Youth without Revolution

A former Peabody composition student tells me that I was mistaken to include that school on a list of schools where the professors limit what kinds of music their students can write. He recounts that the faculty there is entirely permissive, but says it’s most of the students who adhere to a homogenous, bland neoromanticism, while their professors leave them perfectly free to explore more interesting avenues. And now that he mentions it, I had heard the same story from another, current Peabody grad student.

Why do I have trouble believing this? Because I’m a baby-boomer, and for my generation the possibility of students being more conservative than their teachers is an affront to our entire worldview, a fatal threat to our optimism that things may someday improve. Young Siegfrieds should always break Wotan’s staff and demand to pass by. But I know it happens these days, that the young sometimes embrace a timid, backward-looking aesthetic despite faculty raving at them to be more adventurous. I’ve watched it. And yet, when I see student composers embracing musical anachronism, I reflexively form theories of repressive faculty to explain it. Not always the case – sometimes just my generational quirk.