"A Ping, Qualified by a Thud": Music Criticism in Manhattan and the Case of Cage (1943-58)
Web of Science
Source TitleJournal of the Society for American Music
PublisherCAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS
University of Melbourne Author/sRobinson, Suzanne
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsRobinson, S. (2007). "A Ping, Qualified by a Thud": Music Criticism in Manhattan and the Case of Cage (1943-58). JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN MUSIC, 1 (1), pp.79-139. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1752196307070046.
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This article surveys the reception of concert performances in Manhattan of music by John Cage, from his arrival in 1942 until his gala retrospective held in Town Hall in 1958, in particular comparing responses from composer-critics such as Virgil Thomson, stabled at theNew YorkHeraldTribune, with that of music journalists based at theNew York Timesand other local dailies. Close reading of reviews and of an array of archival sources suggests that Cage's personal and professional relationships with composer-critics ensured that the reception of his music was uniquely well informed, and that his prepared piano works and early experiments with chance were treated with a remarkable degree of affirmation. Much of Cage's critical identity can be attributed to the aegis of Thomson, who, if he denied acting as “hired plugger” for Cage, nonetheless sympathetically construed him as Americanist, Francophile, post-Schoenbergian, and ultramodernist. Thomson's resignation from theTribunein 1954 coincided with a pronounced deterioration in Manhattan critics' appreciation of Cage. I argue that the reasons for this lie as much with the demise of the composer-critic—and a reversal of Cage's own attitude to criticism—as with conservative disaffection with new forms of experimentalism.
KeywordsPerforming Arts and Creative Writing
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