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Neoclassicism in Music - Essay Example

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Scott Messing in his work is attempting to excavate the socio-cultural, musicological and aesthetic aspects of the Neoclassicist movement. In the few chapters under review in this paper, Messing is specifically after it genesis as a reaction to the so-called decadence of Wagnerian music and its relationship to fin-de-sicle France and it further evolution by the likes of Stravinsky…
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Neoclassicism in Music
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Download file to see previous pages Neoclassicism as a musical term was not coined until sometime after its supposed development began. Rather than a style of composition, the term initially referred to a conception or reaction to a musical historical event. That is, Neoclassicism represents a way of viewing music history as a reaction to the contemporary trends in fin-de-sicle France that regarded the current musical trajectory as one that was defined for the most part by German musical historical conceptions and aesthetic trends. Namely, the music of Wagner was perceived by a growing number in France as, decadent and unduly romantic. However, the original use of the word "neoclassicism" did not refer to originally to a reaction to the German Romantics, but a somewhat derisive term to refer to writers and other artists, who parroted Greek and Roman themes as a kind of sterile, lifeless, pastiche-rather than a reinvigoration of the classical spirit that perhaps one might envision such a term connoting. Thus, the neoclassical style in music was more correctly labeled at the time Nouveau Classicisme. Messing then explicates the role that composers such as Saint-Saens, Debussy and Ravel whose interests in composers before Beethoven such as Mozart, Bach, Handel and even earlier such as the work of the Couperin family played out in some of their compositions. Messing technical analysis of the musicological comparisons between the work of these new classical French composers and their classical counterparts reveals a rhythmic and structural similarity. Yet that similarity did not extend across the new classical scene, rather the particular inspiration that the above composers chose was modified and developed so as to make any comparison between say Saint-Saens and Debussy much more tendentious. Therefore, Messing notes to place this musical aesthetic ideal under some uniform stylistic rubric called "neoclassicism" was invalid.
In another chapter, Messing deals with post-war neoclassical analysis through the work of Igor Stravinsky and the eventually polemic that developed between his followers and the Arthur Schoenberg and his revolutionary serialist style. Moreover, as Messing suggests neoclassicism as a distinct music style with specific gestures did not congeal until after the war and its juxtaposition with the work of Schoenberg. It seems according to Messing that the intervening war caused a radical shift in understanding of the term and its followers from one which represent a musico-historical reaction to Wagner in France, to a theoretical shift in composition. The disparate influences of the earlier neo-classicists seemed to have been conflated together in the comparison to the work of Schoenberg and his prodigious number of students. Moreover, it can be seen that Stravinsky's music, which was supposedly indicative of this specific style was no so radically different from the work of Schoenberg, and thus suggesting that only are the differences between neoclassicism and serialism overwrought and artificial. It also reveals that to conceive of neoclassicism in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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