THE WEDNESDAY BOOK: So What Do We Mean by Modern Music? ; the Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music Edited by Nicholas Cook & Anthony Pople Cambridge University Press, Pounds 100/pounds 100 (Free P&p) from 0870 079 8897

By Gutman, David | The Independent (London, England), November 3, 2004 | Go to article overview
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THE WEDNESDAY BOOK: So What Do We Mean by Modern Music? ; the Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music Edited by Nicholas Cook & Anthony Pople Cambridge University Press, Pounds 100/pounds 100 (Free P&p) from 0870 079 8897


Gutman, David, The Independent (London, England)


QUIETLY, WE may be crossing some kind of Rubicon. Previous histories of 20th-century music have taken it for granted that this means "contemporary classical", with the emphasis on modernism. Then, in 1995, Oxford republished Paul Griffiths's classic study under the title Modern Music And After. It was clear something had changed. But when Simon Rattle called his Channel 4 series Leaving Home, those departures were seen as enrichments rather than a retreat from a hegemonic tradition.

Now this Cambridge History has arrived, with a keen sense of its own importance as "the first appraisal" of 20th-century musical developments "from the vantage point of the 21st". Its pluralist narrative finds room for pop, jazz and easy listening alongside classical mainstreams and avant- garde orthodoxies. The non- interventionist stance makes for lively debate between contributors, reflecting the revisionist brand of musicology where the importance of any musical culture must be constantly contested. It's a brave undertaking, since any publication that places Furtwangler next to Peter Gabriel risks charges of incoherence or worse.

The substance of earlier inquiries is present and correct, except for Bartk, here "reduced to a series of cameo parts", as the editors admit. David Osmond-Smith's account of the beginnings of modernism is taken up by Richard Toop as 1950s rationalism gives way to the 1960s uncertainty.

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THE WEDNESDAY BOOK: So What Do We Mean by Modern Music? ; the Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music Edited by Nicholas Cook & Anthony Pople Cambridge University Press, Pounds 100/pounds 100 (Free P&p) from 0870 079 8897
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