This is a pretty slim volume and was apparently assembled from an original series of blog posts. There are several typo errors, and according to some reviewers, the odd factual inaccuracy. The book certainly is no academic thesis, it meanders around the author's interests at will, resulting in some facets of the subject matter being ignored, and others being given much more attention. But isn't it ever so? On the plus side, this means we get passionate musings on his chosen subjects. Stubbs charts the parallel histories of avant-garde art and music throughout the 20th Century and having been interested in both subjects for many years, I still felt I learned much from it. The detail on the Futurist movement seemed particularly to come alive.
The basic question in the book's subtitle is rarely addressed specifically, and the answer isn't that clear. Stubbs cites the massive popularity of the Tate Modern in contrast to a lack of a comparative equivalent in music. Well, yes, the Tate Modern does have a lot of visitors. But still, the vast majority of Britain's populace never step foot inside it? However, modern art is more ubiquitous than it's equivalent music. For example, Rothko calenders appear in card shops, but you're not likely to hear Stockhausen on their stereo.
Personally, I think the answer is to do with the senses. Seeing for example, Dali's 'Autumnal Cannibalism' or Botticelli's 'Venus' or (to keep with the book, some of Rothko's work) in the flesh is quite an experience. But on the whole, when you view visual art, you do so at your own will, and for as long or as little as you like. If you find something dull or disturbing, you can shut your eyes, look away, and move on to the next piece. Even a piece of art that you appreciate usually only gets between one and (at a push) five minutes of your attention.
Music is a different kettle of fish. To experience a piece of music, from start to finish is determined more by the composer and performers. Avant-garde music is very often purposefully, willfully and intrinsically at the fringes of being what is normally accepted to be listenable. The ears are a sensitive piece of apparatus, and people often don't have the patience or stamina to persevere through a full piece of challenging music. I must confess that much as I love a lot of John Coltrane's music, for example, I have to be in the right mood before I can listen to say 'Meditations', as it's a challenge, psychically speaking. Looking at a painting, however revolutionary, doesn't present the same kind of challenge. Like reading an uninspiring haiku, it's often a case of 'so what?' rather than feeling an assault on your senses which many challenging musical pieces can feel like. Whereas by comparison Rothko's work is pretty unobtrusive.
In terms of a wider audience becoming au fait with avant-garde music, it also doesn't help that the composers and cultural curators often have a fairly inaccessible front and/or an air of intellectual loftiness which can be very off-putting to the casual potential listener. A lot of Wire Magazine-approved music is highly conceptual. The problem is that you read about the concept, which can sound interesting, often fascinating, then the music itself can be a let-down. In any case, avant-garde music has a bad reputation with the general population.
However, maybe the crux of the matter is this: Music vs Art. For me music wins every time. Music has a truly transcendental quality to make an atheist feel exalted by a higher force. This power can work in the opposite direction too. Music can irk a listener to the point of horror/terror/physical nausea in a way that visual art struggles to get close to. As such, even the most out-there piece of visual art is less likely to offend someone's very being in the way that music can.
Whilst Stubbs doesn't particularly come up with any outstanding conclusions on the matter, the journey he takes us on throughout this short read is most interesting and written with enough wit and enthusiasm to inspire further investigation into the subject matter. You can easily read this book in one or two sittings and learn much from it. Highly recommended to anyone even vaguely interested in art and music.