The Scene that Dare Not Speak its Name

On the front cover of this week’s New York magazine is a headline about three performance artists who, quote, “are doing their outrageous best to prove that downtown lives on.” [Emphasis in the original.] And the article talks about this guy Dash who’s “a downtown legend.” Now, whenever I use the word “downtown,” six people leave comments to chastise me for referring to it, three people write to New Music Box to ask, “What’s this uptown/downtown thing about?,” and 14 bloggers go on the web to aver that there’s nothing in the world they despise more than people who talk about downtown music. Do you think that’ll happen to Ariel Levy, who wrote the New York article? Or is it only musicians who so resent the fact that something exciting once happened and they weren’t part of it that they feel compelled to vent their spleen whenever someone mentions it?


  1. Peter McB. says

    Kyle —
    Your post reminded me of the superb thrill that reading your book gave me. For the first time, I now had a framework for understanding modern music! For three decades I’ve listened to and played contemporary music, some of which I like tremendously and some of which is just awful, not worth the manuscript paper or the performers’ time. I always felt guilty about not liking the awful stuff, as I wanted to celebrate new music and its performance.
    Only after reading your book did I realize that all the good stuff I liked had a downtown sensibility, and all the stuff I hated was uptown. I used to think there was something I was missing, some secret code I was not getting, as I could not see (and still cannot see) the point of most of total serialist music and the mathematical like. The question I always asked when hearing this music was “Why?”, and no serialist composer or performer ever provided me with a compelling answer. Most do not even understand the question.
    Your book made me realize it is possible to like and appreciate the good stuff without having to listen to the awful stuff, and to do so in good conscience. I mean this comment seriously, although I realize it might not seem that way. I don’t intend it to be at all facetious or sarcastic.
    — Peter
    KG replies: Thanks, Peter. That’s really touching.