What is new music? The term 'new music' dates back at least to 1925, when The New Music Society of California, organized by Henry Cowell, held its first concert. The announcement bill for this concert contained a statement of the society's aim: "To present musical works embodying the most progressive tendencies of this age, and disseminate the new musical ideas". Although situated over seventy five years in the future and on the other side of the continent, WKCR's New Music department is, nonetheless, aptly served by this statement of purpose. In New Music, we present alternative approaches to music, with or without reference to a familiar tradition (such as jazz or classical music).
Over the years, the New Music department has presented several groundbreaking festivals, radio marathons of considerable duration which pay tribute to and carefully examine specific artists, movements, or schools. We hope that by listing these festivals we will aid your understanding of our concept of new music.
Karlheinz Stockhausen - 1984
Harry Partch - 1985
John Cage - 1992 *
Evan Parker - 1994
Noise - 1997
Electronic Music - 1998
Peter Kowald - 2002
Luciano Berio - 2003
Harry Partch / Terry Riley - 2003
Derek Bailey - 2006
*In 1987, Cage used WKCR's studio as his extended musical instrument. Station DJs passed him opera records from which he played random excerpts while manipulating all the other sound variables controllable from the studio.
Even as far back as the 1950's and 60's, WKCR had links to the world new music, through the pioneering electroacoustic composers of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center -- men such as Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening. It was not until the 70's, however, that WKCR's commitment to new music crystallized. The efforts of the late Taylor Storer in creating the New Music Distribution Service helped to create a synergistic relationship between avant-garde performance and recorded artifact. The scene had been created, and WKCR's New Music Department was part of the back bone of its distribution channel to the listening public.
The New Music department also played a role in the establishment of what is known today as the New York Downtown Scene consisting of such composers/performers as John Zorn and Zeena Parkins. Many of Zorn's early compositions, indeed the majority of his Games works, which exhaustively explored the possibilities of improvised music, were recorded in the studios of WKCR.
To this day, an interdependence exists between the new music scene and the radio station. Through live performances and interviews, artists are able to share their latest work with the listening community. Through special broadcasts and focus programs, the history of the new music as well as its most current incarnations are constantly on display for the curious and the connoisseur alike.
In essence, the New Music department is a lifeline for the community. Inspiring artists - Philip Glass used to tune in during his stint as a taxi driver - as well as exposing them, informing listeners as well as challenging them, WKCR remains a unique source for the consistent and focused examination of musical innovation in and beyond New York City.