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New Left Review I/201, September-October 1993

Michael Chanan

A Quartet for Our Times

In 1992, music suffered the loss of three of the most outstanding composers of our century, the Frenchman Olivier Messiaen, the American John Cage, and the Argentinian Astor Piazzolla. In these three figures, who all lived long and richly productive lives, can be found important clues about the passage of twentieth-century music, for they represent between them three of the great quests which have dominated contemporary musical experience: the metaphysical, the anti-metaphysical, and the popular. In short, we have lost in their passing our greatest religious mystic, our most radical inventor, and the maestro of the tango. And then, with the turn of the year, we also lost one of the great jazz musicians, Dizzy Gillespie, and an era seemed to be over. Four contrasting acoustic worlds, four unique and original voices.

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