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The Music of the Future by Sir Roger Scruton



Music exists in the ear of the listener, not on the page of the score, nor in the world of pure sound effectsI identify four developments that have led to the place where we now are. Thanks to these developments a new kind of music has emerged which is less music than a reflection upon music, or perhaps even a reflection on the lack of music, or on the impossibility of music in the age in which we live.
  1. The radical attack on tonality by Theodor Adorno
  2. The invention of serialism
  3. The move towards total serialization
  4. The replacement of tones by sounds, and musical by acoustical hearing
If avant-garde music is ever to step down from the world of concepts into the world of tones, then it will be because the audience exists in whose ears this transition can occur. Take away the audience and you take away the concrete reality of music as an art. You turn music into an arcane exercise in the acoustical laboratory, in which groups of patient instrumentalists pump out sounds according to formulae which mean nothing, since meaning lies in the ears that have fled from the scene.

Taken from The Music of the Future, a lecture delivered in October 2016 at the prestigious Donaueschingen Festival.

Roger Scruton is the author of The Aesthetics of Music, the first comprehensive account of the nature and significance of music from the perspective of modern philosophy, and the only treatment of the subject which is properly illustrated with music examples.


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