Wednesday, 3 August 2016

History is not a prison

Traditional music and traditional architecture are not historical phenomenae, but transcendent phenomenae, like language and mathematics: they are atemperal, not locked-up in history and thus inaccessible. They are means of communication and bridges over time spans and geographic distances, also where the forms of communication differ from time to time and from place to place. These art forms address themselves to that which is universal in the human mind and heart.  This very fundamental truth was uttered by architect Leon Krier at a conference in Baltimore:

Wholeheartedly recommended.... modernism, based on denial of this truth, is a state of mind, transcending genre. What happened in architecture is comparable with what happened in serious music in the last century and which has left the cultural world with such debris.

Modernism in all its forms rejected the limitations of humanity, of climate, of geography, and the human scale. In fact, its nature is dehumanizing, to be able to create structures unhindered by human nature. Of course we know that it was not only the question of style and utopian ideology that determined modernism in architecture, but also the postwar pressures to quickly build housing and business premisses in the demographic boom of the fifties and sixties, which only underlines that modernism is the product of war, alienation, extreme pressures, and mass movements. The German city centres which had been bombed in WW II by the allies are a good example: with their quickly-built modernist centers, they look awful, and are increasingly under pressure from the public to be taken-down and the old architecture to be reconstructed, as was done in Warsaw where the city centre has been painstakingly rebuilt, to reconstruct identity and the sense of place.

The attempt of an increasing number of contemporary composers to recreate a musical tradition with a sense of place, identity, and human scale, reflects broader needs in society to enter a future where the human being will have a civilized place. It is to be hoped that the spirit which drives people like Leon Krier will receive wider attention and acceptance, since it is there where a humanist future lies, and not in the sterile monstruosities desecrating the city scapes of the world, and in the futile attempts to sell mere sounds as a musical art at the festivals of new music.

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