The terms ‘new music’ and ‘contemporary classical music’ are now redundant. For John Davis, ‘art music’ is a better alternative.

Article supplied by  Music Australia  as part of our classical music partnership.


Is there anything in common between Brett Dean’s new opera Hamlet, a tango by Elena Kats-Chernin, a sound installation sculpture by Julian Day, or one of Erkki Veltheim’s violin improvisations employing electronics? Not a lot on the face of it, except that all might belong together as ‘art music’. Clearly, ‘new music’ and ‘contemporary music’ will no longer do, given how confusing these terms have become, and how mainstream music industry sectors have purloined them over the last few decades.

And therein just might be an essential defining feature. All the above-mentioned artists might share one – and perhaps only one – attribute, of belonging outside the mainstream and the purely commercial. One imagines that none of them are exactly driven by notching up chart success, industry accolades, or popular acclaim in its genuine wider sense. Yet it might be said that neither are all pop or rock artists seeking this: anti-mainstream proponents of alternative and underground ‘contemporary music’ (as that term is now taken to...

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