Modern vs Postmoden Music

Started by vers la flamme, July 24, 2023, 03:10:11 PM

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To be honest, i'm not entirely sure i ever understood in what way post-modernism is actually an "evolution" of modernism. 

As far as i understanding it, the problem for Wagner and his bygones was that of attempting to escape the limits of form, in what seemed to be a kind of rebellion against the rationalism and formalism of the Enlightment. Reason having been deemed to be too limiting and restritive, "inspiration" was then set up as its antagonist, even though at times what was called inpiration was merely just irrationalisnm.

Modernism, as far as i understand it, was merely the process of codifying this notion of having to escape the limits of form into its own formal principle, and i think the problem eventually was reduced to the question of variation. Since every pattern, even the most rarified, could be seen as being a "form", repetition was deemed to be the root of the problem, hence the development of twelve-tone technique and ultimately serialism which one might call a kind "absolute" variation.

Sadly i don't have it with me but years ago i remember reading an article referencing Schoenberg specifically talking about variation in his own words, and i think this was what Schoenberg had in mind when he referred to Brahms as a "progressive", because Brahms too was actually concerned with variation, even if he rejected the musical direction undertook by Wagner.

So what is post-modernism exactly? According to wikipedia, it is a movement characterized by skepticism towards the "grand narratives" of modernism, which i'm not sure how that relates to the music of Anton Webern if we for instance set up him up as the final word of "modernism" in this particular field. Post-modernism rejects the "epistemic certainty or the stability of meaning" and "claims to objectivity are dismissed as naïve realism".

I honestly cannot think of a lot of post-Webern composers that fit this description aside for someone like John Cage. Basically, post-modernism doesn't "move" away from modernism, it basically declares everything modernism believed was pointless. Is Ligeti post-modern? I don't see how. He was certainly post-Werbern but only in the sense he came after and was attempting to find new ways to go from where Webern had ended, which means Ligeti still considering the aims and "narratives" of modernity to have been "meaningful".


@vers la flamme One thing I forgot yesterday. While as far as I know no one disputes the existence of modernism in the sense I defined it (serialism to various degrees really, break music down to its elements, create a system to put it all back together), postmodernism is a much more disputed concept, and arguably it refers to nothing - just invented by academics who were desperate to justify the rejection revolutionary politics by declaring that "grand narratives" are an illusion. The locus classicus is Alex Callinicos,  Against Postmodernism.

Stylistic eclecticism has been around for ever - think of Berio's Sinfonia, Bach's Clavier Übung III.

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