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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 5. A Modernism Different to All Others


Chapter 5

A Modernism Different to All Others

1. Modernism Looks for Boundaries of Musicality

If we were to define the “method of music history” used in the previous chapter, it would most of all have a characteristic, synthetic trait. Because of the specific situation of modernism in the historical context of totalitarian regimes, it was impossible to maintain the previously adopted model of its subjective “self-organisation” as a socio-cultural formation. Music history, in fact, lost its former autonomy, i.e., creative liberties, and became an instrument in the hand of politics and “great history.” For the first time in this book, therefore, we had to acknowledge the important role of musical factography not in order to further deepen the damage of methodological syncretism but simply to understand the two central creative strategies that were plausible in the new historical reality: adaptation and survival. If we came too close to historical events, it was a deeply reflected decision. In fact, just as the historical (political, but not social) situation in the two interwar decades had a minor influence on the catalogue of the artistic issues of modernism, so starting with the mid-1930s, the latter’s potential creative possibilities dramatically shrunk. The political changes in postwar Europe decelerated that process, gradually granting more independence to modernism, which was given the exclusive right to artistic self-government. That newly reacquired autonomy exploded with a reinstitution of various authors’ associations, festivals, community periodicals and other publication, courses of new music,...

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