RETHINKING MUSICAL MODERNISM
Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Department of Fine Arts and Music of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
RETHINKING MUSICAL MODERNISM
International musicological conference
Belgrade, 11–13 October 2007
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Jim Samson (London)
The paper will explore Modernism in music by way of discourses in both history and geography, and with a particular focus on the Balkans.
Recent revisions to our understanding of modernism will be placed within a dialectic of the ‘event’ (the transformative moment, foregrounding agency) and the kairos (the point of perfection, foregrounding structure). There are two opposing models of the dynamics of cultural history here, and they will be explored in the context of ideas from Badiou, Dahlhaus and Derrida. In the context of the former model I will invoke the category of nostalgia (Svetlana Boym), which I take to be a dependent of modernist innovation and more particularly a response to intervention and trauma. In the context of the latter model I will invoke the category of appropriation (Roger Chartier). In drawing a line between past and present, I argue, we create an autonomous present that chooses and then appropriates (rather than assimilates) its past. Some implications for historical musicology will be explored.
The categories of nostalgia and appropriation, explored under history, will then be examined in relation to placement and displacement, centres and peripheries, urban and rural ecologies. It will be argued here that modernism produced an unlikely alliance between an avant-garde and rural ‘folk’ music, at the expense of the more hybrid idioms of urban popular music. Both were ‘authentic’, in the sense that they were respectively innocent of, or wary of, the debasements of mercantile art. The implications for ethnomusicology, a discipline which (in its formative stages) found cultural hybridity deeply problematical, will be explored.
The Balkans provide an ideal laboratory for the scrutiny of these ideas. This territory is part of Europe but has been written out of its culture, and has indeed come to be viewed either as the dark (oriental) side of European consciousness, or as the emptiness at its heart; in other words, it has had to accept attributes of inferiority and backwardness in order to affirm European civilisation. This invites an exploration of European projects of modernity by way of Balkan alterities. But this can be turned round. It is not always recognized that we can only revise Modernism by also revising conservatism.
Melita Milin (Belgrade)
Musical Modernism in the “Agrarian Countries of South-Eastern Europe”: The Change of Function of Folklore in the 20th Century
The problem of introducing folk melodies into 20ty century modernist music was inherited from the previous century. It seems that western composers and musicologists were surprised at the survival of an interest in the fusion of the two musical cultures after Romanticism. They regarded the use of folk material mainly as a means of creating a specific atmosphere or incorporating colourful effects into music, while denying – with few exceptions – higher significance to those works, especially if they belonged to instrumental genres. The appearance of Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps, Bartók’s string quartets and Janáček’s late works demonstrated however that the new folklorism which they represented, had become a vital and stimulating part of modernist tendencies. Nevertheless, there were still strong oppositions to such an orientation, which was mainly viewed as an expression of the particularization of the universal – a reproach that had also often been made in the 19th century.
Theodor Adorno’s well-known foot-note in his Philosophy of New Music, which contains several interesting and provocative observations on “exterritorial” composers and using folk music “without shame” in their music, will be commented upon. The issue of the alienating potentiality of folklore and of its “critical” use was however completely out of sight for the majority of 20th century composers interested in using folk music in their works. This was certainly true of Serbian composers of the first half of the century, whose attitudes, and the possibility of placing them on the map of European modernism will be discussed in a short overview of the most representative composers: of Petar Konjović (1883–1971), Miloje Milojević (1884–1946), Stevan Hristić (1885–1958), and Josip Slavenski (1896–1955).
Maria Kostakeva (Essen)
Problems of Terminology and the Verbal Mediation of New Music
In this presentation some special problems of the new music terminology will be taken into consideration.
There was an attitude of protest against the old social and aesthetic norms concerning the vocabulary of the Music Avant-garde after the Second World War. Common descriptions, especially those like "kritisch komponieren" or "Verweigerung" from Lachenmann`s school continued the system of thinking of Theodor Adorno and Luigi Nono. However, today it is necessary to give the music terminology a new meaning and to reactivate it as an important means of explanation and mediation regarding recent times. There are some problems arising in this connection.
The first one is self-reflection as a descriptive category in the new music: this reflects the composer’s aim to explain his music to the listener and to make it more accessible in this way. By such verbal self-reflection most contemporary authors try simultaneously to discover and distinguish their place in the history of music. This self-reflection might be a potential danger, because it could exert influence on the public and affect the reception of the music by subjective estimation.
Another problem of music terminology in the contemporary epoch is the great multiplicity of aesthetic directions in the new music, demanding a specific apparatus of research. Compared to the previous epochs, in which musical grammar was unified, there is a specific kind of organization of each composer and of each work, which has to be described through suitable musical terms today. It is not possible to define, for example, a new sound through the influence of electronics and a new organization of the music after World War II by means of the classical analysis. The development of computer technology reflects further in acoustic music, where quasi electronic effects arise. All these hermeneutic problems have to be taken into consideration in my research.
Helmut Loos (Leipzig)
Paradigmenwechsel in der Musikwissenschaft: Vom Absoluten zum Konkreten
Die Deutschen sehen sich gern als "Volk der Dichter und Denker" und haben eine Musikwissenschaft als "Geisteswissenschaft" hervorgebracht, die historischen Fakten, solange sie sich nicht auf bedeutende Kunstwerke beziehen, eine bemerkenswerte Gleichgültigkeit entgegenbringt. Welche Bedeutung einer breit angelegten Repertoireforschung gerade auch für die Moderne zukommt, wird an einer Bestandsaufnahme, der Sichtung vorliegender Untersuchungen umrissen.
Meaning and Usage of the Term “Structure”
in Theoretical and “Musical” Structuralism
By examining the selected works and autopoetic texts of several distinguished representatives of the high modernism in music (above all, Pierre Boulez and Vladan Radovanović, but also Iannis Xenakis, Olivier Messiaen and others) I will try to give arguments for and against the ’structuralism in music’. I will start with a question which is not new, but it still provokes possible new answers: to what extent did the characteristics of the theoretical structuralism (developed in the French culture during the sixth and seventh decade of the 20th century) influence the composers of the time? Or, in other words, do ’structural’ procedures in high modernist music really serve as evidences of the musical ’structuralism’?
Hartmut Krones (Vienna)
Speech Compositions in the Music of the 20th Century Illustrated by Means of the Example Austria
Beside the early beginning of the Dadaism scene in the nineteen twenties and thirties, the connection respectively joining of language, voice and music mainly appeared in manifold ways in the vocal music of the sixties and seventies. Here you can find associative pieces, which simulate an action without semantic language (for example György Ligeti’s “Aventures” or Mauricio Kagel’s “sur scene”) as well as works, where sounds and materials merge and consciously achieve absurd effects (Kagel’s “Staatstheater” or Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Originale”) up to dadaistic conceptions, where the musical structures are built by permutations of language or especially composed asemantic texts and where gesture and theatricality access to the musical structure (Kagel’s “Anagrama” or Dieter Schnebel’s “Glossolalie”). Conversely there are several compositions, where the courses of speech and language form the music itself and so come to an autonomous structure based on compositional thinking like in Hans Otte’s “Alpha-Omega I” or in Dieter Schnebel’s “Dt 31 6”.
Until now no Austrian composer – except the adoptive Austrian György Ligety - was mentioned although Austrian composers surprised with new conceptions again and again. Already in the nineteen twenties Raoul Hausmann was one of the advanced representatives of speech compositions and Ernst Toch was an important combatant from the nineteen thirties on. Since 1965 the Viennes composers Gerhard Rühm and Otto M. Zykan as well as the adoptive Viennese Anestis Logothetis have enriched the musical scene with a wealth of new ideas, which enlarged the genre of speech composition and modern music theatre to a high extent. – The lecture will give a survey of these creations and point out the immanent musical structure of these works by means of selected examples.
Alastair Williams (Keele)
Modernism in Germany after 1968: Kagel, Rihm and Lachenmann
From 1946 to the mid-1960s, West Germany was an international centre for avant-gardism in music, offering it institutional support through festivals and radio stations. After the first post-war cultural phase, which lasted until about 1968, much of this infrastructure remained in place, but the discourses and practices of art music in Germany, as elsewhere, became more fragmented. With its strong socio-political resonances, I968 offers an interesting transitional point. It covers the end of the first wave of post-war experimentation, exemplified by Stockhausen, which in many ways tried to shut out the past. And yet, it also marks the start of a social shift that led to music in Germany becoming more historically reflective, as composers sought to write music that connected with this nation’s illustrious cultural past. This transformation, which affected many established composers, stemmed partly from frustration with a blinkered belief in the progress of technology and knowledge, and partly from a reaction against the previous generation’s disdain for tradition. The paper will consider Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig Van (1969), Helmut Lachenmann’s Staub (1985/87) and Wolfgang Rihm’s Neue Alexanderlieder: fünf Gedichte von Ernst Herbeck (1979).
Dragana Jeremić-Molnar and Aleksandar Molnar (Belgrade)
Echoes of Modernism in the Rock Music of the Late Sixties and Early Seventies.
The Influence of Karlheinz Stockhausen on the Early Works of
the German Group "Can"
Musical Modernism played a minor role in the development of so-called progressive rock’n’roll music during the second half of the sixties and the first half of the seventies. However small, this role deserves investigation. In their paper the authors pay attention to one of the most significant 20th century composers, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and his influence on his students, Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt, who in 1968 formed the group Can. This was often labeled as one of the leading “Kraut-rock” groups, but this label proved to be insufficient because of the group’s unique style, in which rock’n’roll substance was filled with various important ingredients. The influence of Karlheinz Stockhausen on the music composed, produced and played by the group Can will be investigated in their early works from the late sixties – Prehistoric Future: The Very First Session, Delay 1968, Canaxis 5: Studio Demo Tapes, Monster Movies – and early seventies – Soundtracks, Tago Mago, Ege Bamayasi and Future Days – as well as on original Holger Czukay’s solo album Canaxis 5. The authors will argue that Stockhausen’s students Czukay and Schmidt, although brought up in the Modernist music tradition, never succeeded in developing it thoroughly – in the direction of, say, Czukay’s solo work Canaxis 5 – because two other group members, coming from different musical traditions, had opposing ideas. Young beat-guitarist Michael Karoly secured the group’s orientation toward rock’n’roll, while drummer Jaki Liebzeit purposely broke away from free-jazz in order to explore new repetitive rhythm patterns, which soon became the most distinguished characteristic of Can's music.
Marija Masnikosa (Belgrade)
Radical (Modernist) Minimalism
between Neo-Аvant-Garde and Musical Postmodernism
Having been born into the family of American experimental musical, minimalism inherited a significant number of American post-war neo-avant-garde characteristics. Early minimalist works by La Monte Young, Riley and Glass retained the experimental character of pre-minimal experimental processes, their lack of direction, and unpredictability, but they lost the most important feature of American post–war neo-avant-garde: those works were purely musical, so they returned to the concept of modernist music autonomy.
American minimal music, composed before 1974, show a significant number of typical high-modernist features: composition "from the beginning", self-reference, a preoccupation with compositional technique, "single coding", neutrality of the chosen musical material, a rejection of any historical musical paradigm, lack of causality in the musical flow, non-hierarchical ordering, and the exclusion of any kind of personal expression.
Beside these modernist features, minimalist compositions anticipate and introduce several postmodern musical characteristics. Those anticipating the "transgresive" values of minimalism can be seen in its anti-narrative, in its "vertical" (musical) time’, in its emphasis of the musical surface, in its lack of structural depth, and, finally, in the undoubtedly postmodernist "birth of the listener".
The fact that American minimalism (as the last neo-avant-garde musical movement in the twentieth century) contains and specifically reconciles the features of postwar American neo-avant-garde, European late modernism, and even musical postmodernism, makes this trend a historical turning point in the musical history of the late twentieth century. American musical minimalism was a real “apogee of modernism“, and a “paradigm shift toward postmodern practices“, as Hal Foster noted about minimalism in visual arts.
Max Paddison (Durham)
Centres and Margins:
Shifting Grounds in the Conceptualization of Modernism
This paper is a consideration of problems of periodization and conceptualization of modernism, with a particular emphasis on peripheries, drawing on critical theory and post-colonial theory. It examines notions of modernism and the avant-garde both in relation to centres of European modernism and their dominant paradigms of what it is to be ‘modern’, and also in relation to the peripheries of the ‘modernist project’ – those areas which, for historical, cultural and economic reasons, came late to the process of modernisation. On the one hand the dominant concepts of modernism are examined and their interconnectedness is explored, especially in relation to key urban centres like Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Key ideas here are the relation to the past (rejection, but continuation by other means), and notions of the future (as the unforeseen, the ideal of the ‘not yet known’). On the other hand, concepts of nationalism and the defining and redefining of national identities are brought to bear on such central notions of modernism, while at the same time comparing them with the European ‘peripheries’ - the recovery and reinvention of traditions and the conflicting cultural need for the critical practices associated with modernism and the avant-garde. The kinds of conflicts which result, moving between centres and peripheries, provide the conceptual focus of this paper. Distinctions are made between concepts of aesthetic modernism (which are multiple, but united in their relation to the shared problem of cultural fragmentation), and the process of socio-economic modernisation (which creates the shared context within which aesthetic modernism exists, together with the various avant-garde movements which have emerged in response to it).
Katarina Tomašević (Belgrade)
Musical Modernism at the “Periphery”? Serbian Music in the First Half of the 20th Century
The term “musical modernism“ is not broadly accepted in the practice of the Serbian music historiography. Considered from the position of the style, the music of the first generation of Serbian „modern“ composers was classified in the frames of the late or – Neo-Romanticism; the elements of Impressionism or Expressionism were interpreted as the symptoms of the “progress“ towards contemporary western “styles“. On the other hand, the music of the second generation of Serbian composers of the XXth century (born around 1910) was defined both in the terms of Expressionism and of Avant–garde.
What were the main centers from which the impulses for the “new“ and “modern“ came into Serbian music? What were the paths of the reception of the “modern music“ in Serbia? What is the relationship between the “new“ music(s) in Serbia and the “new music(s)“ in contemporary (Western, Central) Europe? All these questions will be partly discussed in this paper which's main aim is to reconstruct the map of the most significant centres of “influences“ to the Serbian music in the first half of the XXth century.
Biljana Milanović (Belgrade)
Orientalism, Balkanism and Modernism in Serbian Music
of the First Half of 20th century
Text shows critical attitudes towards debates on Orientalism and Balkanism and then deals with effects of these discourses in the context of Serbian music of the first half of 20th century. Internalization of Western images on the Balkans and various creative reactions on sterotypes in respect to this region are directly related to the constructions of Serbian music identities as well as to the antagonisms which denote them. Their critical observation indicates unsteadiness and relativity of «symbolic geography» and can contribute to better understanding of borders and spaces in different positioning of «centre» and «periphery».
Jarmila Gabrielová (Prague)
Vítězslav Novák (1870–1949) – a Central Figure in Czech Musical Modernism
Vítězslav Novák (5. 12. 1870 Kamenice nad Lipou – 18. 7. 1949 Skuteč) was one of the most influential and well-respected Czech composers and pedagogues of his time. His work – now largely neglected and almost forgotten – was once considered a paradigm of Czech musical modernism. In my paper, I want to discuss Novák’s major instrumental compositions of 1900–1912, among them his symphonic poems V Tatrách [In the Tatra Mountains], O věčné touze [Eternal Longing], Toman a lesní panna [Toman and the Wood Nymph], and Pan, and then concentrate on his top work of that period, i.e. on his monumental symphony-cantata Bouře [The Storm] of 1910.
Nadežda Mosusova (Belgrade)
Modernism in Serbian/Yugoslav Music between two World Wars
Three “crucial” composers of Serbian modernism Petar Konjovich, Miloje Milojevich and Stevan Hristich were leading personalities of interwar times in former Yugoslavia. Deeply interested in the live musical tradition of their land, they tried and succeeded in bringing together in a modern way the rich folk heritage of Serbia and Balkans with their own esthetics.
Roksanda Pejović (Belgrade)
Mihailo Vukdragović and his Attitude towards
Contemporary Music (1920-1980)
have tried to examine Mihailo Vukdragović’s (1900-1986) view of modernism, in an interval of sixty years, from 1920, when he started writing about music, until 1980. The majority of Belgrade musicians who continued to write reviews and articles after World War II held similar views and most of the younger ones, who appeared immediately after the liberation, had a fairly similar attitude – they accepted works that were valuable in themselves, both contemporary and modern, while some of them did not make a distinction between contemporary and modern productions and even referred to the works of one composer as both contemporary and modern.
Vukdragović’s observations on contemporary music can be found in his reviews through which he followed Belgrade music life, so that the selection of compositions he wrote about depended on the ones performed in Belgrade in the 1960s. The list of his contemporaries is long and it started with composers of an impressionistic stylistic orientation. He was one of the most conservative Serbian musicians. He persistently struggled against avant-gardism and publicly expressed his dissatisfaction at concerts, by storming out of concert halls during the performances of compositions of extreme orientations. It seems unnecessary to point out that he was excessively intolerant.
Aikaterini Romanou (Athens)
Disentangling links between 20th century modernism and politics
Essence and conclusion of this text is the power on music of politics and political propaganda.
The writer examines how postwar [Wars I and II] modern movements and tendencies have been presented in the European musical press during three phases of European history, distinguished by a different balance and imbalance of international powers. She observes how aesthetic (and even technical) terms alter slickly their meaning in order to serve conflicting ideologies. She comments on the shortage of expressions in propaganda, resulting to the existence of identical texts in support of opposite missions (such as the protection of Germany from Judaism, of the West from Communism, of the Soviet Union from Capitalism) and of identical descriptions of different musical styles.
Finally, the writer tries to conceive the degree and the ways (through reaction, through persuasion, through its formative capacity) political propaganda has affected music itself, the reception of modernistic movements by musical society, and their presentation in music historiography.
Ivana Medić (Manchester–Belgrade)
Moderated Modernism in Russian Music in the Context of
the Cold War
The main premise of this paper draws on Danielle Fosler-Lussier's notion that the Cold War drew artists and administrators into parallel circumstances and beliefs through processes of negation. She uses the analogy with the mathematical operation “multiplication by minus one” to describe the phenomenon that Western values, so vehemently opposed in the East, were at the same time maintained through this very opposition. I shall analyze here the role of so-called 'moderate(d) modernism' in the context of the Cold War divide. Moderated modernism is characterized by the artists' desire to make peace between modern and traditional and between regional and international, and to approach the dominant courses of international modernism but without exploring its most radical variants. Although this type of musical discourse can be identified in various periods before and after the Second World War, throughout Europe, my aim is to focus on Soviet (and more specifically, Russian) music after the 1953 “Thaw”, and try to identify the political and artistic ideologies that influenced the music criticism and historiography of the time.
Vesna Mikić (Belgrade)
Aspects of (Moderate) Modernism in Serbian Music After WW II
The paper starts with the assumption that Serbian artistic music of the 1950s reflects the same ideological and creative features as other artistic fields in Serbia of that time, which are usually labelled "moderately modern". Although the notion of moderate modernism has been used in Serbian musicology, its actual relation to the notions of various neo- styles, more usually applied, has never been considered. Thus, various terms such as socialist aesthetism, moderate modernism, or socialist modernism will be considered. However, the central issue of this paper will be some pieces by the composers of Prague group. Although it is more than expected that some of their neoclassical pieces would fully adapt to the model of moderate modernism, the question remains in what ways, and whether some of their so-called neo-romantic or neo-expressionistic pieces, also connected to the notions of the regressive or progressive, establish moderate modernism, which without doubt remains as the favorite composer “getaway”. A further question is whether the introduction of the concept of moderate modernism could solve the confusion regarding the importance and the achievement of the pieces that belong to the various neo-trends of the Serbian music of the 1950s.
Mirjana Veselinović-Hofman (Belgrade)
Revisiting the Serbian Musical Avant-garde: Aspects of the Change of Reception and of the Keeping History “Under Control”
In the course of the 1960s and the 1970s, a number of compositions were created in Serbian music, which bear the sense of its avant-garde novelties. However, these compositions do not have the sense of avant-garde novelties at the level of European music, as a whole. Within it, they were not seen as avant-garde according to any features typical of the nature and kind of effect of an avant-garde event. But they were seen as artistic results that essentially belonged to the field of the most current compositional tendencies, projects and procedures of that time, thus being part of a geographically and culturally wider circle of the European avant-garde core.
For those reasons, these compositions were elaborated in our musicology as examples of the avant-garde of the “local type”, back at the beginning of the 1980s and evaluated as highly consistent works through which Serbian music accomplished its significant avant-garde breakthroughs.
Nearly three decades of life that have unfolded since then, in an era that is quite different in many of its aspects, not only in the context of the Institution of Art in Serbia but almost everywhere, have naturally impacted on the reception of these works. Those decades also brought about some individual reactions: quite predictably, some composers have tried to modify the musicological reception of their own creative output in concordance with their own desires. So, they have attempted to shape this reception in various ways and to keep it under their own control.
In this text, we shall deal with these two 'traces' of the change in the musicological reception of the Serbian musical avant-garde. One 'trace' shows an essentially natural and hence a permanent process and the other one reveals a symptomatic, above all, ideologically and psychologically generated author’s “surplus” of his concern about securing his own (desired) position within the history of Serbian music.
Leon Stefanija (Ljubljana)
Calibrating Modernisms: the Idea(l)s of Musical Autonomy
in Slovenian Contemporary Music
Accepting the broad perspective of modernity as an »unfinished project« (J. Habermas) as a necessity of a musical culture in which appearances are being continuously transformed, one of the central questions of musical modernism, the question of musical autonomy, will be addressed as a musicological concept. Three musical poetics will be compared – those by Lojze Lebič, Uroš Rojko and Marko Mihevc – with one goal in mind: to offer the specific level of autonomy in music as a notion regarding its central antinomy revealing modernism as a concept stretched between the ideas of »progress«, »authenticity« and its denial in the ideals of long-lasting quality. In other words, beside the premise centred in the opposition historical-transhistorical and the philosophy of »purified« aesth/ethical stance, modernism, as understood by the mentioned composers, reveals itself as a rather subjective set of imagery, longing for ideal language whilst, at the same time, wavering between irreconcilable goals of quality and otherness.
The Tradition of Opera and New Works for the Musical Stage by Young Serbian Composers
In the last few years, several music theatrical works appearing on the Serbian music stage have had a significant impact on the traditional opera genre, both formally and in terms of their content. More specifically, Narcissus and Echo by Aleksandra-Anja Đorđević, Tesla: the Total Reflection by a group of composers, Mozart, Luster, Lustig by Irena Popović and The Land of Happiness by Vladimir Pejković, represent a novelty that has long been awaited. Even if innovative productions of classical operas had previously existed, these new works all reveal some significant new tendencies existing in the creative activity i.e. their (by no means) accidental, if belated appearance, within the context of the wider European musical scene. The fact that their composers mainly belong to a younger generation of Serbian composers also speaks of their connection with current European streams and the breakthrough of a new, brave concept of opera into the fossilized understanding of this genre in Serbia.
If we agree that the turning point in the modern development of opera was the production of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass, and if we accept this as a reference, the aforementioned works are clearly connected to Glass's basic innovative technique and that of his director, coauthor Robert Wilson. Primarily it is the lack of narration that dictates the specific attitude towards the musical score. The work becomes fragmentary, made up of a series of separate numbers, which are but distant replicas of the traditional elements of the opera form: arias, ensembles, and ballet scenes. A typical postmodern deconstruction of the genre takes place in front of the spectator, as it is exposed, and then decomposed into its constituent pieces, while the mechanism of a theatrical act revealed. Opera is being democratized. It is no longer an upper class, exclusive art, but rather an art form that incorporates popular entertainment such as a fashion show or rock-concert. On the other hand, it is a sign of the wish to communicate, which contemporary music has long gone lost. So, in what way and to what extent are young Serbian composers willing to meet the demands of the new musical stage? That is the question that I will try to find an answer to in this paper.
Jonathan Cross (Oxford)
Paradise Lost: Neoclassicism and the Melancholia of Modernism
The late-modern subject is characterised by a sense of alienation from the past. (This is what distinguishes it from the post-modern subject.) This manifests itself in a profoundly melancholic nostalgia, an ultimately fruitless yearning for a return to a (paradisiacal) lost past. Schoenberg’s uneasy relationship between past and present (between ‘tradition’ and the ‘new’) is clearly to be heard in many of the works of his atonal period, from the Three Piano Pieces Op. 11 to Pierrot lunaire. But in Stravinsky’s neoclassical works, too, the unbridgeable chasm between the past and the fragmented reality of the present is realised as a deep conflict between the expectations of old musical forms and the priorities of the new avant-garde. Despite their playful surface, these works are not mere (post-modern) play or pastiche, but melancholic expressions of the late-modern condition. Using Stravinsky’s Symphony in C (1938–40) and Orpheus (1947) as exemplars, this paper proposes a new version of the story of twentieth-century modernism seen from the perspective of the alienated subject. It is a theme that weaves its way across the entire century, from Mahler to Birtwistle.
László Vikárius (Budapest)
A novarum rerum cupidus in Search of Tradition: Béla Bartók’s Attitude towards Modernism
„“My music is not modern at all.” This is what Bartók stated in a well-known letter in 1924, a composer who, one and a half decades earlier, was self-confident enough to sign a letter as an “ultra-hyper-neo-impressio-secessionist, the musician of Tomorrow, who is an opponent of today’s public but whose music should be listened to not only according to Roman Law but also because the Law of Art demands it.” In fact, Bartók remained desirous after novelty in almost all his life. It is so characteristic of him that some analysts have tended to find weakness in his continuing interest in new music.
The paper will discuss Bartók’s changing attitude towards “modernism” as well as the deeper roots of his ideas about tradition and his search for novelty—the former more in harmony while the latter more in opposition to his friend Zoltán Kodály, who wrote some of the most revealing passages describing Bartók, including the phrase novarum rerum cupidus. As Kodály’s 125th anniversary is being celebrated this year, an attempt at a comparison of their different approach might be apposite.
Vlastimir Trajković (Belgrade)
Thinking the Rethinking (the Notion?)
of Modernity in Music
Scientific theories are retractable, while stylistic categories are subject to sporadic reinterpretations. Hence follows a discussion on circumstances which nowadays render the notion of musical modernity particularly susceptible of a reinterpretation. The very notion of modernity has never been defined in a satisfactory way. Itself it refers rather to a loose concept based on an arbitrary consensus than to a phenomenon observable from a theoretical standpoint. A hypothesis is established which tells that, out of many stylistic paradigms intrinsically reffering to musical poetics of their own and characterizing artistic attitudes in recent epochs, it is not necessarily the most promising syndrome which wins the evolutionary process for the subsequent future. Musical legacies of Debussy and Schoenberg are brought into focus. Particular aesthetics and an insight into the musical structure inherent to oeuvre of the two composers have been considered as characteristic enough of the two main antagonistic and objectively competitive musical approaches, evaluated in a way through activity of the next generations of composers – if not wholesomely, then implicitly. That is, from a strictly historical point of view, their predilections might be indicative of a status of an intrinsic, would be modernistic relevance of the two mentioned approaches. The notorious controversy Schoenberg / Stravinsky has been replaced by a more indicative one, which is, by the controversy Debussy / Schoenberg. An attempt has been made (1) to answer whether an evaluation of the past would be legitimate at all and (2) to put the whole question of historical rethinking music in a context of a basic legitimacy of rethinking the corresponding course of history „in general“, and, very much so, not only as considers nature of correspondences between „the two“ parallel courses of historical strata and developments, but also as regards the process of evaluation, inevitably implied by putting the said question in such a context of postulated theoretical legitimacy.