Postmodernity’s Musical Pasts: Rediscoveries and Revivals after 1945

October 15, 2014

The Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation
The City University of New York, The Graduate Center, 26–27 March 2015
Organized by Tina Frühauf

Click here for the full conference schedule.

Abstracts

Michael Arnold (University of Miami), The Restorative and Reflective Roots of Indie Neofado Nostalgia.

Svetlana Boym considers restorative nostalgia via Eric Hobsbawn’s (1983) differentiation between the invariable nature of age-old “customs” and the symbolic formalization and ritualizing nature inherent in nineteenth-century “invented traditions”: “the more rapid and sweeping the pace and scale of modernization, the more conservative and unchangeable the new traditions tend to be” (Boym 2008). During the era of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century industrialization and secularization, Portugal’s urban citizens would seek a sort of cultural anchor through invented traditions to balance the disease of neurasthenia and the loss of social and spiritual meaning. The Portuguese right-wing authoritarian dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar would use the urban folk music tradition known as fado for its own ends—as an ideological tool for political acquiescence. Salazar disseminated a selective restorative nostalgia through the manipulation of fado to represent the past “through newly recreated practices of national commemoration with the aim of reestablishing social cohesion, [thereby creating] a sense of security and an obedient relationship to authority” (Boym 2008). The flipside of restorative nostalgia is the secular transformation of fatality into continuity. This is seen in indie neofado’s reflective nostalgia which, by combining such disparate musical traditions, attempts to offer “multiple imagined communities and ways of belonging that are not exclusively based on ethnic or national principles” (Boym 2008). Indie neofado (here defined as a contemporary hybrid genre in which fado poetics, melodies, harmonies, aesthetics, thematics, etc. are deliberately integrated by a musician who approximates this urban folk tradition as an outsider) is both restorative and reflective. Fado and indie lend themselves to both types of nostalgia. I argue that whereas the recent fado elements influencing indie neofado tend toward restorative nostalgia, neofado’s indie roots reveal the primacy of reflective nostalgia.

Srđan Atanasovski (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade), The Revival of Byzantine Chant and the Soundscape of Serbian Religious Nationalism.

During the 1990s the revival of Byzantine chant, a movement that permeated Orthodox Christianity, reached Serbia, coinciding with the country’s growing nationalism. Proponents of the revival in Serbia have maintained that post-Byzantine chant (the proponents of the movement favor the term “Byzantine chant,” as they think of their performance as faithful to the Byzantine tradition) represents an ancient tradition that embodies the true values of the Orthodoxy. In this way it would differ from Srpsko narodno crkveno pojanje, the traditional choral practices of the Serbian Church. Largely basing their revival on surviving Greek sources and practices, they not only argued for the discontinuation of harmonized religious choral music, but also eschewed Serbian monophonic chant written down in the nineteenth century. During the 1990s the movement spread through private choir initiatives affiliated with churches in Belgrade and few monastic communities. Several well-received audio recordings were released as well. The Serbian Orthodox Church has been ambivalent on this matter, not taking any particular position. In the first years of the twenty-first century the head of the Church enforced stricter regulations on religious music in order to curb the movement; however, some members of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade have openly supported the practice. Critical about the concept of modernity, those involved in the movement have justified their “return” to Byzantine chant as nostalgia for the Apostolic Age. They strove to create an image of an imaginary “spiritual East,” as opposed to the “progress- and modernity-driven West.” I propose that the movement, although it relied on tropes that purportedly transcended the issue of nationhood, very much resonated with the rhetoric of belligerent Serbian nationalism. My paper thus focuses on the affective qualities that the supporters of the revival in Serbia attribute to this music, in order to show how religion and nationalism intertwine.

Ewelina Boczkowska (Youngstown State University), La note bleue: A Postmodern Chopin Biopic.

As a catalyst figure in Romantic music and a Polish émigré piano virtuoso of frail health, Frédéric Chopin (1810‒49) made a riveting subject of films at three peaks of political instability in Poland: during World War II; at the height of socialist realism in 1949‒52; and again during the transition to democracy, in 1990‒91. Each time, Chopin’s historical status was reinvented to serve different ideological ends: first an emblem of patriotism, then an icon of social progress, and in its most recent transmutation, a symptom of collective melancholia. Unlike Western filmmakers who have focused on Chopin’s temperament and relationships, Polish directors tended to explore the political dimensions of Chopin’s music—until La note bleue (1991). La note bleue portrays Chopin and novelist George Sand’s last summer together at Nohant in 1846. Their separation and his illness and creative decline are couched in a puppet show that Sand’s guests are putting together based on their domestic dramas. While many critics deemed the film a kitsch parody of Romantic sensibilities and a travesty of Chopin’s biography, I will argue La note bleue purposefully subverts the traditional biopic genre, yearning for an alternate reality at a time of Poland’s democratic transition. This Chopin spits blood, suffers delusions, and struggles to compose. Contrary to the nineteenth-century salon etiquette of polite conversation and great art making, the protagonists are prompt to emotional intensity, sexual intrigues, and petty mannerisms. Devilish creatures and faceless ghosts wearing the white-and-red national colors of Poland undercut patriotic aspirations of socialist realist fictionalized documentaries that the biopic alludes to. Piano music is ever present culminating in a close-knit collage of musical fragments. Recovering Chopin’s morbidity and melancholia in these various ways, the film overcomes and re-imagines Chopin into a new era.

Caitlin Carlos (University of Southern California, Los Angeles), The Problem of Historical Nostalgia, Nature and the Future in Three Iconic Albums from 1971: Aqualung, Who’s Next and [untitled].

Distinguishing it from personal nostalgia, Barbara Stern defined historical nostalgia as “the desire to retreat from contemporary life by returning to a time in the distant past viewed as superior to the present”. This paper examines the tension between a simpler (and thus preferable) past and the musical possibilities of the future in three iconic albums from 1971, Aqualung (Jethro Tull), Who’s Next (The Who) and [untitled] (Led Zeppelin). In these albums, the expression of a glorified past can be seen intertwined almost inseparably with the role of nature in the music. As Paul Hegarty and Martin Halliwell explain in their discussion of progressive rock and the folk-rock movement, “nature is a liminal space of possibility and experience, dangerous at times but usually a better alternative to the town or city.” Hegarty and Halliwell also go on to say that “tensions between technological processes and traditional instrumentation, the commodification of nature, nostalgia for more authentic times and places, and the quest for alternative lifestyles and habitats all problematize the natural world.” This conflict is expressed through the instrumentation, lyrics and cover art of these albums. After exploring these elements, I will end with a case study of one of the most well-known songs found on these albums, “Stairway to Heaven,” which serves as a prime example of the tension between historical nostalgia for a glorified, simpler past and a future filled with new technological and aesthetic possibilities.

Maria Cizmic (University of South Florida, Tampa), Late Soviet Postmodernism? The Case of Arvo Pärt’s Early Tintinnabuli Compositions.

Arvo Pärt’s early tintinnabuli works make a fascinating case study regarding the intersection of music and postmodernism. As Matei Calinescu posits, postmodernism converses with the past in place of modernism’s rejection of history. Early tintinnabuli works engage music history by recalling the sound world of early polyphonic chant, by reformulating tonality, and even by musically reflecting upon serialism. Living in 1970s Estonia, Pärt created tintinnabuli during a time when the Soviet intelligentsia was obsessed with history and memory. Scholars of Slavic culture and literature debate whether postmodernism is an applicable concept to art and culture of the late Soviet era. In bringing these arguments to bear on Pärt’s music, one could argue for tintinnabuli’s postmodernism based on its stylistic features or one could emphasize postmodernism’s relationship to post-industrial capitalism and tintinnabuli’s decidedly non-capitalist place of origin. Somewhat ironically, these same early tintinnabuli compositions garnered extraordinary success in the (capitalist) West, after Pärt’s 1980 emigration and his collaboration with Manfred Eicher, founder of the Edition of Contemporary Music. This paper will present two arguments about postmodernism and tintinnabuli, both grounded in Pärt’s reformulation of tonality. Compositions like Tabula Rasa (1977) provide a postmodern critique of progress narratives, which should be understood in terms of both modernist music history narratives and socialist realism’s requisite representation of an optimistically bright future. Although Pärt has stated explicitly that he does not abide by progress narratives, this view is not a prevalent reading of tintinnabuli. Secondly, through a phenomenological analysis of Für Alina (1976), this paper argues that Pärt’s use of tonality prompts a performer and listener to respond with habits derived from tonal music; but because Pärt’s is a decidedly nonfunctional tonality, those habits are frequently thwarted. If postmodernism creates a relationship to the past with a twist, tintinnabuli’s postmodernism exists not only in the music as text, but also in the experiences of performers and listeners.

Timothy Cochran (Muhlenberg College, Glenside), Searching for Lost Time in “Clair de lune”: Debussy, Memory, and Film.

Debussy’s “Clair de lune” from Suite bergamasque has appeared in over fifty films and television shows since the beginning of World War II. In several examples from the mid-twentieth century, the piece occurs as diegetic music that initiates characters’ nostalgia for an idealized past. This paper explores how these filmed appropriations of “Clair de lune” follow a Proustian logic of involuntary memory in which sensory experience triggers pleasure linked with the past followed by profound loss. I argue that “Clair de lune’s” place in the popular imagination of mid-twentieth-century America enabled this interpretation. First, I analyze a scene from Music for Millions (1944) through the critical lens of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. A harmonica rendition of Debussy’s piece initiates Barbara’s reminiscence of her husband away at war. Close coordination of camera work and musical form marks her phenomenological journey from memory stimulus to ecstatic recollection and then crisis over lost time that mirrors Marcel’s experiences in the novel. The wealth of journalist attention to “Clair de lune” in postwar America offers clues into the effectiveness of this Proustian logic. Reviews and advertisements tended to put the piece into one of two categories: trivial/commonplace or magical/sensual. These seemingly paradoxical associations—both featured prominently in the Texan epic, Giant (1956)—form a potent recipe for Proustian memory-events, which involve ecstatic experiences with benign objects. In conclusion, I explore the way these films invite the viewer to listen simultaneously to soundscapes of the present and those of characters’ private memory worlds. The Twilight Zone (1962) turns this duality to uncanny effect as a player piano elicits memories during a birthday party that the audience was never meant to witness. An understanding of the way Debussy’s piece negotiates pastness in the postwar context for characters and viewers alike will result.

Lawrence Davies (King’s College London), The Role of Britain’s Traditional Jazz Revival in the Formation of British Blues before 1962.

From the mid-1940s until the early 1960s, the predominant interpretive framework for understanding the blues in Britain was that of the “traditional jazz” revival movement. British performers and critics sought to preserve and cultivate the music of 1920s and 30s New Orleans. Constructed as “people’s music,” traditional jazz was set apart from mainstream, commercial dance music. Blues performance developed as a segment of the traditional jazz concert, often featuring a reduced ensemble and a female vocalist. Few studies have examined the relationship between the traditional jazz revival and British blues. The revival’s origins are obscure; it is commonly portrayed as having “exploded’ into British musical life, only to be superseded by the cultural shifts of the 1960s (Godbolt 2010). Similarly, its devotees’ outmoded belief in intrinsic African-American musicality has made many scholars reluctant to meet the revival on its own—if uncomfortable—terms (Perchard 2011). This paper explores how the revival of traditional jazz provided a socio-cultural context for British blues. Although nascent before the war, revivalist activities such as record collecting and amateur performance thrived in a postwar environment of National Service conscription, self-education, and traditional leisure activities. These included youth clubs, social drinking, book clubs, and even boating (Hobsbawm 1960). By considering both the content and function of written revivalist criticism alongside events, cultural products, and oral testimony, I argue that traditional jazz may be better characterized by its critical plurality than its purism. This vibrant, participatory culture allowed blues enthusiasts to generate new meanings for the genre with reference to their own British, postwar identities. This allowed them to engage with and assimilate the blues while simultaneously locating the genre’s authenticity in African-American culture. The traditional jazz revival not only came to reconfigure understandings of an African-American musical past, but also those of the British musical present.

Tina Frühauf (Répetoire International de Littérature Musicale, New York), What Comes after Revival? The Louis Lewandowski Festival in Berlin between Revived Tradition and New Context.

In December 2011 Berlin hosted the inaugural Louis Lewandowski Festival, dedicated to the nineteenth-century composer who was instrumental in shaping liberal Jewish religious services by composing works for cantor, choir, and organ in line with the musical aesthetics of his time. The Festival takes place over the course of four days, during which the participating choirs perform a broad range of choral music for the synagogue by Lewandowski, as well as repertoires of a religious or secular nature by other, mostly nineteenth- and twentieth-century composers. The choirs who participated since 2011, and whose members travelled to Berlin from Israel, North America, South Africa, and other parts of Europe, musically represent German Jewish culture as well as their own cultural and religious heritages. The Festival features a pre-opening concert, an opening ceremony and service, three to seven performances that take place simultaneously in different neighborhoods of Berlin on Saturday night in an effort to invoke the illusions of the pre-Holocaust state of Jewish music sounding in all corners of Berlin, and a grand final concert at Rykestrasse Synagogue. Berlin naturally lends itself to such an endeavor: Not only is it the city where Lewandowski unfolded his creative talents and reformed synagogue music, Berlin also hosts, again, the largest Jewish community in Germany, and the third largest in Europe—a community that is highly diverse and today defined by a large number of Russian Jews and a tiny fraction of German Jews. Jewish life in Berlin has been experiencing a renaissance as evident in several new synagogues, kosher shops, schools, and two seminaries that train rabbis and cantors. And if the Louis Lewandowski Festival is any indication, the people of Berlin (Jewish or not) greatly appreciate the (historic) Jewish contribution to German culture. The music of Lewandowski and Jewish choral music have been an integral part of the Jewish revivals different parts of Europe experienced since the 1990s. Yet, the Festival does not quite fit into the lineage of Jewish revivals in postwar Germany. It expands on the revival legacies in new ways, creating new contexts and radical shifts. This paper takes the Louis Lewandowski Festival as a point of departure to scrutinize and elaborate on the theory of post-revival put forth by Juniper Hill and Caroline Bithell (2014).

Andy Fry (King’s College London), “This is Jazz”: New Orleans Jazz Revival in International Perspective.

“This is Jazz,” a weekly US radio broadcast of 1947, exemplifies the paradoxes of the New Orleans Revival Movement. Introduced by writer Rudi Blesh, whose Shining Trumpets (1946) was the standard bearer of “traditional” jazz against swing and bebop, the shows themselves were more pragmatic. White musicians from Chicago (such as Mezz Mezzrow) and young pretenders from New York (Bob Wilber) joined the New Orleans old-timers (like Albert Nicholas). Recent popular songs supplemented the classic blues and rags, and routines that harked back to minstrelsy were framed in rhetoric of Art. Most particularly, this “local” music was recorded in New York, syndicated nationally, and transmitted internationally via the Armed Forces Network. This paper examines how traditional jazz was rediscovered and redefined around mid-century and, particularly, how that process was mediated by musical and critical practices far afield. As Eric Hobsbawm remarked as long ago as 1959, “the fact that British working-class boys in Newcastle play [jazz] is at least as interesting as and rather more surprising than” that American ones do. Despite considerable recent interest in the revival (e.g., Suhor 2001, Raeburn 2009), a gap remains between scholarship on American jazz histories (e.g., Gennari 2006, Brothers 2006) and on European reception (e.g., Tournès 1999, McKay 2005). Moreover, the search for “roots” by which the revival is often understood risks mistaking as a reaction against modernity what was rather, I argue, a belated embrace of its earthier cultural forms. Examining archival texts alongside oral histories, recordings, and especially broadcasts, I seek to recreate international networks of musicians and enthusiasts as they converge in and around the idea of New Orleans jazz. In this way, I recover a near-forgotten backstory of Anglo-American popular music, one that reveals how the metropolitan imagination at this time was both increasingly interconnected and still remarkably diverse.

Ana Hofman (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana), Partisan Struggle Again? Radical Idealism and Utopia of Post-Yugoslav Engaged Singing Collectivities.

The general climate of a dismissal of political idealism and anti-utopianism in both Eastern and Western Europe following the collapse of Berlin Wall resulted in the inability to provide any actual critical intervention in concrete societal challenges. In the post-Yugoslav context over the last ten years, many oppositional voices have argued for a utopian rethinking of art’s relationship to the social. In a time where leftist projects seem to have been colonized by neo-liberal doctrine or have vanished from the political imagination in post-Yugoslav societies, members of “self-organized choirs” (samoorganizovani horovi) sing about a laboring collective, hegemonic relations, and a vision of a better day––a utopian and not-yet existing reality. Even more, they do not only attempt to reconsider the idealist view and utopia from a renewed sense of the social, but moreover call people “to feel” utopia as a politics of the here and now. They claim that the songs they perform can induce powerful emotional, psychological, and bodily responses that also crucially depend on the viewer’s experiences, which are bound up with appraisals and beliefs. Analyzing the emerging phenomenon of self-organized choirs in post-Yugoslav societies and their repertoires, this paper problematizes the potentials and limits of the political mobilization of a socialist culture legacy, using the example of the partisan songs and revolutionary songs that are used as a reservoir for negotiating not only post-socialist transformations but also the current global late-capitalist moment. Since strategies of employing the socialist past in post-socialist societies are mainly associated with nostalgia, irrational sentimentality, melancholy, passivity, or commercial exploitation of the people’s sentimental longing, this paper critically engages with the new employments of utopia as a creative engagement with the past and interplay between experience and expectation, memory and possibility.

Alexandra Kolesnik (National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Moscow), Retromania in Contemporary British Popular Music.

The early twenty-first century marked a new stage in the history of British popular music. Its transformation began due to the emergence and widespread dissemination of new media. Digital technology significantly changed the production, distribution, and consumption of music. However, digital tools also provoked a tendency to use analog devices. Looking forward, the search for new musical concepts influenced attitudes to the (musical) past. Subsequently, popular music began to feature retro-styles and revivals, a trend the British music critic Simon Reynolds calls “retromania.” Rethinking their popular music heritage, the retro-oriented groups of the twenty-first century tried to reestablish and reenact styles of the previous decades, among them blues and 1960s pop-rock, 1970s punk rock, 1980s new wave, and even the recent styles of the 1990s. This retro-rock-revival movement originated with guitar post-punk and Britpop bands, such as The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, The Kooks, Editors, and The Strypes. Like the Britpop bands before them, these bands exhibited an appreciation for cultures that they were too young to have experienced themselves. They recycled the British musical tradition using the past as an “archive of materials” (Reynolds, 2011). The result is a collage of different musical styles popular in the distant and recent past, often combined in a single song or a single album. This paper seeks to define the place of history of British popular music during the 2000s. Drawing on methods found in popular music studies and sociology, it discusses techniques of its representation and tries to characterize it the broader context between nostalgia and retromania.

John Koslovsky (Utrecht University), Postmodernity and (Neo-)Schenkerism: Recovering a Plurality of Critical Contexts.

Just as the end of the Second World War saw the beginnings of the social, cultural, and intellectual condition of postmodernity, there was a movement that, displaced by the tragedy that had overcome Europe, would become the flagship enterprise of North American music theory: Schenker studies. With such divergent world views emerging in a postwar musical culture— the one positioning itself firmly against the modernist agenda, the other strangely aligned to it—these two worlds were set on a collision course from the very start. This intellectual climate simultaneously saw the emergence of “neo-Schenkerism,” a catch-all term denoting a variety of adaptations, reworkings, and rethinkings of Schenkerian theory, either with the aim of providing a more generalized model of musical structure or as a way of accommodating musical styles beyond those for which Schenkerian theory was designed. As neo-Schenkerian ideas have come under fire from the traditional Schenkerian establishment and from other corners of music theory, postmodern thinkers have leveled their own critique of both traditional and revisionist varieties of Schenkerism. This paper takes a historical perspective on postmodernity and its stance towards the Schenkerian and neo-Schenkerian movements. It will address questions such as: what are the factors that distinguish Schenkerian ideas from neo-Schenkerian ones? How have writers, postmodern or otherwise, differed from one another when tackling the ontologies of these fields? And finally, to what extent does the “neo” prefix lend itself to another kind of critique, or perhaps even an alignment with postmodern analytical strategies? By identifying the fault lines that define Schenkerian and neo-Schenkerian approaches vis-à-vis postmodernity we unveil a multitude of interpretive contexts and critical standpoints that have bearing on our present-day attitude towards the larger corpus of Schenkerian thought.

Danielle Liang (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), Philip Glass’s Orphée and La belle et la bête: Products and Processes of Adaptation.

Philip Glass composed several works in the 1980s involving elements of film and opera, and in the ensuing decade, he continued to explore new means of expression targeted for the stage. The operatic works that comprise his “Cocteau Trilogy” reflect this focus. This paper applies a new approach aimed at broadening our understanding of these works. As case studies, I explore Orphée (1992), a straightforward operatic production adapted from Jean Cocteau’s 1950 film of the same name, and La belle et la bête (1994), an opera for ensemble and film adapted from the 1946 motion picture. My theoretical frame is rooted in Linda Hutcheon’s theory of adaptation, which centers on conceptions of genre in the process of change. For adaptations from film to opera, Hutcheon’s theory offers two important terms, “product” and “process,” which reflect her “dual-vision” in defining adaptation. Applied to Orphée and La belle et la bête, this model offers fresh insights into Glass’s creative approach. Such insights relating to Orphée include (1) the reconstruction of the film’s dramatic structure in the opera based on the original cinematic scenes, (2) the accentuation of important scenes in the opera, and (3) musical allusions that create historical layers between the source text and the adaptation. Especially important for La belle et la bête is its performance form—a postmodern hybrid—as well as recurring motifs that unveil aspects of Glass’s interpretation of the well-known fairy tale. Following Hutcheon’s syntax and grammar related to cross-genre transitions, I contend that the process of adaptation in Orphée and La belle et la bête points to “intertextuality” as a central feature of Glass’s compositions from this period.

Eric Lubarsky (Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester), Before Binkley: Arabic Influence and Mid-Century Performances of Troubadour Music.

In the 1970s so-called Arabic performances of medieval music took early music by storm. As recent scholarship by John Haines, Kirsten Yri, and others have described, the musical performances of Thomas Binkley and his ensemble Studio der Frühen Musik as well as Réné Clemencic and the Clemencic Ensemble were “groundbreaking” and “influential” for their use of non-Western performance practices. Their recordings from the early 1970s, in fact, inspired other ensembles to take a similar tact by mingling medieval music with world music. While these authors have correctly assessed Binkley and Clemencic as innovators and originators of a major trend, I instead situate their success as the culmination of a longer historical process—one that merged a growing political appreciation for diversity with a controversial theory about Arabic influence that permeated recording and performances by mid-century ensembles like Safford Cape’s Pro Musica Antiqua and Noah Greenburg’s New York Pro Musica. Analyzing recordings, critics’ reviews, liner notes, and performer’s lectures, my paper explores how musicological and literary theories of Arabic influence from the dawn of the twentieth century were variously appropriated, discussed, and (sometimes) dismissed in the field of early music from the 1940s and through the 1960s. While an interest in representing diversity and minorities was a common theme, identifying medieval troubadours as specifically Arabic proved politically contentious. Writ large, American liberal sensibilities, strongly marked by the experience of German-Jewish émigrés, embraced the Arabic theory as an example of historic diaspora. In contrast, Europeans understood the strangeness of troubadour music as revealing internal ethnic and linguistic diversity lost during the nation-building projects of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, my paper will show how an Arab specter haunted early music performances of medieval troubadour chanson long before it finally materialized in the performances of Binkley and Clemencic.

Michael Lupo (The Graduate Center, City University of New York), Luigi Nono’s La lontananza as a Reflection of Postmodern Temporality.

Luigi Nono composed La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura: Madrigale per più caminantes con Gidon Kremer (1988/89) for solo violin and electronics in the last years of his career, when reflection, nostalgia, and hope had taken on a newly significant role in his music. In his oft-cited, polemical Darmstadt lecture “Presenza storica nella musica d’oggi” (1959), Nono made clear his position, rooted in Marxist thought, that the dialectic relationship between a composer’s technique and its expression at a particular point in history forms the lifeblood of a work of art. Nono’s adoption of integral serialism in the 1950s and electronic resources, beginning in the 1960s, as a vehicle for his most tendentious political pieces, reflects this desire to unite compositional means with historical positioning. Particularly with La lontananza and other works written towards the ends of his life, Nono emphasized and developed certain musical proclivities that were present to some degree in much of his earlier work, including the controlled spatial dispersion of prerecorded sounds, the use of terraced dynamics and protracted silences, and the expansion of indeterminate procedures. These often resulted in blurred distinctions between composer, performer, and auditor, and provided a way to explore in depth the potentialities of sound perception as a catalyst for social engagement. To this end, Nono’s late works tend to foreground a nonlinear, non-teleological concept of time consistent with postmodern aesthetics. Just as Italo Calvino’s Se una notte d’inverno un viaggatore (1979) thematizes the act of reading, La lontananza foregrounds the experience of aural attention, with the solo violinist (or caminante) wandering around the performance space in search of music on stands preset throughout the audience. The violinist works with the sound engineer, who participates in the piece’s realization by activating tracks in real time from previously recorded material (of musique concrète and improvisations carried out by violinist Gidon Kremer at the Freiburg Experimentalstudio für akustische Kunst). Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of history, which Nono discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) through Leftist statesman and philosopher Massimo Cacciari, and its constituent concepts of redemption, moments of immediacy (Jetztzeit), and homogenous empty time, I provide an analysis of La lontananza that accounts for its relationship to the historical as a way to “seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.” I further connect Benjamin’s concepts with Jonathan D. Kramer’s work on nonlinear time to illuminate Nono’s compositional development in relation to his situation in a postmodern era.

Alison Maggart (University of Southern California, Los Angeles), Rhythmic Quotation in Milton Babbitt’s The Virginal Book (1988).

“Slowly I play through Loath to Depart by Farnaby,” sings the contralto in the opening line of Milton Babbitt’s The Virginal Book. Her rhythm matches exactly that of the first phrase of the theme and variations by the Elizabethan composer. Such overt quotations are unexpected in Babbitt’s works. His commitment to “contextuality”—the degree to which a work is “self-enclosed,” or “defines its materials within itself”—seems to preclude engagement with external source materials. However, as Andrew Mead has demonstrated, many of Babbitt’s miniatures from the 1970s through the 1990s, refer to other styles, time periods, or composers in title, compositional device, and/or surface-level features—perhaps, revealing a deepening nostalgia for the modernist past in his compositional practice. Significantly, Babbitt’s musical allusions are not merely affixed to his works’ surfaces. Rather, they are products of the serial structures, arising organically from their works’ internal designs. Nevertheless, they direct attention away from the work’s internal design toward the external world and into the past. In this way, they complicate current understandings of Babbitt’s aesthetic. Categorizing these works as “paradigms of modernist autonomy” is clearly insufficient. In this paper I examine The Virginal Book from multiple angles. First, I outline how Babbitt manipulates the serial structure in order to quote Loath to Depart. Second, I explore how the quotation reflects an early revivalist understanding of Elizabethan music, in which the characteristically ambiguous meter was viewed as analogous to jazz. Third, I situate The Virginal Book within a lineage of works that refer to Farnaby’s tune: in particular, James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist. Finally, I examine how Babbitt’s allusion resonates with the notion of echoic metalepsis—a literary device by which a new artwork can harness an entire history of meanings—advanced by Babbitt’s longtime collaborator and poet of “The Virginal Book,” John Hollander.

Diana Matut (Martin-Luther-Universität, Halle-Wittenberg), Very Much Alive… Klezmer & Yiddish Song in the 21st Century—Identities, Language, Audiences, and Educational Structures.

The klezmer and Yiddish song revivals in the U.S. and Europe were closely connected, but very different in terms of protagonists, audiences, target groups, performative and educational structures, availability of oral and written sources etc. The post-revival, however, has changed the klezmer land- and soundscapes fundamentally. In a hitherto unknown scale, the U.S. and European scenes have converged on various levels. Due to globalization, modern social and communication networks, the dwindling number of klezmorim and singers that were raised in the tradition as well as the blurring of ethnic and religious distinctions, the markets have merged. Twenty-first-century klezmer therefore still has to face questions of identity and ideology, but the dichotomies of the twentieth century lose their grip and importance in the discourses of the post-revival era. My talk addresses the identity of the performers (Jewish and non-Jewish); it scrutinizes the role and the command of languages (native speakers, non-speakers, learned speakers); it analyzes the composition and identity of audiences (festival cultures and their political, cultural, and social agendas); it provides insight into educational structures, positing it between “pure chance” and structures; it poses the question of what authenticity means and how to compensate the dwindling of the masters.

Tiffany Ng (University of California, Berkeley), The Heritage of the Future at Philips Electronics.

The carillon, a historical keyboard instrument of tower bells, is a quintessential sound of Dutch history. What use did Philips Electronics in Eindhoven, the Netherlands hear in that seventeenth-century musical patrimony for constructing a utopian technological future? In rebuilding Eindhoven after World War II, Philips extended the early music revival into urban planning and soundscape construction by creating a corporate nexus of carillon building and modernist composition. Within its suburban research park, which rejected traditional Dutch planning for the sprawling office park example of Bell Labs, Philips built the flying-saucer-like Evoluon Eindhoven, a museum of technology that closed in 1989. Next to it, employees donated a carillon in 1966 in a shockingly modernist tower, with bells cast by a founder operating on a research laboratory model that dwarfed the Evoluon’s horizontal form. I suggest that Philips combined the powerful historical and religious meanings of the carillon and its Baroque repertoire with a futuristic museum in order to complete its self-appointment as church and state in a city it almost singlehandedly reconstructed after devastating German bombardments. Built to capitalize on the success of Le Corbusier and Edgard Varèse’s Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Exposition, the carillon and museum focused, rationalized, humanized, and made musical a new postwar city designed as a machine for industrial production and research, and obscured the contradictions inherent to the project. As the only suburban park carillon in the country, the carillon and its concert conventions, rituals of the Dutch market square, decentered and declared a new civic, economic, and cultural life on the suburban periphery. Dutch composers affiliated with Philips such as Henk Badings came to understand writing electronic music and carillon music as complementary. Unlike many modernists, they embraced the carillon boom in the spirit of Wederopbouwoptimisme (reconstruction optimism) as a chance to bring modern music to the masses.

Max Noubel (Université de Bourgogne, Dijon), John Adams’s Post-stylistic Interpretation of the Past: A Response to the Uncertain Future of a Globalized World?

During the 1980s John Adams composed works strongly influenced by repetitive minimalism—a musical style primarily based on a steady refusal of expressiveness and pathos in favor of a “pure” contemplation of sound architecture. It was above all a radically new way to escape from the musical academism and conformism of the East Coast without however resorting to Cageian alternatives or to the “diktat” of European post-serialism. But from Harmonielehre to his most recent works, John Adams has gradually evolved from this minimalist model and has integrated a wide range of musical styles from both art music and popular music. Rejecting the radical solution of the tabula rasa, he has built his musical thought and his philosophy on a dynamic and inventive approach of the past. This approach draws on the huge patrimony of Western musical history without seeking to demystify or to worship this noble legacy. In this paper, I show how this integration of the past, which is not a nostalgic or reactionary attitude, can be interpreted as a response to a globalized world in which the value of art, the attachment to a form of artistic transcendency and the awareness of belonging to history are significantly altered. My reflection relies on a hermeneutic and aesthetic approach of John Adams’ music and on a comparison of the musical situation both in Europe and United States.

Megan Rancier (Bowling Green State University), All that is New is Old Again: The Cultural Politics of Kazakhstan’s Turan Ensemble.

As a former member of the USSR, the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan has a decades-long history of adapting traditional folklore to contemporary formats and purposes, and the post-independence generation of Kazakh musicians has inherited this legacy of revisionist approaches toward Kazakh traditional music. Steeped in this history of conscious adaptation of culture to social and political ends, younger performers Kazakh traditional music must carefully balance the immense cultural & political value of the music that they perform with cultivating fresh audiences for a style of music already familiar (sometimes overly so) to Kazakh listeners. Established in 2008 by five students of the Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory, the “ethno-folk” ensemble Turan draws upon musical conventions developed during the Soviet period, but invigorates the established formats with original compositions and dramatic performance practices. In many ways, the ensemble articulates the position of contemporary Kazakhs who desire a sense of connection with their cultural roots, but live firmly in a contemporary, cosmopolitan world. The ensemble’s noticeable preoccupation with nomadic and shamanic themes underscores the current ideological climate in Kazakhstan regarding Kazakh nationhood and cultural identity, where real and imagined ancientness intersect with contemporary ethno-national politics. Turan has achieved remarkable success, having toured throughout Central Asia, Europe, and the United States under the auspices of the Kazakh Ministry of Culture, a clear indication that Turan represents a desirable national image for Kazakhstan. However, the ensemble’s current status as artists-in-residence at the Museum of Kazakh Folk Musical Instruments seems to indicate that revisionism in Kazakh traditional music is inextricably linked to existing cultural institutions, and inevitably becomes institutionalized itself. In these ways, the Turan ensemble serves as a highly instructive case study of the contemporary cultural politics surrounding Kazakh traditional music, conceptions of cultural heritage and tradition, and Kazakh national identity.

Lydia Rilling (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany). “Oh Long-lost Paradise, Where Are You Now?”: Rediscovery of Love and the Music of the Past in Contemporary European Avant-garde Opera.

Contemporary European composers who have been shaped by the avant-gardes face multiple challenges when it comes to composing love in opera today. The postwar avant-garde movements tended to dismiss, if not make taboo, traditional concepts of emotion and consequently opera as the genre of Western art music traditionally most laden with affect. In this paper I describe love as the vanishing point of key questions of how to reconcile avant-garde aesthetics and techniques with opera. Drawing upon analyses of the operas Le grand macabre by György Ligeti, Die Soldaten by Bernd Alois Zimmermann, and Luci mie traditrici by Salvatore Sciarrino I demonstrate that, although these composers have developed highly individual strategies for composing love, their approaches share one key feature: a recourse to the musical past. In their individual modes, they re-appropriate historical poetics and rhetoric of affect. By re-appropriating and transforming historical materials and techniques these composers can benefit from the semantic-affective potentials and auras of both historical poetics and rhetoric of affect. At the same time the materials and techniques are integrated into the composers’ own individual musical languages. Zimmermann’s, Ligeti’s, and Sciarrino’s strategies offer three different positions towards music history that distinguish themselves from neo-romanticism. Their operas reveal how avant-garde aesthetics and the music of the past can be merged to explore new modes of expression and hence overcome the cliché of anti-emotional avant-garde music. Through reassessing the music of the past, these composers not only rediscover opera as a timely medium and love as a relevant affect, but renew the genre itself.

Nico Schüler (Texas State University, San Marcos), Rediscovering and Renewing Early Twentieth-century Aesthetics and Compositional Approaches after World War II.

Some of the major developmental streams of modern music are streams that originate in the early twentieth century: expressionism, twelve-tone music, neoclassicism, and the music of new objectivity. Some of these streams are generally seen as contrary developments in musical aesthetics and composition. However, already famous authors of the early twentieth century (such as Heinz Tiessen and Theodor W. Adorno) assumed some connections between them.
This paper focuses on the post-World War II rediscovery, renewal, and integration of elements of the aesthetics and compositional approaches of early twentieth-century music. The difficulty in reflecting on this topic lies in the non-linear correlations between aesthetics and compositional approaches. Drawing upon the methodologies of historical musicology, music theory, and aesthetics, this paper will try to explain the complex relationships between, and creative renewal of, the various aesthetics and compositional “techniques.” Examples from the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Hindemith, Krenek, and Hanning Schröder will support the discussions. For example, Schröder made use of Schoenberg’s and Webern’s twelve-tone technique(s) freely, in that he constructed his twelve-tone rows in a way to achieve his aesthetic goals that are close to those of new objectivity; among other features, he made use of tone row rotations for higher flexibility of vertical and horizontal music structures. The goal of this paper is to show how these rediscovery and renewal efforts after World War II resulted in a multitude of aesthetics and compositional approaches that cannot as easily be summarized as many of the music history textbooks suggest. Thus, this paper will attempt to lay ground for re-thinking the music-historical developments of postmodernity’s musical pasts.

Anne Stone (The Graduate Center, City University of New York), The Postmodern Troubadour.

The twenty-first century, barely more than a decade old, has already seen the production of two highly acclaimed modernist operas about troubadours, Kaija Saariaho’s and Amin Maalouf’s L’amour de loin (2000) and Written on Skin (2012) by George Benjamin and librettist Martin Crimp. While two operas do not make a cultural movement, some commonalities between the two suggest that the troubadour might serve as a kind of twenty-first-century Pierrot, an iconic figure representing the anxieties and concerns of the turn of the twentieth century. But while the commedia characters were deployed from an ironic standpoint, the troubadour ostensibly pens his song in order to express his innermost feelings, and has been invoked repeatedly in Western culture as a nostalgic figure representing an idealized past, and an idealized purity of poetic expression, a kind of anti-Pierrot. The librettos of both operas depart from troubadour razos, thirteenth-century biographical accounts that purport to tell the true story of the genesis of specific troubadour songs, a historically “authentic” move that would appear to affirm an attitude of nostalgia for the lost Middle Ages. While L’amour de loin largely delivers on this affirmation, Written on Skin treats its medieval source in a radically different way. The story is not told from the vantage point of the present, as a story of a distant and idealized past, but rather from a vantage point outside historical time, so that medieval and modern times are equally distant and can be referred to with equal ease, and equal ahistoricity. Text, music, and stage design foreground similarities between the medieval and modern, collapsing historical distance, and also underscoring commonalities between that which seems medieval and that which seems modern. Drawing on recent literary-critical uses of the metaphor of historical time as a palimpsest, in which historical moments are superimposed, never entirely erasing that which is underneath, I suggest that the opera effects a striking reversal in which the future, not the past, is the effaced text of the palimpsest. Thus the nostalgia of the opera can be read, paradoxically, as that of the past toward the future.

Kathryn Straker (The Graduate Center, City University of New York), A Magician Called Love: Medieval Imagery in the Music of Donovan.

Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan, like many 1960s guitarists, grew up immersed in music of the folk revival. His first records imitate the solo finger picking and harmonica style of heroes such as Woody Guthrie, but with his second album, Fairytale, he begins to push this technique into fresh musical and lyrical ground. Donovan seizes on Tennyson’s poetry and Pre-Raphaelite paintings for depictions of Britain as a magical land before time, and scattered throughout Fairytale‘s classic folk protest songs are impressionistic snapshots, rich with metaphors of castles and wizards. This fantasy otherworld gains a prominent place in his following work. The Gothic revival and folk revival both have a well-documented place in Britain’s history, but their intersection in postwar youth culture remains largely unexplored. This paper analyzes the role of medieval references in the hippie movement through close readings of two songs from Donovan’s pivotal and influential albums Fairytale (1965) and Sunshine Superman (1966). With Sunshine Superman, Donovan incorporates a sitar into his musical ethos, and the juxtaposition of British folklore and Eastern influences in songs such as “Guinevere” creates a pastiche that is at once nostalgic and progressive. The contrast of past and present, foreign and familiar that permeates Donovan’s music suggests a tension that his generation felt with the world. Medieval and Eastern references embody utopian longing, but they also embody Otherness—they are a world apart from the real present. Like William Morris, Donovan seeks a utopia, but rather than pining to return to an idealized past, he uses medieval myths to express his anxieties about the present and his hopes for the future. In naively combining such disparate elements as medieval ballad and sitar, he attempts to reconcile difference and achieve a unified, enlightened whole.

Joshua S. Walden (Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore), “Aesthetic Indigestion”: Alfred Schnittke’s Cadenzas for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and the Question of Musical Anachronism.

Describing a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with cadenzas written by Alfred Schnittke in the late 1970s, the music critic Martin Bernheimer complained that it gave him “aesthetic indigestion”: “The anachronistic indulgence was grotesque in a heroic, amusing, beguiling, patently schizophrenic way.” The claim that Schnittke’s cadenzas were “anachronistic” reappeared in multiple reviews, pointing to their stylistic contrast to Beethoven’s music, with their stark dissonances and quotations of violin concertos by Bartók, Berg, and Shostakovich. Schnittke’s technique, which he dubbed “polystylism,” is often characterized by its juxtaposition of disparate references. But in spite of his critics’ bemused bafflement at the music’s “anachronism,” a closer reading of the ways Schnittke interlaces borrowed themes, finding motifs shared between Beethoven’s concerto and those of his followers, implies a narrative that instead suggests a more traditional notion of historical progress. Eighteenth-century treatises with instructions for the performance of cadenzas demonstrate that the cadenza has in fact always been understood as inherently anachronistic, in that the performer was to improvise on the concerto’s themes, or seem to do so, in a way that would sound original and individual. The “anachronism” of Schnittke’s cadenzas can thus be viewed as consistent with the tradition they were reviving, rather than as a sign of their postmodern times. This paper examines Schnittke’s cadenzas in relation to cadenza tradition in Beethoven’s era and concepts of postmodernism during Schnittke’s career. It argues that the cadenzas reveal Schnittke’s conception of Beethoven’s place in the history of the violin concerto genre, and that they can help us understand more generally the important role played by anachronism in the forms of revival and renewal found in musical performance.

Dave Wilson (University of California, Los Angeles), “Ethno-bands” and Competing Ideologies of Memory in the Republic of Macedonia.

Starting in 2006 Macedonia has seen a proliferation of “ethno-bands,” groups that perform using Macedonian folk instrumentations, styles, and/or repertoires, but in new configurations or in combination with contemporary styles. Beginning with the first album of one such band, Baklava, ethno-bands have increasingly drawn on Macedonian folk songs of the region known as Aegean Macedonia, which has constituted the northern region of Greece since the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest. Slavic-speaking Macedonians have long inhabited towns and villages in this region, and many of these folk songs reference locations within it by name. This region is also at the heart of the current dispute between Macedonia and Greece, wherein Greece refuses to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name and thus prohibits accession processes to NATO and the EU. In positioning Greece as an enemy to Macedonian progress, the current right-wing government has begun a project claiming a continuity of the Macedonian people from antiquity, emphasizing Macedonian ownership claims on symbols related to Alexander the Great and the Aegean Macedonia region. While many ethnic Macedonians (including members of ethno-bands) do not consider themselves particularly nationalistic and reject such politicized constructions of collective memory, all symbols and forms of cultural expression associated with Aegean Macedonia, including its music, are unavoidably attached to contemporary geo-politics. In this paper, I focus on Ljubojna, an ethno-band that exclusively performs the folk music of Aegean Macedonia, evoking nostalgia for that region especially for ethnic Macedonians with family ties to the region. Instead of resisting or threatening official constructions of collective memory, Ljubojna employs music to provide an alternative nostalgic experience, demonstrating the ability of nostalgia and memory to simultaneously offer multifarious responses to the present moment, a hallmark of this particular post-socialist context.

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