Today I had the pleasure of talking for an hour with a group of journalists from Siberia and Central Asia — Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. They asked (in Russian, through an interpreter) terrific questions about classical music in the US.(This was arranged by CEC ArtsLINK, which arranges exchanges of many kinds involving arts people from Russia and surrounding regions.)
The question I found the hardest was a simple one. Which new or recent American classical piece did I think was most important?
For a moment I blanked, and then four answers came to me. I’ll share them here, without for a moment claiming that these are the best new American pieces (of, let’s say, the past generation), or the most important, or the most influential, or the most representative. Or that your taste has to be mine, or that these are for all time my favorite pieces, or that I couldn’t find four other pieces that might do the job for me just as well.
But these are the four pieces that popped into my mind. Maybe they’re some kind of guide to my taste. No commentary, no explanations, no excuses. One choice is for a composer, rather than any of his pieces. Here’s the list:
Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
David Del Tredici, Final Alice
Glenn Branca, collected works
David Lang, The Little Match Girl Passion
If I were going to add anything, I’d choose:
Meredith Monk, collected works
Philip Glass, Songs and Poems for Solo Cello