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Musical Modernism in the Twentieth Century

Translated by Wojciech Bońkowski


Maciej Gołąb

This book offers a fresh discussion of the methodology of music historiography. So far historiographical methodology has always depended on other fields within humanities (especially on history) to a degree where it moved the focus of its thought away from the musical work’s structure and away from the musical work itself. Musical Modernism in the Twentieth Century looks at musical structures in its cultural context, using different methodological models for the interpretation of the subsequent phases of the twentieth-century musical modernism.
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To the modern historian, the history of music appears in a shortened time perspective, making modern music historiography very different from that practised by the previous generations of musicologists. The first major historiographical initiative of Classical German musicology, Ernst Bücken’s Handbuch der Musikgeschichte, was characterised by a proportional presentation of all epochs of music history in separate synthetic books, written by leading scholars in each field. Heinrich Besseler’s Musik des Mittelalters und der Renaissance (1931) provided a balance for its chronological opposite, Hans Mersmann’s Die Moderne Musik seit der Romantik (1931). Today, such editorial initiatives have been thoroughly remodelled. If the latest edition of The Oxford History of Western Music, edited by Richard Taruskin, illustrates this evolution of approach to history, especially in the typical post-modern shortening of its time perspective, we might not be surprised to discover that the “history of Western music” as a historical narrative starts only in the seventeenth century, earliest history having been squeezed into a single volume with a focus on palaeography (The Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century), while later epochs have been merged into one, despite being very different in character (The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries). Separated from the Classical tradition from which it originated, the nineteenth century keeps an unmotivated singularity (The Nineteenth Century), while music history of the twentieth century is presented in two separate volumes (Music in the Early Twentieth Century and Music in the Late Twentieth Century).1 We can’t help thinking that from the...

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