Wednesday, June 4, 2008 | A few preliminaries: Western fine art music has been marginalized. The music is viewed as the product of a bunch of dead white Europeans. Yet no matter how much the mainstream and alternative press ignores and pummels this music, millions of patrons go to concerts, download from iTunes and buy CDs.

While some modernists, like Arnold Schoenberg, composed highly intellectual, inward-looking abstract music, many others, like Bela Bartok and Maurice Ravel, glommed on to folk (world) music and (African-American) jazz. Reversing the direction, George Gershwin was drawn to the abstractionist Alban Berg. John Lennon and Yoko Ono popped some chords from a Jean Sibelius symphony into a piece. Frank Zappa was passionate about Edgard Varese, who moved from Paris to New York where he wrote the ultra-violent music that the public ate up. A similar dance, with different elements, continues today, with groups like ETHEL, eighth blackbird and Bang On A Can.

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