... Modernism has at its heart an intellectual crime: an attack upon culture in the widest sense, and unintentionally bringing destruction into the world of culture which the fascists had avoided, as if modernism finished the job that the fascists had inflicted upon the real world. This attack was not only an attack upon culture but also upon the inbuilt perceptive framework in the human mind for beauty and order, and for the psychological dimension that any form of beauty inevitably reveals, and which stimulates the spiritual capacities of a civilization.
If the case is that cultures are destroyed by modernizing attempts then I guess I get that ... but since half my ancestry is Native American I can't help but think of how many a progressive-minded civilizational bid was the catalyst for a lot of terrible things done to Native Americans.
But even so, who would the victim or victims of the intellectual crime be? I was just reading The New Demons by Jacques Ellul in which he proposed that an old sacred cannot be banished by no-sacred but by a new sacred that is whatever casts out the old sacred. I get a sense that Borstlap's larger description of what Krier describes in architecture can be understood as an account of how the new sacred, if you will, of the high modernist anti-Romantic avant garde sought to cast out all traces of the Romantic era and traditional European notions of beauty.
And yet ... in his essay "Masscult and Midcult" Dwight Macdonald pointed out that the early 20th century innovators did not even think of themselves as exactly being avant garde, they were rejecting what they believed had been the accrual of conventions in 19th century art, music and literature that had increasingly diminishing returns. Or at least that's Macdonald's account. Eliot and Stravinsky didn't abandon traditions so much as refracted them. Or as Adorno put it when condemning the total serialists, Hindemith and other composers could reject tonality and understand what they were rejecting because they had mastered those idioms. The total serialists, Adorno charged, betrayed neither competence in the new techniques nor any indication that they could write in a Palestrina style to save their lives. A Schoenberg or a Hindemith or a Stravinsky or a Bartok showed the ability to write as traditionally and tonally as possible before rejecting that way of making music. I could quote Adorno on that point but ... he's so long-winded I don't feel doing that right now.
On the whole I think George Rochberg's observation that high modernism doomed itself by insisting on making works so hermetic the works defied normal cognitive perceptual processes. He used the term "central nervous system" but it's not that difficult to get the idea in spite of his dated terminology.
THE AESTHETICS OF SURVIVAL: A COMPOSER'S VIEW OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSIC
Copyright (c) by The University of Michigan 1984
The Avant-Garde and the Aesthetics of Survival
If my speculations have any plausibility at all, the implications for the present state of music and the direction of composition for the future are enormous. Clearly much of today's music has foredoomed itself to extinction. For example, all forms of strictly aleatoric music which evoke chance operations and improvisatory pieces which are not based on already stated or culturally known external referents but rather on internal rules of a game devised for those specific works alone do not, on principle, address themselves to the human nervous system and its memory functions. [emphasis added] Because they reject structural forms of self-perpetuation there is no way in which they can achieve identity, and therefore now ay in which they can be remembered because there is nothing to remember. ... Any system of composition which bases itself on precompositional matrices--total serialism, stochastics, information theory--which depend solely on arbitrary rationalizations of rules of the game, cannot achieve a direct and meaningful correspondence to the functions of the central nervous system, for the very reason that whatever music it produces depends for its understanding not on the perceptual functions built into the nervous system but on a post-intellectual comprehension of its externally predetermined rationalizations. In such cases the "ear" has been bypassed and ignored. [emphasis added] ...
... Self-extinction, then, is built into much of the avant-garde music of our day; and no amount of training or conditioning on its perception, no amount of repeated hearings can eventually overcome its essential lack of correspondence with the primary functions of the human nervous system.
... It is then plausible to conjecture that any music which consciously frustrates the goal-directedness of the nervous system, which denies clarity of structure, which suppresses perceptible periodicities, which is lacking in self-perpetuating characteristics, which turns it back on identity as an essential feature of its design, must ultimately pay the price in terms of perceptual failure and cultural self-extinction. ...
But, still, I admit to some skepticism about who the victim or victims of the intellectual crime are, if we stick with the idea that it is, indeed a crime. Borstlap and I may be on the same page about the flexibility of classicism in its broadest sense but ... not so sure I'm of the same mind about the intellectual crime. I think that Scruton, for instance, has not exactly rebutted Xenakis' claim that the conventions of music are made by humans and humanly modifiable. I think Xenakis was probably right about that ... but I think it's safe to suggest that Xenakis tried to modify too many conventions too radically at the same time and in a short time frame for his work to appeal to more than a small niche of people. I really like some of his work ... but ... per Rochberg he probably also foredoomed most of his work to some kind of extinction.
I am more of a mind that we've had enough revolutions in the last century and a half and that the real hard work in artistic and creative terms will be figuring out how to consolidate into accessible forms the more revolutionary and iconoclastic elements of earlier eras. My concern with the post-Cage and post-Schoenberg avant garde traditions is that I can get how and why the found the late Romantic style stifling and I can even get how and why they felt it had to be rebelled against in some way. The thing is that Bartok, Hindemith and Stravinsky all felt a need to rebel against what they thought was the dead weight in the Romantic idiom but didn't necessarily make a point of attempting to invent a new system. I'd quote Ben Johnston on the problems of over-applied thematicism but I'm trying to keep this post short ... or ... short for me.