Reinventing the Past: Pastiche, Collage, or “Criticism”?

Arthur Berger

in Reflections of an American Composer

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232518
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928213 | DOI:
Reinventing the Past: Pastiche, Collage, or “Criticism”?

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The chapter traces the rise of neoclassicism in music at the beginning of the twentieth century at about the same time that a new complexity was gathering momentum in the early music of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. The seeds of simplification as a reaction against the growing density of Romantic and early modern music were beginning to sprout. It is still believed in some quarters that the neoclassical music's admittedly greater accessibility was what must have fueled the movement. On the contrary, what much of the public saw in middle-period Stravinsky was a gross mishandling of their favorite older masters. In listening to this music, if one does not assume the role of tune detective, dispensing demerits upon every allegedly “illegal” allusion to other music, one must inevitably be aware of the ingenuity and invention that can be found to be there. The originality of middle-period Stravinsky was completely invisible to members of the press, who responded by complaining about the utter lack of personal style and integrity and bemoaning how the disparate sources, such as manipulating tones, timbres, and rhythms, on which he drew resulted in total incoherence. Neoclassicism in whatever field of the arts has long had a bad press, its products treated as hand-me-downs, not even as acceptable as something recycled.

Keywords: romantic music; composer; pastiche; collage; criticism; Igor Stravinsky; Arnold Schoenberg; Anton Webern; Iannis Xenakis

Chapter.  5702 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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