Musical historicism

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Musical historicism signifies the use of historical materials, structures, styles, techniques, media, conceptual content, etc., whether by a single composer or those associated with a particular school, movement, or period.

Musical historicism also denotes a theory, doctrine, or aesthetic that emphasizes the importance of music history or in which history is seen as a standard of value or determining factor (as in performance practice).

Meaning of "musical historicism"[edit]

The term "historicism" has acquired various, sometimes confusing meanings over a wide range of disciplines. The British philosopher Karl Popper, who disliked modern music and strongly preferred the works of Bach, Mozart, and Schubert, spoke of "the failure of the historicist propaganda for the modern in music."[this quote needs a citation] He opposed the socioscientific doctrine of historicism that discoverable laws of historical change make it possible to predict future developments. Repudiating the claim that Schoenberg was "an inevitable historical force", Popper dismissed the idea of producing art work "ahead of its time" (Gopnik 2002).

When referring to the arts, however, the term "historicism" generally denotes something distinctly different from the historicism targeted by Popper's critique. It designates "a style (as in architecture) characterized by the use of traditional forms and elements" (Merriam-Webster 2003). Historicism stands in contrast to[citation needed] modernism, "a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression" (Merriam-Webster 2003).

Whereas the historicism of the Ancient Airs and Dances for Lute (1917–31) by Ottorino Respighi is readily apparent to the ear, since the composer drew directly on the works of 16th- and 17th-century composers, the historicism informing the Music of Changes (1951) by John Cage, based on the ancient Chinese I Ching, is deeply embedded in the compositional process (Tomkins 1976, 111–12).

The study of history and historical influence also raises fundamental questions about the nature of time.[citation needed] Many physicists, including Einstein, have maintained that the familiar division of time into past, present, and future is an illusion, from which it necessarily follows that "old" and "new" are terms as relative as "up" and "down" (Davies 2006, 9). Since concepts of time and history and the average lifespans of human beings living in different periods and cultures are variable, these, too, are factors that must also be considered.[clarification needed][citation needed]

History of musical historicism[edit]

18th, 19th, and 20th centuries[edit]

Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries incorporated traditional chorale melodies into numerous of their major works in such genres as the cantata, chorale prelude, chorale fantasia, chorale fugue, chorale motet, chorale variations, oratorio, and Passion.[clarification needed] Like composers before them, Johannes Brahms and Max Reger composed variations on themes taken from earlier composers (e.g., Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, op. 24, and Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56a; and Reger's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Bach, op. 81, and Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, op. 132). Stravinsky derived much of the musical material for his Pulcinella from the work of various 18th-century composers.

Creating new music that closely follows the style of an earlier composer or period has provided a creative outlet for both major and minor masters. Mozart, whose music was richly informed by his contact with the antiquarian music circle of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, exhibited a particular gift for the baroque style in such works as his Suite in C Major (sometimes subtitled "in the style of Handel"), KV 399 (385i), which includes an ouverture, allemande, and courante. (A fragmentary sarabande and Eine kleine Gigue, K. 574 also document his skill as an historicist composer.) In a letter to his father of 7 February 1778, he proudly states, "As you know, I can more or less adopt or imitate any kind and any style of composition" (Solomon 1995, 119).

A more eclectic approach to historicism in which multiple historical style influences are evident was adopted by Louis Spohr in his Symphony No. 6 in G Major, op. 116 ("Historical") "in the Style and Taste of Four Different Periods": 1. Bach-Handel'sche Periode, 1720, Largo - Grave; 2. Haydn-Mozart'sche Periode, 1780, Larghetto; 3. Beethoven'sche Periode, 1810, Scherzo; and 4. Allerneueste Periode ["very latest Period"], 1840, Allegro vivace. Though not characteristic of his later style, Sergei Prokofiev paid tribute not only to the "classicism" of Haydn but also to the baroque gavotte in his Symphony No. 1 in D Major, op. 25 ("Classical").

The fusion of historical and emergent styles, forms, techniques, and content in a given work is encountered with great frequency in the music of most periods. The fugue, for example, whose origins can be traced to the imitative counterpoint of the late Middle Ages and which reached full maturity in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, figures prominently in the musical styles of a number of important composers in the 19th century and beyond, including Beethoven, Mendelssohn (whose early works were modelled on symphonies of C. P. E. Bach), Reger (whose works for solo cello, viola or violin closely imitate Bachian forms), Shostakovich, and Hindemith.

A closely related instrumental genre that first appeared in the late Renaissance, the toccata achieved particular prominence in the keyboard works of Buxtehude and J.S. Bach and has since been revived by such distinguished composers as Schumann, Debussy, and Prokofiev.

Other romantic and early 20th-century composers among the many who demonstrated either explicit or implicit historicist affinities are Barber, Bartók, Britten, Marius Casadesus, Chávez, Ferdinand David, Falla, Fauré, François-Joseph Fétis, Grieg, Hindemith, d'Indy, Ives, Kreisler, Paderewski, Pfitzner, Manuel Ponce, Poulenc, Respighi, Satie, Schoenberg, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, and Wagner.

In the 20th century Carl Orff attempted a revival of ancient Greek practices of musical theater (he also regularly contributed his own texts in Latin and Ancient Greek to his own musical works).

Historicism in contemporary music[edit]

Paralleling the work of contemporary architects, designers, authors, and other artists who have openly revisited the past, a growing number of late-20th and 21st-century composers have adopted the historicist approach to composition, employing to a greater or lesser extent materials, structures, styles, techniques, media, and conceptual content associated with previous eras.[citation needed] In contemporary art music, the entire gamut of historical style periods has served as a creative resource.

Given that tonality itself is deeply rooted in pre-modernist historical traditions, tonal types of minimalism, post-minimalism, and contemporary world music may all be subsumed in varying degrees under the rubric of historicism.[citation needed]

Interest in musical historicism has been spurred by the emergence of such international organizations as the Delian Society, dedicated to the revitalization of tonal art music, and Vox Saeculorum, whose composer members have a specialized interest in baroque idioms (Colburn 2007).

Some contemporary historicist composers, similar to the 18th-century literary figures Thomas Chatterton, James MacPherson (the Ossian poems), and Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto), have written under a pseudepigraphic ascription, attributing their work to other composers, either real or imaginary. These include Winfried Michel, author of the impressive "Haydn Forgeries" (Beckerman 1994; Lindskoog 1996) and Roman Turovsky-Savchuk, whose original lute and viola da gamba compositions in the baroque style were sufficiently convincing to be mistaken for works by masters of the composer's own mythopoeic invention (Colburn 2007), and led to accusations of "trivializing musicology" (Smith 2002).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Beckerman, Michael. 1994. "CLASSICAL VIEW; All Right, So Maybe Haydn Didn't Write Them. So What?" New York Times (May 15).
  • Colburn, Grant. 2007. "A New Baroque Revival." Early Music America 13, no. 2 (Summer): 36–45, 54–55.
  • Davies, Peter. 2006. "That Mysterious Flow." Scientific American, special ed. 16, no. 1: 6–11. Reprinted from Scientific American 287, no. 3 (special issue: "A Matter of Time"): 40–44, 46–47.
  • Gopnik, Adam. 2002. "The Porcupine: A Pilgrimage to Popper." The New Yorker. 1 April. 7 January 2007.
  • Lindskoog, Kathryn. 1996. "In the Footsteps of Michelman". The Lewis Legacy 69 (Summer).
  • "Modernism." Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 11th ed. 2003.
  • Smith, Douglas Alton. 2002. "Hoax or Art" Lute Society of America Quarterly, February issue, p. 4.
  • Solomon, Maynard. 1995. Mozart: a Life. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Tomkins, Calvin. 1976. The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant-Garde, expanded ed. New York: Penguin Books.

Further reading[edit]

  • Applegate, Celia. 2005. Bach in Berlin: Nation and Culture in Mendelssohn's Revival of the St. Matthew Passion. Cornell University Press.
  • Burkholder, J. Peter, Andreas Giger, and David C. Birchler (eds.). 1994–2007. Musical Borrowing: An Annotated Bibliography. Bloomington: Indiana School of Music.
  • Carl, Robert. 2001. "Introduction: Historicism in American Music since 1980." Contemporary Music Review 20, no. 4:1–7.
  • Dahlhaus, Carl. 1983. Foundations of Music History, translated by J. Bradford Robinson. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dahlhaus, Carl. 1989. Nineteenth-Century Music, translated by J. Bradford Robinson. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-07644-0
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1965. "Quotation and Originality." The Portable Emerson, ed. and with an introduction by Mark Van Doren. New York: The Viking Press.
  • Ford, Joseph Dillon. 2003. Orpheus in the Twenty-first Century: Historicism and the Art Music Renascence. Gainesville, Florida: New Music Classics [online publisher].
  • Frisch, Walter. 2004. "Reger's Historicist Modernism." The Musical Quarterly 87(4): 732-48.
  • Frisch, Walter. 2005. German Modernism: Music and the Arts. California Studies in 20th-Century Music. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25148-9.
  • Gardiner, Patrick L. 1995. "Historicism." The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Garratt, James. 2002. Palestrina and the German Romantic Imagination: Interpreting Historicism in Nineteenth-Century Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Garratt, James. 2004. "Mendelssohn and the Rise of Musical Historicism." The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn, ed. Peter Mercer-Taylor, 55–70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Grout, Donald J. and Claude V. Palisca. 1996. A History of Western Music, 5th ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
  • "Historicism." 2003. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 11th ed.
  • "Lament." 1975. Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2d ed., rev. and enlarged.
  • Lenz, Eric David. 2002. "Neoclassicism in Claude Debussy's Sonate pour violoncelle et piano." DMA diss., University of Alabama.
  • Lippman, Edward. 1994. A History of Western Musical Aesthetics. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.
  • MacKenzie, James C. 1995. The Text of Time: Musical Quotation and Historicism in Berio's Sinfonia. Ottawa: National Library of Canada (Bibliothèque nationale du Canada).
  • Mahnkopf, Claus-Steffen. 2004. The Foundations of Contemporary Composition. Hofheim: Wolke.
  • "Massachusetts" Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2d ed., rev. and enlarged, 1975.
  • Mercer-Taylor, Peter. 2004. The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mihailovic, Alexander. 1999. Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries : A Centennial Symposium. Westport, Connectivut: Greenwood Press.
  • Popper, Karl R. 1957. The Poverty of Historicism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Reese, Gustave. 1968. Music in the Middle Ages. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
  • Reese, Gustave. 1959. Music in the Renaissance. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
  • Roth, Michael S. 1994. Rediscovering History : Culture, Politics, and the Psyche. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Saffle, Michael and Rossana Dalmonte. 2003. Liszt and the Birth of Modern Europe: Music as a Mirror of Religious, Political, Cultural, and Aesthetic Transformations. Proceedings of the International Conference held at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio (Como), 14–18 December 1998. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press.
  • Toews, John Edward. 2004. Becoming Historical : Cultural Reformation and Public Memory in Early Nineteenth-century Berlin. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Trachtenberg, Marvin, and Isabelle Hyman. 1986. Architecture from Prehistory to Post-Modernism: The Western Tradition. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
  • Watkins, Glenn. 1994. Pyramids at the Louvre: Music, Culture, and Collage from Stravinsky to the Postmodernists. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  • Weaver, Robert Lamar; Norma Wright Weaver; Susan Helen Parisi; Ernest Charles Harriss; and Calvin M Bower. 2000. Music in the Theater, Church, and Villa : Essays in Honor of Robert Lamar Weaver and Norma Wright Weaver. Warren, Michigan: Harmonie Park Press.
  • Wiora, Walter (ed.) 1969. Die Ausbreitung des Historismus über die Musik: Aufsätze und Diskussionen. Studien zur Musikgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts 14. Regensburg: G. Bosse Verlag.
  • Wolff, Christoph. 2004. "A Bach Cult in Late-Eighteenth-Century Berlin: Sara Levy's Musical Salon." 1886th Stated Meeting. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. House of the Academy, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 15 December.
  • Zon, Bennett. 1999. Nineteenth-century British Music Studies. Aldershot [Hampshire]; Brookfield [Vermont]: Ashgate.