Postmodern Problems in European Musical Historiography


  • Reinhard Strohm



This essay addresses the question what music historiography may learn from the postmodern discourse as it is developing around us. The general historiographic implications of the concept 'postmodernism', as an improvement of and progress over 'modernism ', seem to contradict its own message of incredulity towards progressist meta-narratives. A comparison is made between a negative attitude to the medieval past found in Renaissance humanism ('divided retrospection'), and postmodern discourses which apply the same optics to the last 200-250 years in Western culture. Some postmodern narratives concerning music are considered: anti-modernism, the Baroque and Early Music movement, the reception of early opera, and the debates about work-concept, autonomy and authorship. The paper points out a danger that Lyotard's definition of postmodernism as »incredulity towards meta-narratives« is being sacrificed to a new meta-narrative which applies a divided retrospection, separating a rejected modernist past from an 'only recently' achieved breakthrough or 'sea change' in cultural studies.


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How to Cite

Strohm, R. (2000). Postmodern Problems in European Musical Historiography. Musicological Annual, 36(1), 5–15.