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Introduction

Contemporary Music: Theory, Aesthetics, Critical Theory


Max Paddison

Very frequently no one knows that contemporary music is or could be art. He simply thinks it is irritating. Irritating one way or another, that is to say keeping us from ossifying (John Cage, Silence)

I You might reasonably say that contemporary music is simply what is going on now, music that reflects its time, where multiplicity rules and music fits in, one way or another. Or you could argue that contemporary music also has a history of being contemporary, where in many respects it has never really fitted in, and has become self-reflexive and critical in ways that relate not only to its own time but also to its own history. If you take this view which, broadly speaking, is the view of the chapters in this book then the contemporary music in question becomes that of the avant-garde and the experimental, particularly since 1945, with all the difficulties to which this has always given rise. If such music continues to have irritation value, in John Cages sense of keeping us from ossifying, then the discourses that surround it are also likely to prove provocative. The idea of a music that is truly contemporary, in the sense of relating to its time, is one which has always had its problems. To discuss contemporary music today at least, in the way in which it is intended here could even be regarded as to be out of step with what appears as current, relevant and widely accepted, particularly if it is assumed that the essential debates have already happened and that the matter is now closed. We argue here that the case very much remains open, and that the debates continue, if for no other reason than that what could be called advanced contemporary music itself continues to change and to go into unexpected and unforeseen places. The end of history has not happened at least not in music. In fact, especially in music, the need for discussion has never been
John Cage, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1968), p. 44. Ibid., p. 44.  Taking his cue from Hegels philosophy of history, where the motor of history is driven by conflict and contradictions, Francis Fukuyama had famously argued that perhaps
 

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greater, with the general demise of heroic modernism, the decline of the New, the turn away from experimentation, and the celebration of diversity, all of which were features at one stage seen as marking the shift to the postmodern a concept which itself now shows distinct signs of ageing. Indeed, this has been the case ever since the concept was employed to identify stylistic changes in contemporary architecture by Charles Jencks and more fundamental social, technological and epistemological changes by Jean-Franois Lyotard in the 1970s and 1980s. It was also partly the result of the critique of postmodernism by Jrgen Habermas and others on the grounds of the (neo)conservative implications of the critique of subjectivity and of rationality to be encountered in the writings of Foucault, Lyotard, Deleuze and Guattari. At the same time, the social situation of art music in general and of advanced music in particular remains distinctly contradictory, stark in its contrasts, and confused in the face of conflicting demands. The kind of cultural democracy created to a large extent since the 1980s by new and accessible technology is matched by the increasing bureaucratization and managerial control of culture by the new politics which also emerged in Europe in the 1980s, with its insistence on accountability, participation, value for money, and entertainment. (You could see this as a market updating of what in the late 1970s had been known somewhat confusingly by the Arts Council in the UK as the democratization of culture under its slogan at that time, Arts for All, amid accusations of levelling
the end of history had occurred in 1989, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the triumph of Western capitalism and the emergence of the United States as the worlds only super-power (see Francis Fukuyama, The End of History?, The National Interest 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 318). The falseness of Fukuyamas argument was evident at the time, and has certainly been revealed to be so by subsequent world events. Nevertheless, 1989 was a significant date, but more so as the beginning of a new age of uncertainty. Alastair Williams argues for the importance of 1989 as a turning point in contemporary music in Germany (see Alastair Williams, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm and the Austro-German tradition, this volume). Contemporary music in the rest of Europe and in North America appears to have been slower in its response (see Max Paddison, Adorno, Modernism and Mass Culture, London: Kahn & Averill, 2004, pp. 1323).  In his What is Post-Modernism? (London/New York: Academy Editions/St Martins Press, 1986), p. 3, Charles Jencks traces the term postmodern back to the Spanish writer Federico De Onis in his Antologia de la poesa espaola e hispanoamericana of 1934 and to Arnold Toynbees A Study of History of 1938. What Im referring to here is the emergence of the term postmodernism as a widely employed label both for a style and for a historical period dating from the late 1960s / early 1970s up to the early twenty-first century, with the 1980s as the most intensive period in the modernism/postmodernism debate, especially that between Habermas and Lyotard.  See Richard Rorty, Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity, in Richard J. Bernstein (ed.), Habermas and Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1985), pp. 16175. See also Jrgen Habermas, Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne: Zwlf Vorlesungen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1985). Trans. as: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987).

Introduction

down on the one side and elitism on the other.) Situated in a vortex of impossible demands, contemporary music cannot be identified as one thing, consistent and recognized by all. Artists tend to do what they do, in spite of political and social pressures to make art useful or relevant in some way, in order to justify supporting it with public funding. Instead, you could say that the real situation faced by contemporary music is that all we have are widely differing and often sharply contrasting responses to a common dilemma within a cultural context characterized by fragmentation, a situation which compels advanced music towards reflexion. Put crudely, the role of a theory of music today is to identify and explicate those responses, and the role of a philosophy of music is to problematize them in relation to the common dilemma in a fragmented world of special-interest groups and niche marketing. This collection of essays places itself precisely there, taking stock, seeking new patterns in the already-familiar, and casting a critical eye over the assumptions that surround the idea of an advanced music today. The emphasis is largely music-theoretical in the first part of the book, philosophical in the second, with a combination of the two in relation to the composers in the third part. Strict lines of demarcation cannot easily be sustained between theory, philosophy and creative practice, however, and the fact that they inevitably and most profitably interact is evident throughout. But how are we to understand such a tired term as contemporary music, given its capacity to refer to all and everything and nothing in particular? Strictly speaking, contemporary should mean now, right up to date, the music of our contemporaries in the twenty-first century. The problem, however, is that contemporary music has become a label just like those it has tried to replace in a fast-moving culture labels like modern (from modo, meaning now, but displaced interestingly by postmodern), the New (so often recycled, so many old New Musics), and the avant-garde (which originally had a more specialized meaning to do with pushing boundaries, but is now regarded in some circles as distinctly old fashioned). In view of such difficulties regarding the question what is contemporary?, and recognizing my already evident bias towards the idea of an advanced music, we can only be pragmatic, and say that in the context of these essays the term can be seen in two ways. The first, and relatively simple answer is that the use of terms such as contemporary and advanced refers here
 An interesting perspective on this now largely forgotten debate between the proponents of cultural democracy and those of the democratization of culture is that of community arts in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Britain, in particular as seen in the exchange between the community artist Owen Kelly and the then Secretary-General of the Arts Council, Sir Roy Shaw. See especially Owen Kelly, Community, Art and the State: Storming the Citadels (London: Comedia, 1984). The French version of this debate concerned animation socioculturelle versus mainstream gallery, museum and concert hall culture, and was taken up in Germany as soziokulturelle Animation. It is probably safe to say that both community arts and animation socioculturelle have now become thoroughly institutionalized.

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also to the legacy of very different but radical musics which can be traced back at least to the beginning of the twentieth century. This is a legacy which persists, in spite of all, and through it we continue to engage with problems of musical material, form and structure in ways that can best be described as critical and self-reflexive, in musical terms at least. (It has to be said that, while the politics of music strongly underpins the debates represented in this book, especially in Parts II and III, the question of directly politically engaged contemporary music is not a focus.) The obvious examples of a legacy that spring to mind are best seen as taking their orientation from the music of composers such as Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Stravinsky, Varse, Cage and Carter, through Feldman, Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, Berio, Pousseur, Kagel, Xenakis and Ligeti to Birtwistle, Ferneyhough, Finnissy, Lachenmann and Rihm, to name but a few. (Debussy, for example, remains a strong influence on many composers of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, including the Spectralists, as well as the French-orientated English composer Jonathan Harvey, and the German neoromantic composer Wolfgang Rihm, and therefore must also be acknowledged as a continuing presence). But the problem with such lists is that the attempt to trace a legacy or a characteristic line of historical development quickly begins to look like the construction of a tradition, and even a canon, and would therefore appear to come into conflict with the idea of a critical and self-reflexive music, of resistance and the search for the new and the unknown. The second, and more difficult, answer to the question what is contemporary music? involves complex issues around the different forms taken by such musical self-reflexion, the relation to rapid developments in technology and to the dominant commodity culture, and the tension between what is often seen as the most extreme autonomy and consistency of such music and the heterogeneity and diversity of society at large, given the power of the culture industry and the mass media. Aspects of rock music are also discussed, at times in abrupt juxtapositions around issues of heterogeneity and reflexivity. Frank Zappa therefore also features, not because he wrote some art music that happened to be taken up by Boulez and IRCAM in Paris, but particularly because his rock music appears as radically critical today as it did in 1966 and because it cuts across such boundaries. By way of introduction I offer a thematic overview of the book before going on to take up some of the issues raised. First of all, however, there are some important theoretical issues that need to be addressed. II It is hardly surprising that a common point of reference in many of these essays is critical theory, and in particular that of Theodor Adorno. In the 1920s and 1930s Adorno was already engaged on a critique of the music of the period and its social

Introduction

situation. By the late 1940s, with Philosophy of New Music (1949) Adorno could be said to have intervened directly in the course of what was then contemporary music, in effect hastening the decline of neo-classicism and the emergence of postWebernian serialism. Further interventions were his critique of total serialism at Darmstadt in 1954, and then his call for une musique informelle in 1960. In his essay Vers une musique informelle Adorno put forward the idea of a music which resists the impulse towards total rationalization and presents to us again something of the exploration of the unknown and the unforeseen which goes back to decisive moments of pre- and early modernism: the spirit of Baudelaires seminal writings from the 1840s and 1850s, the French Symbolism of the 1880s and 1890s, and the freedom of the Second Viennese School Expressionism of the years 19081914. Indeed, the concept of musique informelle has turned out to be an intriguing, enigmatic and influential ideal, and, as it is often invoked in the essays and interviews in this volume, it is worth spending a moment to consider its implications in a little more detail here.10 The origins of Adornos use of the term musique informelle are currently of considerable interest and a range of unlikely theories is being put forward to explain where Adorno got it from. To attempt to put the matter straight, I would suggest that it is quite clear that Adorno took the concept from existing usage in painting, as anyone with a knowledge of the art informel movement in Europe following the Second World War and the influence of American Abstract Expressionism from which it in part derived will immediately recognize indeed, Gianmario Borio has traced many of these connections in detail in his book Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960.11 Adorno was certainly aware of the use of the concept of the informel in painting in Germany

Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophie der neuen Musik (1949). Gesammelte Schriften Vol. 12, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1975). A new translation, as Philosophy of New Music, trans., ed. and with and introduction by Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), supersedes the earlier Philosophy of Modern Music, trans. Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster (London: Sheed & Ward, 1973).  Originally given as a paper in 1954, Das Altern der neuen Musik was published in Der Monat in May 1955, an expanded version appearing the following year in the collection of essays on music, Dissonanzen (1956), Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 14, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1973, 1980), pp. 14367.  Theodor W. Adorno, Vers une musique informelle (1960), Quasi una Fantasia (1963). Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 16, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1978), pp. 493540. Trans. Rodney Livingstone, Vers une musique informelle, Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music (London: Verso, 1992), pp. 269322. 10 I am grateful to Joris De Henau for providing me with the occasion to revisit Adornos concept of musique informelle. Our discussions encouraged me to elaborate my thinking on the subject. 11 Gianmario Borio, Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960: Entwurf einer Theorie der informellen Musik (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1993).


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in the 1950s as informelle Kunst, or informelle Malerei,12 represented by action painting and also by Tachist artists such as the German painter Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) and, in particular perhaps, the painter of informelle Bilder with a confusingly similar name, Bernhard Schultze.13 In its turn this German usage derives from a French use of the term, as art informel (art with no form) from the School of Paris in the immediate post-war years of the 1940s and early 1950s, a use further legitimated by an exhibition under the title Signifiants de lInformel put on in Paris in 1952 by Michel Tapi.14 Given this developing history, Adorno needed only to take it over into music as musique informelle to designate a kind of new music that did not yet exist, but which would be in no form, in that it would refuse to accept pre-given solutions, including those emerging from Darmstadt (informelle Kunst does not, of course, mean formless art, given that, in order to exist at all, everything has a form, even if it goes directly against all previously known and familiar forms). All this, I think, is pretty convincing, and in demonstrating clearly that the notion of the informel had already been a motivating factor in the visual arts for fifteen years prior to Adorno appropriating it, it also shows the extent to which Adorno was attempting to drag the attention of an increasingly self-obsessed and insular musical avant-garde towards larger horizons already being explored in the visual arts. At the same time it demonstrates Adornos firm conviction that it is the task of a critical theory to attempt the impossible, and to prompt practice to move from where it is and yet again to move on in order to find something new.15 What Adorno focuses so acutely in his theoretical and philosophical writings, and what makes them so relevant to the situation today, is the dilemma of theory (both philosophical and musical) and its relation to art itself. That is to say, there
See Theodor W. Adorno, sthetische Theorie. Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 7 ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970), p. 329, where Adorno uses the term informal painting (informelle Malerei) in conjunction with action painting and aleatoric music. 13 The brief mention in passing of the contemporary painter of informelle Bilder [Bernhard] Schultze in Vers une musique informelle (Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 16, p. 526) shows that Adorno was familiar with the idea of informelle Malerei, introduced by Schultze, K.O. Gtz and Wols to Germany in the very early 1950s. Gianmario Borio cites evidence where Schultze himself reports that Adorno was present at an exhibition of Schultzes work in Dsseldorf in 1957; Borio also suggests that Adorno had visited the Quadriga Exhibition of informal painting in Frankfurt in 1952. He is also firmly of the view that Adorno derived his concept of informelle Kunst from painting: see Borio, Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960, p. 90, note 45. The fact that Adorno uses the French form of the term, however, suggests that he was also aware of its origins in Paris in the mid1940s, and that the German painters had got it from there. 14 Gianmario Borio also shows much evidence for this link, as well as for connections with Italian artists of the period: see Borio, Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960, p. 129. 15 Adorno often quoted the final line from Baudelaires poem Le Voyage from Les fleurs du mal, Au fond de lInconnu pour trouver du nouveau!.
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Introduction

is the imperative, on the one hand, for theory to describe, explain and interpret, while, on the other hand, there is the need for theory to recognize its failure to explain that which in the work of art resists interpretation what Pierre Boulez has insisted, citing Andr Breton, is an indestructible kernel of darkness16 at the heart of the creative process. And this tension within theory and philosophy as resistance to interpretation is present, of course, both within the creative process and within the work of art itself. The shared premise of all these essays, discussions and interviews is that musical works are themselves highly structured and thus constitute a mode of cognition, albeit and importantly, in case we mistake music for language or philosophy in any literal sense non-conceptual.17 However apparently unorthodox they might at first appear, musical works are systematic in their structure and constitute relationships between parts and whole which have a coherence and logic of their own and which can be analysed, theorized and philosophically interpreted. Indeed, it could be said, taking up Adornos important insight, that the experience of art works, and musical works in particular, demands continuation in thought. This is not least of all because the systematicity of art is frequently troubling and provocative, turning out to be antisystematic in relation to prevailing systems outside art Adornos suggestion (following Karl Kraus) that in society as a whole it is art that should introduce chaos into order rather than the reverse.18 At the same time, musical structures, however necessarily autonomous they appear, share their materials, their elements and even their systematicity with society as a whole, especially when attempting to shake themselves free from it. An important task of both theory and philosophy of music is to identify these points of intersection, but without succumbing to the delusion that everything is thereby explained. Other important theoretical and philosophical strands in these essays have very different trajectories: analytic philosophy, cognitive psychology, and positivism. That points of contact are made between Adorno and these traditions is clearly
16 un noyau infracassable de nuit, Andr Breton, cited in Pierre Boulez, Ncessit dune orientation esthtique, Points de repre I: Imagine (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1985), p. 552. Trans. as: Putting the Phantoms to Flight, Orientations, trans. Martin Cooper (London: Faber & Faber, 1986), p. 83. 17 In Aesthetic Theory Adorno talks of art in general (and music in particular) as a form of begriffslose Erkenntnis (conceptless cognition); he also talks of music as having a language-character (Sprachcharakter), arguing that it is language like but is not a language. See my essay The Language-Character of Music: Some Motifs in Adorno, in Richard Klein and Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf (eds), Mit den Ohren denken. Adornos Philosophie der Musik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1998), pp. 7191, where I consider this position in detail. 18 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (London: Athlone Press, 1997), p. 93. See original German: Mehrfach ist, zuerst wohl von Karl Kraus, ausgesprochen worden, da, in der totalen Gesellschaft, Kunst eher Chaos in die Ordnung zu bringen habe als das Gegenteil. sthetische Theorie. Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 7, p. 144.

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evident in a number of contributions, even where the emphases are quite distinct and critical. At the same time there is no sense that Adorno has in some way become an orthodoxy for the areas of contemporary music discussed here far from it, as the criticisms from the composers represented in Part III clearly signify: Jonathan Harvey, for instance, finds Adornos interpretation of Wagner through the concepts of phantasmagoria and commodity fetishism runs counter to his own understanding of the composer, and is disturbed by Adornos essentially Marxian analysis. Even Adornos idea of une musique informelle, increasingly speculated upon by theorists and composers alike, and described by Lachenmann as a beautiful idea, is not a prescription for composers to try to put into practice (that would be dead on arrival!, says Ferneyhough), but is really what I would call a prismatic concept that is to say, a multi-faceted concept that enables us to see things from different and unusual angles and in a new and unfamiliar light. In other words, it alienates or estranges our thinking about form. Even though Adorno had undoubtedly diagnosed something, and had tried to reveal different facets of it, making an effort to think beyond the immediate problem and to provide new perspectives, he could not jump over his own shadow, his Austro-German legacy from the nineteenth century, nor could he predict how things would actually turn out in the future. Lachenmanns observation in his interview in this volume is telling, if two-edged: I have a great deal of respect for Adorno, but he was [a] fossil from the nineteenth century. But he then goes on: From that perspective he had a very precise diagnostic eye for what happens today. Adorno undoubtedly stood somewhat apart from the avant-garde of his time, but his perception was probably all the more acute for that, and the problems he saw were real ones. Solutions, however, were for composers to find. Critical reactions and responses to Darmstadt orthodoxies of multiple serialism led, as it turned out, to remarkably creative solutions one thinks of Kagel, Ligeti, Nono and, later, Lachenmann, Rihm, Birtwistle, Ferneyhough, Murail and Grisey and even if Adorno could not have predicted them, they could also, in very different respects, be seen to display facets of a possible musique informelle. III While different, and sometimes conflicting, theoretical or philosophical perspectives characterize the chapters in this book, what is also striking is the extent to which certain concerns are seen as central. One of these is the acknowledgement of the significance of the new musical developments that took place in the period from the late 1940s up to the early 1960s, and which particularly involved innovations from Messiaen and Cage taken up by, among others, Boulez and Stockhausen. Clestin Delige, chronicler of the avant-garde, music analyst and author of one of the first books in French on Schenker, puts forward an uncompromising case for the enduring historical significance of these developments, centred largely on Darmstadt, in his essay A period of

Introduction

confrontation: the post-Webern years; at the same time, however, his critical assessment of the successes and also the failures of these years is equally uncompromising. Another important concern has to do with the way in which the technical development of music is closely tied to the technological development of society itself. This is the central theme of Hugues Dufourts chapter The principles of music and the rationalization of theory an exhaustive historical survey of the relation of music to technology, with a view to situating the importance of French Spectralism in contemporary composition (as well as being a philosopher, Hugues Dufourt is also himself a composer and a founding member of the original group of French Spectralists, together with Tristan Murail and Grard Grisey). Underlying Dufourts theme is the explanatory power of the sociologist Max Webers concept of rationalization, particularly as he himself had applied it to music in his pioneering study Die rationalen und soziologischen Grundlagen der Musik (1921) (The Rational and Social Foundations of Music).19 A further theme is the discussion of musical material. A range of emphases is evident. The concern with the systematicity and logicality of musical structures, and the need to relate to handed-down materials, is fundamental both to Clestin Delige on the rationalization of atonal harmony and Franois Nicolas on musical logic. In his chapter, Atonal harmony: from set to scale, Clestin Delige puts forward here a completely original alternative to set theory for the analysis of atonal harmony which takes account of fundamental tones, resonance and timbre, and through this is able to make a meaningful connection with the Spectralist composers. Franois Nicolas, in contrast, from his research work at IRCAM, carries out a philosophical analysis of the necessary conditions of a musical logic, focusing in turn on notation and consistency, the dialectical relationship to other works, and the possibility of an autonomous, strategic musical logic, not determined by external factors. The focus in both these contributions is therefore decisively on the autonomy of musical structures and their immanent consistency, something which throws into relief the repressed social other of autonomous musical structures. This can be seen in different ways in Pascal Decroupets contribution Heterogeneity: or, on the choice of being omnivorous, and Rudolf Frisiuss In search of lost harmony. Indeed, Frisius suggests that Ives and Cage have shown us that music may also renew itself harmonically when the composer opens the windows to let the exterior world penetrate into his work. Decroupet ostensibly focuses on ways in which stylistically diverse materials are incorporated in a range of different types of music. He explores the crossing of boundaries, quotation, montage, attempted syntheses, and cross-over, discussing a range of musics including Cage, Schaeffer, Pousseur, musique concrte, Zimmermann, rock music, jazz and world music, in relation to emerging technologies, sampling and scratching. The contributions
Max Weber, Die rationalen und soziologischen Grundlagen der Musik, with an Introduction by Theodor Kroyer (Munich: Drei Masken Verlag, 1921). Trans. as: The Rational and Social Foundations of Music, trans. and ed. Don Martindale, Johannes Riedel and Gertrude Neuwirth (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958).
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of both Frisius and Decroupet throw into relief yet again the issue of musical material. And any discussion of musical material, whatever its origins, is clearly also a discussion of form, of the interaction of material and structure, of history, historical movement, musical meaning, and of social mediation. This is the substance of Anne Boissires Material constraints: Adorno, Benjamin, Arendt, where she discusses the pre-formation of material in relation to the notion of inner necessity and interrogates directly the status of the concept of form that grants the material its poetic value, as well as seeking to counter the accusation sometimes levelled at Adorno, that he was an anti-avant-gardist. Boissires approach is an original one, drawing on Walter Benjamins concept of storytelling and Hannah Arendts dual concept of work as both process and as object to emphasize the idea of historical transmission of materials as a living tradition. The focus of my own chapter on the mediation of music and society, Music and social relations: towards a theory of mediation, offers a discussion of the concept of musical material in Adorno in relation to dialectical levels or modalities of musics mediation. But the historical process of increasing control over material, according to Adorno, leads not only to the crisis of total rationalization Max Webers iron cage of rationality but also to a crisis of material itself. The idea of a coherent and appropriate musical material falls into fragments and collapses as the actual available material, however apparently diverse in its origins, becomes ever more homogeneous and standardized through its appropriation by the music industry in an age of mass culture. The tendency of art to take extreme rationalization into the inner world of its form, to become what Valry had called a closed world, creating its own individual context of meaning with each new work, had long been noticed as a characteristic of the avant-garde. One result of this has been complexity taken to its extreme, as seen, for example, in Brian Ferneyhoughs music, where the work itself sets up, quite literally, a resistance to interpretation, discussed by Richard Toop in his essay Against a theory of musical (new) complexity. The other extreme, already suggested by both Frisius and Decroupet, and touched on by Herman Sabbe in A philosophy of totality, is the omnivorous acceptance of everything as material, as seen in the case of John Cage. I take this further in my own essay Postmodernism and the survival of the avant-garde through contrasting the omnivorous example of Frank Zappa with the complexity and selfreferentiality of Brian Ferneyhough, relating both to a concept of the absurd. The double focus of these essays theoretical and philosophical perspectives means, on the one hand, a focus on the details of musical syntax and material and on details of particular compositional issues (Decroupets discussion of Varse, Toop on Ferneyhough, Delige on post-Webernian music, in particular Stockhausen and Boulez). On the other hand, it also means an emphasis on critique in effect a metacritique of theory itself. The debates that arose over the last three decades of the twentieth century concerning the legitimacy of modernist art and of the avantgarde with the ascendancy of the condition of postmodernity led to a crisis within theory itself as well (and by this I dont mean theory simply in the specialized sense of music theory, but theoretical discourse in the larger sense, including

Introduction

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philosophy). Indeed, Marc Jimenez goes so far as to suggest that there may be a correlation between two crises: one of an institutionalized, complaisant and promotional criticism, which thus is no longer functional, and one of a confused art, victim of a loss of legitimacy. To that extent, he argues, theory in this case aesthetics must be prepared to take risks. IV But creativity involves living with risk, uncertainty and ambiguity, and developing strategies to encompass and articulate these through giving them form however informel that might actually turn out to be. The composers represented in Part III of this book have themselves also all written extensively about music in both theoretical and aesthetic terms, and here speak directly of their ideas and concerns. Indeed, the big issues are those that have increasingly come to occupy composers for well over a century now how to deal with the essential arbitrariness of musical materials in the absence of any overarching and generally accepted system for organizing them, and the evident need with each new work to build a new structural context within which such initially arbitrary and, in a sense, meaningless materials, in spite of their shared commonality and handed-down historical meanings, can be organized and become again meaningful in a new context. Inseparable from these concerns in music, oscillating constantly between intuition and the urge to systematize, are questions of freedom in relation to control, chance in relation to determinacy, and time and temporality in relation to space and spatialization time as structure, time as experience, and time as things in perpetual transition, a sense of the transitoriness of things, of objects in space. In view of such all-pervading instability and uncertainty it might seem all the more remarkable that composers should be concerned at all with ideas of truth in relation to their music; in fact some kind of truth concept emerges directly or indirectly as an issue in most of the composers represented in Part III, alongside the ever-present problem of meaning. For Jonathan Harvey, in his chapter Music, Ambiguity, Buddhism, truth in music axioms that are true for all music, as he puts it is what he calls a kind of Uncertainty Principle, and there is a sense in which he has recourse to Buddhism as a way of framing and structuring the potentially disturbing ambiguity and transitoriness of the world, a world which, as a composer, he articulates through music. The transcendent and mystical character of Harveys form of Spectralism also points, perhaps inevitably, beyond music itself in a search for meaning, using music as a model for understanding the relationship between illusion and reality. Faced likewise with the dilemmas of choice and the unforeseen in his work, Pierre Boulez is a Cartesian, casting all into doubt in the pursuit of immanent-musical truth, and starting again from basic principles. As he puts it in his interview with David Walters, You have to put what you want to decide into doubt that is already in the writings of Descartes doubt is fundamental; as long as you dont doubt, you cannot find the truth, or the temporary truth. The lifes work of

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the artist is the necessity of building an instrument that is to say, an instrument that is totally adapted to his own thinking Original, as in the sense that it goes to the origin of himself. Here, the instrument is the music or, perhaps more accurately, the unique and systematic instrument which becomes a new second nature through which the music emerges. While its difficult to imagine a composer more different to Pierre Boulez than Helmut Lachenmann, there is a striking convergence on the need to create a unique context of meaning through the act of composing. While with Lachenmann it is Cage rather than Mallarm who is the dominant influence, in his interview with Abigail Heathcote he says: In my music theres no such thing as chance. Thats what I mean when I sometimes say, composing means building an instrument. Composing means discovering and revealing a new, invented imaginary instrument. In my case the problem is that such an imaginary instrument doesnt exist before I develop it by composing the piece. So my composing is full of helpful mistakes. There is a fundamental sense in which this applies to all art today the context itself must also be built, as a special world within which each gesture can become meaningful, where the arbitrary is eliminated and chance is embraced by the total context of the work, and a kind of consistency is achieved as truth to the dominating idea of the work, its scheme. When, at one point in his interview with Lois Fitch and John Hails, Brian Ferneyhough states: If music is not true, it cant be beautiful, he perhaps had something along these lines in mind that the dominating idea that animates a work permeates every detail at every level, and the beauty of the work is this consistency of idea and work, in a very Schoenbergian sense. Indeed, its also precisely this thought that Boulez derives from Mallarm, that the Idea is reflected in everything. In Ferneyhoughs opera Shadowtime, which arises out of a longstanding engagement with the work of Walter Benjamin, it is the concept of time itself that is central or rather, several different concepts of time, as life time, historical time, dramatic time, and what he calls failed time and which systematically structures the work. On the other hand, fundamental to Wolfgang Rihms approach to composition is a rejection of any overt systematization, and what comes through clearly in his conversation with Richard McGregor is the value he lays on intuition and his admiration for those composers who most strongly exemplify the sense of freedom of the music of the period around 1910 Debussy, Mahler and the pre-serial Schoenberg, and in this respect, although this is not raised as such in the interview, Rihm could be understood as having much in common with Adornos notion of une musique informelle, to return once again to that seminal ideal. Speaking of his early experience of taking part in a performance of Debussys Le Martyre de Saint-Sbastien Rihm says: There was a music which only consists of itself, self-sufficient. The music was not something a teacher talks about with words the music was a living creature, and singing within this living creature opened me.

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V The importance of Rihm and Lachenmann in contemporary music in Germany as figures who have emerged since 1968, and therefore after the first wave of the post-1945 avant-garde, cannot be overemphasized. The original French edition of this book in 2001 had little to say on either composer, and it gives cause for some satisfaction that this omission has now been addressed. As a postlude to this English edition of the book Alastair Williams was invited to provide a commentary on the significance of these two very different composers who could be said to encompass the extremes of contemporary music in Germany today. His chapter, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm and the Austro-German tradition, brings together a number of important strands also highlighted elsewhere in the book and links developments in contemporary music in Germany to a larger European and American context.20 As Williams argues, we probably need to rethink the significance of what has happened in advanced music since the mid-twentieth century. The pivotal date may no longer be 1945, but 1968, with the recognition at last that the revolution of the late 1960s was significant after all, together with the enormous political and cultural significance of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. What is more, the key role played by Germany in contemporary music may need to be revisited and recognized for a second time. It is not only German composers as such although the importance of Stockhausen, Henze, Huber, Lachenmann and Rihm is now probably clear enough but also developments in contemporary music in Germany, of composers from elsewhere such as Nono, Kagel, Ligeti, Ferneyhough who had chosen to work in the country either permanently or for extended periods of their lives, as well as the opposite: German composers who have chosen to live outside Germany, like Henze in Italy. As Alastair Williams suggests, all this challenges us to rethink the musical historiography of the later twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries, and compels us to experience again the relationship of subjectivity to objectivity and of modernity to tradition. In their very different ways Lachenmann and Rihm in particular have developed new critical musical languages which, in Williamss words, contribute to the larger cultural project of bringing the more abstract procedures of modernity into contact with heightened, self-reflexive forms of perception. Finally, it needs to be re-emphasized that this book does not claim in any way to be all-inclusive, nor does it set out to offer a historical survey of current and past tendencies in the whole range of music available today or, for that matter, since the mid-twentieth century,21 although the historical context of ideas is certainly important. It is the theoretical and philosophical questions arising
See also Alastair Williams, Ageing of the New: The Museum of Musical Modernism, in Nicholas Cook and Anthony Pople (eds), The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 50638. 21 For a book that does precisely that, see Clestin Delige, Cinquante ans de modernit musicale: De Darmstadt lIRCAM (Sprimont: Pierre Mardaga, 2003).
20

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from the situation of particular areas of advanced contemporary music seen also in the context of key developments in earlier twentieth-century music that the contributions seek to address difficulties, problems and dilemmas at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In many respects the book is likely to prove provocative, as much by what it includes as by what it leaves out, and by the kinds of theoretical and philosophical approaches taken. All this is completely in line with a publication that has its origins in a symposium of invited theorists, philosophers and composers22 that is to say, it is speculative, sometimes difficult, often contentious, and hopefully thought-provoking. As Carl Dahlhaus said at another symposium on contemporary music held at Darmstadt in 1966, and which included Adorno, Ligeti, Kagel, Haubenstock-Ramati and Earle Brown: But difficulties are provocations, or at least they should be.23 Bibliography Adorno, T.W., Philosophie der neuen Musik (1949). Gesammelte Schriften Vol. 12, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1975). Trans. as: Philosophy of New Music, trans., ed. and with and introduction by Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2006) , Das Altern der Neuen Musik (1956 version), Dissonanzen (1956), Gesammelte Schriften Vol. 14, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1973, 1980), pp. 14367 , Vers une musique informelle (1960), Quasi una Fantasia (1963) Gesammelte Schriften Vol. 16, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1978), pp. 493540. Trans. Rodney Livingstone, Vers une musique informelle, Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music (London: Verso, 1992), pp. 269322 , sthetische Theorie. Gesammelte Schriften Vol. 7 ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970). Trans. as: Aesthetic Theory, trans. with introduction by Robert Hullot-Kentor (London: Athlone Press, 1997)
22 The original colloquium of invited papers at La Monnaie, Brussels, in 2000, and the original French edition of the resulting book Irne Delige and Max Paddison (eds), Musique contemporaine: Perspectives thoriques et philosophiques (Sprimont: Mardaga, 2001) have been greatly expanded for the present English edition. See Preface for details. 23 Schwierigkeiten aber sind Provokationen oder sollten es sein. Carl Dahlhaus, Form in der Neuen Musik: Darmstdter Beitrge zur Neuen Musik X, ed. Ernst Thomas (Mainz: B. Schotts Shne, 1966), p. 49 (my trans.). For an English version of Dahlhauss introductory paper to this symposium, see the chapter Form (trans. Stephen Hinton), in Carl Dahlhaus, Schoenberg and the New Music, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 24864.

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Borio, Gianmario, Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960: Entwurf einer Theorie der informellen Musik (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1993) Boulez, Pierre, Ncessit dune orientation esthtique, Points de repre I: Imagine (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1985). Trans. as Putting the Phantoms to Flight, Orientations, trans. Martin Cooper (London: Faber & Faber, 1986), pp. 6383 Cage, John, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1968; 1980) Dahlhaus, Carl, Form in der Neuen Musik: Darmstdter Beitrge zur Neuen Musik X, ed. Ernst Thomas (Mainz: B. Schotts Shne, 1966) , Schoenberg and the New Music, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) Delige, Clestin, Cinquante ans de modernit musicale: De Darmstadt lIRCAM (Sprimont: Pierre Mardaga, 2003) Fukuyama, Francis, The End of History?, The National Interest 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 318 Habermas, Jrgen, Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne: Zwlf Vorlesungen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1985). Trans. as: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987) Jencks, Charles, What is Post-Modernism? (London/New York: Academy Editions/ St Martins Press, 1986) Kelly, Owen, Community, Art and the State: Storming the Citadels (London: Comedia, 1984) Lyotard, Jean-Franois, La condition postmoderne: rapport sur le savoir (Paris: ditions de Minuit, 1979). Trans. as: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G. Bennington and B. Massumi, Foreword by Fredric Jameson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986) Paddison, Max, The Language-Character of Music: Some Motifs in Adorno, in Richard Klein and Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf (eds), Mit den Ohren denken. Adornos Philosophie der Musik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1998), pp. 7191 , Adorno, Modernism and Mass Culture: Essays on Critical Theory and Music (London: Kahn & Averill, 1996, 2004) Rorty, Richard, Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity, in Richard J. Bernstein (ed.), Habermas and Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1985), pp. 16175 Weber, Max, Die rationalen und soziologischen Grundlagen der Musik, with an Introduction by Theodor Kroyer (Munich: Drei Masken Verlag, 1921). Trans. as: The Rational and Social Foundations of Music, trans. and ed. Don Martindale, Johannes Riedel and Gertrude Neuwirth (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958) Williams, Alastair, Ageing of the New: The Museum of Musical Modernism, in Nicholas Cook and Anthony Pople (eds), The Cambridge History of TwentiethCentury Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 50638