You are on page 1of 26

Avant-Garde or Experimental?

Classifying Contemporary Music

Author(s): Joaquim M. Benitez
Source: International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jun.,
1978), pp. 53-77
Published by: Croatian Musicological Society
Stable URL:
Accessed: 13-07-2016 10:31 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted
digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about
JSTOR, please contact

Croatian Musicological Society is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to


Music in our century has been characterized by rapid change.

New styles and techniques have appeared with amazing rapidity.
But, at the same time, the newer styles have not replaced the older.
They exist side by side. The consequence of this fantastic rate of
change and the existence of a variety of styles is that we cannot
speak any longer of successive schools as we could in the past. We
have to accept the fact that stylistic pluralism is going to characte-
rize our time.

This last statement might lead us to think that it is no longer

possible to study contemporary music from a unified point of view.
Unfortunately, a good number of recent studies would support this
impression. One has only to read through the table of contents of
many recent books on contemporary music to realize that their
authors have capitulated to the point of view of the impossibility
of attempting a unified approach. Descriptive approaches are wide-
spread. They try to explain the music of our time by listing con-
crete results or by treating each important composer one after the
other or by grouping them under titles such as >Indeterminancy,<<
>,Electronic Music,<( ))Improvisation,<< etc.
Although such an approach has undeniable advantages, it also po-
ses many problems. One has to be very concrete, speaking about all
the movements and schools, all the >isms< and tendencies; in short,
it runs the risk of being a mere description of musical phenomena,
without a unifying view to make sense of the musical pluralism of
our century. The documentary value of these approaches, while nec-
essary and important, is sometimes offset by the lack of an all-
-embracing view of the concrete achievements of the music of our

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

But a unifying view is, I believe, still possible. I shall attempt

here to show that a sufficiently flexible classification can be
achieved by emphasizing the aesthetic principles that underlie the
three main tendencies into which the art music of our time falls.
I am not the first to attempt such a classification. I am especially
indebted to Leonard B. Meyer, perhaps the first to realize the need
to clarify the patterns under which our musical culture may be
classified. In his book Music, the Arts, and Ideas (17), he lays the
basis for an intelligent discussion of this problem. My task here
will be to study the parts of his book relevant to our investigation,
to examine their possible weak points, and then to try to present
my own solution to them.

The first thing we have to take into account in order to under-

stand Meyer's position is his opinion that music in the 20th century
has reached a period of stasis. By stasis he means not an absence of
novelty and change, but rather the absence of ordered sequential
change (17:102). In other words, he opposes stasis to the concept
of >stylistic development((.
If this is true, the logical consequence is that we cannot, in our
century, work with the categories that have customarily been de-
signated as >style periods, in music history (Renaissance, Baroque,
etc.). Meyer states:

>,For if there is a stasis in which a number of relatively dis-

crete and independent styles coexist without cumulative
trends or developments, there would be no periods having
definable stages, such as a beginning, middle, and end. There
would instead be a succession of changes in which first one
and then another of the existing styles in one or another of
the arts became the focus of aesthetic interest and creative
activity<< (17:103).

This statement leads us to make three important preliminary pro-

1) Our investigation cannot be solely historical, since ,chrono-
logical periodization, during a time of stasis is impossible. Styles
cannot be successive under such circumstances.
2) From here it follows that we have to take for granted the fact
of stylistic pluralism. Several styles will coexist side by side. In a
time of stasis there will be change, but the conscious search for new
techniques, materials, or new modes of sensibility (that is to say.
the search for change) will not result in a gradual accumulation of
changes that would create only one new, main style. In short, stasis
implies multiplicity of coexisting styles.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

3) The third consequence is that our emphasis should be aesthet-

ic. Because they do not tend towards a new and main, confluent
and unique style, all new techniques, materials, or modes of sensi-
bility do not have the power to unify into one point of view, nor to
give us a common denominator from which to divide our contempo-
rary musical output. The aesthetic attitudes of composers are more
important than the techniques or materials they use. Only these
aesthetic attitudes can give us a clue to a general perspective of
contemporary music.
Meyer, although agreeing with the need for this type of aesthetic
investigation, does not develop one of its very important conse-
quences: that aesthetic viewpoints do not always and necessarily
correspond to techniques or materials, or to specific styles. There is
only one place where Meyer clarifies his thought in this matter:

DIt is important to notice that there is no necessary corre-

lation between compositional method and aesthetic view-
point. Many composers, beginning with Schoenberg and Berg,
have employed the twelve-tone method for traditional, ex-
pressive ends. Some serialists - for instance, Webern, and
more recently Babbitt - have tended strongly toward for-
malism, while others - for example, Pousseur and Berio -
have inclined toward transcendentalism. Similarly, there have
been tonally oriented formalists, such as Stravinsky, as
well as traditionalists. (...) Just as a composer may change
methods from one work to another without changing aesthet-
ic viewpoint ..., so a composer may, as Krenek has done,
change his aesthetic position without changing his basic
method. Nor is there necessary correspondence between
aesthetic viewpoint and style<( (17:237, note 4).

This opinion and the three propositions I have drawn from Meyer's
thought will help us to understand better his division of contempo-
rary music.
Meyer divides the music of the 20th century into three main aes-
thetic positions or tendencies. On page 222 of his book he presents
a diagram that is helpful in clarifying his division. For the sake of
expediency, let us present it here in a simplified form:

ENDS .... .. MEANS

emphasis: Content Form and Process Materials
(Commercial Art)
position: . . .Traditionalism. .... .. .Transcendentalism ..
. . . .Formalism. ....

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

This diagram needs some explanation, which I will give by quot-

ing or paraphrasing extensively Meyer's own words.
In the upper line we see the ends-means continuum. Changes in
aesthetic attitudes are matters of emphasis, having to do with what
is considered to be the main focus of appreciative attention - the
locus of artistic significance and value. In the past, the materials
and form of an art work were in general regarded as necessary but,
nonetheless, secondary aspects of art. Those materials and form
were, so to speak, the accidents of an art work, not its essence. They
constituted the means by which the goal (ends) of communication
of subject matter was to be achieved. The subject matter was of
primary importance; which is to say, the end, expression and mean-
ing, was most important. The materials and form of a work of art
were the means, and thus of secondary importance. They were only
important insofar as they made the end possible (17:210).
The big change in our century is that differentiation between ma-
terials and form, and subject matter and meaning has come to be
less and less important. For the modern composer >content and
meaning are no longer considered to be definable and explicable
apart from the specific materials of a work of art and their formal
structuring in that work<< (17:210-211). Aesthetic emphasis on
structure rather than expressive content leads to formalism; when
the importance of materials is underlined, formalism fades into
transcendentalism. At the far end of the >means< continuum, we
can place the most extreme cases of happenings, and the like, of
pure transcendentalism. At the other end of the continuum, the
>ends< side, we could place commercial art, where content is the
almost exclusive focus of attention (17:213 ff.).1
We have, then, three clearly distinguishable aesthetic positions
that depend on three different aesthetic emphases. The emphasis on
content connects traditionalism with the music of the past. This
aesthetic position is akin to the one held in the 19th century. When
a traditionalist is asked what a piece is >about<, the answer will
almost always be in terms of content or subject matter, or whatever
it is thought to express, symbolize, or signify. In traditionalism the
artist is largely concerned with the representation of content, and
therefore art is for him a means to express his inner self. Art as a
form of personal expression presupposes an important condition:
One Man, One Style. That is to say, the traditionalist normally cul-
Meyer gives us a penetrating insight into commercial art:
>One interesting indication of this emphasis upon content is the tenden-
cy of popular commercial art to >abstract form< and to condense - as
in Reader's Digest reductions of novels to plot - or to arrange as in pop-
ular (for instance, hit-parade) music. Either condensing a lyric poem,
where materials, process, and form are one with content in the creation
of meaning, or arranging a jazz composition is patently impossible<
(17:214-15, note 65).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

tivates only one style and tries to find coherence in his expression
through the mastery of the musical style which he judges is closest
to his own mode of feeling (17:174).
Formalism emphasizes form and process, and it will be for Meyer
the dominant aesthetic ideology in the coming stasis, although with-
out displacing either traditionalism nor transcendentalism (17:221,
235). The formalist somehow reacts against the >expressivity,< of
traditionalism. >The composer's chief aim is not to express his in-
dividual personality but to present an impersonal objective view
of the world or general principles of order< (17:155). For him a
work of art is an artificial construct whose validity is internal or
contextual. To create a work of art >)is an act of objective, imper-
sonal discovery< (17:235). And the resulting work of art )>has its
complete meaning within itself< (17:151). By stressing this concept
of art as objective and impersonal, formalism relates the artist to
the scientist. )>The artist, like the scientist, )>discoversa; and he no
longer >creates< by expressing himself; he constructs. Music be-
comes allied to formal logic or mathematics<< (17:157).
Transcendentalism, by emphasizing materials (that is to say, the
concrete sound experience), reacts not only against the 19th cen-
tury beliefs about individuality, expressivity and goal-orientation of
traditionalism, but also against the >objectivity<( of formalism. For
the transcendentalist, the constructs of formalism misrepresent and
distort our understanding of the world. >What are truly real, and
really true, are concrete, particular sense experiences<, (17:159).
When perception is ordered in terms of abstract, conceptual cate-
gories (sound parameters, structures, form,...) the concrete im-
mediacy of sounds is obscured. Sounds are valuable in themselves.
Emphasis is placed on the significance and reality of immediate
sense experience, that is to say, on materials. In Cage's words: )>To
liberate sounds from abstract ideas about them and more and more
exactly to let them be physically, uniquely, themselves,< (3b:100).
Consequently, we are not to listen to the relationships among the
sounds presented, but just to the sounds as sounds - as individ-
ual, discrete, objective sensations (17:73).
The resulting music is antiteleological: >The world of extreme
transcendentalism is one without causation or purpose, structure or
time, (17:227). Or, to use a typically Cagian statement: >,All activi-
ties fuse in one purpose which is no purpose(< (3b:10).


The basic direction of Meyer's classification is very sound. His

tripartite division into traditionalism, formalism and transcenden-
talism is, on the whole, one of the very few attempts to give a mean-
ingful explanation to the music of our time. And if we take into

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

account the fact that he developed it more than ten years ago (about
1965-66), he should be considered one of the first to have tried to
explain in a very inclusive manner the phenomenon of contempo-
rary music.
But in spite of its merits, there are problems with his theory
that I would like to take up. Here I will limit myself to the one
connected with his ends-means continuum.
Meyer states that in the past )aesthetics and criticism were du-
alistic. On the one hand were the materials and form of a work of
art, the means; on the other hand were subject matter, expressions
and meaning, the end or goal( (17:210). He is historically right but
theoretically wrong. He is historically right because for more than
a century criticism has moved with the current of ,content, and
)>form( as the dualistic opposing sides of a musical work. Meyer is
theoretically wrong because, although many people have repeated
it, the opposition between ,formalistic(( and ,content, concepts is
not convincing. The real dualism is not so much between ,formu
and )content(, but rather between ))form(( and ))material((. As Ivo
Supicic has stated:

,)Yet, within all acoustic systems and all musical cultures

there exists a duality of matter and form regardless of wheth-
er theoreticians and aestheticians recognized this at all or
not, regardless of how they interpreted it (or failed to inter-
pret it), regardless of what musical material different acous-
tic systems offered, and how it was formed in different mu-
sical cultures. The existence of this duality is universal(

This statement might become one of the keys for justifying many
of the attitudes of modem composers. According to Meyer, the mu-
sic of the past or its modern counterpart (traditionalism) opposed
form and material (the means) with content (the ends, the )repre-
sentational significance< (17:213). Contrary to Meyer's analysis I
would support Supidic: >In music theory and aesthetics we are jus-
tified in speaking of the dual nature of matter and form, and of
musical content only as their synthesis (26:158).
I will not repeat here the definitions of matter, form and content
that Professor Supi6ic has so clearly set forth in his article. I wish
only to emphasize he uses the word >)form<( in a broad sense, refer-
ring not only to the architectonics of a work but also to its temporal,
melodic, rhythmic, etc., structures (26:150). I would go further and
say that form refers not only to consciously attained structures, but
also to any formation of the material, however unconscious or
The aesthetic emphasis of )formalism, on form, and ))transcen-
dentalism, on materials as explained by Meyer is still quite valid,

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

but it cannot be understood properly from the false dualism be-

tween form and content. Can it, on the other hand, be fully under-
stood from Supicic's point of view?

* *

As a statement of fact, I do not have any qualms when Meyer

affirms that formalism emphasizes form and process. The problem
is whether Meyer's statement - although coinciding with the think-
ing of many theorists and composers of so-called formalism - is
based on firm aesthetic grounds or not.
To carry the discussion a little further, we could recall Boulez's
saying that form and content are of the same nature: ... je de-
meure persuade qu'en musique il n'existe pas d'opposition entre
forme et contenu, qu'il n'y a pas 'd'un cote, de l'abstrait, de l'autre,
du concret'. Forme et contenu sont de meme nature, justiciables de
la meme analyse, (la:31). But can we really agree with this? Or, to
paraphrase Meyer, is it true that the big change in our century was
due to the disappearance of the dualism between form and ma-
terials on one hand, and content and meaning on the other? (17:210
-211). I am inclined to say that an identification of form and con-
tent, although repeated by many formalists, will not withstand a
close investigation without discovering some extrapolations from
an ill digested structuralism.
Meyer holds that the dualism between form and content existed
up until contemporary times, an assumption we have tried to show
as erroneous. Working from this false assumption, he says that the
big change in our century is the disappearance of this dualism and
the appearance of formalism when form is emphasized, and tran-
scendentalism when the materials are. We have already tried to
show that, if there was any dualism in the past, it was between mat-
ter and form. Our next task will be to justify formalism by showing
that any possible dualism between form and materials has become
for many composers untenable.
Let us start with a quotation from Luigi Rognoni, understanding
that for him ,musica moderna< is almost the equivalent of the for-
malist tendency we are trying now to elucidate: ))Nel concetto di
musica tonale 'materia' e 'forma' appaiono, in un certo senso, sepa-
rabili: materia-suono e forma-idea (...). Nella musica moderna
(...), materia e forma appaiono sempre piui inseparabili come con-
cetti distinti, (22:62).
This statement contradicts Boulez's. Boulez has superficially ap-
plied structuralist ideas to music2. Actually, he justifies his above-
-mentioned statement by quoting Levi-Strauss who, speaking of
language, says that )le contenu tire sa realite de sa structure, et ce
2 I agree with Charles' opinion on this subject. See (5:149-156).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

qu'on appelle forme est la mise en structure des structures locales,

en quoi consiste le contenu3.o Concerning the application of a struc-
turalist principle of language to music, Charles comments:

)It is hard to see how such a proposition, which retains its

descriptive or explanatory meaning in structural anthropol-
ogy, can be applied for normative purposes in music - ex-
cept at the price of an ambiguity (to consider music a lan-
guage, without further ado) and of a play on words< (5:150).

How Boulez fell into this trap requires some explanation. We

cannot forget that when speaking in these terms, Boulez - as well
as Meyer and many other composers and theorists - is thinking
mainly about serial music, for him the most representative of all
musical formalisms. By identifying local structures with content
and then explaining form as the )>structuring( of these local struc-
tures, Boulez, following Levi-Strauss, claims to identify form and
content. I do not agree, even in the case of serial music. Let us
merely recall the above admonition of Charles. Further, a deeper
reason forces us to distinguish two cultural outlooks: structural
thinking and, what we might call here, serial thinking (an attitude
not only of )serial music, but of many other arts and musical
Umberto Eco has pointed out the deeper reason for distinguishing
structural and serial thinking by drawing attention to Jean Pouil-
lon's clear and subtle distinction between the two adjectives, ))struc-
turel,, and ,>structural< (7:45 ff.). Pouillon says: ,Une relation est
'structurelle' quand on la considere dans sa fonction determinante
au sein d'une organisation donnee; et la meme relation est 'struc-
turale' quand elle est susceptible de se realiser en plusieurs modes
differents et en plusieurs organisations egalement determinantes.<4
Eco further elucidates the reason for distinguishing these atti-
tudes: >..., la difference est nette: alors que la pensee serielle tra-
vaillait en vue de produire des realites 'structurelles' ouvertes, la pen-
see structuraliste travaillait sur des realites 'structurales'< (7:46).
We cannot therefore identify structural thinking with serial thinking,
any more than we can content with form. Suffice it to say here that,
although it is undeniable that formalism emphasizes form, it is
another matter to say that it does so thanks to a blurring of the
false dualism between form and content, or by their identification.
I would suggest rather that formalism derives from the destruction
of the classical dualism between form and materials, and the con-
viction that only form can be the >)revealer<( of the material which,
3 As quoted by Boulez (la:31).
4 Jean POUILLON, ))Presentation,(( Temps Modernes, special number de-
dicated to ))Problemes du Structuralisme<, (November, 1966). As quoted by
Eco (7:46).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

in itself, is of minor importance. Ironically, Boulez makes another

statement later in the same book quoted above that seems to agree
with our conclusions: )I1 faut donc, a mon sens, traiter sons et
bruits en fonction des structures formelles qui les utilisent, qui les
manifestent a eux-memes, pour ainsi dire. Au-dela de l'idee de me-
lange des elements, encore naive, se situe une dialectique structure-
-materiau selon laquelle l'une est le revelateur de l'autre, (la:44--45).

Acco* *tra

According to Meyer, the transcendentalists place emphasis almost

exclusively on the materials. Some transcendentalists will claim that
even in bringing up pure material one appeals to the organizing
potentials of the material itself. )>When transcendentalism focuses
exclusive attention upon the materials of art - when aesthetic ex-
perience derives form and depends upon no man-made or tradition-
al syntax or form - a work of art is not different from a natural
object; indeed, it may be a natural object, as in 'found' art<< (17:215).
Although written in a different context, Henri Focillon's little
book Vie des formes (9) can throw some light on this problem. In
its third chapter, Focillon rejects all the dualisms we have been
speaking about. Although they may have some meaning as pure log-
ic, we should, according to Focillon, rid ourselves of all the classi-
cal antinomies, such as spirit-matter, matter-form, or the false form-
-content opposition, to be able to understand what the life of forms
is (9:50-51). And then he states: )>La forme n'agit pas comme un
principe superieur modelant une masse passive, car on peut consi-
derer que la matiere impose sa propre forme a la forme(< (9:51).
Consequently, )les matieres comportent une certaine destinee ou,
si l'on veut, une certaine vocation formelle<< (9:52). But this >voca-
tion formelle< is not a blind determinism. 'There is a clear distinc-
tion between art's materials and nature's materials: the wood of the
statue is not anymore the wood of the tree, even in the case of the
artist's not having changed the natural object (9:52). ,)Encore que
le traitement subi n'ait pas modifie l'equilibre et le rapport naturel
des parties, la vie apparente de la matiere s'est metamorphosee<<
(9:53). I would say that this is precisely what transcendentalism
aims at: to be content with this )>minimal< transformation of the
given material. Toru Takemitsu and John Cage assert this >>vocation
formelle<< of the sound material in strikingly clear terms from a
non-theoretical, compositional point of view.

Takemitsu: >To control the sounds, to lead them towards

a unique goal, that is what I do not like to do. I would
rather like to let them free, with as little control as possible.
It is enough to gather the sounds around me and to put them

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

ever so gently in movement. The worst thing you can do to

them is to move them around the way you drive a car<<
Cage: )>One may give up the desire to control sound, clear
his mind of music, and set about discovering means to let
sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made
theories or expressions of human sentiments( (3a:10).

* *

After having examined and criticized Meyer's distinction between

formalism and transcendentalism based on their emphasis either on
form or materials, we must ask ourselves whether a better basis for
their distinction can be found. Should we not elicit a deeper and
more universal basis for their distinction, one that respects the his-
torical facts of today's music? To do that, we should first return
to the sources and substitute for the terms formalism and tran-
scendentalism the much more common terms avant-garde and expe-
rimental. It will be my task now to define the real meanings of
))avant-garde(( and ,experimental( and to state that, form an aesthet-
ical and historical point of view, a classification of contemporary
music must be tripartite (like Meyer's), but based not so much on
the ends-means continuum, but on the aesthetic attitude the com-
poser holds and on the meaning he gives to the sound results of his
endeavors, that is to say, the concrete work of music. In this sense
I would divide the music of today into traditional, avant-garde and
experimental music.
Since the traditionalists subscribe to a view of musical aesthetics
derived from those of previous times, I will concentrate on eluci-
dating the other two tendencies. But before doing so, I have to exam-
ine, albeit summarily, other attempts to classify contemporary


In the 1960's there was a tendency to oppose, as a block, two

main tendencies in contemporary musical creation, two tendencies
that, for practical purposes, I will refer to as traditional and avant-
-garde. As tendencies they were distinguished in a rather naive
manner. Aware of the dangers of oversimplification, we could say
that one was distinguished from the other thus: the traditionalist
was the composer who ))accepted the acceptable, (the traditions
coming from the 19th century: expressive intent, forms derived
primarily from Classical-Romantic principles, harmonic language
as extension of tonal practices, the concert-hall as the normal per-
former-listener environment to present his works in, etc.), while the

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

avant-garde composer felt that ,only the unacceptable was accept-

able,5 (?unheard-of, new materials, like electronic or concrete
sounds, the rejection of self-expression and )classical( forms, inde-
terminacy as a compositional technique, etc.).
For some scholars, however, this distinction is inadequate. Ro-
gnoni, for instance, replaces the term >avant-garde, with that of
?radical music(, which he intends to embrace not only the ,classi-
cal, avant-garde, but also ,experimental, music (22:60). However,
he uses the term >experimental(( differently from the way I will use
it. He employs the term as it was popularized in France, especially
by Pierre Schaeffer, to denote concrete and electronic music, which
was produced as a scientific ,experiment, in a sound laboratory.
The first scholar who considered there to be within the second
tendency, which has been referred to as avant-garde or radical mu-
sic, two clearly aesthetically distinguishable modes of thinking about
music is Meyer and, as we have seen already, he developed it into
formalism and transcendentalism.
Enrico Fubini has suggested a division very similar to my own.
For example, although the subject of his article )Indeterminazione
e struttura nell'avanguardia musicale,6 is not a classification of
contemporary music and although he does not refer to tradition-
alism, he does speak of a )post-webernian avant-garde, (the con-
tinuation of the )classical avant-garde< that started at the begin-
ning of our century), and he then introduces the term oirrational
avant-garde<( applied to Cage (11:127), noting that Cage himself
calls this tendency ,experimental<< (11:128).
That Fubini's intention was not an attempt at a classification can
be clearly understood in his efforts to include Cage under the gen-
eral category of >)avant-garde<: *Certo con Cage si ha l'espressione
piui radicale e conseguente dell'aspetto negativo dell'avanguardia,
(11:129). But, at the same time, he observes a fundamental opposi-
tion between these two tendencies: the >post-webernian< avant-
-garde's interest in structure and organization (whatever the means
to achieve them), against the use of chance by the ,irrational(
avant-garde as the supreme arbiter that precludes any pre-structu-
ration of the sound material in a normal sense (11:127-128).
In spite of some concomitant aesthetical problems which are out-
side the scope of this paper, we find in Michael Nyman's book Ex-
perimental Music. Cage and Beyond (18), an attempt to disengage
experimental music from the avant-garde. Nyman insists that there
are clear differences in the conception and execution of music by the
,traditional, avant-garde and by ,,experimental( composers. But in
his efforts to concentrate on the differences between the experi-
5 Chanan has explained in the following words: >Fragmentation, the break-
ing-up of the accepted (and predictable) order in art, is the primary rule of
avant-gardism, (4:25).
6 Reprinted in (11:116-133). I will quote from this book.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

mental and the avant-garde, Nyman almost identifies many aspects

of the avant-garde with the attitudes of the traditionalists. It is not
fair to speak in the same breath of composers like Kagel and Stock-
hausen with composers like Birtwistle or Maxwell Davies. Nyman
considers all of them en masse as representatives of ))the Post-Ren-
aissance tradition<< (18:2, 9) or of >>the classical system, and its con-
temporary continuation, (18:24). In the same way that there is a
difference between experimental and avant-garde thinking, there is
also a difference between the way composers like Kagel or Stock-
hausen conceive music and the way more traditionally minded com-
posers like Birtwisle or Maxwell Davies conceive of it. All this in
spite of the fact that we must always keep in mind that the lines of
separation between tendencies are often hazy, and in spite of the
fact that we cannot forget that a composer may switch from one
tendency to another from piece to piece and sometimes even in the
same piece.
Let us now explain avant-gardism and experimentalism as two
distinct tendencies. I will not take up traditionalism, because Me-
yer's explanation of it is still valid and because its dependence on
19th century aesthetics does not require further elucidation.


Reputable studies on the musical avant-garde as a distinct tend-

ency are almost non-existent. We have to look to art specialists like
Renato Poggioli (20) or Michael Kirby (13) to find intelligent discus-
sions of the avant-garde tendency in the arts. To apply their general
theories to the specific problems of the musical avant-garde is not
without its dangers, but at least we could incorporate here two gen-
eral features that make the distinction between the basic attitudes
of traditionalism and the avant-garde even in music sufficiently
clear. Then we can speak of a third feature - not found in general
studies - which differentiates more specifically the musical avant-
garde from experimental music. In other words, while the first two
features disengage the avant-garde from a more traditionalist out-
look, the third one will establish the differentiation between avant-
garde and experimental music in a concrete way.
But before we do this, we have to insist that the musical avant-
garde should not be connected necessarily - as in popular belief -
with a kind of futurism. The image suggesting that the avant-garde
musician is always some sort of visionary composing the music >of
the future< should be rejected. Let us call to mind what Edgard Va-
rese, a real >progressive< for his time, had to say: >Contrary to the
general notion, the artist is never ahead of his own time, but is
simply the only one who is not a long way behind,.7 This, of course,
7 Edgard VARESE, >>Music as an Art-Science,< in (23:200).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

has nothing to do with the fact that avant-garde music is not widely
accepted and that, comparatively speaking, only a very small num-
ber of its composers are popular even with a very limited public.8
Only for the sake of completeness will I mention here the first
two characteristics of the avant-garde. They have been studied be-
fore, and I will limit myself to applying to music what Kirby has
said about the avant-garde in general in his excellent study.
We use )>avant-garde<( for want of a better term; it is the term
most commonly used of modern coinage to indicate this musical
phenomenon; and, thus, it conveniently denotes a way of conceiving
music common to many coiaposers. Still another reason is the fact
that avant-garde >refers specifically to a concern with the historical
directionality of artc (13:18). Historical directionality gives meaning
to the term avant-garde. >Some artists may accept the limits of art
as defined, as known, as given; others may attempt to alter, expand,
or escape from the stylistic aesthetic rules passed on to them by
the culture< (13:19). This is independent of the intrinsic value of the
works produced. As in any tendency, there is bad, mediocre, and
good avant-garde music. Because this term is not connected with
value, but with the historical directionality of art, this tendency to
advance must refuse to accept at face value what has been done up
to the present moment. This implies a commando-like mentality, a
certain elitism, and an ever continuing search for the new. The ever
continuing search for the new is the second distinguishing feature
of all avant-gardes.
)>What characterizes avant-garde is the myth of the new<< (20:214).
>The first quality of avant-garde art is newness<.9 In contrast to
other cultures, Western culture has always tended to consider innova-
tion and novelty as positive values. As Meyer points out, the sources
of stylistic pluralism in music became more acute around the
last decade of the 19th century, when )>works as diverse in spirit and
inflection as Debussy's L'Apres-midi d'un faune, Strauss's Ein Hel-
denleben, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Czar Saltan - though all were root-
ed in the style of traditional tonality< (17:182)coexisted in Europe,
and the desire for the new, the different, became of the propelling
forces for musical creation. The general acceptance of the term
avant-garde in criticism as meaning the attitude of the artist who is
8 It is interesting to note that many avant-garde compositions of the past
have become, overnight, ,acceptable( music. Let us recall the scandal that
followed the premiere of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris in 1913
and its popularity today. Or, perhaps, an even more revealing case would be
that of Schoenberg. During his lifetime none of his works were really accept-
ed by the general public. Nowadays, even Karajan conducts them! To para-
phrase Bernard Shaw, it is the fate of many avant-garde composers >to pass
from unaccteptability to acceptance without an intervening period of appre-
ciation( (As quoted by John ASHBERY, >The Invisible Avant-Garde,< in
9 Harold ROSENBERG, ))Collective, Ideological, Combative,, in (12:85).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

truly modern and in the vanguard acting against the forces of aca-
demia and conservatism in art coincided historically with these in-
novations and the resulting pluralism.10
I refer the reader to Kirby (13:37-62) for a detailed study of the
implications the concept of novelty brings up, and for an under-
standing of the challenge they offer to classical aestlhetics, as they
are the means for expanding our aesthetical outlook. I will only in-
sist here that novelty is not in itself a value, but only a condition for
a work being considered avant-garde, an element of the total aesthet-
ic experience which the avant-garde very much emphasizes. >A work
of art that is created today is not good because it is new, but it can-
not be significant unless it is new< (13:61).
I would like to add, as an intrinsic reason for this search for the
new, that avant-garde composers tend, as a whole, to fix in notation
their compositions. As Jean-Charles Francois has observed: >La mu-
sique occidentale est fixee par la notation, de maniere qu'on est bien
oblige d'ecrire toujours quelque chose de nouveau sous peine d'etre
de plagiat. C'est la la condition de l'avant-garde, (10:75). In societies
where music has an oral rather than a written tradition, the feeling
for novelty is less pronounced, and the concept of avant-garde does
not exist.
The avant-garde's fixing its works in notation highlights its most
important characteristic, what we might call ))intentionality<(. Inten-
tionality refers to its desire to control the sound result and to its
respect for the >work of art.(( The perspective of the avant-garde, of
course, adapts these essentially traditional concepts.
We will develop the implications of indeterminacy in music as we
proceed but let us say here that, when the avant-garde composer
uses indeterrninacy as a compositional device, he does so in such
a way that the concept of the >work of art<< (however transformed)
and his overall intentionality and control are completely dis-
rupted. Despite the disruptions, the composer is still considered re-
sponsible for the end product.
Many quotations from the enormous literature on this problem
could be introduced here. Let us choose quotations from only two
of the most representative composers of the European avant-garde:
Boulez and Stockhausen. Boulez wrote to Cage in 1952: >By temper-
ament I cannot toss a coin... Chance must be very well control-
led. II y a suffisamment d'inconnu.,1' And when the same year he
went to the United States for the first time, the pianist David Tudor
recalls that, after having played Cage's Music of Changes in front of
Boulez, >he was unsympathetic to the idea of chance. He responded
politely but it was clear that he was more than hostile to the loss
of control. <12
10 >The notion of the avant-garde replaced, around 1885, that of moder-
nity.< Frangoise NORA, )>The Neo-Impressionist Avant-Garde,< in (12:55).
11 As quoted by Peyser (19:82).
12 Ibid.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

More recently, when the problem of chance or indeterminacy in

music had lost its novelty, the avant-garde composer's attitude had,
nevertheless, not fundamentally changed. Stockhausen declared in
1971: >So many composers think that you can take any sound and
use it. That is true insofar as you really can take it and integrate it
and ultimately create some kind of harmony and balance. (...) You
must be capable of really integrating the elements and not just ex-
pose them and see what happens< (6:44). Here it is clear enough that
the responsibility for making relationships among sounds is still in
the hands of the composer.
It is precisely the avant-garde's respect for intentionality that
is the aesthetic basis for distinguishing avant-garde music from our
next topic, experimental music.

)>Tout musicien qui n'a pas ressenti... la necessite du langage

dodecaphonique est INUTILE. Car toute son oeuvre se place en
dega des necessites de son epoque<( (Boulez, 1952) (lb:149). ,Today,
either music exists as it is in the vanguard, or it does not exist at
all< (Eimert, 1957) (8:9).
These rather arrogant statements by Boulez and Eimert express
quite accurately atmosphere of the European avant-garde of the
fifties. Its meeting place was the summer courses at Darmstadt; its
common language serial music. However, the term avant-garde is
very fragile. It could, at any moment, become obsolete by being out-
-flanked on the left. The future of any avant-garde movement is
always short-lived, as it loses its advanced status and its tenets be-
come established conventions.13 This is exactly what happened to
avant-garde music. A movement born in America that could hardly
be considered >>avant-garde, out-flanked the European avant-garde.
The American movement came to be known as >experimental mu-
sic((, and it is the third tendency of music in our tripartite classi-
We have, first, to define the term >experimental(. In 1955 John
Cage defines it as an act >>the outcome of which is unknown< (3a:
13). Later, in 1959, he amplified his definition thus:

>What is the nature of an experimental action? It is simply

an action the outcome of which is not foreseen. It is therefore
very useful if one has decided that sounds are to come into
their own, rather than being exploited to express sentiments
or ideas of order( (3a:69).

This understanding of >experimental< differs sharply, it goes

without saying, from the commonly accepted understanding of the
13 See William AGEE, ))New York Dada, 1910-30,< in (12:128).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

term in Europe, where it denoted electronic and concrete composi-

tions. As Heinz-Klaus Metzger has pointed out, the conception be-
hind tape music is the opposite of >experimental, as Cage defines it:
>>Mit allem Nachdruck jedoch ist darauf hinzuweisen, dafi
unter den bis heute in die Offentlichkeit gelangten elektroni-
schen Kompositionen keine einzige experimentelle sich fin-
det; sind der Realisation oder gar der Konzeption dieser Wer-
ke bisweilen langwierige Studioexperimente vorausgegan-
gen, so eben um mit Sorge zu vermeiden, dafi die Stiicke
selber experimentell gerieten. Cage allerdings arbeitet derzeit
an einem Werk,l4 das zum erstenmal die Prinzipien experimen-
teller Komposition von der Instrumentalmusik auf die elek-
tronische Musik iibertragen soll, (16:47).

But what are the >principles of experimental composition< that

separate it from avant-garde composition? I have already spoken of
the belief in the directionality of art and of preoccupation with the
new as characteristics of the avant-garde; I stressed that avant-
-garde composers on the whole have not renounced the concept
of the >>music work< and its intentionality; but to say it again in
another way, they have not given up the responsibility of controlling
the outcome of their music. Cage was the first composer to give
up those rights. He annihilated what we could consider the very
essence of the Western aesthetic experience: its deep intentionality.
To effect this revolution, beginning in 1951 Cage and his followers
systematically introduced the use of chance into music.

Many authors have studied the manner in which chance can be

Many authors have studied the manner in which chance can be
introduced into music,15 but their studies are either incomplete or
they do not attempt a systematic classification. However, Susumu
14 Metzger is referring to Fontana Mix, a piece Cage completed in 1958.
15 As a part of the growing literature on this subject, I list here in chron-
-ological order references I consider more relevant:
Leonard B. MEYER >The End of the Renaissance?, (1963), in (17:68-84).
Roger REYNOLDS, ,Indeterminacy: Some Considerations,( Perspectives
of New Music, Fall-Winter, 1965, Vol. 4, No. 1, Princeton University Press,
Princeton (N. J.), pp. 136-140.
Konrad BOEHMER, Zur Theorie der offenen Form in der neuen Musik,
Tonos Verlag, Darm'stadt, 1967.
Ellsworth J. SNYDER, John Cage and Music since World War II: A Study
in Applied Aesthetics, Xerox University Microfilms, Ann Arbor (Mich.),
1970 (monograph).
Cdlestin DELIAGE, >Indetermination et Improvisation,< IRASM, 1971,
Vol. II, No. 2, pp. 155-191.
POTTER (1971), as in (21).
SHONO (1976), as in (24).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

Sh6no in a recent study (24) has succeeded where others have failed
in studying the use of chance in all its implications.16 Therefore, for
the following classification, I will use his basic ideas, simplifying
and amplifying them with my own.
Shono bases his classification on the points of transition within
the process of practical music making. Thus, he indicates four times
when chance results. Taking the normally accepted scheme of COM-
each hyphen indicates a point at which chance occurs in the process.
In type 1, chance occurs between composer and score. This type,
in which chance participates in the compositional process, is what
Cage called in the early fifties ,)chance operations,. At that time
Cage used two kinds of chance operations. He tells us that to attain
>a music free from one's memory and imagination(( (3a:10), he used
chance operations )>some derived from the I-Ching, others from the
observation of imperfections in the paper upon which I happen to
be writing(( (3a: 17).
Of course, many other methods are possible, and Cage himself
has used others. But every method should be concerned with some
kind of pre-compositional use of chance. The distinguishing feature
of this first type is its reserving chance as a compositional method,
and thus the >composed, result may be written down on a score
in normal notation. The score can be played in a >traditional( man-
ner, by the performer, and there is no question of indeterminacy
as regards the sound result. In other words, in type 1, the concept
of the >)univocityc( of the music work (its identity or near identity
throughout different performances) is not destroyed, although its
intentionality (the piece of music as an intentional act of the com-
poser) is.17
In type 2, chance occurs between score and performer. Cage wrote
in 1958: ,More essential than composing by means of chance oper-
ations, it seems to me now, is composing in such a way that what
one does is indeterminate of its performance< (3a:69). Accordingly,
the composer has to leave the score in some way indeterminate. In
this case the resulting )>work( is not only >>unintentional< from the
composer's point of view (what Meyer called antiteleological, 17:
77), but also has lost its univocity, since it can be different at each
performance. In extreme cases, the >identity, of the work is im-
To effect the second type of chance, the composer has to leave
some details, some choices, or even some >compositional responsi-
bility( to the performer. Naturally, the amount of responsibility a

16 See (24), especially chapter 3. I would like to express my gratitude for

the author's permission to use his as yet unpublished manuscript.
17 Cage himself explains this in reference to his first piece composed by
chance operations using the I-Ching, Music of Changes of 1951. See (3a:36).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

composer leaves to chance, or the performer, varies, leaving plenty

of room for different possibilities. Within type 2, we can distinguish
three subtypes.
In type 2-a, the composer determines the macrostructure of the
piece, but he leaves the microstructure, or some sound parameter,
indeterminate. Here the gradation of the use of chance can vary
greatly. By leaving only the timbral aspects to the performer, for
example, by not determining the instrumentation, the composer
achieves a minimum of indeterminacy. In this sense, a fair amount
of Baroque music can be said to have this minimal type of timbral
indeterminacy. The other extreme would be leaving whole segments
of the work to the performer's improvisation. Between these two
extremes, we could place many pieces where several possibilities are
written out, leaving the choice of one to the performer, or where
only one aspect or parameter (pitch, register, tempo, etc.) is left to
the performer.
Type 2-b can be thought as the opposite of type 2-a: the micro-
structure is determined but the macrostructure is not. That is to
say, the sounds to be played are notated in segments, but the se-
quence or order in which these segments would be played is left to
the performer. This type is often called >open form<. Earl Brown's
25 Pages, for 1-25 Pianos (1953) is one of the earliest examples,
where the 25 pages of the score can be arranged in any order. The
first piece in open form composed in Europe is usually ascribed to
Stockhausen's Klavierstiick XI (1956).
Type 2-c is music truly ,>indeterminate of its performance<. In
this subtype, the composer uses any type of pictorial or verbal
writing unrelated to traditional staff notation to communicate his
intentions to the performer. The freedom of the performer is much
greater than in types 2-a and 2-b and thus the sound result is even
more indeterminate.
While some graphic scores can be fairly accurate, others look
like paintings that leave all the initiative to the performer. Some-
times they are simple >>improvisation guides,, allowing the widest
possible latitude to the performer's imagination. Composers some-
times communicate to performers by means of verbal scores. A
rather controlled result can be achieved when the score is a written
instruction (which is not necessarily used during the actual perform-
ance); however, when the verbal score is only a poem, as is the
case with much of Stockhausen's )>intuitive music<(, results are un-
In type 3, chance occurs between player and sound result. Even
when the performer faithfully >plays, the score or follows the in-
structions of the composer, he has no control over the sound result.
The resulting sounds are unforeseeable not only to the composer,
but also to the performer. This can only be achieved with the help
of some kind of electronic apparatus. The earliest example of a piece

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

of this kind, where sounds are unintentional to both composer and

interpreter, is Cage's Imaginary Landscape no. 4, for 12 Radios
(1951).18 Each radio is operated by two performers, one selecting the
stations, the other regulating dynamics. However, they could not
control the sound they were picking up, because radio programs and
thus sound material differed according to place, time of day, etc.
Even silence could be the overall result. This almost happened in its
premiere. The concert was very long, and this piece was played last,
near midnight. Few musical programs were on the air, some stations
had ceased broadcasting, and the sound result was mainly static
with periods of silence. The composer Henry Cowell, who was pre-
sent at the concert, comments that >Cage's own attitude about this
was one of comparative indifference, since he believes the concept
to be more interesting than the result of any single performance.019
In type 4, chance occurs between sound result and the listener.
The sound itself is determined, but the listener can change it by
manipulation or movement. This also involves electronic devices or
multi-media presentation. In some cases the listener can decide
which sound to hear by manipulating output controls. In other
cases the position of the listener can be critical in determining which
sounds he bears, and his moving around within a performance
space will allow him to decide that. One interesting example of this
type of piece is HPSCHD (1967-69), a work composed by John Cage
and Lejaren Hiller in collaboration. In recorded form, every rec-
ord has its own chart so that the listener can adjust volume, tim-
bre, and balance between channels. Each chart is unique, being
produced by random computer programming. Each record pro-
duced, then, is a )private, piece, and is >performable< only through
the active participation of the listener. A live performance of the
same piece would offer the listener the possibility of determining
his own music through movement. As Cage himself declares com-
menting on this piece, >>As you go from one point of the hall to
another, the experience changes; and here, too, each man deter-
mines what he hears.(20

* *

It would be a mistake to think that experimental music monopo-

lizes the use of chance. The distinction between avant-garde and ex-
perimental music does not lie in the use of chance as such, but in
18 Since the notated score was produced by using the I-Ching, this piece
also falls under type 1. But here we will focus only on the implications which
come under type 3.
19 Henry COWELL, >Current Chronicle(. As reprinted in (14:94-105), p. 97.
20 As quoted by Richard KOSTELANETZ, ))Environmental Abundance,< in

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

the way it is used to destroy the composer's overall control of the

sound result and thus to produce an experimental act the outcome
of which cannot be foreseen. I have explained and classified in de-
tail the use of chance in music in order to clarify when and how
chance can negate the accepted tenets of the avant-garde. Let us not
forget that the avant-garde maintains the identity of each piece of
music, even when this identity becomes equivocal.
Cage started using chance in a systematic way in 1951. The Euro-
pean avant-garde was rather shocked when this tendency became
well known as a result of Cage's European concert tour of 1954 and
his lectures in Darmstadt and several other places in 1958. But
Cage's influence showed up almost immediately when a few avant-
garde composers began to use chance in their compositions.21 Does
that mean that the European avant-garde became experimental over-
night? I do not think so. Morton Feldman, a close associate of Cage
since the beginning of experimental music, touched the heart of the
matter when he wrote:

(Though indeterminate music was decried as anti-intellectual

and even irrational, the methods used to arrive at it began,
after a time, to arouse a certain interest. A number of influ-
ential composers, particularly men of such vast intellectual
appetites as Karlheinz Stockhausen, had begun to incorporate
these new 'techniques' in their own thinking. Paradoxically,
these were now used as new criteria for control. Stockhausen
assumes, for example, that an indeterminate process will have
the same effect in a 'statical' way as the most complex and
accurate notation. Evidently he feels what we were trying to
devise was some new way of coming upon the old result.,22

Consequently, we can draw the conclusion that when the avant-

garde uses chance, it domesticates it. The avant-garde did not give
up the concept of intentionality and identity of the music work. But
in order to introduce some flexibility into their almost unbearably
complex music, they were willing to mollify its univocity. The need
to use chance, therefore, did not come from a willingness to leave
the completion of their works to chance or to the collaboration of
the performer, but from the need to give their works a more flexible
articulation. The avant-garde composer does not so easily surrender
the rights and responsibilities of his finished work, and in general

21 The earliest European examples are Zeitmasse (1955-56) and Klavier-

stuck XI (1956) by Stockhausen, Boulez's Third Piano Sonata (1956-57) and
Poussern's Mobile, for Two Pianos (1956-58).
22 Morton FELDMAN, ?Predeterminate / Indeterminate<, Composer, Spring,
1966, 19, p. 4. As quoted by Potter (21:50).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

he is against any ,chance by inadvertence.,23 No wonder, then, that

almost all the significant European pieces of this period that used
chance can be classified under either type 2-a or 2-b.
To illustrate this with only one example, let us consider Stock-
hausen's Klavierstiick XI. This is a piece composed in ,open form,
(Type 2-b). To describe it in general terms, it consists of 19 indepen-
dent segments written out in traditional staff notation on one big
sheet of paper. The performer decides the order in which he will
play the segments. He is instructed to begin by choosing a segment
at random. After reading the tempo, dynamic, and attack instruc-
tions written at the end of the first segment, he chooses another seg-
ment at random and plays it according to these instructions. When
any segment is played for the third time, one possible performance
of the piece is completed.
As can be readily understood, the composer determines and no-
tates in detail the microstructure (each segment) in this piece. How-
ever, a few indeterminate aspects remain because the playing tech-
niques and the order of performance of the segments are different
each time. The performer does not improvise but simply spontane-
ously rearranges the order of performing the segments which have
been determined by the composer. In other words, the player
creates a new )form(< (the macrostructure) every time he perfoms
the piece.
But to what extent can it be said that chance is introduced by such
a method? No matter how much the performer changes the order
of the segment, we must affirm that the interior consistency of the
sound material of each segment hinders a truly >)unforeseeable(( var-
iation in the resulting form. As Gyorgy Ligeti has pointed out (15:10
-11, note 21), the performer is placed in an embarrassing position.
Clearly, he is the one, as )collaborator( with the composer, who will
provide the )form( for the piece, different for each performance.
But, in the final analysis, he is not really free. The composer has sev-
erely limited his freedom by deciding to the last detail the sound
material to be played. The pianist David Tudor - to whom Klavier-
stick XI was dedicated and by whom the world premiere was
played in New York in April 1957 - expresses the same feeling when
he admits that >I had the impression when Stockhausen was talking
to me about the piece that it would be much freer than it turned out

23 This expression comes from Boulez's famous statement at the beginning

of his article Alea:
,La forme la plus elementaire de la transmutation du hasard se situe-
rait dans l'adoption d'une philosophie teintee d'orientalisme qui mas-
querait une faiblesse fondamentale dans la technique de la composi-
tion; ... je qualifierais donc cette experience de hasard par inadvertance<
(as reprinted in lb:41).

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

to be. I remember my shock when I found the rhythmic values no-

tated. How frantically I tried to get out of the four walls that the
piece represented to me.<24
After all, this type of equivocality or >ambiguity( - this is the
very word Stockhausen has used in speaking about >>open forms<(:
vieldeutiger Formen (25:241) - leaves the musical work in the com-
poser's control. We could speak of a )>controlled chance, the goal of
which would be only to convert, by providing some kind of formal
flexibility, static forms into dynamic ones. To borrow one of
Charles paradoxical insights, a piece like Klavierstiick XI is >open<
in order that it might be less >>aleatory(( (5:148). Or, as Cage

>The indeterminate aspects of the composition of the Kla-

vierstiick XI do not remove the work in its performance from
the body of European conventions. And yet the purpose of in-
determinacy would seem to be to bring about an unforeseen
situation. In the case of Klavierstiick XI, the use of indetermi-
nacy is in this sense unnecessary since it is ineffectivec( (3a:

In short, this work cannot be called experimental. In spite of its

use of chance, it is an avant-garde composition.

* *

It is outside the scope of this paper to investigate the reasons for

the musical situation I have tried to analyze here in a rather phe-
nomenological manner. My purpose has simply been to set up a suf-
ficiently broad theoretical basis for a classification of the total
spectrum of today's music. In conclusion I would only like to add
that the far-reaching aesthetic consequences brought about in expe-
rimental music by relinquishing intentionality and letting )the
sounds be themselves"26 result in works of music that are no longer
compositions in the sense of delimited objects but processes that
through a performing activity become sound. >A performance is
composed rather than a composition is performed< (2:61).

24 As quoted by Peyser (19:125).

25 The usual procedure of letting >the sounds be themselves< in experimen-
tal music has been, as explained, the introduction of chance. But there are
other possible ways of achieving the same end, as, for example, some pieces
of ),repetitive music<< have proved.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to


1. BOULEZ Pierre,
a) Penser la Musique Aujourd'hui, Editions Gonthier, Paris 1964.
b) Releves d'apprenti, Editions du Seuil, Paris 1966.
2. BROWN Earle, )>Form in New Music(, Darmstddter Beitrage zur
Neuen Musik, Schott, Mainz 1966, X, pp. 57-69.
3. CAGE John,
a) Silence, The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 1967.
b) A Year from Motnday, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown
(Conn.) 1970.
4. CHANAN Michael, )Music and its Criticism(, Art International,
James Fitzsimmons, Lugano, (May 1970), XIV/5, pp. 23-25.
5. CHARLES Daniel, ))Entr'acte: 'Formal' or 'Informal' Music?a,
The Musical Quarterly, January 1965, Vol. LI, No. 1.
6. COTT Jonathan, Stockhausen. Conversations with the Composer,
Simon and Schuster, New York 1973.
7. ECO Umberto, >>Pensee Structurale et Pensee Serielle,, Musique
en Jeu, 1971, No. 5, pp. 45-56.
8. EIMERT Herbert, >)The Composer's Freedom of Choice,< Die
Reihe, 1959, 3.
9. FOCILLON Henri, Vie des Formes, 6? ed., Presses Universi-
taires de France, Paris 1970.
10. FRANCOIS Jean-Charles, ))Universite et Musique,, Musique en
Jeu, 1976, No. 23, pp. 72-81.
11. FUBINI Enrico, Musica e linguaggio nell'estetica contempora-
nea, Einaudi, Torino 1973.
12. HESS Thomas B. and John ASHBERY, eds., Avant-Garde Art,
Collier Books, New York 1968.
13. KIRBY Michael, The Art of Time. Essays on the Avant-Garde,
E. P. Dutton, New York 1969.
14. KOSTELANETZ Richard, ed., John Cage, Praeger, New York

15. LIGETI Gyorgy, >Wandlungen der musikalischen Form,( Die

Reihe, 7, Universal Edition, Wien 1960.
16. METZGER Heinz-Klaus, )>Gescheiterte Begriffe in Theorie und
Kritik der Musik,( Die Reihe, 5, Universal Edition, Wien 1959,
pp. 41-49.
17. MEYER Leonard B., Music, the Arts, and Ideas, The University
of Chicago Press, Chicago 1967.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

18. NYMAN Michael, Experimental Music. Cage and Beyond, Studio

Vista, London 1974.
19. PEYSER Joan, Boulez, Schirmer Books, New York 1976.
20. POGGIOLI Renato, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, Harper &
Row, New York 1968.
21. POTTER Gary Morton, The Role of Chance in Contemporary
Music, Xerox University Microfilms, Ann Arbor (Mich.) 1971
22. ROGNONI Luigi, Fenomenologia della Musica Radicale, Editori
Laterza, Bari 1966.
23. SCHWARTZ Elliot and Barney CHILDS, eds., Contemporary
Composers on Contemporary Music, Rinehart and Winston, New
York 1967.

24. SHONO Susumu, Tenkanki no ongaku toshite no John Cage no

gizensei ni yoru ongaku, Tokyo University, 1976 (manuscript).
25. STOCKHAUSEN Karlheinz, Texte zur elektronischen und in-
strumentalen Musik, Band I (Aufsitze 1952-1962 zur Theorie
des Komponierens), M. Dumont Schauberg, Koln 1963.
26. SUPICIC IVO, ,Matter and Form in Music,( IRASM, 1970, Vol.
1, No 2, pp. 149-158.
27. TAKEMITSU T6ru, Oto, Chinmoku to hakariaeru hodo ni, Shin-
chosha, Tokyo 1971.




Stilisti6ki pluralizaxn predstavlja poteSkocu za jedinstven pogled na su-

vremenu glazbu.
Medu uspjeSnijim pokugajima klasificiranja suvremene glazbe odabiremo
Meyerovu klasifikaciju. On je temelji na razlicitim naglascima
u trima glavnim tendencijama: tradicionalizmu (kojeg karakterizira nagla-
sak na sadriaj i subjekt), formalizmu (s naglaskom na formu i proces), i
transcenden,talizmu (s naglaskom na materijale).
Nakon temeljitog objannjenja Meyerove klasifikacije i kritifkog osvrta
na njezine slabe tofke, autor iznosi vlastito rjegenje problema klasifikacije
suvremene glazbe. Inspiriran Meyerom autor zadriava trodijelnu klasifika-
ciju, no vrada se k izvorima i zamjenjuje termine formalizam i transcen-
dentalizam mnogo uobicajenijim terminima )avangardno( i >eksperimen-
talno<(. Potom proucava znacenja pojmova >avangardizama i >eksperimen-
talizam< s namjerom da utemelji vlastitu klasifikaciju, i to ne na tri este-
ti6ka naglaska prema Meyerovoj podjeli vec na razlikovanju koje vie uzi-
ma u obzir povijesne cinjenice danaSnje glazbe, tj. stav kojeg za-
stupa kompozitor i zna6enje koje pridaje zvu6nom rezultatu njegovih tei-
nji - konkretnom glazbenom djelu.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to

Glavni dio ovog rada usmjeren je na razlikovanje avangardnih i eksperi-

mentalnih stavova. Kako se tradicionalizam nadovezuje na glazbenoeste-
tifke poglede koji potje6u iz pro?1os,ti, autor se ne bavi tor tendencijom
Da bi odvojio avangardni od tradiaionailnijeg nazora autor je prou6io
dvije karakteristike avangarde. Prva je sadriana u zna6enju termina *avan-
gardno(( i odnosi se na bavljenje povijesnom usmjerljivo?cu umjetnosti.
Druga je karaktenistika njezina teinja za novoku, uvjerenje da djelo ne
mole biti zna'ajno ukoliko nije novo. Da bi avangardu odvoijo od eksperi-
mentalizma, autor koncentrira painju na ono gto naziva ointeniona-no9duc
avangardne glazbe. Avangardizam u glazbi se zalaie za kontrolu kompozi-
tora nad zvu6nim rezultatom i zadrdavanje neke vrste identiteta (premda
dvosmislenog) svakog glazbenog djela kroz razli6ite interpretacije. Ova po-
sljednja karakteristika avangarde razlikuje je od eksperimentalizma, jer
eksperimentalni kompozitor odustaje od 'prava na potpunu kontrolu ishoda
njegove glazbe. Da bi to proveo u djelo on u glazbu uvodi upotrebu sludaja.
No eksperimentalna glazba ne monopolizira upotrebu sluiaja jer ga upo-
trebljavaju takoder I avangardni kompozitori. Tako, da bi razjasnili kako
se slu6aj mote upotrijebiti za razaranje kompozitorove kontrole nad zvu6-
nim rezultatom proizvodedi time eksperimentalni 6in &iji se ishod ne mote
u potpunosti predvidjeti, na kraju ovog rada se razmatraju sve mogu5e
uporabe sIu6aja u glazbi i definira kada i kako sIu6aj mote postati ekspe-
rimentalnim 6inom, a kada je on samo kompozicijsko sredstvo koje upo-
trebljava i avangardizam da bi svojim djelima dao fleksibilnu artikulaciju.

This content downloaded from on Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:31:03 UTC
All use subject to