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Modernist music

Parent categories: modernism - music

Related: art music - Arnold Schoenberg - Igor Stravinsky - new tonality - twelve-tone music

Compare: modern music

After almost a century, serial twelve-tone composition has yet to catch on with the general music public, for all the enthusiasm with which some people have greeted it. Even so, twelve tone music was hailed as the wave, the only wave of the musical future. Crocker even put Anton Webern on a pedestal as the Omega Point of all Western Music. I think Anton Webern was a great composer, but to declare any one composer to be the Omega Point of music is bad theology (i.e., idolatry.) Theodor Adorno, the Marxist philosopher and musicologist, seems that have looked forward to the day when the Proletariat would march towards the Revolution singing the stirring tunes of Arnold Schoenberg. That did not happen and it probably won't. --http://andrewmarr.homestead.com/files/music/musicmystery.htm [May 2005]


Modernism in music is characterized by a desire for or belief in progress and science, surrealism, anti-romanticism, political advocacy, general intellectualism, and/or a breaking with tradition or common practice. Ezra Pound's modernist slogan, "Make it new," in music. The broadest time period given is 1890 till the end of "World" War I or "World" War II. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism_%28music%29 [Dec 2004]

Wozzeck (1925) - Alban Berg

Wozzeck (1925) - Alban Berg, 1964 poster by Jan Lenica
Image sourced here

Jan Lenica

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Lenica

Wozzeck (opera)
Wozzeck is the first opera by Alban Berg, first performed in 1925. Since then it has established a solid place for itself in the mainstream opera tradition, and modern productions are easily packed. Though its musical style is challenging, the quality of Berg's work (in particular, the characteristation of the situation through clearly defined musical techniques) means that this is a modern opera that repays the timid listener. With a typical performance taking slightly over an hour and a half, it is nevertheless an intense experience. This is an opera that eschews all the stereotypes of an opera, being serious and compelling throughout. The subject matter - the inevitablity of hardship and explotation for the poor - is brutal and uncompromisingly presented. While Berg's musical style is not as violent as some other composers might have written for this story, the style suits the subject matter. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wozzeck [Mar 2006]

Woyzeck (stage play)
Woyzeck is a stage play written by Georg Büchner. He left the work incomplete at his death, but it has been variously and posthumously "finished" by a variety of authors, editors and translators.

Based on the true story of Friedrich Johann Franz Woyzeck and related to the German expressionist style, Woyzeck concerns the dehumanizing effects of doctors, the military, and women on a young man's life. It is often seen as 'working class' tragedy and it's a difficult play to categorise.

Woyzeck has seen many translations, including an adaptation into an opera by Alban Berg (Wozzeck), a movie by Werner Herzog, and a musical by Robert Wilson and Tom Waits, the songs from which are on Waits's Blood Money album. Nick Cave has also written music for the Icelandic production of the play.

Woyzeck is a comment on social conditions as well as an exploration of complex themes such as poverty. Woyzeck is considered as morally lacking by other characters of higher status, such as the Captain, particularly in the scene in which Woyzeck shaves the Captain. The Captain links wealth and status with morality suggesting Woyzeck cannot have morals as he is poor.

It is the exploitation of the character Woyzeck by the Doctor and the Captain which ultimately pushes him over the edge. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woyzeck [Mar 2006]

See also: 1925 - 1964 - poster - Poland

The Pleasure of Modernist Music (2004) - Arved Ashby

The Pleasure of Modernist Music (2004) - Arved Ashby [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The debate over modernist music has continued for almost a century: from Berg's Wozzeck and Webern's Symphony Op.21 to John Cage's renegotiation of musical control, the unusual musical practices of the Velvet Underground, and Stanley Kubrick's use of Ligeti's Lux Aeterna in the epic film 2001. The composers discussed in these pages -- including Bartók, Stockhausen, Bernard Herrmann, Steve Reich, and many others -- are modernists in that they are defined by their individualism, whether covert or overt, and share a basic urge toward redesigning musical discourse. The aim of this volume is to negotiate a varied and open middle ground between polemical extremes of reception. The contributors sketch out the possible significance of a repertory that in past discussions has been deemed either meaningless or beyond describable meaning. With an emphasis on recent aesthetics and contexts -- including film music, sexuality, metaphor, and ideas of a listening grammar -- they trace the meanings that such works and composers have held for listeners of different kinds. None of them takes up the usual mandate of "educated listening" to modernist works: the notion that a person can appreciate "difficult" music if given enough time and schooling. Instead the book defines novel but meaningful avenues of significance for modernist music, avenues beyond those deemed appropriate or acceptable by the academy. While some contributors offer new listening strategies, most interpret the listening premise more loosely: as a metaphor for any manner of personal and immediate connection with music. In addition to a previously untranslated article by Pierre Boulez, the volume contains articles (all but one previously unpublished) by twelve distinctive and prominent composers, music critics, and music theorists from America, Europe, Australia, and South Africa: Arved Ashby, Amy Bauer, William Bolcom, Jonathan Bernard, Judy Lochhead, Fred Maus, Andrew Mead, Greg Sandow, Martin Scherzinger, Jeremy Tambling, Richard Toop, and Lloyd Whitesell --via Amazon.com

See also: modern - modernism - modernist music - music

Modernism and Music : An Anthology of Sources (2004) - Daniel Albright

Modernism and Music : An Anthology of Sources (2004) - Daniel Albright [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From the Inside Flap
If in earlier eras music may have seemed slow to respond to advances in other artistic media, during the modernist age it asserted itself in the vanguard. Modernism and Music provides a rich selection of texts on this moment, some translated into English for the first time. It offers not only important statements by composers and critics, but also musical speculations by poets, novelists, philosophers, and others-all of which combine with Daniel Albright's extensive, interlinked commentary to place modernist music in the full context of intellectual and cultural history.

First Sentence:
Terms such as "modern" and "Modernism" seem to possess a certain security, even prestige, but they were long regarded with suspicion.

Music of Changes (1951) - John Cage

The modern music would, in turn, give rise to postmodernism. Daniel Albright (2004) cites John Cage's 1951 composition of Music of Changes as the beginning of post-modern music. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism_%28music%29 [Dec 2004]

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