Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Johnson, Julian. “The Precarious Present.” In Out of Time: Music and the Making of Modernity, 82-116. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Modernity is characterized by simultaneous pulling between two opposing directions, the lost past and the unlived future, which leaves the individual in an unstable and unsatisfying present. Because of this bifurcation, one experiences the present as fragmented. Music is especially apt at embodying this tension of past, present, and future, as can be seen in nineteenth- and twentieth-century composers’ appropriation of older styles into new idioms, and a renewed interest in those older forms. For example, Mendelssohn’s Preludes and Fugues, Op. 35 combines the general structure and style of Bach’s preludes and fugues with Romantic soloistic virtuosity that is anathema to Baroque aesthetics. The 1920s also saw increased activity in the transcription of works by J. S. Bach, Handel, and Palestrina, among others, with an emphasis on Classical and Baroque forms. Such examples of composers mixing older styles and forms into modern works suggests that we should resist dividing composers into conservative and progressive camps because musical modernity itself occurs in the precarious space between the past and present.

Works: Berg: Wozzeck (86); Bernd Alois Zimmermann: Die Soldaten (86); Camille Saint-Saëns: Le Carnaval des Animaux (97); Hans Pfitzner: Palestrina (105); Schoenberg: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra after a Harpsichord Concerto by G. M. Monn (107), Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra in B-flat (107); Webern: Ricercare (107); Mendelssohn: Preludes and Fugues, Op. 35 (111); Fauré: Nocturne in E-flat Minor (111-12); Beethoven: Diabelli Variations, Op. 120 (113); Mozart: String Quartet in E-flat Major, K.171 (113), String Quartet in G Major, K.387 (113).

Sources: Offenbach: Orphée aux Enfers (97); G. M. Monn: Harpsichord Concerto (107); Handel: Concerto Grosso in B-flat Major, Op. 6, No. 7 (107); Johann Sebastian Bach: Musical Offering (107), Goldberg Variations (113); Chopin: Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28, No. 4 (111-12).

Index Classifications: General, 1900s

Contributed by: Sarah Kirkman

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