1976 Boston

Oct 24, 1976 – Oct 30, 1976

Festival info

Start: Oct 24, 1976

End: Oct 30, 1976

Locations: Boston

Hosting member(s)


(Co-organized by The New England Conservatory of Music)

From contemporaneous reviews

“The festival was extremely representative, with works from 29 of the 30 nations in the ISCM (only Iceland was not represented). Even more important, the selection of the music relied strongly on the submissions of the national sections of the ISCM, thus giving substantial weight to their own individuality and national character. Unlike past festivals, where much of the music from all nations has been similar in character and often poor in quality, the musical styles and idioms were extremely varied.

“One result of this diversity was that no single person was likely to find all of the music to his or her taste. Some critics complained about this, but others such as Hubert Saal of Newsweek, discerned ‘fresh winds’ in the air in Boston. Noting that ‘the international spread of serialism has erased national boundaries in modern music,’ he went on to say that ‘in this festival, at least, several composers were not afraid of putting on native airs.’ airs.” He concluded with a quotation from Gunther Schuller: ‘In the last five years, the ISCM has been so radically oriented to idiotic noises that a lot of composers wouldn’t submit anything. That’s why I fought so hard to bring the ISCM here, to get away from music as mathematics and more to the nineteenth-centry [sic] idea of music as a communicative language.'”

— Hubert S. Howe, Jr., “1976 ISCM World Music Days Take Place in Boston,”
The World of Music, Vol. 19, No. 1/2, UNIVERSALS / LE PROBLÈME DESUNIVERSAUX (1977), p. 154.

“Well, you can’t say that Gunther Schuller isn’t a good sport. When it came time to assign the World Music Days orchestera [sic] pieces among the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the University of Iowa Orchestra and the New England Conservatory Orchestra, Schuller’s own host group from the Conservatory got the short end of the stick. But Schuller and his excellent students went about their work as if they really did have have something meaningful to do.

— Richard Dyer, “A Muddled Finale to Music Days,”
Boston Globe, November 1, 1976, p. 39 (accessible online via Newspapers.com).

“While those selecting the music have been interested in quality, their prime concern has been to get as many countries represented in these concerts as possible. As a result the music varies from the abysmally amateur to the strictly professional and the level of inspiration does not necessarily follow on a parallel line.

“One of the most interesting activities one can pursue during performances – particularly when bored to tears – is watch the faces of the composers in the audience. The expressions vary from smugness to outright revulsion, with only a very few really interested in what the others have to say.”

— Jacob Siskind, “Musical boredom in choices,”
Gazette (Montreal), October 27, 1976, p. 21 (accessible online via Newspapers.com).

“Contemporary music festivals sometimes are actually contemporary and occasionally contain some music, but they are almost never festive.”

“It is possible to wonder, listening to the pieces being played here at the World Music Days festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music, whether better works aren’t being written somewhere in the world. Under the clearest. and bluest of New England autumn skies, delegates and visitors to the convention have heard a remarkable amount of gray and murky music. A chamber program yesterday in Jordan Hall of the New England Conservatory of Music, for instance, presented five pieces, all United States premieres, from five countries. One listener found it difficult to believe that these works represented the cream of anything. If such a festival is not serving up cream, what function is it serving?”

–Donal Henahan in The New York Times
Cage’s Renga’ Gives Lift To Festival of Modern Works,” October 29, 1976, p. 59 &
Festival in Boston: Gray Music,” The New York Times, October 30, 1976, p. 17.

“In the great days of the I.S.C.M., a program might contain new works by Stravinsky, Bartok and Webern—major composers, each representing a radicaily different style. But at these concerts there is generally an appalling conformity. Nearly all of the music is Serial or Serial‐derived, inspired by Darmstadt or Princeton.

“Nationalism is not part of the international style. Even music by Oriental composers had all the cliches of construction and instrumentation. … Music from Korea, Venezuela, Spain, Canada, Yugoslavia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Hungary and the United States came and went as though everything was a segment of one superpiece, to be lifted out like a piece of tile on a kitchen floor.


“Audiences have been small, around 250 for any given concert. That is not unusual, and probably there would be no larger an audience anywhere in the world. The music of the international avant‐garde has never had a beachhead that extended much beyond a small group of professionals. Everybody here has been listening politely, but there has been very little enthusiasm.”

— Harold C. Schonberg, “Music: Avant‐Gardists Tax Limits,”
The New York Times, October 27, 1976, p. 46.

“An international law should be passed requiring all festivals of contemporary music to hang large signs proclaiming to performers and audiences: ‘BETTER FAR TO HAVE LIVING MUSIC BY DEAD COMPOSERS THAN DEAD MUSIC BY LIVING COMPOSERS.’ The idea struck me halfway into the third concert of the 13 that constituted the International Society of [sic] Contemporary Music’s 1976 World Music Days, held in Boston October 24 through 30.”

— Leighton Kerner, “World Music Days: Up from the Wastebasket,”
The Village Voice, November 15, 1976, p. 52 (available online here)

Programme information