What this means is that for fifty years the public has not anticipated with delight the première of a single symphonic or operatic work. If this seems too strong a statement, then fight back; remind me of the glaring exceptions: Porgy and Bess (can show tunes make an opera?); Shostakovitch's Seventh Symphony (a wartime enthusiasm inflated to hysteria by the competition of broadcasting networks); Mahagonny (a local quasi-political phenomenon)… The list could go on; but these works were all exceptions, and their delights anticipated chiefly for non musical reasons. The hideous fact remains that composer and public are an ocean apart and have been for half a century. Can you think of any other fifty-year period since the Renaissance when such a situation obtained? I can't. And if this is true, it signifies a dramatic qualitative change in our musical society: namely, that for the first time we are living a musical life that is not based on the composition of our time. This is purely a twentieth-century phenomenon; it has never been true before.
We could conceivably look at this drastic change with equanimity, form a quasi-scientific opinion about its causes, and even project an objective theory as to its probable future course — if it were not for the fact that we are simultaneously living with such an incredible boom in musical activity. Statistics are soaring: more people are listening to more music than ever before. And it is the intersection of these two phenomena — the public's enormous new interest in music, plus their total lack of interest in new music, the musical bang plus the musical whimper — that has created this scary moment.
I am a fanatic music lover. I can't live one day without hearing music, playing it, studying it, or thinking about it. And all this is quite apart from my professional role as musician; I am a fan, a committed member of the musical public. And in this role (which I presume is not too different from yours, gentle Reader), in this role of simple music lover, I confess, freely though unhappily, that at this moment, as of this writing, God forgive me, I have far more pleasure in foIlowing the musical adventures of Simon & Garfunkel or of The Association singing "Along Comes Mary" than I have in most of what is being written now by the whole community of "avant-garde" composers. This may not be true a year from now, or even by the time these words appear in print; but right now, on the 21st of June, 1966, that is how I feel. Pop music seems to be the only area where there is to be found unabashed vitality, the fun of invention, the feeling of fresh air. Everything eIse suddenly seems old-fashioned: electronic music, serialism,chance music – they have already acquired the musty odor of academicism. Even jazz seems to have ground to a painful halt. And tonal music lies in abeyance, dormant.