What makes music "modern"

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RE: What makes music "modern"

telemann wrote:

I enjoyed the author's reminiscences of his conservatory and subsequent experiences.

I've had quite a few experiences in my conservatory too. What did people do before these double glazed marvels were invented, sheds maybe! Still, I tend to think of 'modern' as having some kind of originality, something new to offer. Was neo classicism new. You can look back at old styles yet what you produce is clearly not of that style however much the influence maybe there. Rachmaninov was modern, his works, though romantic have a 20th century wistfullness about them. He looks to the past through modern eyes. Offering something new is all well and good, but as Parla states, the quality is what is important. Too  many 20th century avant garde composers offered only what somebody else had already  offered. Copying is not new by its very nature.

 

It of course depends on what you mean by modern.  I don't look and think about modern. But originality and quality is always worth the time and trouble. If it is not original then it is not modern, if it is not 'of quality' then why waste your time.

RE: What makes music "modern"

telemann wrote:

I enjoyed the author's reminiscences of his conservatory and subsequent experiences. However, as an audience-oriented reform advocate and sometime activist, I suggest that, in spite of mention of religious music, etc. he remains trapped in the elite conceptual ghetto that characterizes the serious music establishment today. 

It makes understanding the systematic decline of relevance of classical music in society, and many of the complex ideas that are advanced, much clearer is we consider a simple observation. 

Prior to the revolution in music and other arts in the early 20th 
Century the prevailing paradigm was that composers created music to communicate with, inspire, and entertain sponsors and audiences. 
Consumers were the ultimate arbiter of quality.

This was replaced by the "autonomy of the artist". It remains establishment doctrine that a composer's highest duty is self actualization - with his or her artistic value judged by peers qualified to render judgment.

Earlier outrageous, in-your-face styles may have mainly faded [the author's dismissal of serialism and other confrontational styles is often heard]. Even tonal music can be acceptable to the establishment with certain qualifications. But one inflexible requirement remains for composers to gain formal recognition as a serious artist: they must avoid composing music that pleases audiences. 

 

This idea of music, and art in general, as a completely autonomous expression of the auteur rather than someting aimed to please an audience, is by no means a 20th century conception.

It starts as early as the late eigthteenth century, with the creation of the concept of the 'composer genious', the prime example being Beethoven. This is all tied up with the notion of the aesthetically sublime: pleasure mixed with pain, the idea that art ought to be difficult, a struggle, for the audience. What happened in the 20th century was by no means a new phenomenon, but rather the logical conclusion, or perhaps the radicalisation, of these notions...

Also, to claim that composers nowadays still avoid composing music that pleases audiences simply is not true. Lots of young composers, such as Pascal Dusapin, Joey Roukens, Caliope Tsoupaki or Osvaldo Golijov to name just a few, are very consiously seeking to reconect to the audience.

 

aquila non captat muscas

 

RE: What makes music "modern"

Indeed Bazza!

Perhaps a change of approach is needed.

I suggest doing things the other way round.  Correspondents might begin by naming composers they consider 'modern', then twist the definition of 'modern' to make it fit. Perhaps that is what 50m was doing when he started this thread: i.e trying to define the criteria that would make his pre-determined choices of Britten and Shostakovich examplars of 'modern'?

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: What makes music "modern"

Does anyone happen to know when the word "modern" acquired its current peculiar charge?  And how?  I don't recall it used much in GBS's music criticism, in which he places his considerable eloquence behind the campaign for a greater understanding of Wagner in the UK.   I suspect it might turn out to be one of the labels developed for the post-World War I rejection of almost everything regrded by the Edwardians and Victorians as part of their lives in favour of the cult of youth, speed, simple lines, light, white surfaces, aluminum or stainless steel, nudism, and brevity.   If it is, it's a loaded term - when it isn't just an indication that something is of recent date.   How "modern" is, say, Poulenc, in comparison with Britten?   

Peter Street

RE: What makes music "modern"

Modern is sooooo last century, we are post modern now, like hello, where have you been.

RE: What makes music "modern"

I wondered how long it would be before someone mentioned that. A complete oxymoron (for morons).

RE: What makes music "modern"

 

aquila non captat muscas

 

RE: What makes music "modern"

 

aquila non captat muscas

 

RE: What makes music "modern"

Hi 50ml!

It's a hugely important question, so thanks for aasking it!
Sometimes the big broad questions are hardest to answer - e.g. I still don't really understand why composers ditched the other modes in favour of just two, the Aeolian and the Ionian - to give us the major/minor division. How, when, where and why, exactly? Parla once answered that question for me - Rameau's treatise on harmony. I honestly don't yet know.

I think you are right about pushing at the boundaries, as is Brumas about the eventual cul-de-sac of the pursuit of the new. Oscar's three points are also thought-provoking.

One of the obvious points is how modern is one person's modern, as compared with another? Someone once described Alan Rawsthorne's music to me as modern. My music master at school once dismissed Copland's El Salon Mexico (set work) in words I'll never forget, as' a typical modern work. Take a couple of dance tunes, spice it up with a lavish orchestration and chuck in a few wrong notes'! (Thankfully he did get me into Britten by the way).

No doubt there are some who think that Ars Nova is punk rock, musically speaking!

For a lot of music lovers, 'modern' is a pejorative term.

Ultimately, it's about what musical language a composer chooses and how it's treated. Some people still can't accept 12-tone music.

Donald Mitchell, in his famous The Language of Modern Music (first published 1963 and yes therefore dated now) is at pains to point out both Stravinsky and Schoenberg's indebtedness to past models.

BUT I like Part's use of the past's church modes which strikes me as modern, whereas Eric Whitacre's more traditional language is too self-consciously beautiful for me - a bit sickly-sweet.

Mark

 

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

parla wrote:if "modern" is
parla wrote:

if "modern" is going to be a way (a qualification) to define works as more "important" than those which fall in the opposite category. If a work is a great one, it has already passed the test of time.
....
For the time being, it's getting too late here...

Many professors would agree, for many composers, the later the better.

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