Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Modernism and the Liberation of Sound

Modernism is an international movement that extended into nearly all aspects of human life. Art, science, and society were ubiquitously  affected by it. As a broad and complex movement, it is difficult to succinctly and effectively define and classify modernism. In its broadest sense, modernism can be classified as a breaking away and challenging the axioms of romantic and enlightenment thought. For most when people consider Modernism and the arts, they focus on the changes in painting and literature. Often, little is said about Modernism in music, Therefore, I will focus on how Modernism broke away from from the established conventions in Music

Since the dawn of mankind, men and women alike have sought to express thought, feeling, emotion, and themselves through sonic means. Over the centuries, Wester music had developed  into a complex and precise art form known as tonal harmony. However, modernist musical innovators believed that this musical system had become outworn, unoriginal, and bogged down by centuries of rules, traditions, and conventions.These innovators lead a sonic revolution to liberate and change the world of sound. These musicians began in incorporate "non-musical" sounds into their music, as well as break away from tonal harmony, conventional progressions, and rhythmic structures. What came into being is what is referred to today as experimental music. Composers such as John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, and Edgard Varèse pioneered this field. Though this type of experimental music never particularly commercially and many modern listeners would not find it appealing, it can be argued that these composers were the vanguard for the digital music that we enjoy in our society today.


Here is piece of Music Concret, a style of experimental music;





Shifting Gears:


The numerous modern analogues between modernism and our new digital society are not difficult to identify. With the advent of the internet and other forms of communications media, such a text messaging, we too are breaking away from conventions and traditions in journalism, politics, culture, and much more. Great lessons can be learned from looking back and learning from history, while moving forward. Is everything that resulted from modernism a good thing? Has it all made our world and a society a better place? I would argue that it has not. Now as we find ourselves in a similar position, it is important to remember that not all change is good change nor should things always change just for the sake of change. I will end with asking you to consider this Facebook status I posted a few months ago:


While on the frontier of exploration in a new digital world, it is important to be wary of abandoning time-honored traditions...