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Elvis and Darmstadt, or: Twentieth-Century Music and the Politics of Cultural Pluralism

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David Clarke

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Abstract

PART ONE Contemporary musical production and consumption have become increasingly pluralist, seemingly bearing out postmodernist accounts of the eroding distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures. Accordingly, accounts of twentieth-century music ought to be able to narrate these different musical spheres – emblematized by the phenomena of Elvis and Darmstadt – together. While some recent histories of twentieth-century music have attempted this, the results suggest a more developed theorization of cultural pluralism is needed – one that also has a developed political dimension. Liberalism is one polity that espouses cultural pluralism and value pluralism, ideas which are not entirely separable from postmodernist relativism. Both epistemes are limited, however, by a disinclination towards dialectical thought and by the absence of ideology critique. PART TWO Theoretical concepts from Slavoj Žižek (influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Laclau and Mouffe’s ideas of radical democracy) hold the potential for a post-Marxian model of ideology critique that might galvanize approaches to musical pluralism. Such an application could be relevant to various kinds of music, without giving a priori preference to one musical style over another – as was the case with Adorno. That said, these ideas have significant resonances with Adorno’s negative dialectics, and are valuable in developing a form of strong relativism that could dialecticize a dialogical approach to musical pluralism. This suggests the possilbity of construing pluralism not as the achievement of stasis (or ‘the end of history’), but as a means of effecting social and historical movement beyond the present cultural paradigm.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Clarke D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Twentieth-century music

Year: 2007

Volume: 4

Issue: 1

Pages: 3-45

Print publication date: 01/03/2007

Date deposited: 18/04/2008

ISSN (print): 1478-5722

ISSN (electronic): 1478-5730

Publisher: Cambridge University

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1478572207000515

DOI: 10.1017/S1478572207000515


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