What does it mean to talk about musical coherence at the end of a century characterised by fragmentation and discontinuity?
How can the diverse influences which stand behind the works of many late twentieth-century composers be reconciled with the
singular immediacy of the experiences that they can create? How might an awareness of the distinctive ways in which these
experiences are generated and controlled affect the way we listen to, reflect upon and write about this music? Mark Hutchinson
outlines a novel concept of coherence within Western art music from the 1980s to the turn of the millennium as a means of
understanding the work of a number of contemporary composers, including Thomas Ades, Kaija Saariaho, To ru Takemitsu and Gyoergy
Kurtag, whose music cannot be fitted easily into a particular compositional school or analytical framework. Coherence is understood
as a multi-layered phenomenon experienced, above all, in the act of listening, but reliant upon a variety of other aspects
of musical experience, including compositional statements, analysis, and connections of aesthetic, as well as listeners' own,
imaginative conceptualisations. Accordingly, the approach taken here is similarly multi-faceted: close analytical readings
of a number of specific works are combined with insights drawn from philosophy and aesthetics, music perception, and critical
theory, with a particular openness to novel metaphorical presentations of basic musical ideas about form, language and time.