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date: 15 December 2019


  • Jann Pasler


A term, American in origin, widely used from the late 1970s onwards, with a broad range of meanings. Some come from multiple associations with ‘modern’ and ‘modernist’ (see Modernism), others from disagreement over what the prefix ‘post’ implies about the ‘modern’ – contestation or extension, difference or dependence – and whether postmodernism is a regressive or progressive force.

As a historical period, postmodernism can denote that which postdates the period 1450–1950, reflecting a crisis of cultural authority and world view, especially that vested in Western culture and its institutions (Jameson, 1991). A growing ecological sensitivity encouraged a broad critique of modernity and modernization (Huyssen, 1986). In music, Cage appears postmodernist because he threw into question both the concept of artistic genius that developed during the Renaissance (Hamm, 1997) and the notion of music as organized sound. Postmodernism can also signal a change from developments that began around the beginning of the 20th century. Some see this as a shift from imperialist centralization, nation states and utopian philosophies to a decentralized world economy, supranational entities and relativism. What is postmodernist in this sense depends on one's definition of Modernism....

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