Glenn Gould on the music of the twentieth century

"No matter how little interest there may be in the more significant developments of music in our time, I think there is little doubt that there are some areas in which the vocabulary of atonality—using this term now in a collective sense—has made quite an unobjectionable contribution to contemporary life. It has done this particularly in media in which music furnishes but a part—operas, to a degree (if you can consider styling Alban Berg's Wozzeck a "hit"), but most particularly in that curious specialty of the twentieth century known as background music for cinema or television. If you really stop to listen to the music accompanying most of the grade-B horror movies that are coming out of Hollywood these days, or perhaps a TV show on space travel for children, you will be absolutely amazed at the amount of integration which the various idioms of atonality have undergone in these media. When this background music creeps up on us subliminally, as it were, we seem to accept the devices of a dissonant vocabulary as being perfectly comprehensible. It is rather frightening, though, to realize that the integration of dissonance, from which all of this new music of our day has emanated, has assumed a character in the minds of many people which is satisfactory only for displaying the fundamental beastliness of the human animal and which tends to be dismissed when it attempts to lead a life of its own, a life which is capable of as wide a variety of emotional impact as that of any other musical style.

However, composers are on the whole an incredibly persuasive lot, and one can be reasonably confident that, in the end, good relations between composer and audience can be restored. It may even be that these various forms of integration in which the references of atonality have so far achieved some success—the horror movie, the science fiction space travel epic, may provide to a degree the necessary common bond. Not that I would wish to perpetuate horror movies, and not that space travel may have much to do with Serialism, but I suspect that the cliché nature of these devices in the public character of this atonal vocabulary, and that it will, for our own strange, twisted times, provide something of the same sort of public reference that the Lutheran chorale provided in the church services of Northern Europe in the late sixteenth century. There is no question that the Lutheran choral acquainted many hostile parishioners with the strange new organization which was to become known as tonality, and I have a suspicion that the Adventures of Captain Stratosphere and all other such lunacies that hold us, and particularly our young, captive these days will have some significant part in making a rapprochement between a hostile public and the music of our time."

— Glenn Gould in "Arnold Schoenberg: A Perspective"