Saturday, February 23, 2013

When Was Modernism? --One Hundred Years Ago

"When Was Modernism" was the title of a talk given in 1987 by Raymond Williams and also of a collection of essays. It highlights the odd consequences of using the word 'modernism' to characterize a period in art history. After all, 'modern' simply means of now, up-to-date. It is more of a promotional slogan than a description. In a time when the avant-garde became more and more to resemble a fashion show, being 'modern' was simply a stance.

Looking back at the early modernist manifestoes, such as this one by the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise, we see that 'modernism' was one hundred years ago!

Then there was post-modernism.

I'd like to close with a piece by one of the oddest 'modernists', the Anglo-Welsh composer Peter Heseltine, who published his compositions under the name Peter Warlock. As we hear in his Capriol Suite for string orchestra, he was very influenced by Elizabethan and Jacobean music. An antiquarian modernist!

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