Posting from Svalbard

Picture music as a map, and musical genres as continents–classical music as Europe, jazz as America, rock as Asia. Each genre has its distinct culture of playing and listening. Between the genres are the cold oceans of taste, which can be cruel to musicians who try to cross over.

There is another route between genres. It’s the avant-garde path–a kind of icy Northern Passage that you can traverse on foot. Practitioners of free jazz, underground rock, and avant-garde classical music are, in fact, closer to one another than they are to their less radical colleagues. Listeners, too, can make unexpected connections in this territory. As I discovered in my college years, it is easy to go from the orchestral hurly burly of Xenakis and Penderecki to the free-jazz piano of Cecil Taylor and the dissonant rock of Sonic Youth. For lack of a better term, call it the art of noise.

Alex Ross, “Edges of Pop” in Listen to This

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