Coming across a television commercial where Beethoven’s ‘Hymn to Joy’ was used as a soundtrack but all the words were replaced by ‘duh’… I thought I was having Satori!… (not everyone can be enlightened by some poetic glimpse of moonlight in the pond with matching haiku…) I don’t remember a thing about which product was being advertised, but I saw the essence of postmodernism contained in this absurd historical shortcut of high and low.
Postmodernism is not just another -Ism, it Is The Ism of the Now, of the Whatever, a convergence of muldimensional styles, influences and thoughts – whether ancient or recent, from multiple countries and cultures (one with everything), even from pre-history (caveman can do it…), that are somehow close and present to our collective mindset.
From a postmodern perspective, “…grand, synthesizing schemes of explanation – unity, coherence, generality, totality, structure – have lost their authority if not their pertinence… Strategies of understanding are localized, heterogeneous, contestartory, and contested. Rejecting traditional concepts of both subjectivity and objectivity, they focus on diverse, culturally constructed subjectivities and objectivities… “(Lawrence Kramer, Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge).
One of the most elusive characteristics of postmodernism is that it does not acknowledge itself, hiding under the colorful umbrellas of its own subcultures. This may be one of the reasons why it seems so difficult to characterize the music of our time, other than a massive explosion of crossbreeding genres. Under the postmodern heading though, it all make sense… I think my music would be better described by as postmodern than postminimalist, which is somewhat limiting and does not seem to cover some of my microtonal or neo-retro experiments.
Some postmodern dilemmas:
How can we reconcile Allen Ginsberg’s ‘first thought best thought’ principle of creativity and the ‘no thought best thought’ principle of the Asian philosophies he embraced?
What kind of art/music are we to make after Mondrian gave us abstraction, Picasso gave us anti-symmetry, Duchamp gave us absurdity, Pollock gave us spontaneity, African art gave us magic, expressionism gave us The Scream, Wahrol gave us multiplicity? What are we to compose after Bach gave us the 24 tonalities, Rameau gave us classic harmony, Chopin gave us chromatic harmony, Stravisnky gave us dissonance, Xenakis gave us architectural planning, blues gave us a simple but infinitely usable form, jazz gave us the standards, rock gave us paroxysm, Indian music gave us the Sa, Asian music gave us the pentatonal, Cage gave us randomness, and technology now allows anyone who has a set of ears the power to create music without having to first go through any kind of instrumental practice?…and when ‘air guitarists’ are the object of a highly-touted international competition?
Some postmodern catalysts:
Embracing multiplicity and being non-judgmental,
Working across forms,
and just maybe, the occasional anti-intellectual intellectualism of duh?