Modernism in music still arouses passions and is riven by controversies. Taking root in the early decades of the twentieth century, it achieved ideological dominance for almost three decades following the Second World War, before becoming the object of widespread critique in the last two decades of the century, both from critics and composers of a postmodern persuasion and from prominent scholars associated with the ‘new musicology’. Yet these critiques have failed to dampen its ongoing resilience. The picture of modernism has considerably broadened and diversified, and has remained a pivotal focus of debate well into the twenty-first century. This Research Companion does not seek to limit what musical modernism might be. At the same time, it resists any dilution of the term that would see its indiscriminate application to practically any and all music of a certain period.

In addition to addressing issues already well established in modernist studies such as aesthetics, history, institutions, place, diaspora, cosmopolitanism, production and performance, communication technologies and the interface with postmodernism, this volume also explores topics that are less established; among them: modernism and affect, modernism and comedy, modernism versus the ‘contemporary’, and the crucial distinction between modernism in popular culture and a ‘popular modernism’, a modernism of the people. In doing so, this text seeks to define modernism in music by probing its margins as much as by restating its supposed essence.

chapter |30 pages


ByBjörn Heile, Charles Wilson

part 1|122 pages


chapter 1|23 pages

The birth of modernism – out of the spirit of comedy

ByJames R. Currie

chapter 2|30 pages

What was contemporary music?

The new, the modern and the contemporary in the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM)
BySarah Collins

chapter 3|22 pages

Institutions, artworlds, new music

ByMartin Iddon

chapter 4|25 pages

Modernism and history

ByDavid J. Code

chapter 5|20 pages

Musical modernity, the beautiful and the sublime

ByEdward Campbell

part 2|172 pages


chapter 6|20 pages

Reactive modernism

ByJ. P. E. Harper-Scott

chapter 7|24 pages

Musical modernism, global

Comparative observations
ByBjörn Heile

chapter 8|17 pages

Musical modernism and exile

Cliché as hermeneutic tool
ByEva Moreda Rodríguez

chapter 9|23 pages


The people’s music?
ByRobert Adlington

chapter 10|19 pages

Modernism for and of the masses?

On popular modernisms
ByStephen Graham

chapter 11|29 pages

Times like the present

De-limiting music in the twenty-first century
ByCharles Wilson

chapter 12|20 pages

The composer as communication theorist

ByM. J. Grant

chapter 13|18 pages

How does modernist music make you feel?

Between subjectivity and affect
ByTrent Leipert

part 3|172 pages


chapter 14|26 pages

Between modernism and postmodernism

Structure and expression in John Adams, Kaija Saariaho and Thomas Adès
ByAlastair Williams

chapter 15|26 pages

Foundations and fixations

Continuities in British musical modernism
ByArnold Whittall

chapter 17|27 pages

Vers une écriture liminale

Serialism, spectralism and écriture in the transitional music of Gérard Grisey
ByLiam Cagney

chapter 18|27 pages

Contemporary opera and the failure of language

ByAmy Bauer

chapter 19|21 pages

‘Es klang so alt und WAR doch so neu!’

Modernist operatic culture through the prism of staging Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
ByMark Berry

chapter 20|22 pages

The modernism of the mainstream

An early twentieth-century ideology of violin playing
ByStefan Knapik