules the roost. Of course, even a superior technique cannot shield a performer from abuse when they stray from interpretive orthodoxy in the 19th century canon. Patricia Kopatchinskaja learned this the hard way in L.A. last fall when scorn was heaped on her Tchaikovsky concerto as being mannered and distorted. She stood her ground, pointing out that her approach hewed more closely than most to Tchaikovsky’s markings, but to no avail. Classical performers remain tightly boxed in by the accrued residue of interpretive tradition.

Composers, on the other hand, can get away with pretty much anything, as long as they make an effort not to appear too smart; nothing slays at a pre-concert talk like a folksy antipathy to crazy modern music. “I’m not like that”, we essentially say, which is code for “you’ll like my music, really”. Presenters, conductors, and the press buy into this, and the audience (always smarter and more open than they’re given credit for, but still looking for a way through the labyrinth) feels they must go along in order to be in on the joke. The dead elephant in the room is the whole history of post WWII music and its whipping boy, serially-based high modernism in all its forms. Often composers of a certain age (well, my age, and a little older, to be precise) summon the aesthetic dragons they were forced to slay in their youths as if they were still circling the hall and setting it ablaze, even though the war they seem still to be fighting was won somewhere back in the early 1980’s, when the old serial order was definitively overturned. Since that time nothing has given critics more fodder for their cannons than even the possibility that a composer is working according to some unholy system, unless, of course, the system is one in which literal repetition is subject to gradual transformation. I don’t have it in for minimalism, I’m down with the majority that considers its masterpieces, especially those of Steve Reich, to be among the great creative achievements of the last 100 years. I just wish that critics, scholars and anyone else who writes about music, would recognize the hypocrisy in denouncing serialism as inhuman while celebrating minimalism as nothing short of divine revelation. Taken at face value this has primarily to do with minimalism’s surface (sensually triadic) vs. that of stereotypical modernism (angular, disjunct, dissonant), but the bad blood goes much deeper than that.

Steve Reich acknowledged that in conceiving of music as gradual process he was rejecting one system in favor of another, and clearly articulated the difference between the two: it wasn’t system he despised, he simply wanted his to be audible. Never mind. For the legion of critics who glommed onto his music in the mid-70’s it was all about the hypnotic, trance-like, indeterminately spiritual nature of the experience (Robert Christgau wrote of Music for 18 Musicians that it “sounds great in the evening near the sea”). The idea that one would drill down into the phasing and gradual turning of the variations and actually hear the process at work seemed to occur to almost no one, other than a frustrated Steve Reich. This convenient refusal to acknowledge the technical rigor, the constructive genius of Music for 18 left critics free to assail composers on the other side of the aisle as mad scientists of a horror-movie form of musical AI.

The terror has abated somewhat in recent years, with a resultant, gradual opening of the critical imagination, but the superstition that fueled it remains deeply rooted in the cultural psyche. Take the case of Boulez, for example. After being pilloried for decades, especially in the States, for having been in his youth not only an aesthetic Dr. Frankenstein but a pugnacious loudmouth to boot, he achieved the status of musical granddad, with both his conducting and his music being increasingly viewed with reverence, even love. But when critics (I use the term here broadly and not limited to those who write reviews for a living) turned against him, as they did up until his death, their complaints turned most often on the imagined Klingsor’s Wound of his technique, no matter that he had not employed the technique in question in over fifty years. The stain of his having had the audacity to imagine a new constructive basis, in integral serialism, for music after the second world war not only could not be washed away, it seemed to make him worthy of being tied to a rock and having his liver consumed on a daily basis by avenging eagles.

But Boulez was more than a composer/conductor, of course, he was both a cultural and political force, one who became emblematic of the hegemonic aesthetic doctrine that became, for many composers in the 60’s and 70’s, a kind of metastatic incarnation of the Pritchard Scale. Rigid, dogmatic, hierarchical and unyielding, it permeated the entire contemporary music funding and performance infrastructure with terrifying malignancy. Operating with the cold efficiency of what in New York politics is known simply as “three men in a room”, the various panels and foundations serving as high-culture bouncers stifled the innumerable voices who chose to reject the postwar norm as a viable creative option. A delicious irony here, one generally missed thanks to a seemingly willful historical ignorance among many in our current gate-keeping ranks, is that this oppressive system was itself a repudiation of an earlier, discredited hegemony: that of the whole sweep of European romanticism, seen as having reached its apotheosis in the war itself and, most importantly, in the Holocaust. As Boulez put it by way of explaining the fractured, improvisatory rhythmic sense of his music, “when I hear” 4/4 time “I hear marching.” But, this initially radical impulse notwithstanding, by the late 70’s it was clear that the modernist vise-grip on new classical music culture had to be broken. Even composers who had come up in and materially benefited from the system, such as George Rochberg (himself a Schönberg/Sessions rather than Boulez/Babbit modernist, it must be said), turned against it.

As for what to replace it with, that question was gleefully answered with an apparently limitless range of options: 80’s collage (pioneered by Rochberg himself); neo-tonality (not really tonal); minimalism; post-minimalism; neo-romanticism (not very romantic); the Bang-on-a-Can ethos; and everywhere identity as a core compositional value; writ large the answer was anything that’s not it. There was a beautiful, life-affirming freedom in this, one that still obtains in and, at its best, nourishes the current contemporary music ecosystem. But with everything gained, something was lost, and Mr. Keating is its poster child. There is now in contemporary classical music no shared basis, no set of first principles, for assessing quality. Any discussion of new music proceeds from the assumption that quality still matters, but when it comes to making the difficult call as to how it should be measured the assumption is revealed to be a mere haunting, a repetitive acting out of a past action with no agency, no point of view, no real presence. We treat the haunting as an actual ghost, an entity to be interrogated, a unifying spirit, when in fact we dare not address it directly lest it vanish. In the resultant void we turn to any number of external factors to justify our own musical attachments: identity; appeals to social justice; genre-bending; relevance to digital culture, to the cult of youth. Every one of these can be, and often are, important, and are legitimate measures of the strength of a work’s relationship to its cultural context. But they say nothing about the music itself.

This amounts to a 180 degree reversal of the old order, in which extra-musical programs and grand social pronouncements around a piece of music were anathema in the sacralized process of determining value. One felt the presence of Hanslick, like the murdered Petrouchka, hovering over the award panels, shaking his fist. Only the music, and for that matter, only the pitches and their internal logic were to be considered in assessing a piece’s worthiness. Of course the panels often got it wrong; how could they not? But they often got it right, and our sense of the discursive potential, the imaginative range, the expressive depth, of music was enriched in the process, thanks to fiercely intelligent, dramatic, visionary works by composers both celebrated and (now) entirely unknown. Be that as it may, we’ve already agreed that the damage done, both in terms of squeezing the bandwidth of possible creative approaches, and in the fact that the system’s rewards went overwhelmingly to white men, made it untenable. But in overturning it we have not, in fact, healed the slowly advancing sickness at the heart of new classical music. Why not?

One problem hiding in plain sight is that our progressivism where style, cultural source and identity are concerned has led us into a weirdly anthropological position vis-à-vis the musics we turn to as we reinvent the concert tradition. All of the source materials regularly mined in making new concert music, whether Carnatic; Balinese; West African; Navajo; coming from jazz; hip-hop; Appalachian roots music; in short, anywhere in the world, are the products of long-held, clearly delineated and strongly argued expressive values and technical standards. Even in cultures in which there is no such thing as “music” as a distinct realm of experience, there are agreed-upon parameters for making and performing social rituals in sound, which allow for a valuation of relative levels of performative success (check out Jean-Jacques Nattiez’s study of Inuit laughing-song games in his Music and Discourse). In lifting those materials from their original contexts and using them as the basis for say, a string quartet, an orchestral work, or a chamber opera, have we lifted the standards as well, or have we placed the elements into a standard-neutral zone in which any attempt at technical evaluation is off-limits? The answer depends upon who is asking the question and why. When we like the result of the process it’s called eclecticism; when we don’t it’s called cultural appropriation. What drives the liking, however, has little to do with music and everything to do with the political lens through which it is viewed.

Debussy increasingly takes it on the chin, for example, for his role in perpetuating exoticism in Western classical music, thanks to his reaping the riches of a variety of Asian musics in his own work. The charge is that Debussy, as the beneficiary of the European rape of African and Asian lands and peoples, is treating the gamelan, or the Khmer classical ensemble, as his own musical rubber plantation, completing the colonial project in musical form. On its face the charge is unarguable, and Debussy clearly guilty. One can argue (as many have) that Debussy, as a product of his time and place, can hardly be held accountable for a system that predated him and in which he was marinated from cradle to grave. But there is no question that he, like most Western artists at the turn of the century, came to view the world’s artistic traditions as a treasure-trove of exploitable resources. Where Debussy’s own politics are concerned the record is helpful but still murky; he was clearly more woke than the average Parisian, but certainly not to our contemporary standards. Mostly he seemed reluctant to weigh in at all, saying most of what he wanted to say through his music. But the music itself stands as exhibit A for the defense. Having gone on the record as deeply respectful of the sources in question, recognizing in them levels of harmonic brilliance and dramatic sophistication far surpassing that of the European music of the time, he then integrates a transliteration of those materials into his own exacting technical practice, rejecting the normative “Turkish” or “Asian” evocations of the supernatural, of the mysterious other typical of his contemporaries, in favor of a fully realized musical syntax that de-tunes and remakes Western music from within. Debussy loved his sources enough to honor them with a music as true to its own principles as they were to theirs.

Of course, one must still reckon with some of Debussy’s music for children, stylized ethnic portraits that are closer to paternalistic travelogue (and from our perspective overtly racist) than to the genius of Pagodes or Reflets dans l’eau; pieces like Le petit nègre or Golliwog’s Cakewalk do nothing to advance the view of Debussy as anything other than a musical colonizer, though in the French imagination of the time they were part of a larger celebration of all things African and African-American. But if Toni Morrison could acknowledge Faulkner as a spiritual father in spite of his having claimed, to W.E.B. DuBois, that the yearly decline in lynchings in the South was a sign of cultural progress, than I guess one can accept that Le petit nègre exists. I just never want to hear it performed. Nonetheless, if Debussy is to be damned, without consideration for the degree to which his adoption and transformation of non-Western elements is both musically revelatory and socially progressive for its time, then who is to be saved?

Contemporary parallels abound, but a particularly vexing one is to be found in the case of Paul Simon vs. David Byrne. Why is Simon still routinely called out for appropriation on Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints, while Byrne is not for pretty much the entire Talking Heads catalog? The two Simon albums are scrupulous, both in the technical mastery of the musical result and in the crediting of the artists involved, both live and sampled. Byrne, on the other hand, performs Once in a Lifetime (to take just one example) over a video montage of religious exoticism, with unnamed African, Japanese, and rural American religious figures serving as backup dancers to his choreographed, stylized parody of religious ecstasy. In the band’s concerts a white-hegemonic pop music norm is perpetuated, with Byrne out front and Steve Scales, Bernie Worrell, Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt behind in supporting positions. It was Byrne’s band, of course, and the music at its best is a galvanizing fusion of New Wave and R&B, so it all makes sense. Or does it? Why pick on Paul Simon but give David Byrne a pass? It would seem that Byrne’s downtown Manhattan pedigree and the perception of him as a cross-cultural trailblazer account for much of the cognitive dissonance here. What is conspicuously absent in most discussion of both artists is what it is that makes the music any good in the first place. There are things people like about it, but that’s as far as it goes. And Simon, like Coldplay, sometimes has his technical brilliance held against him. Not real enough.

The connection with new classical music may seem tenuous, but Byrne in particular and Simon, to a lesser extent, are both now viewed essentially as classical composers. So determined are we in concert music to fit in, so culturally on the ropes, that we have embraced a view of our own art that allows for it to be almost anything. The cultural specificity and the technical mastery that we embrace in our found objects, whether the finding is viewed as celebration or larceny, we flat-out reject in our own discipline. We just like what we like, for reasons that remain opaque. This is, not surprisingly, especially true in the classical press. Take the Times 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2019. Where the new works are concerned there’s not a single window opened into how the pieces work or why they matter, beyond either an extra-musical hook or a specific detail the critic happens to appreciate. These are snapshots, to be sure, but there’s no reason to think that extended reviews would be any different (a work of mine was once dismissed in the Times as “leaden”, with no explanation whatever. I was less injured by the wholesale rejection than I was fascinated to know the reasoning behind it. A bad review can be bracing, hilarious, or instructive, sometimes all at once. So no, I don’t hate the Times. But a single adjective is just cowardice).

All of this flows naturally into the other big problem with our current scene: our confusion around our own notions of quality have led us to adopt a marketplace model of greatness. One of the deficits in the old system was that it encouraged composers into an increasingly hermetic existence, almost entirely out of touch with the broader world of music, to say nothing of the general culture. The drive to turn this around over the last 40 years or so has been, by any measure, a spectacular success. Young composers are now professionalized before they’ve written a note, with websites and social media presences that speak to a level of engagement with the world-as-it-is unimaginable for composers of previous generations. And the most savvy, or at least the luckiest, work at a level of public visibility also unthinkable just a few decades ago. It could be time to turn the focus away from a problem that, arguably, no longer exists (the composer living solely in an imaginary world of her own making), and toward the question of what creative values a young composer chooses to espouse. But in making this choice our once culturally oblivious composer finds that she must now choose based on a new funding model that has imposed a new hierarchical imperative, one no less unforgiving than the old one.

In both crowd-sourcing sites like Kickstarter and Hatchfund and, more importantly, one of the major grant-awarding platforms open to composers today, the money flows through complex mechanisms that reward personality, presentation, and digital likability. With the self-driven sites the deal is clear, unapologetic and, for artists willing and able to play the medium like a violin, hugely effective. Full disclosure: I’ve benefited enormously from both the aforementioned platforms, funding two CD’s and one major commission through them. They descended like benevolent aliens dreamed up by Arthur C. Clarke when they first appeared, and they’ve facilitated an enormous volume of artistic, technological and social creation since. But no one should have any illusions about how they work: the success of a project hinges on the relatability of the artist and the internet-friendly appearance of the proposal (that and the artist’s having a network of likely donors to start with). The evident artistic merit of the work in question in no way figures into meeting the funding target. If the promotional video along with the work samples and the supporting rap around the project do their job then the coffers fill. This is late-stage internet capitalism bent to the will of artists with few other avenues to pursue in realizing their creative visions, an ingenious neoliberal cultural hack.

More troubling are the funding panels ostensibly concerned with artistic merit, but forced in the end to cede their authority to the same market forces as the crowd-sites. “Three men in a room” has been replaced by panelists who never meet, spread across the country, judging work in isolation from each other. Charged with taking into account not just the work itself but also the social media presence and likely professional viability of the projects they evaluate, and deprived of the opportunity to compare notes, to discuss competing notions of quality, they do their best and submit their ratings, only to have the final decisions made by the blunt algorithm of majority rule. Having served on such panels I can say without hesitation that under this system, no less than under the iron rule of serial-based modernism, independent voices incompatible with the values of this new classical marketplace are stifled, ignored, and remain unheard beyond whatever local community of like-minded musicians they have managed to cultivate. Plainly speaking, this is a terrible way to foster a thriving, independently-minded music culture. It encourages conformity not to an egg-headed aesthetic of impenetrable musical logic, but rather to a shallow and fleeting construction of market-friendly hipness, an attitude about music, not the music itself.

There is a staggering amount of excellent music being created right now, by composers of all flavors, in every part of the country. But there is also an alarming surplus of work that is sloppy, derivative, program-dependent, or simply unwilling to demand anything more of its listener than a quick listen and an admiring tweet. Our predicament is that our funding models increasingly create a false equivalence between these two extremes, projecting the sense that for us it’s all the same, it’s all good. In our defenestration of the three men in a room we’ve thrown our critical discernment out the window with them. If panelists doling out the largest share of funds to needy artists are unable to communicate directly to each other their own deeply-held convictions around expressive and constructive quality, how then is the culture to coalesce around a dawning consciousness of its own artistic imperatives? And what does a culture say about itself when it has no sense of its own priorities beyond the effective marketing of a political position? By political here I mean not only in reference to a social justice, or environmental, or indeed any other worthy cause, but more generally a public position relative to the stereotypical memes and tropes of Classical music. I mean the politics of crafting and projecting a persona, an economy of public perception. If this is all new classical music has to offer the world then it is well on its way out. If that’s what we want, if we agree with the young composer who recently opined in NewMusicBox that it was time to “let classical music die” then so be it. But if we believe in the uniqueness of what we do, not the universality or even the greatness (admittedly a 19th-century metric), and certainly not the superiority, but the uniqueness, the capacity to do things that other musics don’t, then it’s time to talk about what we mean when we say that one work is better than another.

I’m not here to say how that should happen, nor what a shared aesthetic standard would look like, should one emerge. It will have to develop over time, as the result of intentional, often combative conversation. That the music flowing from it will perhaps sound little like what I think of as music; that it will encompass vital contributions from all comers, from all corners of the world, black, white (whatever that means), Latinx, Asian, straight, gay, trans, not-yet-defined; and that it will do in ways as yet unimaginable what all great music has always done: strike at the heart of what it is to be human, at every level of the human experience, I have no doubt. But to be real it will need to reflect a standard, of making and performing (and doing both at once), that forcefully expresses the values of a musical community, values communicated through the music itself. A Pritchard Scale, no thank you; a dogma of construction, hell no. But a privileging of music that challenges, that stretches cognition, that moves the listener deeply through its own integral processes, whatever they may be and whatever they may sound like, I think that would be a good start.

Why is this so important? Why can’t we just let Keating seize the day and say that if it makes us feel good, if it makes lots of people feel good, then it’s great, no questions asked? Do we really, in the year of our lord 2020, really need to ask this question? If, in the reliably progressive, left-leaning world of contemporary classical music we damn the experts, photoshop out the problematic aspects of our past, obsessively collect likes and shares, say that a thing is something just because we say it is, with no possible appeal to any aesthetic principle other than a possibly solipsistic view of reality, and let the market decide who among us should advance, should hold sway in the musical commons, then does it really matter how we cast our votes come November? We will have already helped to pave the way for the next rough beast in his slouch to Washington. We don’t want Keating or Pritchard. Believing in our work and in the necessity of articulating its core principles means not following either one of them to our doom.

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