Post modernism


Wednesday, 21 February 2024






Perhaps the best way to understand postmodernism is to understand it as a reaction to modernism. Modernism emphasises purity, honesty, and total truth; for example, in the austerity of modern architecture, or when an artist attempts to express the essence of a whole subject with a single line. In contrast, postmodernism asserts that experience is personal (cannot be generalized) and that meaning is only for the individual to experience, not for someone to dictate. Thus, postmodernists assert the consumer of a cultural product (artwork, piece of writing, user of architecture) is free to deconstruct the meaning of a work, and that different users will come to very different, but equally valid, conclusions of what that meaning is.

Postmodernists tend to emphasize the cultural contingency or relativity of different forms of intellectual production and may be critical of those who attempt "pure," "objective," or "disinterested" intellectual endeavours. One aspect of this is the claim that there is no way for human beings to communicate in a language completely devoid of myth, metaphor, cultural bias or political content. Postmodernist artworks sometimes assert the inherently politicized nature of communication, calling attention to the ideological underpinnings of their own representations through representational play and irony. More typical, however, is self-reference, sometimes termed "meta-", for example, when a movie actor looks directly into the camera and criticises the movie he or she is in. Postmodernist scholarship and artworks, although sometimes meant for a small audience, are frequently understood as merely one reflection of the larger collective culture of postmodernity. Scholars argue that the postmodern era (or "postmodernity") is characterized by a culturally pluralistic and profoundly interconnected global society lacking any single dominant center of political power, communication, or intellectual production. Other scholars understand postmodernism as a product of late capitalism, arguing that the economic and technological conditions of our age have given rise to a media-dominated society in which there are only inter-referential representations with no real original referent. For these scholars, the postmodern emphasis on the lack of any stable or objective referent for communication is often a profoundly negative historical development.


Post-modernism is, naturally, a strong influence in contemporary classical music. One critic remarked that the easiest way to find "post-modernism" is to find the word "new" or the prefix "post-" attached to the name of a movement. However, in an era where media, systematic presentation, and power relationships remain the dominant reality for most people born in to the core industrialized nations, post-modernism is likely to remain the most common mode for artistic expression.

For some, post-modernity is degenerate modernity, the critic Theodor Adorno being a prominent example of the idea that trends of music after serialism represent the banalization of and regression from modernity.

Others follow Fredric Jameson, who holds that post-modernity is the condition of late capitalism and the decline of identity creating metanarratives, such as nation-states. Some bands which may be considered post-modern such as Radiohead and Godspeed You! Black Emperor have indeed presented a strong opposition to current capitalism ideals and state of western society.

Another theory advanced is that post modernism is the explicit reaction to the rise of a mass production consumer society, and is linked to the need to create coherence and aesthetic value from the artifacts and patterns of that society.

As with modernity and postmodernity in general, modernity may be considered to not have yet ended, and thus there is no post modern condition.

As a musical condition, postmodern music is music situated after the modern age, during the present period, where music has become valued primarily as a commodity and a culture, rather than a form of idealized modernist expression for its own sake. Some authors have suggested that the transition in music from modern to postmodern occurred in the late 1960s, influenced in part by psychedelic music and the late Beatles albums. (Sullivan, 1995, p.217.) In the 1970s, the postmodern condition continued with the advent of disco, heavy metal, hip hop, and a newly-commodified country music.

The difference between modern music and postmodern music then is that modernist music was characterized by a focus on musical fundamentals and expression. In postmodern music, however, the commodity being sold by record companies and pop stars is not the fundamentals of the music, but the cultural image surrounding the music, which reverberates through film, television, and other media.

Post-modern jazz, also, has influenced contemporary pop/rock music. This has developed from two main sources, the innovations of Charlie Parker in the immediate post-war period, and (again) Arnold Schoenberg: this time, however, not so much his serial work as his pre-WWI atonal style, where all forms of tonality were abandoned. The merging of these two traditions led to the development of free jazz in the 1950s by Ornette Coleman who went onto inspire a new generation of musicians in the 1960s and 1970s: for example, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra. Free jazz was hugely influential on many avant-garde rock musicians: for example Captain Beefheart, and, in a completely different way The Stooges and Lou Reed (who eventually worked with Coleman in 2003 on the Raven album). These artists themselves were influential on a generation of punk musicians in the 1970s and 1980s (see for example The Lounge Lizards and The Pop Group). In the 1970s Miles Davis repaid the compliment by incorporating elements of funk and rock into his sound, most notably on his Bitches Brew album. Again, this has been hugely influential on contemporary rock and jazz.




"[Post Modernism] the belief that direction, evolution and progression have ended in social history, and society is based instead upon the decline of absolute truths, and the rise of relativity......"

Philosophical and Sociological thinkers who use ideas based on Post Modernism do not agree as to whether this has happened or will happen or will happen; neither can they agree as to whether it is a positive development or a negative one.

Despite the above confusion, we can identify a number of basic points which all theories of Post Modernity share in common:-

The decline of any absolute truths - the creation of relativity The lack of purpose and direction in historical change (decline of teleology) The fragmentation and division of all academic subjects into a variety of perspectives - with no 'answers', no agreement The fragmentation of cultural forms into a "playful celebration" of chaos.

Post Modernity is based upon a relativistic theory of knowledge - this is the belief that there are no certain, single truths about the world. Instead, every question has an infinite number of answers, each being equally as valid as each other.

1. When applied to society, a Post Modern world would be one where there is no one, single, universally agreed principle of knowledge and organisation. In Western European society, Post Modernity is believed to exist due to the apparent failure of science to explain and control all.

2. When applied to academic subjects, 'evidence' for Post Modernity is seen in the fact that there is no single paradigm.

3. Post Modernism can also be applied to a number of areas of cultural life in the social world:-

e.g. Post Modern MUSIC is characterised by a pastiche of different styles all rolled into one (U2? Oasis? Blur?[pictured]Prodigy?), as is Post Modern FASHION, LITERATURE, TELEVISION, and ARCHITECTURE........In most cities, old and new buildings exist side by side - now buildings are actually designed on purpose to celebrate a whole variety of styles, periods etc. A good example of this in Norwich can be seen near Anglia Square. On one side of the flyover is the HMSO building, a large 60's/70's glass office building - this is a MODERN building, on the other side of the flyover is a 'new' 90's office building, it is made of red brick, has arches and columns and is reminiscent of a Victorian warehouse. This is clearly a POST MODERN building. Most cities now have examples of this. Go and have a look!


Post Modernism, then is the belief that society has moved on from its modern stage. History does not end with the rise of science and absolute truths created by scientific knowledge.



Did Cage tend more toward "modernism" or "postmodernism"? How is his radical contribution best understood? Cage moves between the seemingly oppositional contexts of postmodernism in the 1970s and 80s, and European modernism in the early twentieth century, with reference especially to the art of Erik Satie (whom Cage championed), Italian Futurism, and German Dada. Cage’s friendship and intellectual exchange with the French composer, Pierre Boulez, during the early 1950s offers a third vantage point. Although the three contexts are quite separate, stylistically and chronologically, each is integral to the evolving Cage oeuvre. Yet none entirely accounts for his radicality. Through a discussion of these comparative settings, Cage emerges as an experimentalist and an avant-garde figure who believed in his responsibility to change the world through new music.





Albright, Daniel (2004). Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226012670.
Kramer, Jonathan (1999). "The Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism." Current Musicology 66, pp.7-20. Reprinted in Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought (2002). Edited by Judy Lochhead and Joseph Aunder. Routledge. ISBN 0815338201.
Sullivan, Henry W. (1995) The Beatles with Lacan: Rock ‘n’ Roll as requiem for the modern age. (Sociocriticism: Literature, Society and History Series Vol. 4). New York: Lang. xiv. ISBN 0820421839.


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