Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen

David Stubbs

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  • Orion Publishing
  • 2009
  • ISBN: 978-1-84694-179-5
  • 135 pages
  • Paperback
  • 21.9 x 14.3 x 0.8 cm

Modern art is a mass phenomenon. Conceptual artists like Damien Hirst enjoy celebrity status. Works by 20th century abstract artists like Mark Rothko are selling for record breaking sums, while the millions commanded by works by Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon make headline news. However, while the general public has no trouble embracing avant garde and experimental art, there is, by contrast, mass resistance to avant garde and experimental music, although both were born at the same time under similar circumstances – and despite the fact that from Schoenberg and Kandinsky onwards, musicians and artists have made repeated efforts to establish a „synaesthesia“ between their two media. Fear of Music examines the parallel histories of modern art and modern music and examines why one is embraced and understood and the other ignored, derided or regarded with bewilderment, as noisy, random nonsense perpetrated by, and listened to by the inexplicably crazed. It draws on interviews and often highly amusing anecdotal evidence in order to find answers to the question: Why do people get Rothko and not Stockhausen?

David Stubbs began working life as a freelance journalist in 1986, contributing to Melody Maker, whose staff he joined in 1987. As well as helping revive the music coverage of that weekly, alongside colleagues like Simon Reynolds, he became the author of the „Talk Talk Talk“ section, formerly the gossip pages, which he turned into a comedy/satirical section, in which he lampooned the various pop and rock stars of the day, from the highest to the lowest. He also created the vituperative along long-running Mr Agreeable character (who still makes the occasional appearance on The Quietus website), whose popularity was commemorated on t-shirts and souvenir mugs.

In the 1990s, Stubbs also wrote scripts for a young Alan Davies and Bill Bailey on the former’s Radio 1 show. He also wrote extensively for Goal, the football magazine – an essay of his on Eric Cantona appeared in the book The Pick Of The Season: The Best Of British Football Writing 1995-96. Moving to NME, he co-wrote the Thrills comedy page. Now freelance, his work has appeared in Arena, Uncut, The Wire, The Guardian, Spin, The Times, The Sunday Times, Men’s Health and football magazine When Saturday Comes among others.

David is an established zero Books author – his first volume was entitled Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen, which was the subject of an item on the Radio 4 Today Programme, an evening of lectures at the Tate Britain and a full-length piece in The Sunday Times.