Did Bang on a Can Kill Downtown?

Couple of soundbites I’ve run across on the web deserve wider play. One comes from Mary Jane Leach’s capsule history of Downtown music posted to Sequenza 21. She mentions that the Bang on a Can festival “elbowed out what had been the real downtown scene.” I’ve heard other Downtowners (or former Downtowners, if you insist on regarding the scene as dead) state this matter-of-factly too, that Bang on a Can came in, sponged up all the available funding and PR for Downtown music, rode off into Lincoln Center, Banglewood, and the sunset with it, and left an empty shell behind. Certainly they convinced those outside the scene that Downtown music is what they represented, even as they explicitly denied having any interest in Downtown.

Second is a quotation given in Elodie Lauten’s blog of what the irrepressible Jon Szanto (of Harry Partch performance fame) said the problem with Postclassical music was: “It’s too hip for the straights, and too straight for the hips.” I had said something similar in many articles with titles like “Music of the Excluded Middle,” but I lack Jon’s talent for turning a phrase. He shoots straight from the hip.


  1. Richard says

    Somewhat related to Szantos’ quip is a line I use when talking to my teenagers about music. It goes something like “My problem with alternate rock is that it is’nt alernate enough.” The usual snarky answer is “Yeah, but it has a good beat: you can dance to it.”