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The Music Room => General Classical Music Discussion => Topic started by: Mandryka on April 07, 2019, 02:38:03 AM

Title: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 07, 2019, 02:38:03 AM
I've started to read Judy Locchead and Joseph Auner, Postmodern Music and Postmodern Thought, (Routledge 2002), and so I thought I'd create a thread to where people can share thoughts and questions about this topic.

The first thing I note is that the book is now rather old, so references to more recent ideas would be appreciated.

(https://cdn.waterstones.com/bookjackets/large/9780/8153/9780815338192.jpg)
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 07, 2019, 02:41:01 AM
And I'll first note that one possible aspect of postmodernism is to challenge the idea that a piece of music should exhibit unity and coherence, to show it as a value imposed by a culture rather than anything essential. Here's a purported example (though it doesn't seem to be as incoherent as all that to me . . . see what you think.) Jon Zorn's Forbidden Fruit.

http://www.youtube.com/v/RzONZYE8voo

And here's another one, William Bolcom's Third Symphony

https://www.youtube.com/v/36IQGuN-D-w

Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: amw on April 07, 2019, 02:54:47 AM
I mean that idea all more or less goes back to this
https://www.youtube.com/v/JPde80v-af0

but arguably all of the music we usually categorise as the "second wave of modernism" in Darmstadt etc from the 40s on is postmodern, depending obviously on how one views the definition.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 07, 2019, 04:29:22 AM
Of the three piece we now have around for discussion, the Zorn seems to me the most interesting because it's the most pluralistic, and yet the music flows. I like it very much -- it's my discovery of the day!

Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 07, 2019, 12:38:17 PM
So pursuing the idea that pluralism is a criterion (in Wittgenstein's sense -- something like X is a criterion for y iff x is necessarily good evidence for y) of postmodernist music, here's George Crumb's Makrokosmos III, which creates a collage which apparently randomly juxtaposes tonal, atonal, noise, vocal grunts and squeaks etc. Is it fragmentary, or is there a unifying idea?

https://www.youtube.com/v/Et8pUMm0VE8

One thing I like is the thought that postmodernist music is egalitarian, refusing to rank for value different styles, or indeed times (the past (in quotation)  is just as real as the present.) This is an idea which I think you get in the Nouveau Roman too -- which is a nice.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mirror Image on April 07, 2019, 03:03:09 PM
For me, this is a Postmodernist classic:

https://www.youtube.com/v/lO2NB8LJu_s

But also this:

https://www.youtube.com/v/l2OQbA3r78M
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: arpeggio on April 07, 2019, 05:20:15 PM
At one time I thought I knew what post-modern music was.

Then I started participating in various classical music discussion groups.

Now I have no idea what it means.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 07, 2019, 08:16:12 PM
For me, this is a Postmodernist classic:

https://www.youtube.com/v/lO2NB8LJu_s

But also this:

https://www.youtube.com/v/l2OQbA3r78M

Ah yes but you know, you’re not playing the game, you’ve got to say why they’re postmodern! Otherwise a thread like this will just end up a rag bag of YouTubes and no one will be any the clearer.


Now I have no idea what it means.

Well there’s an idea for a necessary condition on the table: music that’s a collage of disparate styles.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mirror Image on April 08, 2019, 06:44:53 AM
Ah yes but you know, you’re not playing the game, you’ve got to say why they’re postmodern! Otherwise a thread like this will just end up a rag bag of YouTubes and no one will be any the clearer.

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure what exactly makes these works from Ligeti and Xenakis ‘Postmodern’ since I lack the musical training to explain how they’re achieving their sounds. Based on what I hear, however, I get a feeling that the music is outside of the idea of early Modernism, which is was a movement made up of such composers as Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg (and The Second Viennese School), Stravinsky, among many others. Xenakis and Ligeti sound nothing like any of these composers obviously, but you can tell that their music goes beyond the confides of harmony or any kind of strict compositional method. But, then again, I may just be sounding like a fool, so that’s a very high probability as well. ;D
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 08, 2019, 10:20:19 AM
Well, to be honest, I’m not sure what exactly makes these works from Ligeti and Xenakis ‘Postmodern’ since I lack the musical training to explain how they’re achieving their sounds. Based on what I hear, however, I get a feeling that the music is outside of the idea of early Modernism, which is was a movement made up of such composers as Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg (and The Second Viennese School), Stravinsky, among many others. Xenakis and Ligeti sound nothing like any of these composers obviously, but you can tell that their music goes beyond the confides of harmony or any kind of strict compositional method.

Sure I can see that, and you could try and say that post modernist music is anything that comes after modernism.

The word is often used in other fields, literature and architecture, and I just wonder whether there are any common traits. So for example I remember when this building shot up in Southwark, I walked past it with a friend and we both saw it as an example of postmodern architecture, with its quotation from earlier styles, without parody.

(https://static.dezeen.com/uploads/2018/05/postmodern-listings-architecture-news-uk-sq-8-852x852.jpg)
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 08, 2019, 10:33:22 AM
https://www.youtube.com/v/7n_HKbyeVbE

In the mid 1970s George Rochberg was writing music which juxtaposed past styles, as far as I know without direct or modified quotation, and to my ears he's achieved a sense of unity I think, at least in this quartet. I think I can hear sounds inspired by Romantic Beethoven, Bartok, maybe even the occasional brief glimpse of atonality.

He says something which strikes me as absolutely the thought behind that building in Southwark

Quote from: George Rochberg "On The Third String Quartet" 1982, reprinted in W. Bolcom, The Aesthetics of Survival (Michigan 1984)
Pluralism, as I understand it, does not mean a simplistic array of different things somehow stuck together in an arbitrary fashion but a way of seeing new possibilities of relationships; of discovering and uncovering hidden connections and working with them structurally; of joining antipodes without boiling out their tensions . .  .

He's not shy of big ideas, Rochberg, either

Quote
The twentieth century has pointed to a world of new mixtures and combinations of everything we have inherited from the past  . . . replete with juxtapositions of opposites (or seeming opposites) and contraries.


and he wants to find a way in his music to give us

Quote
a momentary insight into how it is possible to resolve the chaos of existence.

Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Ghost of Baron Scarpia on April 08, 2019, 11:13:51 AM
As I understand it, post-modernism is a reaction to the designation "modern," which was an act of pure arrogance in that it seemed to take for granted that "we've arrived, this is it, we've figured it out." Everything from now on is just modern. Post-modernism is the recognition that "modernism" was just the last in a string of silly fads that has overtaken human culture.

I would say that stuff like Schoenberg's self-conscious serialism is the epitome of modernism and the neo-classical, neo-baroque, neo-romantic stuff that followed was post-modern.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 08, 2019, 11:21:57 AM
As I understand it, post-modernism is a reaction to the designation "modern," which was an act of pure arrogance in that it seemed to take for granted that "we've arrived, this is it, we've figured it out." Everything from now on is just modern. Post-modernism is the recognition that "modernism" was just the last in a string of silly fads that has overtaken human culture.

I would say that stuff like Schoenberg's self-conscious serialism is the epitome of modernism and the neo-classical, neo-baroque, neo-romantic stuff that followed was post-modern.

I think that many people who consider themselves postmodern don't see any justification for the idea that certain musical styles are leading edge and others are trailing behind, there is no avant garde, all styles are equal and fair game for the composer.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Ghost of Baron Scarpia on April 08, 2019, 11:27:16 AM
I think that many people who consider themselves postmodern don't see any justification for the idea that certain musical styles are leading edge and others are trailing behind, there is no avant garde, all styles are equal and fair game for the composer.

I don't know if I go that far. If you are an artist with ambition you probably want to do something new, not just recreate the style of Brahms, or whoever. But the model is not a "leading edge" going in a certain direction. (I.e., Mozart->Beethoven->Schumann->Brahms->Bruckner->Mahler, bigger and bigger scale, more and more dissonance.) Undiscovered territory can be found by going in any direction For example, the Bacewicz piece I recently listened to, Concerto for Strings, a sort of Baroque concerto grosso with modern harmony.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 09, 2019, 04:24:57 AM
Undiscovered territory can be found by going in any direction .

That's a very postmodern thought, I agree. Rochberg wrote this, which I find quite striking

Quote from: George Rochberg in "No Center" (1969) reprinted in William Bolcom (ed) Aesthetics of Survival (Michigan 1984)
I stand in a circle of time, not a line. 360 degrees of past, present and future. All around me. I can look in any direction I want. Bella Vista.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Ghost of Baron Scarpia on April 09, 2019, 05:11:31 AM
The metaphor I have in mind is something like a fractal. Like the coastline of a country. You see a part of the map that looks like an east-west boarder but you zoom in it is a convoluted curve, then you see an east-west portion and zoom in and it is a convoluted curve, then you see an east-west portion and zoom in, ad infinitum. Even if, in the grand scheme of things, there is a frontier, if you look at a fine enough scale you will find undiscovered territory in any direction. Some would say the advance of scientific knowledge is like this. More things get discovered all the time, but there are still infinitely many unknown things "behind" the frontier.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Rinaldo on April 10, 2019, 03:04:55 AM
That's a very postmodern thought, I agree. Rochberg wrote this, which I find quite striking:
Quote from: George Rochberg in "No Center" (1969) reprinted in William Bolcom (ed) Aesthetics of Survival (Michigan 1984)
I stand in a circle of time, not a line. 360 degrees of past, present and future. All around me. I can look in any direction I want. Bella Vista.

Love this. The vantage point is still important, though. I don't think those 360 degrees – and therefore postmodernism itself – would be achievable without the rise of the information society.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on April 10, 2019, 08:17:02 AM
Here's a different way in, postmodern as subversion, a challenge to the modernist institutions (the theatre, the opera house, the idea of a composition). Mauricio Kagel, Repertoire aus Staatstheater


https://www.youtube.com/v/IuM8sYuZPp8
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on October 17, 2019, 02:07:33 AM
What do you guys make of this?

https://www.youtube.com/v/HZZPnYnSSR0

Is it an improvement on this?

https://www.youtube.com/v/PcS8yI4f93Y
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mirror Image on October 25, 2019, 06:26:18 AM
What do you guys make of this?

https://www.youtube.com/v/HZZPnYnSSR0

Is it an improvement on this?

https://www.youtube.com/v/PcS8yI4f93Y

It’s Philip Glass, so, for me, there’s always a strong gag reflex. :D
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on October 25, 2019, 06:40:08 AM
It’s Philip Glass, so, for me, there’s always a strong gag reflex. :D

My own feeling about Glass is what he does works well enough with Robert Wilson. The Aphex Twin piece is wonderful for the way that Bowie seems to be trapped in the Glass, as if he’s desperately trying to escape but can’t!
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: steve ridgway on October 25, 2019, 07:12:28 AM
It’s Philip Glass, so, for me, there’s always a strong gag reflex. :D

True, it has a sort of sugary trendiness about it.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: steve ridgway on October 25, 2019, 07:18:22 AM
So postmodernism is what exactly? Mix and match whatever you like from the past because there's no agreement on how to move into the future?
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: steve ridgway on October 27, 2019, 05:17:37 AM
What do you guys make of this?

https://www.youtube.com/v/HZZPnYnSSR0

Is it an improvement on this?

https://www.youtube.com/v/PcS8yI4f93Y

To be fair there are any number of classical masterpieces that do nothing for me so I ought to refrain from throwing stones in Glass's house :-[. Constructing both pieces from loops as one might do with samples on a computer and drastically remixing another recording both seem post modernist ideas to me. Picking Bowie seems a bit "crossover" to me though, perhaps more of a commercial product than say Pierre Henry's remixes of Beethoven.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on July 14, 2020, 09:04:05 AM
Maybe one aspect of postmodernism is an exploration of the influence of the past in the present. And it looks as though the key music of the past for postmodern German composers is Schumann’s. Here’s Wilhelm Killmayer’s Schumann in Endelich (1972) - which may well have been an influence on Rihm’s Fremde Szenen.

https://www.youtube.com/v/vgFuQhgPm9Y

But what’s most interesting about this piece is that the relation to Schumann is not perceivable in the music, it’s there in a bit of text attached to the music which says:

Quote
At the age of 44 Schumann voluntarily entered an asylum at Endenich, participating no further with the life struggle. This child-like man had increasingly become a strange man to his fellows, who claimed to be grownup, big. This was the cause of his sufferings. For him, the piano keyboard was his entrance into a world in which he could flee and confide.


So here we have yet another case of a composer not only writing a score, but telling us the meaning of the score. I think Schumann did that too, in Davidsbundlertanze for example.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mahlerian on July 16, 2020, 06:59:49 AM
I think that postmodernist music is more self-conscious about its relationship to tradition than modernism. An archetypical postmodern piece would be something like Berio's Sinfonia, with its layers of historical strata. It is not merely within tradition, as say, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto with its waltzes or Stravinsky's Octet with its non-functional treatment of Baroque formulae, it comments on tradition by the way it openly selects and contextualizes its materials.

https://www.youtube.com/v/V1XSmiGO3XE

Few works so actively embody a postmodern aesthetic though. I think in general there was a trend moving away from the linguistic consistency of a Stravinsky or a Schoenberg to the variety of a Berio or Rochberg, but at the same time you can find composers like Elliott Carter or Pierre Boulez who made their life projects in forging a consistent personal language. The later 20th century was, like the early 20th century, a time of great musical diversity.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on July 17, 2020, 10:55:37 PM
I think that postmodernist music is more self-conscious about its relationship to tradition than modernism. An archetypical postmodern piece would be something like Berio's Sinfonia, with its layers of historical strata. It is not merely within tradition, as say, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto with its waltzes or Stravinsky's Octet with its non-functional treatment of Baroque formulae, it comments on tradition by the way it openly selects and contextualizes its materials.

https://www.youtube.com/v/V1XSmiGO3XE

Few works so actively embody a postmodern aesthetic though. I think in general there was a trend moving away from the linguistic consistency of a Stravinsky or a Schoenberg to the variety of a Berio or Rochberg, but at the same time you can find composers like Elliott Carter or Pierre Boulez who made their life projects in forging a consistent personal language. The later 20th century was, like the early 20th century, a time of great musical diversity.


What do you make of Bernhard Lang’s monadologie series?
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on July 24, 2020, 07:32:16 AM
I think that postmodernist music is more self-conscious about its relationship to tradition than modernism.

So maybe this is a paradigm of postmodernist music for you. Lachenmann saw himself as imbuing Mozart’s clarinet concerto with new life by presenting parts of Mozart’s music in a context wholly different from the way Karajan presented them. He even suggests that Accanto expresses a sense of sadness for the fact that Mozart’s consoling musical language is now lost on us forever, now that we have had our eyes opened to the truth by Adorno and Marx before him (Only a few benighted souls can really, authentically, enjoy Mozart à la BPO.)

https://www.youtube.com/v/pXihq4qZe9A
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mahlerian on July 24, 2020, 07:51:37 AM

What do you make of Bernhard Lang’s monadologie series?

Sorry I didn't respond before; I'm aware of his music, but haven't explored it.

So maybe this is a paradigm of postmodernist music for you. Lachenmann saw himself as imbuing Mozart’s clarinet concerto with new life by presenting parts of Mozart’s music in a context wholly different from the way Karajan presented them. He even suggests that Accanto expresses a sense of sadness for the fact that Mozart’s consoling musical language is now lost on us forever, now that we have had our eyes opened to the truth by Adorno and Marx before him (Only a few benighted souls can really, authentically, enjoy Mozart à la BPO.)

https://www.youtube.com/v/pXihq4qZe9A


Right. If Postmodern thought more generally is suspicious of claims to universality, then someone like Lachenmann who reveals the contingent nature of the received language is certainly postmodern. There's also a Piano Concerto work by Toshio Hosokawa in which the slow movement melody of the A major concerto gradually appears before receding back into the fabric. While the aesthetic isn't as radical as Lachenmann's, the idea of situating the older language in an unfamiliar context is similar.

https://www.youtube.com/v/3SJeSgqtAN8
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on July 24, 2020, 10:17:39 AM
Here's another one. Did you ever come across Composeroftheavantgarde, who used to post here, and then changed into Jess and is now called Lilijana? She wrote a string quartet called Palimpsest which is a sort of overwriting of a Mozart piece, played here by The Jack Quartet. It's fun when the Mozart emerges kind of at the end.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1svNstsqMRMUNLhLvlyqGALuWciYWhmEU/view


Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on February 22, 2021, 09:17:45 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51-Q0vfe0EL._AC_SX425_.jpg)


Listening to Reich’s Cave Act 2 - interesting how the instruments follow the voices, like Peter Ablinger’s music. And the style of the repetition I heard in Act 1 yesterday made me think of Bernhard Lang too. It’s a real postmodern (master?)piece: avant garde ideas tamed and integrated.
Title: Re: The Postmodern Thread
Post by: Mandryka on February 26, 2021, 02:17:11 AM
(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/71/Kronos_winter.jpg/220px-Kronos_winter.jpg)

John Zorn’s Forbidden Fruit is on this Kronos CD, it’s a postmodern as they come, a collage of random styles and unmodified quotations. Yet something is doing the unifying.

I was listening to Stockhausen’s Hymnen III and IV the other day. It is also a collage of styles.

(https://img.discogs.com/km4GSYyxtbJYkpFtzhXMQnhtz5o=/fit-in/600x600/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-9423085-1480302066-4996.jpeg.jpg)

I can’t help think that moment form is a major theoretical grounding of postmodern music. Of course I’m not saying that postmodern ideas were in Stockhausen’s head when he wrote Hymnen. I am saying that his theoretical work made postmodern music possible, and we can read works like Hymnen as a postmodern work today.