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APG4789. Stephan Bajurnow.

Student number 12288764
Kramer, Jonathan D. 2002 “the Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism” in
Lockheed, Judy and Auer, Joseph (eds) Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought,
Routledge.

Chapter Summary.

In his Chapter on the “Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism” author
Jonathan D. Kramer begins by suggesting that attempting to define the concept of
musical Postmodernism is a frustrating venture and he poses several questions
probing the topic which evade a simple answer, thus shedding light on the terms
elusive nature. Kramer considers that there are three schools of thought that are
currently being confused and used under the banner of musical Postmodern
thought and practice:

1. Antimodernism

2. Modernism

and actual

2. Postmodernism

Kramer lists “antimodernism” in music as the concept of rejecting modernism in
favour of older techniques, forms and structures and in effect putting the old
“masters” on a pedestal, Modernists on the other hand are concerned with
repudiating the past and intent on creating something totally new.
Postmodernism also embraces the past but in a non elitist, non conformist
fashion in relation to form and structure and seeks to create something new
from the old, in effect fomenting a challenging transformation of the past.

The author suggests that postmodernism should be defined not as a time period
but rather, an attitude (or a way of operating) which is taken on by composers
and listeners alike in relation to music. Kramer believes this attitude further
APG4789. Stephan Bajurnow. Student number 12288764
separates the confusing Postmodern/Antimodern linkage by juxtaposing
opposing views on three key terms.

1. (Lack of) Unity – Antimodernist (composers and listeners) cling to
structural unity as a means to compose and understand music,
Modernists spurn antiquated notions of unity, whereas postmodernists
view unity as one possible means of communication amongst many and
are willing to use it as they please.

2. Intertextuality – Postmodern composers are willing to insert and use
quotations from other musical works into their own and let their meaning
be interpreted by the listener.

3. Eclecticism- Postmodern composers accept and integrate influences
cerebrally and literally from a hugely diverse array of music emanating
from all over the world and do so without feeling the need to alter the
music’s original intent.

Kramer lists 16 characteristics that he believes are inherent in most postmodern
music. These all indicate an expansion (or growth) of awareness of ways of doing
things: doing away with structure if needed, throwing out artistic “value
judgments”, inserting musical quotations , utilising technology in many forms or
effecting a re-positioning of music as something more listener defined.

Kramer suggests that music has become postmodern as human society has
moved into a state of postmodernism. This, the author comments is the result of
a generalised immersion in technology at the expense of sense of self, and
rationality which formed the earlier periods of existence. Kramer uses Kenneth J.
Gergen’s idea of “The Saturated Self” to explain his idea. The author believes that
humankind has become a constant receiver and filterer of multiple sources of
information leading to shorter attention spans than previous generations, this
Kramer postulates leads to a fragmentary and moment to moment existence with
little time for contemplation.
APG4789. Stephan Bajurnow. Student number 12288764

Kramer gives examples from his own experience and incorporates his 3
aforementioned points to support his claims that humans in the postmodern age
lack the unity of previous generations (for example a single career throughout
life, limited social networks etc), That we live lives based on intertextualty in that
we communicate with so many and varied, divergent personalities we end up
integrating them into our own, and finally that our existence is eclectic, where we
have multiple realities and select from a wide variety of sources for knowledge.

In summation Kramer suggests that composers write postmodern music for a
variety of reasons, some of which are reactionary: eg. to negate the oppressive
strictures and expectations of modernism, while other reasons are approached
to more fully integrate current trends into compositional practice such as:
interest and affinity with different musical cultures which are now readily
accessible, music as commodity, popular music, attempts to get closer to current
audiences who hold postmodern values, and a need to reflect a postmodern
society as it stands today.

Kramer puts forth a convincing argument and analysis of postmodernism. His
writing is clear and easy to understand with his use of personal anecdote to back
up his social saturation concepts refreshing and informative. I did find it
interesting that early on the author stated that the concepts of modernism,
antimodernism and potmodernism were “blurred” and as such resisted
definition, but proceeded to clearly define the concepts afterword precisely.

The one aspect that was felt to be lacking throughout the chapter was that the
author could have included some actual examples of current musical
postmodernism to back up his statements. We are given examples of musical
antecedents like Mahler and Ives, but not one name or piece was put forth from
the current age to really put all the authors claims into high relief. This made the
article a very interesting read but leaves you feeling a bit cheated in terms of not
getting the “whole story”.

APG4789. Stephan Bajurnow. Student number 12288764