European Music in the Twentieth Century

European Music in the Twentieth Century

European Music in the Twentieth Century

European Music in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

The aim of this book can best be described as mid-century stocktaking: this is not a simple affair for several reasons. We may think that we can now see the wood despite the trees and that we can perceive some of the operative trends in the progress of musical creation and thought in European life. But to write a book describing this in large and in detail seemed to me to call for a devotee with far greater knowledge and aptitude than myself: hence the idea of a symposium emerged, in the hope that some picture of the shape of European music in the first half of the century would be given to those who wished a rough-and-ready introduction, and some impression be given of how the problems endemic in various countries were being tackled by the more adventurous musical spirits in the several centres of musical culture.

The crisis in musical life represents, after all, the greater crisis in political and artistic life. Only ostriches (and some members of the press) can afford to ignore the impact of Darwin, Marx and Freud on the tidy and ordered nineteenth-century concepts which seem to some today so distant and desirable. The beginning of the century saw in all the arts an intense wave of experiment, some of it vital, a lot of it modish, which produced not only the musicians whom we hope to discuss in this book but Picasso and Paul Klee, James Joyce and Rainer Maria Rilke, le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. The clear fact is that as the comfortable bourgeois values of the nineteenth century were, to the majority of creative artists, no longer acceptable or tolerable, and the old disciplines have been shed, the search for new disciplines, or even for the delights of artistic anarchy -- expressed perhaps best by the work of the Dadaists in the twenties or the improvised renderings of John Cage on 'prepared' pianos -- was pursued intensively and often with violence. In music the signs were also on the horizon before the century ended.

For example, the tides of the German romantic tradition, already . . .

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