In matters affecting the future of high culture, it is often difficult to tell the friends of art from its enemies. Art is a shibboleth, an unexamined good in whose service—and in the solving of whose problems—many can prosper. Whether what is good for art’s advocates is in fact also good for art is a murky matter.

These days, the attention of the well-wishers of art is beginning to fasten on the plight of serious music. There are many elements in this plight: a decline in audience sophistication, at once caused by and resulting in an increased concentration on already-known and crowd-pleasing repertory; the complete failure over the past half century of avant-garde composition, both acoustic and electronic, to win a place in the minds of musicians and in the ears of serious music-lovers; the almost total loss of confidence in the idea that the writing of music is a craft requiring...


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