The Aesthetics of Survival

A Composer's View of Twentieth-Century Music
George Rochberg
A revised paperback edition of composer George Rochberg's landmark essays


As a composer, George Rochberg has played a leading role in bringing about a transformation of contemporary music through a reassessment of its relation to tonality, melody, and harmony. In The Aesthetics of Survival, the author addresses the legacy of modernism in music and its related effect on the cultural milieu, particularly its overemphasis on the abstract, rationalist thinking embraced by contemporary science, technology, and philosophy. Rochberg argues for the renewal of holistic values in order to ensure the survival of music as a humanly expressive art.

A renowned composer, thinker, and teacher, George Rochberg has been honored with innumerable awards, including, most recently, an Alfred I. du Pont Award for Outstanding Conductors and Composers, and an André and Clara Mertens Contemporary Composer Award. He lives in Pennsylvania.

Praise / Awards

  • "An indispensable book for anyone who wishes to understand the sad and curious fate of music in the twentieth century."
    Atlantic Monthly

  • "The writings of George Rochberg stand as a pinnacle from which our past and future can be viewed."
    Kansas City Star

  • "Rochberg presents the rare spectacle of a composer who has made his peace with tradition while maintaining a strikingly individual profile. He succeeds in transforming the sublime concepts of traditional music into contemporary language."
    Washington Post

  • Winner: 2006 The American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers (ASCAP) Deems Taylor Award

Look Inside

Preface to the Revised Edition          xiii
Introduction, by William Bolcom          xvii
On the New Image of Music
Indeterminacy in the New Music (1959)          3
The New Image of Music (1963)          16
On Schoenberg and Serialism 
My Dear Igor (An Imaginary Dialogue) (1957)           29
Reflections on Schoenberg (1972)           36
On Musical Time and Space
Duration in Music (1960)          61
The Concepts of Musical Time and Space (1963)          68
On Music, Humanism, and Culture
No Center (1969)          129
Humanism versus Science (1970)          135
Fiddlers and Fribbles or Is Art a Separate Reality? (1986)          145
News of the Culture or News of the Universe? (1988)          165
Talking to Luigi Russolo Eighty-Five Years Later (1998)          180
On the Fantastic and the Logical
Aural Fact or Fiction: Or, Composing at the Seashore (1965)          187
The Fantastic and the Logical: Reflections on Science, Politics, and Art (1973)          199
The Marvelous in Art (1982)          214
On the Renewal of Music
The Avant-Garde and the Aesthetics of Survival (1969)          225
Guston and Me: Digression and Return (1992)          242
Polarity in Music: Symmetry, Asymmetry, and Their Consequences (1995)          246
L'Envoi (1998)          253
Selected Bibliography          255
Index          257

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2005
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03026-2

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  • $30.95 U.S.

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