Transformations of Musical Modernism


International Seminar, Paris, October 10–12, 2011

Call for Papers

Musical modernism is changing. From the very outset, this music has been embedded in controversy, discussions of which are far from over. Many of the leading figures to emerge from Central European musical modernism of the 1950s and ‘60s have passed away in recent times, however, their music is subject to continued historical and musical reinterpretation. What is the legacy of this powerfully influential movement in Western art music and what is its position and relevance today?

Despite the increasing heterogeneity of modernist idioms, musical modernism seems to retain a certain conception of writing (écriture), certain notions of historical contingency, and also features high levels of self-critical theoretical reflection as part of the creative process. In recent decades, however, there has been a significant shift in performance practice and the relationship between the performer and composer, one that has deeply influenced the compositional process. As the performance of notoriously “difficult” new music became more self-assured, new interpretations began to flourish, increasingly bringing to light questions regarding the apperception and experience of the music.

This seminar discusses the transformations that have taken place in composition, performance and musicology during musical modernism; these changes can be discussed from several perspectives:

-Transformations of compositional writing (écriture) from the 1950s to the ’90s and beyond, including the revision of works and their scores, and the radically changing conceptions of musical form, genre and modes of expression.
-Transformations in analytical approaches, from structural analysis to the interpretation of musical form.
-Transformations of musical performance styles, from early pointillistic idioms to gestural and expressive modes of articulation.
-Aesthetic re-conceptions of musical modernism in relation to contemporary literature, visual arts, philosophy and broader socio-cultural contexts.
-Historical reassessments of postwar modernism’s role in relation to tradition, from ideas of rupture to historical reinterpretation and ‘play’ with historical idioms and figures.
-Historical reassessments of postwar modernism in relation to today’s cultural climate.

Inherent in these different perspectives lies the idea of a performative transformation of the musical object—from a closed concept of the musical “work”, to notions of the work as an emergent phenomenon in a continual process of musical and cultural reinterpretation.

The seminar takes place from 10–12 October, 2011 at the:
Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Bureau 474
190, Avenue de France, 75013 Paris.

Susan McClary, University of California, Los Angeles
Jean Paul Olive, Université Paris 8
Julian Johnson, Royal Holloway, University of London
Björn Heile, University of Glasgow
Edward Campbell, University of Aberdeen

Abstracts of no more than 200 words can be submitted by August 20, 2011 to the following e-mail address:

Renate Hauge Sund,

Number of places is restricted. The seminar language is English.

The seminar is arranged by the Musical Modernism Research Group (MORG) at the Department of Musicology, University of Oslo, in collaboration with the
PhD programme in Musicology, Theatre, Aesthetics, and the History of Arts and Ideas at the Faculty of Arts, University of Oslo, and the
Centre Franco-Norvégien en Sciences Sociales et Humaines, Paris.