Abstracts of issue 21 (2013)

Ilias Giannopoulos

History of music terminology as music historiography: the problem of ‘new music’ in 20th century music historiography

“New Music” cannot be precisely defined as musical term referring to a particular period of music history. Through the introduction of the term in his lecture “New Music” in 1919, Paul Bekker aimed for a renewal of musical material and music perception. As paradigms of new music served Schönberg’s Chamber Symphony, op. 9, and the Second String Quartet, op. 10. In his Philosophy of Modern Music (1949) and in his essay “The Aging of New Music” (1954), Adorno introduces concrete technical and stylistic criteria for an exclusive understanding and definition of new music. Bekker and Adorno introduced and developed the term with historical consciousness and based on concrete aesthetic criteria. In line with them, German musicologists and music historians, like Dahlhaus, attempted a clear historic periodization and distinction of new music as related to modernism and avant-garde. However, if consideration is given to extended sources of the European music historiography, it becomes apparent that there is an interaction between the above mentioned three terms, in fact that they being used as alternatives. This fact leads to the conclusion that the terms “new music”, “modernism” and “Avant-garde” have different aspects, e.g. temporal, historical and normative. By the end of the 20th century, music historians, like Ballstaedt and Danuser, resulted in a pluralistic and relativistic understanding of new music, taking into consideration the widespread ambiguity of the term. This article concentrates on historic landmarks of the term, especially in German historiography, and introduces criteria for a periodization of the history of twentieth century music.

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