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5 Referentiality and Postmodernism

The late 1960s and early '70s saw Mauricio Kagel at the height of his creative powers: such major works as Acustica, Ludwig van and Staatstheater were written in quick succession. Such a critique of a linear notion of artistic progress was in no way restricted to music: in all the arts and in culture as a whole, the exclusionary aspects of modernism were increasingly challenged. It can be argued that this development, often identified as 'postmodernism', is itself founded on one of the principles of modernism: it’s self-critique. Kagel's variations transform each of Johannes Brahms's movements using different formalized techniques. As if illustrating the contingent and de-centred subjectivity as proposed by theorists of postmodernism, his subjectivity tends to express itself in a mediated way, in this case in the way it recontextualizes and thus reinterprets found material. The use of tonal material makes the pieces easier to perform for non-professionals, while nevertheless creating a genuinely new and uncompromising soundworld.