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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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In separating the history of musical modernism from the broadly understood history of musical culture with the aim of (re)constructing the former’s aesthetics, we may not avoid the question whether, to recall the words of White, if modernism is “a continuum, a stream of events, that flows freely down through time,” then “may [it] be considered, from the standpoint of scientific analysis and interpretation as a thing sui generis, as a class of events and processes that behaves in terms of its own principles and laws”?357 I have endeavoured to answer that question in the present book by showing a minor but significant section of twentieth-century music culture as a whole: the phonosystem of musical modernism, subject to specific diachronic and synchronic transformations. Does the extrapolation of that proposed cognitive model onto larger units of culture or even the whole of culture make sense? It is not for me to say. It is only plausible to say about the autonomy and heteronomy of musical modernism that the essential modernist values and behaviour patterns that we reconstructed here, leading either to innovative solutions or merely to cultural change, did contribute on a broader social level to the emergence of new aesthetic tendencies, showing a partly autonomous, partly heteronomous character of those innovations and changes. From a cognitive point of view, it is clear that the metaphorical “waving of modernism,” constituting an essentially new model in the history of modern-era culture, distinctive from the former tripartite model of...

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