Postmodern music  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Postmodern music is both a musical style and a musical condition. As a musical style, postmodern music contains characteristics of postmodern art—that is, art after modernism (see Modernism in Music). It favors eclecticism in musical form and musical genre, and often combines characteristics from different genres, or employs jump-cut sectionalization (such as blocks). It tends to be self-referential and ironic, and it blurs the boundaries between "high art" and kitsch. Daniel Albright (2004) summarizes the traits of the postmodern style as bricolage, polystylism, and randomness.

As a musical condition, postmodern music is simply the state of music in postmodernity, music after modernity. In this sense, postmodern music does not have any one particular style or characteristic, and is not necessarily postmodern in style or technique. The music of modernity, however, was viewed primarily as a means of expression while the music of postmodernity is valued more as a spectacle, a good for mass consumption, and an indicator of group identity. For example, one significant role of music in postmodern society is to act as a badge by which people can signify their identity as a member of a particular subculture.

Contents

The postmodernist musical attitude

Jonathan Kramer posits the idea (following Umberto Eco and Jean-François Lyotard) that postmodernism (including musical postmodernism) is less a surface style or historical period (i.e., condition) than an attitude. Kramer enumerates 16 "characteristics of postmodern music, by which I mean music that is understood in a postmodern manner, or that calls forth postmodern listening strategies, or that provides postmodern listening experiences, or that exhibits postmodern compositional practices." According to Kramer (Kramer 2002, 16–17), postmodern music:

  1. is not simply a repudiation of modernism or its continuation, but has aspects of both a break and an extension
  2. is, on some level and in some way, ironic
  3. does not respect boundaries between sonorities and procedures of the past and of the present
  4. challenges barriers between 'high' and 'low' styles
  5. shows disdain for the often unquestioned value of structural unity
  6. questions the mutual exclusivity of elitist and populist values
  7. avoids totalizing forms (e.g., does not want entire pieces to be tonal or serial or cast in a prescribed formal mold)
  8. considers music not as autonomous but as relevant to cultural, social, and political contexts
  9. includes quotations of or references to music of many traditions and cultures
  10. considers technology not only as a way to preserve and transmit music but also as deeply implicated in the production and essence of music
  11. embraces contradictions
  12. distrusts binary oppositions
  13. includes fragmentations and discontinuities
  14. encompasses pluralism and eclecticism
  15. presents multiple meanings and multiple temporalities
  16. locates meaning and even structure in listeners, more than in scores, performances, or composers

Timescale

One author has suggested that the emergence of postmodern music occurred in the late 1960s, influenced in part by psychedelic rock and one or more of the later Beatles albums (Sullivan 1995, 217). Others place the beginnings of musical postmodernism much earlier, around 1930 (Karolyi 1994, 135; Meyer 1994, 331–32).

Composers cited as important to postmodern music

Classical

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Postmodern music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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