TWENTIETH CENTURY MUSIC by Peter Yates

TWENTIETH CENTURY MUSIC

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Peter Yates has been writing on contemporary music for over twenty-five years for the literate lay public of the California magazine Arts and Architecture, in particular, and other journals; and he has helped produce an important series of concerts of contemporary music in Los Angeles. He knows the scene extremely well, and among the best things in this book are reports of his conversations with various eminent composers. However, either he or his publishers intend that this book should be ""an introduction"" to modern music, and on this score the book is not so useful as Joseph Machlis' or Andre Hodeir's, or George Perle's. First, the prose is needlessly clumsy; secondly, the chapters tend to be disorganized (making them unfeasible as introductions); thirdly, the book itself is excessively repetitious. Certain concepts basic to modern music, such as twelve-tone procedure, are not adequately explained for the lay reader; and when he explores more professional questions, Yates fails to support his critical judgments adequately. In the latter territory, however, he is more insightful on that American eccentric tradition that runs from Charles Ives through Edgar Varese through John Cage; yet he says almost nothing about that other eccentric American tradition initiated by Milton Babbitt (""combinatoriality"" etc.). Twenty years or so ago, this book might have been more acceptable: nowadays, others accomplish most of its tasks much better.

Publisher: Pantheon