1st International Congress of Musicology

Athens Goethe Institute, 25-27 February 2002

Paper Abstracts

George Zervos

Evaluation Criteria of 20th Century Music, Today

During the entire history of Western music (from 14th century’s polyphony up to the 19th century), composers worked upon specific standard forms (altered in slow pace), with the intention to preserve, rather, than destroy them. When instrumental (absolute) music prevailed gradually during the Baroque, the Classic and the Romantic periods, criticism obtained all the supply necessary to approach and analyze musical works, since a critic was able, from within the huge volume of similar forms, types and, in general, works of art, to choose or discard, by comparison. The critic of the 18th or 19th century had merely to take into consideration the following two parameters: a) the quality and value of the primal idea, b) the mode of its realization in the work.
Given the fact that in the music of the 20th century, not only is it meaningless to search for the value of the primal idea, but this is, at long last, an abstract and extra-musical conception; given the fact, that is, that compositional processes do not permit such a critical attitude and that music itself is in a crisis, at search of its own meaning, criticism of contemporary music cannot but face a crisis, too.

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