Music 251D: The Nature of the Avant-Garde

Winter, 1997.

The course meets Thursdays from 3 until 6 pm.

Books for the course:

  • Dawtry, Liz, et. al, Investigating Modern Art, (Yale, 1996).
  • Foster, Hal, Compulsive Beauty, (MIT Press, 1993).
    An exploration of various aspects of Surrealism.
  • Rahn, John, Ed.,Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics, (W.W. Norton, 1994).
    Essays on various topics (aesthetic theory, contemporary music and the public, music and literature, environment, etc.).
  • Wollen, Peter, Raiding the Icebox, (Indiana University Press, 1993).
    Reflections on twentieth-century culture in all the arts.

  • There will also be xeroxed excerpts from the following books:

  • During, Simon, ed., The Cultural Studies Reader.
    Essays on theory, artistic space, the media, etc.
  • Feldman, Kate Burke, Varieties of Visual Experience.
    The personal, physical, and social functions of art (title is a takeoff on James).
  • Greenberg, Clement, Modernist Painting in Art in Modern Culture.
  • Ford, Charles Henri ed., VIEW: Parade of the Avant-Garde, 1940-1947.
    Essays on visual artists by poets and writers: anthology of VIEW Magazine.
  • Kramer, Hilton, The Age of the Avant-Garde,
    An art chronicle of 1956-1972.
  • Kirby, Michael, The Aesthetics of the Avant-Garde in Esthetics Contemporary, (1978).
  • Nesbitt, Kate, ed., Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture.
    An anthology of architectural theory, 1965-1995.
  • Rochberg, George, THe Avant-Garde and th Aesthetics of Survival in New Literary History Vol. III, (1971-72).
  • Rosen, Charles, The Romantic Generation.
  • Tashjian, Dickran, A Boatload of Madmen.
    Surrealism and the American avant-garde, 1920-1950.

    Note: Discussions are hypertext links.

  • January 9; Introduction.
    The present study in the light of the Avant-garde Concept. Clement Greenberg's essay on Modernist Painting will be discussed.
    Discussion 1
  • Jan. 16; Berlioz and Liszt: Nineteenth-century forerunners; Developing a framework for the works themselves
    Read Rosen, PP. 542-568, Wollen, Chapter 1. Read Kramer, PP. 3-19, 39-48 (Degas and Neo-Impressionism). .
    Discussion 2
  • Jan 23; Modernism: What is it? Using Clement Greenberg's definition.
    Read Wollen, Chapters 2 and 3, Rahn, PP. 21-54, Dawtry, Chapter 1, Soja in The Cultural Reader, PP. 135-150.
    Read Lighthouse of the Bride, by André Breton in VIEW: Parade, PP. 123-130.
    Discussion 3
  • Jan 30; Surrealism as a case in point. There will be an exam at the start of the class.
    Read Foster, Preface, Chapters 1-3, Tashjian, PP. 36-65, Dawtry, Chapter 6., Kirby.
    Read The Circular Ruins, by Jorge Luis Borges in VIEW:Parade, PP. 188-191.
    Discussion 4
  • February 6; Music and the other arts.
    Read Rahn PP. 247-330.
    Discussion 5
  • Feb. 13; Modernity and tradition.
    Read Rahn, PP. 333-364, Dawtry, Chap. 8, Feldman PP. 234-250.
    Read Three Kinds of Historicism, by Alan Colquhoun in Nesbitt, (PP. 200-210).
    Discussion 6
  • Feb. 20; Abstract Expressionism, experimental architecture, and the survival of the Avant-Garde.
    Read Dawtry, Chap. 7, Foster, Chap 6., Rochberg.
    Discussion 7
  • Feb. 27; The role of Technology.
    Read PP. 439-450 in Feldman.
    Read Complexity and Contradictions in Architecture, by Robert Venturi (selections from 1965) and Post-Functionalism, by Peter Eisenmen (1976) in Nesbitt, (PP. 72-83).
    Discussion 8
  • March 6; Postmodernism and the Death of the Avant Garde.
    Read Wollen, PP. 158-210, Lyotard in the Cultural Reader, PP. 170-176, Dawtry, Chaps. 9 and 10.
    Read Introduction: Notes Towards a Theory of Architectural Disjunction, by Bernard Tschumi (1988) (PP. 169-173) and Derrida and Beyond, by Robert Mugerauer (1988) (PP. 182-199) in Nesbitt.
    Discussion 9
  • March 13; Conclusions and Regrets.
  • David Cloud presentation of parallel careers: Henry Cowell and John Cage.
    Discussion 10
  • Notes:

    One 6000 word monograph on a special topic will be required for the course. It should reflect an oral presentation that was given in the seminar. This presentation would consist of a comparative study of musical works which reflect the various aesthetic positions in the readings. By the second week, each student should have picked a topic; and there should be nine presentations in all, one from each student. If there are more than nine students in the class, some topics will be shared.
    Additional readings will be assigned as the individual interests of students are developed through the oral presentations. These will be added as used in the class over time.

    Updated: January 23, 1997.