Follow the path of a river from high in the air, and see the twists and turns it takes. One would think the powerful force of moving water would create straight lines from the mountains to the sea. But nature has other ideas.
The serpentine river of music history also moves in mysterious ways. How did plainchant morph into Renaissance polyphony, which morphed into amazing Baroque fugues, which morphed into Classical homophonic elegance, which morphed into Romantic dramatic, chromatic sprawl, which morphed into two parallel courses: 12-tone and neo-classical, which morphed into minimalism and Neo-Romanticism, which continues to morph every year?
How could the stunning complexity of Bach's writing appear at the early time it did, only to be followed by many generations of simpler styles? And then a new serial complexity appears hundreds of years later, but without the tonal logic or melodic beauty of the Baroque.
And what about today? Many contemporary composers seem to work from a self-imposed set of rules. No repetition. No tonality. Only repetition. Only tonal. They seem to feel the necessity to strait jacket their writing and call the constricted results their "voice" or "style."
This self-limiting attitude is why the 12-tone system was a dead-end road. It rejected so many basic elements of music that it didn't sound or feel like music. It came off to most listeners as a dry science experiment. Happily, the experiment ended and new, historically-grounded compositional techniques became the norm.
The composers that intrigue me are less concerned with being cutting-edge and highly stylized. Their music is...musical; drawing on everything that has come before it, and maybe some techniques created in the moment.
There is amazing music being written today that is fresh, communicative, and beautiful.
But will there ever be another J.S.B.?