New fiction, new plays – publishers and theaters present the new without apology, it is expected that new work will be offered to the public and that not all of it will be superb. The galleries in Chelsea offer the latest work, people would complain if they didn’t, and not all of it is great. And yet, Allan Kozinn’s recent Times article talks about how musicians have to apologize for the fact that not every new piece is a masterpiece. Why should this even be an issue? The fact that not every new piece is immortal does not mean the presentation of new music has to be justified, any more than the publishing of new fiction.
Perhaps one reason why the new is welcome and expected in writing and the visual arts but not in non-pop music is that there is money to be made in books and in the visual arts (at least in the upper echelons of those fields) – and relatively little money changes hands in the world of new music. So how could new music be worthwhile? Since what my mother always sarcastically called the “almighty dollar” is America’s principal means of validation, new art is naturally considered important, and pop music is considered more “vital” than non-pop. The supposed vitality of pop music has nothing to do with music but rather with the invigorating scent of money.