This chapter explores the limitations of the idea of ‘contemporary music’. After discussing recent critiques of the ‘contemporary’, it turns to an early episode in its history, examining how the notion functioned in relation to the challenges faced by the International Society for Contemporary Music from the early 1920s until the mid-1940s. I argue that there is a structural similarity between the problems associated with the ‘contemporary’ and those associated with the notion of the ‘international’, and that during the inter-war period, the category of the ‘contemporary’ in music was made to lend its chimera of neutrality to the politics of internationalism.