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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

Is it Time to Discard the Past? Lionel Salter

THERE ARE no detectable signs of panic in our concert halls and musical institutions: the cloud-capp'd towers of Kensington and the South Bank stand as apparently stable as ever-despite the incursions of skateboarders seemingly bent on self-destruction. Yet don't be lulled into a false sense of security: the revolution is upon us, and its rumblings are causing many musicians to reconnoitre eventual action stations. I'm not referring merely to Pierre Boulez, who having declared that all opera-houses should be blown up then rather marred his Guy Fawkes image by conducting at that operatic holy of holies, Bayreuth, and is now, from his expensive and quite exceptionally hideous Paris fortress, setting the wild echoes flying with clarion calls to "destroy all the art of the past" and to be rid once and for all of history, which in his view is a "weight on one's very being", thus joining hands over the years with that eminent thinker Henry Ford, who proclaimed that "History is bunk". I have in mind rather, because he has put a current trend into unambiguous words, another infiltrator into the musical Establishment, Iannis Xenakis, until recently occupying a chair of music at a British university. In a public lecture in Canada he rejoiced that serial music offered the opportunity of rejecting and abolishing the principles of what he contemptuously called "traditional music", which he was unhappy to find "unfortunately still much taught in the schools of music". He went on to say that with his own ...


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