Contemporary Music: Practices and Debates
This module traces just a few of the paths, among many that might be identified, tracked and evaluated, through late twentieth- and early twenty first-century musical cultures, focusing on some key repertoires and the debates which surround them.
The Modernisms of this period, however much their creators may have insisted on an aesthetic of rejection and beginning again from first principles, have their aesthetic, and even some of their technical, origins in early twentieth-century Modernisms, whether musical or emerging from other art forms and cultural practices. While the Postmodernisms that overlapped with, as well as succeeded, them are frequently associated with the blurring and even breakdown of previously-erected barriers between "High Art" and "Low Art", this module will attempt to assess the significance of such movements and musical phenomena as part of a continuing tradition of "serious", even "classical" musical endeavour: a tradition whose validity and success will receive consideration here.
"Modernism" and "Postmodernism" will be considered not only as they can be applied to cultural practice generally, but also as they may be held up as useful tools to understand the specific musical practices involved, and their influence on subsequent developments.
The methodologies examined and tested in this module include history (cultural as well as musical), cultural theory and musical analysis, and the extent to which at least certain of these might be combined.
To take this module you should have: some knowledge of the main currents of development in Western composed art music during the 20th century. It is possible to benefit from this module if your main musical experience lies outside the Western "classical" tradition; but in this case, in particular, it would be much easier to get a grasp of the module content if you had already read at least something by, if not necessarily the really "hard" theorists such as Adorno and Lyotard, then by, say, Bradbury or Jencks. By no means all such writers refer to music at all, but the application of some of their ideas to a wide range of music will form an important part of this module.
Convenor: Keith Potter