Twentieth Century Music: How it Developed, How to Listen to It

By Marion Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE NEW ESTHETIC: EFFECT OF THE WAR, THE MACHINE, RADIO, ETC.

"EVERY artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for expression (this is the element of personality).

"Every artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of his age (this is the element of style)--dictated by the period and particular country to which the artist belongs (it is doubtful how long the latter distinction will continue to exist).

"Every artist, as a servant of art, has to help the cause of art (this is the element of pure artistry, which is constant in all ages and among all nationalities)." ( The Art of Spiritual Harmony by Wassily Kandinsky: Translated with an Introduction by M. T. H. Sadler.)

A clearer statement of esthetics would be difficult to find. The "element of pure artistry" has made us recognize the value of Palestrina, Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, and Debussy. It is that which in common parlance stands the test of time, or as Clive Bell states it, makes some movements become part of the great tradition.

And yet in a discussion of contemporary problems, the elements of personality and style mark the period. They are the hands of the clock which mark the hour, while pure artistry marks Eternity (page 196).

As we look back over the past, the personalities and the styles of the different ages are recognizable. We know what the composers of various epochs were aiming to do; we have seen how their problems were solved; we have traced the changes which gradually came over the most deeply rooted conventions. In other words, we know the esthetics of the past. But our interest now is to solve the riddle the Sphinx propounds today. Every artist, the child of our

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