It is with some pinch of nostalgia that I put the final touches, this morning, on the list of my complete Village Voice articles, which you can find here. There were 522 of them, from Rebecca LeBreque and Iannis Xenakis to Barbara Benary, from December 2, 1986 to December 5, 2005, 19 years to the week. I decided not to stick around for my 20-year gold watch. I was proud of having outlasted all previous Voice new-music critics, though of course my longevity was dwarfed by Leighton Kerner’s, who was kinda the Uptown critic, but he wrote surprisingly well about Downtown figures before that area was siphoned off to others. I have no regrets about putting it behind me. From 1986 to 1997 it was the greatest job in the world, and I could have done it forever. But by the time my column space had dwindled down to 650 words, and I was no longer hanging out in NYC often enough to grasp what was going on with the younger composers, I had become ashamed that I was holding on to it. Over the last eight years, from the moment the paper went free (and I didn’t see it coming), the Voice ceased to feel like the paper I used to write for, and I felt more and more alien there. Too bad. But I needed a new life as a composer, and I am dubious about the possibility of remaining an expert on music of people a generation younger than oneself. I salute what the Voice once was and, in a sense, will ever be. The new-music community owes a profound gratitude to Bob Christgau, Doug Simmons, Richard Goldstein, Chuck Eddy, and the other editors there who felt that new music was important news. They kept the music we love in the public eye for 45 years.


  1. says

    I’ve been missing the Voice artices, but I check your blog frequently. I hope there’s a Music Downtown II in the works. The decline of the Voice is a sad thing.

  2. mclaren says

    Also let’s not forget that a huge technological
    upheavel turned the music criticism landscape topsy-turvy by
    1997, as well as purely social and literary and economic
    shockwaves that ripsawed through the Village Voice
    (and every other print publication during the 90s). To
    wit, online sources for new music journalism like Kalvos
    & Damien’s New Music Bazaar.

    Those guys never got paid a dime for what they did but
    they strove heroically to create something vaguely similar
    to the old classical music journalism of yore. Now we’re off
    into interstellar space with something completely different…no
    editors, total contempt for expertise

    disdain for documented facts


    reality defined by lemming stampede

    the wild west

    “facts” that constantly change depending on the phase of the moon

    no law in the arena, devil take the hindmost, everybody out for hi/rself…
    A rioting chaos of a bezillion music websites with no central
    fact-checking and no editorial filter. Sequenza 21 remains so completely out of touch with
    the developments in new music outside of the central East Coast
    of the U.S. that it can’t be taken seriously unless you live int he New York/Boston area. So now it’s down
    to YouTube and MySpace, the Web 2.0 collaborative stuff, the
    Wikipedia articles to promote new music and new composers.

    We’ll see what happens. Pure Athenian-style
    democracy boils down to the theory that if you multiply a
    million errors together, somehow they’ll all cancel out. Didn’t
    work for Athens. Remember the Sicilian Expedition in 415 B.C.
    during the Peloponnesian War?

    Fortunately, WE aren’t vulnerable to that kind of
    self-destruction! We’re UNIQUE! We’re SPECIAL! We’re AMERICANS!
    We’re — Oh…no…wait…we’ve got our own Sicilian Expedition
    going on in Iraq right now, as we speak…

    Methinks these developments bode ill — as does Jaron Lanier,
    whose article Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online
    applies with especial force to new music and
    remains a must-read for contemporary composers.

    But time will tell.

  3. milton parker says

    I’m enjoying ‘Music Downtown’ very much, but there a few titles on your complete list that I know I have to read. I hope there are plans to make some more of these articles available, online or otherwise.
    In the meantime, thanks for the list and the work…

  4. says

    When I was in high school in the ’50’s, on Long Island, I’d occasionally manage a trip into “the City” during the summer and head straight down to the village to hang out in the bookstores (8th Street, Paperback Gallery, 4 Continents bookshop)
    and Cafe Figaro. And I’d always pick up a copy of the VV. But I’d have to sneak it back into the house. My dad thought it was subversive.
    Imagine that.
    KG replies: Hey, soon after I started there, I bought my parents a gift subscription. The first issue they received had a cover story on diapering and talcum powder among gay men. I think my Dad used to pick the thing up with clothespins.

  5. says

    “Sequenza 21 remains so completely out of touch with
    the developments in new music outside of the central East Coast
    of the U.S. that it can’t be taken seriously unless you live int he New York/Boston area.”
    I’m a bit late in responding to this thread, but in case McLaren checks in again: It’s certainly true that the bulk of the S21 contributions come from northeasterners, and that fact may well skew our coverage, but Jerry Bowles pretty much has an open-door policy on new contributors. Any gaps in our coverage (a woeful lack of female contributors being another obvious one) are not the result of editorial policy, and in many cases are in spite of it. Anybody who wants to contribute some underrepresented viewpoints should e-mail Jerry — we could use some new blood over there.