Music After the Fall

Modern Composition and Culture Since 1989


To be published by University of California Press.

Due date: February 2017

To purchase, request an exam copy, or find more information, please visit University of California Press.

“Tim Rutherford-Johnson is probably the most authoritative international chronicler of the composed music of our time, and in this book he manages the near-impossible feat of mapping a field that is changing by the day. He is a rigorous thinker, yet he avoids dogma and shows unexpected sympathies. What results is an indispensable work of intellectual passion.” – Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise and Listen to This

Table of contents

  1. 1989 and After
  2. Mediation and the Marketplace
  3. Permission: Freedom, Choice, and the Body
  4. Fluidity: Digital Translations, Displacements, and Journeys
  5. Mobility: Worldwide Flows, Networks, and Archipelagos
  6. Superabundance: Spectacle, Scale, and Excess
  7. Loss: Ruins, Memorials, and Documents
  8. Recovery: Gaps between Past and Present

Appendix 1: Recommended Listening

Appendix 2: Recommended Reading

“It’s a sign that a book is a conversation changer when that book creates a need for its own existence. Music after the Fall is just such a radical rewriting of what we might require from a historical analysis of new music, taking an ecological approach that accounts for race, gender, technologies, and institutional and socioeconomic forces. A compelling and exhilarating read.”—Liza Lim, Professor of Composition, University of Huddersfield


By the start of the 21st century many of the foundations of postwar culture had disappeared: Europe had been rebuilt and, as the EU, had become one of the world’s largest economies; the United States’ claim to global dominance was threatened; and the postwar social democratic consensus was being replaced by market-led neoliberalism. Most importantly of all, the Cold War was over, and the World Wide Web had been born.

Figure 19 steen-andersen RESEND

Music After the Fall considers contemporary musical composition against this changed backdrop, placing it in the context of globalization, digitization, and new media. Drawing on theories from the other arts, in particular art and architecture, it expands the definition of Western art music to include forms of composition, experimental music, sound art, and crossover work from across the spectrum, inside and beyond the concert hall.

ARS ELECTRONICA 2008; A NEW CULTURAL ECONOMY: Sonorous Embodiment – Grosse Konzertnacht; Brucknerhaus – Pamela Z: voice and electronics. Foto: rubra

Each chapter critically considers a wide range of composers, performers, works, and institutions to build up a broad and rich picture of the new music ecosystem, from North American string quartets to Lebanese improvisers, from electroacoustic music studios in South America to ruined pianos in the Australian outback. A new approach to the study of contemporary music is developed that relies less on taxonomies of style and technique, and more on the comparison of different responses to common themes, among them permission, fluidity, excess, and loss.

“Studded as it is with just insights, Rutherford-Johnson’s book is even more remarkable—and valuable—for the perspectives it offers on the period since the climacteric of 1989. Here are some new tools for thinking, rethinking, and thinking on.”—Paul Griffiths, author of Modern Music and After

Figure 28 ikeda

See here for more press and online reviews.