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Title:Dialectics in the Arts: Composer Ideologies and Culture Change
Author(s):Cameron, Catherine Mary
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:American art music produced since the Second World War is very unlike music of the European classical tradition that has been dominant in the United States and on the European continent. The new music is stylistically eclectic and technically diverse, and its composers display a marked antitraditional attitude. The central questions of this study are why there has been such a sharp break with the past and, further, why contemporary American art music is so stylistically diverse.
Depending on one's thinking about culture change, there are several possible explanations for this disjuncture and diversity. Unlike A. L. Kroeber and T. Munro, who understand artistic change (and more generally, culture change) as a process of pattern growth or evolution, this research concludes that the changes evident in recent music reflect the influences of societal factors. The three most important factors are the long-standing inequities associated with the musical class system in America, recent changes in the patronage system for the arts that have allowed experimental composers to move into the university music-school niche, and the availability of a new template for artistic action (avant-gardism) whereby individuals actively direct change.
The research does not extend to a detailed analysis of the music, but rather relies on the assessments made by musical experts. It does, however, use a source that is usually neglected by observers: the perceptions of the composers themselves. A systematic investigation of the published commentary of post-war composers reveals an integrated ideology for changing both the music and the social milieu. This ideology, which became dominant in recent years, opposes the perpetuation of the dominant European tradition and proposes a series of recommendations to make fundamental changes to American music. Its principal feature is its dialectical structure that is manifest in the sets of oppositions in composers' writings. The dialectic sets up a contest between the old and the new and, more importantly, functions as a constant catalyst for change. The cumulative effect of the avant-garde ideology is the production of a vast body of stylistically differentiated works.
Issue Date:1982
Description:329 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8302820
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1982

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