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|Preceded by Modernism|
|Criticism of postmodernism|
|Periods, eras, and movements of|
Western classical music
|Common practice period|
|Late 19th-century to 20th- and 21st-centuries|
Postmodern music is music in the art music tradition produced in the postmodern era. It also describes any music that follows aesthetical and philosophical trends of postmodernism. As an aesthetic movement it was formed partly in reaction to modernism but is not primarily defined as oppositional to modernist music. Postmodernists question the tight definitions and categories of academic disciplines, which they regard simply as the remnants of modernity (Rosenau 1992, 6–7).
The postmodernist musical attitude
Postmodernism in music is not a distinct musical style, but rather refers to music of the postmodern era. Postmodernist music, on the other hand, shares characteristics with postmodernist art—that is, art that comes after and reacts against modernism (see Modernism in Music).
Fredric Jameson, a major figure in the thinking on postmodernism and culture, calls postmodernism "the cultural dominant of the logic of late capitalism" (Jameson 1991, 46), meaning that, through globalization, postmodern culture is tied inextricably with capitalism (Mark Fisher, writing 20 years later, goes further, essentially calling it the sole cultural possibility (Fisher 2009, 4)). Drawing from Jameson and other theorists, David Beard and Kenneth Gloag argue that, in music, postmodernism is not just an attitude but also an inevitability in the current cultural climate of fragmentation (Beard and Gloag 2005, 141–45). As early as 1938, Theodor Adorno had already identified a trend toward the dissolution of "a culturally dominant set of values" (Beard and Gloag 2005, 141), citing the commodification of all genres as beginning of the end of genre or value distinctions in music (Adorno 2002, 293–95).
In some respects, Postmodern music could be categorized as simply the music of the postmodern era, or music that follows aesthetic and philosophical trends of postmodernism, but with Jameson in mind, it is clear these definitions are inadequate. As the name suggests, the postmodernist movement formed partly in reaction to the ideals of modernism, but in fact postmodern music is more to do with functionality and the effect of globalization than it is with a specific reaction, movement, or attitude (Beard and Gloag 2005, 142). In the face of capitalism, Jameson says, "It is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place" (Jameson 1991, ix).
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 (arguably subjective) "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 (2002, 16–17), postmodern music:
- is not simply a repudiation of modernism or its continuation, but has aspects of both a break and an extension
- is, on some level and in some way, ironic
- does not respect boundaries between sonorities and procedures of the past and of the present
- challenges barriers between 'high' and 'low' styles
- shows disdain for the often unquestioned value of structural unity
- questions the mutual exclusivity of elitist and populist values
- avoids totalizing forms (e.g., does not want entire pieces to be tonal or serial or cast in a prescribed formal mold)
- considers music not as autonomous but as relevant to cultural, social, and political contexts
- includes quotations of or references to music of many traditions and cultures
- considers technology not only as a way to preserve and transmit music but also as deeply implicated in the production and essence of music
- embraces contradictions
- distrusts binary oppositions
- includes fragmentations and discontinuities
- encompasses pluralism and eclecticism
- presents multiple meanings and multiple temporalities
- locates meaning and even structure in listeners, more than in scores, performances, or composers
One author has suggested that the emergence of postmodern music in popular music occurred in the late 1960s, influenced in part by psychedelic rock and one or more of the later Beatles albums (Sullivan 1995, 217). Beard and Gloag support this position, citing Jameson's theory that "the radical changes of musical styles and languages throughout the 1960s [are] now seen as a reflection of postmodernism" (Beard and Gloag 2005, 142; see also Harvey 1990). Others have placed the beginnings of postmodernism in the arts, with particular reference to music, at around 1930 (Karolyi 1994, 135; Meyer 1994, 331–32).
Musicians cited as important to postmodern music
Western art music ("classical") composers
- John Adams – American composer (Carl 1990, 45, 51–54; Kramer 2002, 13)
- Thomas Adès (Fox 2004, 53)
- Robert Ashley (Gagné 2012, 12, 19)
- Luciano Berio – Italian composer (Connor 2001, 477–78; Kramer 2002, 14) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Harrison Birtwistle – British composer (Beard and Gloag 2005, 143)
- William Bolcom (Carl 1990, 45, 59–63)
- Hans-Jürgen von Bose – German composer (Kutschke 2010, 582)
- Pierre Boulez – French composer, conductor, writer and pianist (1925–2016) (Butler 1980, 7; Mankowskaya 1993, 91; Ofenbauer 1995, passim; Petrusëva 2003, 45) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Henry Brant (Gagné 2012, 44–45, 208)
- Earle Brown – American composer (Born 1995, 56)
- John Cage – American avant-garde composer (Born 1995, 56; Pasler 2001) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Cornelius Cardew (Born 1995, 56)
- Elliott Carter (Beard and Gloag 2005, 143)
- Aldo Clementi – Italian composer (Morris 2009, 559)
- John Corigliano – American composer (Kramer 2002, 14)
- Hans-Christian von Dadelsen (Kutschke 2010, 582)
- Miguel del Águila (Cheong 2009,[page needed])
- Brian Eno – English musician, composer, record producer and visual artist (Gagné 2012, 90–91)
- Morton Feldman – American composer (1926–1987) (Born 1995, 56)
- Brian Ferneyhough – British composer (Carl 1990, 45–48) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Philip Glass – American composer (Beard and Gloag 2005, 144) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Vinko Globokar (Mankowskaya 1993, 91)
- Heiner Goebbels – German composer and theatre director (Beard and Gloag 2005, 142)
- Michael Gordon – American composer (Gagné 2012, 117)
- Peter Gordon (Gagné 2012, 117)
- Henryk Górecki – Polish composer (1933–2010) (Beard and Gloag 2005, 143)
- Hans Werner Henze (Butler 1980, 7)
- Charles Ives – American composer (LeBaron 2002, 59) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Ben Johnston (Carl 1990, 45, 55–59)
- Mauricio Kagel (Gagné 2012, 149–50)
- Wilhelm Killmayer (Kutschke 2010, 582)
- Zygmunt Krauze (Kramer 2002, 13)
- David Lang (Gagné 2012, 156)
- Anne LeBaron (Gagné 2012, 156–57)
- René Leibowitz (Butler 1980, 7)
- György Ligeti – Hungarian composer (Geyh n.d.)
- Olivier Messiaen – French composer, organist and ornithologist (1908–1992) (Butler 1980, 7)
- Beata Moon (Gagné 2012, 180)
- Detlev Müller-Siemens (Kutschke 2010, 582)
- Luigi Nono (Butler 1980, 7)
- Michael Nyman – English composer of minimalist music, pianist, librettist and musicologist (Pasler 2001)
- Pauline Oliveros – American composer and musician (Carl 1990, 45, 54–55; Gagné 2012, 193)
- John Oswald – Canadian composer (Gagné 2012, 199–200)
- Harry Partch – American composer (Gagné 2012, 202)
- Bernard Rands (Kramer 2002, 14)
- Steve Reich – American composer (Connor 2001, 479–80; Kramer 2002, 14; Mankowskaya 1993, 91) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- Wolfgang Rihm (Beard and Gloag 2005, 142)
- Terry Riley – American composer and performing musician (Gagné 2012, 208)
- George Rochberg (Kramer 2002, 13)
- Alfred Schnittke (Kramer 2002, 13)
- Wolfgang von Schweinitz (Kutschke 2010, 582)
- Juan María Solare (Cheong 2009,[page needed])
- Karlheinz Stockhausen – German composer (Butler 1980, 7; Connor 2001, 476–77; Geyh n.d.; Petrusëva 2003, 45) (Also cited as a modernist composer)
- John Tavener (Beard and Gloag 2005, 143)
- Manfred Trojahn (Kutschke 2010, 582)
- Trevor Wishart (Connor 2001, 480–81)
- Christian Wolff – American composer of experimental classical music (Born 1995, 56)
- Charles Wuorinen – American composer (Carl 1990, 45, 48–51)
- Iannis Xenakis – Greek composer (Geyh n.d.)
- La Monte Young – American avant-garde composer (Born 1995, 56)
- John Zorn (Gagné 2012, 306)
"Popular music" performers
- Bad Religion (O'Reilly 1994)
- David Bowie (Berger 2003, 8)
- Jorge Ben (Sanches 2000, p. 168)
- Michael Jackson (Berger 2003, 8)
- Madonna (Berger 2003, 8)
- Talking Heads (Smart 1993, 14)
- Frank Zappa (Gagné 2012, 305)
- Adorno, Theodor W. 2002. "On The Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening". In his Essays on Music, selected, with introductions, commentary, and notes by Richard Leppert; new translations by Susan H. Gillespie. Berkeley, 288–317. Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22672-0.
- Albright, Daniel. 2004. Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-01267-0.
- Beard, David, and Kenneth Gloag. 2005. Musicology: The Key Concepts. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-31692-7.
- Berger, Arthur Asa. 2003. The Portable Postmodernist. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press. ISBN 0-7591-0313-5 (cloth); ISBN 0-7591-0314-3 (pbk).
- Born, Georgina. 1995. Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.
- Carl, Robert. 1990. "Six Case Studies in New American Music: A Postmodern Portrait Gallery". College Music Symposium 30, no. 1 (Spring): 45–63.
- Butler, Christopher. 1980. After the Wake: An Essay on the Contemporary Avant-Garde. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press.
- Cheong, Yew Choong. 2009. "An Introduction to the Solo Piano Works of Three Latin American Composers: Miguel del Águila, Tania León and Juan María Solare". DMA thesis. Morgantown: West Virginia University. ISBN 978-1244099913 OCLC 325001773
- Connor, Steven. 2001. "The Decomposing Voice of Postmodern Music". New Literary History 32, no. 3: Voice and Human Experience (Summer): 467–83.
- Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Winchester, UK, and Washington, DC: Zero Books. ISBN 978-1-84694-317-1.
- Fox, Christopher. 2004. "Tempestuous Times: The Recent Music of Thomas Adès". The Musical Times 145, No. 1888 (Autumn): 41–56.
- Gagné, Nicole V. 2012. Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Classical Music. Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-6765-6.
- Geyh, Paula E. n.d. Postmodernism—Postmodernism in Literature and Art. Science Encyclopedia, jrank.org (Accessed 8 July 2012).
- Harvey, D. 1990. The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-16292-5.
- Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-0929-7 (cloth); ISBN 0-8223-1090-2 (pbk).
- Karolyi, Otto. 1994. Modern British Music: The Second British Musical Renaissance—From Elgar to P. Maxwell Davies. Rutherford, Madison, Teaneck: Farleigh Dickinson University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Presses. ISBN 0-8386-3532-6.
- Kramer, Jonathan. 2002. "The Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism." In Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, edited by Judy Lochhead and Joseph Aunder, 13–26. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-8153-3820-1 Reprinted from Current Musicology no. 66 (Spring 1999): 7–20.
- Kutschke, Beate. 2010. "The Celebration of Beethoven's Bicentennial in 1970: The Antiauthoritarian Movement and Its Impact on Radical Avant-garde and Postmodern Music in West Germany". The Musical Quarterly 93, nos. 3–4 (Fall-Winter): 560–615.
- LeBaron, Ann. 2002. "Reflections of Surrealism in Postmodern Musics". In Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, edited by Judy Lochhead and Joseph Aunder, 27–74. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-8153-3820-1.
- Mankowskaya, Nadia. 1993. "L'esthétique musicale et le postmodernisme". New Sound: International Magazine for Music, no. 1:91–100.
- Meyer, Leonard B. 1994. Music, the Arts, and Ideas: Patterns and Predictions in Twentieth-Century Culture, second edition. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-52143-5.
- Morris, Geoffrey. 2009. "The Guitar Works of Aldo Clementi". Contemporary Music Review 28, no. 6 (Aldo Clementi: Mirror of time I): 559–86.
- O'Reilly, Tim. 1994. "Bad Religion Takes Postmodern Punk Mainstream". The Daily Princetonian 118, no. 4 (3 February): 10.
- Ofenbauer, Christian. 1995. "Vom Faltenlegen: Versuch einer Lektüre von Pierre Boulez' Notation(s) I(1)". Musik-Konzepte, nos. 89–90:55–75.
- Pasler, Jann. 2001. "Postmodernism." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers. Reprinted, Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 2, 2011). (subscription required)
- Petrusëva, Nadežda Andreevna. 2003. "Новая форма в новейшей музыке" [The Formal Innovations of Postmodern Music]. Muzyka i vremâ: Ežemesâčnyj naučnyj kritiko-publicističeskij žurnal, no. 8: 45–48.
- Rosenau, Pauline Marie. 1992. Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08619-2 (cloth); ISBN 0-691-02347-6 (pbk).
- Sanches, Pedro Alexandre. 2000. Tropicalismo: Decadência Bonita do Samba. São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial. ISBN 8585934549
- Smart, Barry. 1993. Postmodernity. Key Ideas, series editor Peter Hamilton. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06961-0.
- Sullivan, Henry W. 1995. The Beatles with Lacan: Rock 'n' Roll as Requiem for the Modern Age. Sociocriticism: Literature, Society and History Series 4. New York: Lang. ISBN 0-8204-2183-9.
- Bertens, Hans. 1995. The Idea of the Postmodern: A History. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-31692-7.
- Beverley, John. 1989. "The Ideology of Postmodern Music and Left Politics". Critical Quarterly 31, no. 1 (Spring): 40–56.
- Burkholder, J. Peter. 1995. All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowings. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Danuser, Hermann. 1991. "Postmodernes Musikdenken—Lösung oder Flucht?". In Neue Musik im politischen Wandel: fünf Kongressbeiträge und drei Seminarberichte, edited by Hermann Danuser, 56–66. Mainz & New York: Schott. ISBN 3-7957-1772-8.
- Edwards, George. 1991. "Music and Postmodernism". Partisan Review 58, no. 4 (Fall): 693–705. Reprinted in his Collected Essays on Modern and Classical Music, with a foreword by Fred Lerdahl and an afterword by Joseph Dubiel, 49–60. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8108-6203-6.
- Gloag, Kenneth. 2012. Postmodernism in Music. Cambridge Introductions to Music, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521151573.
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- Hurley, Andrew W. 2009. "Postnationalism, postmodernism and the German discourse(s) of Weltmusik". New Formations, no. 66 (Spring): 100–117.
- Klemm, Eberhardt. 1987. "Nichts Neues unter der Sonne: Postmoderne". Musik und Gesellschaft 37, no. 8: 400–403.
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