Every composer has his champions, and I’m always happy to see people leap to a favorite composer’s defense. It gives me a warm feeling inside, actually, even if I don’t much care for the composer’s music myself, because I think, “Someday that could be my music someone like that is defending.” A friend whose tastes otherwise often parallel mine recently admitted that Feldman’s music drove him up a wall, which I find amusing, rather than threatening. I have lived all my life with musicians around me putting down my favorite music. One of my professors told me that Cage was a charlatan and minimalism was bunk. Another met Cage, and said afterward, “I wouldn’t have that man at my house.” My favorite professor got denied tenure for bringing minimalism to class. I’ve listened to famous composers dismiss most of the new music I love as not being music at all. Students at Columbia spat with contempt when I brought them a rare Meredith Monk score. I’ve been told Robert Ashley isn’t a composer. I’ve eaten dinner with composers who regaled each other with Philip Glass jokes, while I took it in polite silence. I have spent my life analyzing and championing music that is despised and marginalized by the classical music world.
And so, listen: If I listen to Piston’s Seventh Symphony and don’t like it, you can bloody well put up with it. There’s no reason to pour vitriol on me. I’ve taken shit all my life for the kind of music I like, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to also take it for the music I don’t like. I’m especially not going to take it from establishment classical musicians, who tend to be the type who routinely damn and dismiss the music I love. I’m not in charge of Piston’s reputation. I am not in a position to do him any harm, nor would I if I could. I’ve been interested in Piston since I was in junior high school, and The Incredible Flutist was the only recording you could find. So I don’t like a piece you like. Feel that, multiply it by 20,000,000, and you’ll start to feel what my entire life among classical musicians has been like. And then you can back off and suck it up.