tom moody

mo vs poMo (2)

It's amusing to read Daniel Albright's writings on Modernism -- brimming with enthusiasm and insight as if Virginia Woolf and George Antheil were alive today and needed explanation -- alongside Jonathan D. Kramer's book Postmodern Music, Postmodern Listening (2016), which treats Modernism as a slightly tainted artifact of the distant past, deserving no sympathy or apologetics. In a series of posts we'll consider this disjunction.

In "Postmodernism vs Modernism," Chapter 1.4 of Kramer's book, he borrows a couple of tables from other writers to illuminate the differences. The one below comes from Larry Solomon's article “What is Postmodernism?” The words used in the Modernist column (left) are mostly pejorative, and not terribly accurate. Are works such as Schoenberg's Erwartung (music as articulated screech of madness) or Beckett's Murphy (praising the catatonic state) actually "harmonious," "logical," or "utopian"? Many of the words that Solomon ascribes to Modernism could also be considered "Classical" and the poMo words "Modernist." In the table below I've made those substitutions:

Table 1.2

Modern Classical

Postmodern Modern

monism

pluralism

utopian, elitist

populist

patriarchal

non-patriarchal, feminist

totalized

non-totalized, fragmented

centered

dispersed

European, Western

global, multicultural

uniformity

diversity

determinant

indeterminant

staid, serious, purposeful

playful, ironic

formal

non-formal

intentional, constructive

non-intentional, deconstructive

theoretical

practical, pragmatic

reductive, analytic

nonreductive, synthetic

simplicity, elegance, spartan

elaboration

logical

spiritual

cause-effect

synchronicity

control-design

chance

linear

multi-pathed [or, multi-directional]

harmonious, integrated

eclectic, non-integrated

permanence

transience

abstraction

representation

material

semiotic

mechanical

electronic

 
Obviously some items aren't good candidates for the switch -- abstraction belongs in the Modernism column but still, representation works better under "Classical" than Postmodern. But so many of the items Solomon calls Modernist are just straw people to justify the perceived musical status quo. The art he characterizes as "staid" was anything but when it first appeared in the world. In a later post we'll talk about the ways in which Modernism became orthodox, justifying to some extent the approach taken in this chart.

- tom moody

November 29th, 2017 at 11:37 am

Posted in theory