Sounds Modern, the brainchild of modern music guru Elizabeth McNutt, is a vibrant and exciting concert series featuring contemporary music that makes the works on display in the Modern’s galleries come to life in the concert hall. McNutt is the director of the University of North Texas contemporary music ensemble Nova and co-director of the new music organization Atomic Clock Music Events. Admission is free
Saturday, December 13, 2 pm—How Far to 14th?
Sounds Modern travels both uptown and downtown to reveal the concert music scene of 1980s New York.
By the early 1980s, New York’s music scene was deeply divided between two visions of the future of music: those who sought a rigorous, challenging, intense, abstract approach to musical language and those who saw engagement with rock, folk, avant-garde jazz, and music of other cultures as the key to reviving a concert music culture that had turned dangerously inward. Major concert halls uptown hosted the former group, including such luminaries as Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, and Milton Babbitt; the latter infiltrated night clubs and arts venues like the Kitchen and forged their own festivals like Bang on a Can. The official dividing line between uptown and downtown was 14th Street . . . but then the Kitchen moved uptown and the NEA started giving grants to downtown composers. The uptown mainstream became more of a fringe, with hardcore interpreters of avant-garde music creating their own scene and establishing their own venues. Aspects of both styles infused younger composers’ work. It was a time of turmoil, reversal, and reinvention, and it was not always clear who belonged above or below 14th Street. Sounds Modern will travel all over this bygone Manhattan (and maybe even the adjacent boroughs), bringing the work of its most visionary musicians into counterpoint with the current exhibition, Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s.