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The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays

Richard Taruskin (Author)


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The Danger of Music gathers some two decades of Richard Taruskin's writing on the arts and politics, ranging in approach from occasional pieces for major newspapers such as the New York Times to full-scale critical essays for leading intellectual journals. Hard-hitting, provocative, and incisive, these essays consider contemporary composition and performance, the role of critics and historians in the life of the arts, and the fraught terrain where ethics and aesthetics interact and at times conflict. Many of the works collected here have themselves excited wide debate, including the title essay, which considers the rights and obligations of artists in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a series of lively postscripts written especially for this volume, Taruskin, America's "public" musicologist, addresses the debates he has stirred up by insisting that art is not a utopian escape and that artists inhabit the same world as the rest of society. Among the book's forty-two essays are two public addresses—one about the prospects for classical music at the end of the second millennium C. E., the other a revisiting of the performance issues previously discussed in the author's Text and Act (1995)—that appear in print for the first time.
Preface: Against Utopia

1. Et in Arcadia Ego; or, I Didn't Know I Was Such a Pessimist until I Wrote This Thing (a talk)

From the New York Times, mostly
2. Only Time Will Cover the Taint
3. “Nationalism”: Colonialism in Disguise?
4. Why Do They All Hate Horowitz?
5. Optimism amid the Rubble
6. A Survivor from the Teutonic Train Wreck
7. Does Nature Call the Tune?
8. Two Stabs at the Universe
9. In Search of the “Good” Hindemith Legacy
10. Six Times Six: A Bach Suite Selection
11. A Beethoven Season?
12. Dispelling the Contagious Wagnerian Mist
13. How Talented Composers Become Useless
14. Making a Stand against Sterility
15. A Sturdy Musical Bridge to the Twenty-first Century
16. Calling All Pundits: No More Predictions!
17. In The Rake's Progress, Love Conquers (Almost) All
18. Markevitch as Icarus
19. Let's Rescue Poor Schumann from His Rescuers
20. Early Music: Truly Old-Fashioned at Last?
21. Bartók and Stravinsky: Odd Couple Reunited?
22. Wagner's Antichrist Crashes a Pagan Party
23. A Surrealist Composer Comes to the Rescue of Modernism
24. Corraling a Herd of Musical Mavericks
25. Can We Give Poor Orff a Pass at Last?
26. The Danger of Music and the Case for Control
27. Ezra Pound: A Slim Sound Claim to Musical Immortality
28. Underneath the Dissonance Beat a Brahmsian Heart
29. Enter Boris Goudenow, Just 295 Years Late

For the New Republic, mostly
30. The First Modernist
31. The Dark Side of the Moon
32. Of Kings and Divas
33. The Golden Age of Kitsch
34. No Ear for Music: The Scary Purity of John Cage
35. Sacred Entertainments
36. The Poietic Fallacy
37. The Musical Mystique: Defending Classical Music against Its Devotees

From the scholarly press
38. Revising Revision
39. Back to Whom? Neoclassicism as Ideology
40. She Do the Ring in Different Voices
41. Stravinsky and Us

42. Setting Limits (a talk)

Richard Taruskin is Class of 1955 Chair of Music at the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (UC Press), among many other books.
“This is one of the most important books about music you'll read this year. . . . No one has bridged the gap between music scholarship and mainstream media as virtuosically as Taruskin.”—Tom Service The Guardian
“Very entertaining.”—Michael Kimmelman New York Review Of Books
“A collection of essays by the fearsomely intelligent Berkeley-based musicologist [offering] a passionately engaging perspective.”—The Guardian
“Intellectually generous compendium that merits serious and sustained engagement.”—Michael Quinn Classical Music Magazine
“Erudite and passionate . . . there is much within this intellectually generous compendium that merits serious and sustained engagement.”—Richard Taruskin Classical Music Magazine
“A stimulating book that offers a wide range of topics and ideas. . . . It will give you insight into the minds of one of today’s leading thinkers on music [and] a sense of where a large segment of musical thinking is headed.”—Music Educators Journal
"Taruskin's work is a major contribution to thinking about music in the broadest sense. The book is lucid, powerful, varied, self-aware, and courageous. It is the very best work being done today, not just in musicology, but in any discipline."—Michael Beckerman, author of New Worlds of Dvorák

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