Kahn quote

while preparing for a short presentation on Lucier’s Vespers, i read an interesting quote from a paragraph from Douglas Kahn’s The Sound of Music:

(on keeping ‘imitative’ sounds out of music)

How could this be the case within the radical transformations that occurred during the vigorous days of modernism and the avant garde.  How could Western Art Music be so successful in protecting its own domain when, at the very same time, so many other arts inverted their representational modes.  If painting could jettison the recognizable for the non-objective, how could Western Art Music not follow and jettison the non-objective for the recognizable?  What was the source of this sensorial asymmetry in Modernism?  Perhaps the most obvious reason why music was not compelled to radicalize its representational means relative to the other arts was the privileged position that music itself was placed amongst those arts.  Music was valued as a mode of modernist ambition towards self-containment, self-reflexivity and unmediated communication.  Its abstracted character was thought to already achieve what the other arts were attempting.  Gabrille Buffet-Picabia, a musician in the world of visual artists, was in good position to make a statement very typical of that time:

I have been initiated into the organization of sounds into music, into the strict discipline of harmony and counterpoint, which make up its complex and artificial structure, the problems of musical composition became for me a constant source of amazement and reflection. Consequently i was well prepared to hear Picabia speak of revolutionary transformations in pictorial vision, and to except the hypothesis of the painting endowed with a lift of its own, exploiting the visual field solely for the sake of an arbitrary and poetic organization of forms and colours, free from the contingent need to represent or transpose the forms of nature as we are accustomed to see them



(Buffet-Picabia 1949;256 quoted in Kahn



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