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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 6. Modernism Liberated


Chapter 6

Modernism Liberated

1. The Pluralism of Modernist Approaches at the Turn of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century

The history of musical modernism in the last decades has been a source of preoccupation for many historians, used as they are to the conciliatory effect of historical detachment, allowing to avoid the current polemics of music criticism. Adorno wrote: “The dictum that the owl of Minerva begins its flight at dusk is confirmed in art … Aesthetic categories are first subjected to philosophical reflection when art, in Hegel’s language, is no longer substantial, no longer immediately present and obvious.”305 This historiographical uneasiness can be overcome in many ways, but the best is usually to accept less optimistic cognitive conclusions. How do various authors solve this dilemma? In The Late Twentieth Century, Richard Taruskin306 proposed chapters such as “After Everything” and “Millennium’s End,” while Paul Griffiths307 unpretentiously titles his last chapter “Many Rivers: The 1980s and 1990s.”

Through its solipsism, stemming from a theoretical and practical ideology of social exclusion, modernism has reached a critical state. This, in turn, has fuelled a cultural phenomenon that from the mid-1970s, has been termed postmodernism, liquid modernity, pluralism, or post-art. It can be seen as a result of a hitherto unknown intensity of communicational practices. They have engendered such permanent change in the culture of Western societies that notions have been proposed such as “cultural quicksand” culture (Zygmunt Bauman308), or “exasperation with ideas” (Elżbieta Szczepa...

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