November 19 Readings/Class Notes – History
What is a “modernist” sensibility (or aesthetics) in music?
– Like Romanticism and other artistic trends, it is the dominant trend.
– Many of these trends exist in some other form throughout history
Early Twentieth Century (1900-1945)
Music in the 20 century “... formalism, or structuralism, was established as the
predominant aesthetic of the twentieth century, though it, too, had its detractors”
Stravinsky on Music, 1936:
“music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all,
whether a feeling an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of
– Music early in his life eg. Firebird, Rite of Spring: chromaticism, full rhythms
– However, he is referring to music in the 1920s: considered, modern music.
Stravinsky, Octet for Wind Instruments (1923) – marked a turning point in his
Modernity in Music
Romanticism: Content = form, style etc.
Modernism: Content = form, style etc.
– music is preoccupied with elements of style all on its own
– Reaction against Romanticism
– Romanticism: content dictates form, style etc. Eg. Queen Mab - rondo-like
character, like a scherzo, yet it is meant to express a particular image.
– Modernism: form = style and content. Nothing outside music is meant to be
expressed. How does the work itself work together? What is interesting is the way
it comes together “Not the work of art itself, but the way it says it.”
How does Harry Somers’s North Country seem to exemplify a
particularly mid-century Canadian i nterpretation of modernism?
– Canadian art: focussed on landscape
– Modernist aesthetic: objects of the art are the interest.