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The astonishing omission of Bartók - inadvertent, but justified by the editor ex post facto - from the recent Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music prompts reflection on why Bartók is such an indispensable figure in any adequate account of the music of this time - and after. All the more indispensable has he become, paradoxically enough, now that musicology is at last turning away from the “poetic fallacy,” according to which composers are the only historically significant agents in music history,, and giving due weight to meditation and reception. To imagine “Life without Bartók” will be among this paper's thought experiments. Another, perhaps inevitably, will be a comparison of Bartók and Stravinsky,, not only as composers but also as forces in cultural life, both in their time and in ours.