The Montage Principle in 20th Century Music
Stipendiat ved Institutt for musikkvitenskap (IMV)
This project will explore the concept of montage as it takes shape in music, and display the significance of this principle in 20th century aesthetic. I will discuss how the listener perceives the characteristics of the musical montage: decomposition of traditional forms, referencing other works or styles, inclusion of extra-musical elements, quotations and insertions, discontinuity and diversity. The montage (collage in visual/spatial arts) heralds a new approach to the concept of art and to the idea of artistic creativity: It introduces a meta-level within the work and destabilizes unity and authenticity. Hereby montage aesthetic is essential in the art of the 20th century avant-garde movements, strikingly articulated in the manifests of Dadaism and Surrealism. The ambition of this project is also to show how this principle is apt to reflect specific mental activities, the mechanisms of memory, imagination and dream, and that it implies a new potential for absurdities and humor in music. The use of montage will be displayed in different ways through the study of four examples:
1. Fourth of July, the third movement of Charles Ives’ Holidays, composed 1914-18. Among Ives’ output one finds the first fully developed examples montage in music. Ives made up his own personal montage technique and employed this principle more exhaustively than any of his contemporary collegues in Europe.
2. Parade, ballet by Erik Satie, composed 1917 on a libretto by Jean Cocteau, who, on his part, aspired to create a scenic analogy to cubism in painting. Satie also worked with other artists representing Surrealism.
3. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung, 3rd movement of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia (1969), representative of a turn towards so-called "meta music", or music about music, typical among avant-garde composers of the 1960s.
4. Ludwig van - Hommage a Beethoven (1969) musical film by Mauricio Kagel. The music has also been recorded for an independent release. A composer of musical theatre and former pupil of Buñuel, Kagel can be seen as associate of Dadaist and Surrealist aesthetic where humor makes up an indispensable element.
These works represent a great variety considering aesthetic background and material, and through the diversity of the examples, I wish to demonstrate the far-reaching implications of the montage principle. I consider this subject polyaesthetic, given that the project deals with a phenomenon that is considered fundamental to avant-garde aesthetic in art as such.