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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.
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← 170 | 171 → Afterword


“For the ordinary descends silently to the Underworld”FRIEDRICH SCHILLER: NENIA

“But I believe much more: the new sound is a symbol discovered spontaneously, one that proclaims the new man who thus declares his individuality”. Schoenberg’s comment of 1911 provides not just the perfect description of the Expressionist music of his time, but applies to other paths in new music as well, even those that are primarily experimental. As previously mentioned, Schoenberg was opposed to the analysis of his twelve-note works purely in terms of their tone-rows, and asked his pupils to focus on finding the essence of his music. Luigi Nono proposed something similar in 1953 in a short article on Webern, in which he writes:1 “In Webern I see a new human, one who has the two qualities of serenity and assurance that have made it possible for him imbue his present life with inner tension. The tension in Webern’s music is the same that, dialectically, rules nature and life. It would be a grave error and profoundly dangerous to conceive of Webern’s creative power purely in terms of technical structures, and choose to understand his technique as a ready reckoner. Instead one must try to fathom why he used this technique. Looking purely at the technical content of music means failing to recognise its meaning and content”.

In 1948, only a few years after the end of the Second World War, the literary critic Hans Mayer spoke of a profound cultural crisis...

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