Art vs. Music
Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko but don't get Stockhausen
David Stubbs is a wide-ranging cultural commentator; he writes about sports, film, and literature as well as music. Stubbs' book Fear of Music discusses the perception gap between modern art and modern music. Why is it that collectors will shell out millions of dollars for avant-garde visual art while avante-garde music is still so widely derided?
The old saw regarding the issue of art vs. music appreciation is that time is the deciding factor. Stubbs acknowledges the potency of this argument; as he points out, one can look at the Rothko Room for five minutes and then head off to a café, but many Stockhausen works requires hours of a listener's time. But the author also crafts a persuasive case for consumer consumption of art objects as increasing their palatability with the public. With no easy way to create coveted musical artifacts in this era of file-sharing and digital distribution, it's easy to see music being increasingly thought by the masses of as free, disposable, and even 'unnecessary.” All the while, visual artists are able to monetize their wares with, in some cases, alarming audacity. Stubbs is able to negotiate the delicate issues of the duality between visual and performing arts with deft, knowledgeable, and subtle commentary.
Fear of Music also serves as an excellent primer on music outside the mainstream. At 135 pages, the appearance of this slender volume is deceiving. Stubbs covers a tremendous amount of musical terrain, eloquently expounding on such varied subjects as post-punk, futurism, Dada, Sun Ra, free jazz, Derek Bailey, and Webern. Indeed, the book is an excellent primer for anyone looking to take a subscription to avant-garde music journal The Wire, a periodical to which Stubbs frequently contributes. Indeed, Fear of Music is apt to bring more than a few music lovers further outside the mainstream in their listening habits.