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Style and Modernity (completed)

Notions of musical and compositional style are in need of re-evaluation in view of transformations in the musical and theoretical landscape during the late twentieth century. This research project addresses the implications of modernist aesthetics for understanding style across different musical genres and traditions.

Sketch. Drawing.

About the project

Musical and compositional style is often reduced to the identification of recurrent musical features or common denominators – familiar elements according to which we classify the music of particular composers, performers, genres or epochs and methods of production. However, established notions of style often fail to acknowledge the less tangible, yet no less real, idiosyncrasies of musical expression and the processes of stylistic evolution that give rise to what are invariably unique musical works, performances, and experiences.

This research project moves beyond the idea of style as something quantifiable or readily amenable to conceptualisation, and towards an emphasis on difference. Moreover, style is understood as analogous to the links in the chain of a dynamic, creative trajectory in a changing cultural and historical context. Difference – as opposed to parity – ambiguity, and the malleability of signs require emphasis in a contemporary climate in which predicative thought and the rewards of technology and the life sciences often overshadow the less tangible but no less real benefits of music and the arts.


By way of re-examining musical style, this project explores the value of music in providing insight into aspects of subjectivity, intersubjectivity, creativity, and questions of value, judgement, and taste, vital in our everyday lives.

Published May 9, 2014 2:15 PM - Last modified Apr. 20, 2020 2:28 PM