From 1989, or European Music and the Modernist Unconscious

November 1, 2020
From 1989, or European Music and the Modernist Unconscious

What happened to musical modernism? When did it end?Did it end? In this unorthodox Lacanian account ofEuropean New Music, Seth Brodsky focuses on the unlikely year 1989,when New Music hardly takes center stage. Instead one findsRostropovich playing Bach at Checkpoint Charlie; or Bernsteinchanging "Joy" to "Freedom" in Beethoven's Ninth; or DavidHasselhoff lip-synching "Looking for Freedom" to thousands on NewYear's Eve. But if such spectacles claim to master their historicalmoment, New Music unconsciously takes the role of analyst. In sodoing, it restages earlier scenes of modernism. As world politicswitnesses a turning away from the possibility of revolution,musical modernism revolves in place, performing century-old tasksof losing, failing, and beginning again, in preparation for arevolution to come.