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

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  1. Michael Vincent Waller says

    Since your choice revolves around “American, classical, recent, important” – approximately post-1972.

    If I were going to add anything, I’d choose:

    La Monte Young

    Morton Feldman

    Terry Riley

    James Tenney

    Phill Niblock

    George Crumb

    John Adams

    Frederic Rzewski

    If I were going to delete anything, I’d choose:

    Philip Glass (not enough L’s in his first name)

  2. says

    If it is post-1972 (or post-1971 i.e. post the year Stravinsky – Russian? American? – died), but also very recent (Meredith Monk), maybe it would be a good idea also to mention Brad Mehldau (as a link to classical AND also popular music in the US). In the post-Soviet (Russian / Russian language dominated) space it would be probably easier to answer the question, say, Silvestrov or Kancheli or Mansuryan. Thanks for naming Glenn Branca among Top 5 and thanks a lot for the blog.