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New Music since 1968: Politics and Aesthetics
Seminar Martin Iddon

Registration via e-mail kindly requested!

Maximum participants: 12
Duration: 2-hour sessions, Monday – Friday 10:00 – 12:00 in both weeks

Politics is first of all a way of framing, among sensory data, a specific sphere of experience. It is a partition of the sensible, of the visible and the sayable, which allows (or does not allow) some specific data to appear; which allows or does not allow some specific subjects to designate them and speak about them. It is a specific intertwining of ways of being, ways of doing and ways of speaking.
– Jacques Rancière, ‘The Politics of Literature’

It is clear that the world of new music has changed radically: young composers and performers are now concerned with questions of gender, race, and ability; with placing the centrality of craft or value into question, seeing no obvious reason to avoid the ‘popular’, either musical or technological; with a reflexive practice which interrogates the activity of music making in the process of making it, including the impact of the technologies they use; with asking what connection what they do can have with a wider social sphere. They are surely less concerned with ideas of ‘high art’, or autonomy, or indeed with being labelled ‘composers’ or ‘performers’ in rigid ways at all. What is much less clear is how this situation arose, how new music shifted from a world in which it was possible to believe that composers of new music really were writing the music of the future, in which ideas of autonomy and purity seemed valuable, underpinned by a history which continued the tradition of the ‘great’ composer to a contemporary in which such ideas seem problematic and fanciful at best and enabling and implicitly supportive of a wide range of reactionary values and discriminations at worst.

In participant-led, tutor-guided daily meetings, this workshop, then, considers the new music of the past fifty years – beginning inter alia with new complexity, spectralism, musique concrète instrumentale, experimentalism, minimalism, new simplicity, before moving onto musics composed after the millennium – to ask how these musics lead toward the contemporary era. The workshops are directed to exploring what these musics do (or did) to the discourse around new music: what do they afford and what ways of thinking do they disallow? In particular, what sorts of progressive attitudes – sometimes unintentionally, to be sure – has new music of the past fifty years exhibited and how have younger composers worked not only against but also with what now appear its more regressive attitudes.

Topics might be expected to include, for instance, masculinity and new complexity, whiteness and experimentalism, the category of the ‘natural’ in spectralism, but as the workshops progress, especially in the second week, these topics will be led by interests of the participants and there will be space in particular to talk in more exploratory vein about the musics performed during the 2018 courses.

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