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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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Chapter 3. A Modernism Like All Others


Chapter 3

A Modernism Like All Others

1. Relations Between Modernism and Nineteenth-Century Aesthetics

We have so far addressed the issue of sources of twentieth-century modernism. The cultural history methodology adopted in the previous chapter has supplied us with a stratification of the musical culture of the two decades on the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century according to three different criteria. The choice of but one of these would be a drastic interpretative limitation, resulting in a serious impoverishment of our perspective. The said stratification has disclosed the first layer of stylistic premises, which typically for prima prattica interim periods, functioned as a stabiliser of cultural values and generated, similarly to the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, an initially incidental seconda prattica, not so much from the point of view of universal cultural values (the romantic style) but from that of the transformation of musical language norms in its basic constituents: tonal harmony, syntax, texture, and timbre, as well as genre and form. We went further, however, in defining the essence of what in the emerging cultural reality, was not reducible anymore to categories of style or music theory but required a supplementary philosophical and aesthetical point of view. While this third approach may seem an important generative value in modernist ideology, it is merely an illusion. Culture—not only musical—consists of numerous transmissions of stylistic features, compositional norms, and relevant artistic and aesthetic values; in other words, culture...

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