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Session 2-26
Local Histories, Global Contexts: Writing the History of 20th-Century Music

Anne C. Shreffler (University of Basel), Organizer

Writing the history of 20th-century music will involve coming to terms with a different set of issues from those encountered in the histories of other periods. The most obvious is the lack of a central canon, or even of a central perspective from which to define one. The blurring of boundaries between art, popular, and functional music and the increasingly wide range of styles within these categories have made it impossible to write a history of music in the last century that treats only concert music. The globalized economy and modern communications have allowed rapid dissemination of music all over the world. New research on popular music, film music, jazz, Russian and Eastern European music, music by women, and world music has irrevocably altered the conventional historical narrative of musical development in which the Second Viennese School and its reception formed the central strand. The bewildering variety of styles in recent composition has led us to recognize that musical landscapes in earlier parts of the century were more diverse than we had thought. Conventional histories of 20th-century music have achieved their clear picture by eliminating much (if not most) of the century's music from consideration.
A central theme of the session is therefore canon formation: what value systems and institutions enable canonic repertories to be formed, how are these values transmitted as part of musical reception, how are terms such as avant-garde and conservative defined and what are their effects? Yet, because it is clearly impossible to do justice to all the repertories that "ought to be" included, we also need new models that can account for the diversity of 20th-century music in a way that avoids both a complete fragmentation of discourse and the creation of new master narratives. Solutions to this problem will most likely be found less in the composer- and work-centered historiography of past approaches than in methods that allow us to evaluate how music has been valued, disseminated, and received in different contexts.

 

Resurgent Tonality in the Late 20th Century: The Case of American Minimalism
Jonathan W. Bernard (University of Washington, Seattle)

The much-ballyhooed "return to tonality" in the recent compositional practice of Europe and North America is a phenomenon with several distinct, if also somewhat interdependent, causes. This paper examines one important contributor to the current scene, American minimalism of the 1960s and early '70s and its further developments since then, with the dual aim of (1) tracing the gradual shift from what is now often called early or "pure" minimalism to the hybrid products of later years, and (2) establishing whether there was anything about minimalism as originally constituted that suggested its more frankly tonal projection into the works of such currently active composers as Philip Glass, John Adams, and Michael Torke.

 

American Music History and the International Scene
Richard Crawford (University of Michigan)

In my book America's Musical Life I have built the narrative around performance rather than composition. Moreover, I have tried to represent the diversity of that life by including all categories of musical endeavor: classical, popular, and traditional (folk). The three categories are linked not to an aesthetic hierarchy but to something more concrete: the presence, absence, and authority of musical notation. Grounded in the specifics of American history, this chronicle seeks to address the question of how the musicians being discussed have earned their living. My paper will describe the approach to American music, dictated, in part, by particulars of the American scene, then suggest a few parallels outside the United States.

 

Colonial Subjects, Postcolonial Texts:19th- and 20th-century Musical Constructions of Africa
Veit Erlmann (University of Texas at Austin)

In this paper I seek to examine the role of music in the making of 20th-century identities in Africa and the West. Rather than casting this process as a dichotomy in which the center dominates, excludes or silences the periphery while the periphery in turn asserts itself as being different from or standing in opposition to the center, I emphasize the logic of sameness and difference underpinning processes of global cultural and musical production. Instead of asking what impact colonization had on Africa, what the "primitive" meant to modernism, or how the colonized resisted the colonizer, I explore the way in which these processes were intertwined and often rested on the same epistemological and aesthetic premises.

 

Greatness and Canonicity: Women Composers in 20th-Century Britain
Sophie Fuller (University of Reading)

Why has the image of the "great composer" remained so determinedly male during the 20th century? This presentation will examine the position of a generation of women composers (including Elisabeth Lutyens, Elizabeth Maconchy, Grace Williams and Phyllis Tate) who were born just before the First World War and first came to prominence in the 1930s. Why have none of these women taken a place in the history of 20th-century music in Britain on the same footing as their male contemporaries Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten? I shall frame this case study with thoughts on canon formation with respect to later generations of women composers and women working outside the "classical" field.

 

Innocents Abroad: The European Reception of American Music
Felix Meyer (Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel)

The twentieth century has been marked by exchanges of ideas, music, theories and people between Europe and North America to a far greater extent than in previous centuries. While the overwhelming influence of Europe on institutions of art music in the U.S. has been well documented, the reverse--the impact of American music on European musical development--has received much less attention. After the Second World War, experimental American music began to be taken increasingly seriously in Europe. The paper focuses on the case of Conlon Nancarrow, a Mexican composer of American origin, whose rhythmically intricate pieces for player piano were taken up with great enthusiasm, most notably by Gyorgy Ligeti.

 

Separate and Unequal: Jazz in the History of 20th-Century Music
Ingrid Monson (Washington University in St. Louis)

Cast as both popular and classical, ethnic and universal, modernist and traditional, jazz improvisation has been claimed for paradoxical purposes and constituencies throughout the twentieth century. Conceived and developed during Jim Crow, the politics of race have indelibly shaped the lives of musicians and the reception of the music. This paper will examine the place of jazz in a musical historiography of the 20th century, focusing on the interplay of modernist aesthetics, the civil rights movement, and African independence in the emergence of jazz's "golden age" of the 1950s and 1960s. The legacy of this period on the dynamics of hybridity, appropriation, and globalization of later music, as well as costs and benefits of "classicizing" jazz will be addressed.

 

Music History and Ideology: East and West German Historiographical Debates
Anne C. Shreffler (University of Basel)

Since musicology has devoted increasing attention in recent years to thinking about music as a socially-constructed phenomenon, it seems useful to review a period of intense debate about the virtues of a social-based versus a work-based musicology that took place between East and West German scholars in the 1970s. This dialogue, carried out primarily by Georg Knepler in the East and Carl Dahlhaus in the West, had no parallel in the English-speaking world, where only the Dahlhaus side was noticed at all. My paper will examine the clash of ideologies between Marxist and Western methods of history-writing presented in Dahlhaus's Grundlagen der Musikgeschichte and Knepler's Geschichte als Weg zum Musikverständnis (both 1977).

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