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Monday, April 19, 2021

What is the Modern Now, Really?

I have been waking up a little ahead of my mentally scheduled time lately. And so I lay in bed and wait for time to happen. Sometimes I half-dream. Lately I realize it has been about what THE MODERN is right now.

And so some of the thoughts I reproduce here, not as some definite thing.  The Modern is not nostalgia or turning back the clock. It may glance backwards but not to try and recreate another age. It is not about technology in the end, though it is enmeshed in it. It is not about happiness, though neither need it be sad.

It is not a language though it may develop one as a result. It is not about industry (not now) but it might have an attitude toward industry. The future of Modernity is unclear. Only because the future of it might eventually supersede it.

It can be about a superhuman or a drastically rethought set of techniques. Or it could be without technique altogether.

It is embodied in forms of art, in music, writing, literature, dance, etc., but it is not directly any of that except as it is contained by that. 

Of course for my purposes "Modern" includes the music from 1900 on, at least in terms of that which has more or less consistently been thought of as Modern.

Meaning in the Modern I think about is not necessarily monolithic. In fact it often can have multiple strands. Think of Picasso's "Guernica." There is the Spanish Civil War reference, the abstraction of line and what each block of images refers to, there is the handling of paint, the total perspective, its flatness, etc.

So in MODERN music there is the tonality or the lack as a referent or the combination of the two, all of which is one might say a conscious intention of the composer from the idea that the MODERN can encompass either or both of these. There are "folk" elements sometimes and that is an attitude toward locality and the presence of non-formal, non-academic, or non-genre identity, for examples.

Probably we should think of the Modern as a way of presenting the "organic," today perhaps as post-industrial reduced carbon footprinted possibility? An enlightened view of gender, race, class, social interaction? Of course that is not necessarily a constant, but it can be present implicitly or of course explicitly.

What is Modern perhaps no longer needs to subscribe to high-low distinctions but may combine them in various ways. The Modern may reject conventional subject-object intentions and instead hang on to a anechoic idea that the self is diffuse in its presence in both deliberately intentionless and form-ful presence. So Cage comes to mind, that what we are has presence ultimately in whatever we do creatively, even if we try and bracket the self from the doing? And of course improvisation can be key to expressing the performer self on top of the compositional communications that may exist simultaneously..

The Modern tries to be present in the now while reserving a place in the future. It rejects the absolute need to succeed in the moment so long as it invests in the later-from-now. It is neutral to the demands of beauty, of pleasure, or wide distribution, of deep penetration in the fabric of present-day art.

It can remain indifferent to present-day lifeways, or it can be celebrated as epitomizing a people and place.

It transcends all socio-political co-optations or can be seen as belonging to one such faction.  It is what artists hope to contribute to human endeavors.

And so it was as I half-slept.

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