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Reibel, Emmanuel – Qu'est ce que la "modernité" musicale dans le Paris 1830 ?




This article starts with the historical uses of the words “modern” and “modernity” during the 19th century to demonstrate the Romantic composers’ ambivalent relationship to modernity. The original historical sense of the antique/modern or ancient/modern pairings was gradually replaced by an aesthetic sense, which either increased the standing of anything new or negated it. Romanticism, which appeared in France in the counter-revolutionary camp, permanently switched to the modern camp around 1830: in France, the Romantic debate was reduced in the end to a simple revival of the quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. Music at that time seemed to be the most modern of the arts, not only because traces of ancient music were still quite rare, but also because music was of all the arts the one with the closest links to the contemporary technical and technological revolution. However, this intrinsic susceptibility to modernity sometimes caused it to embrace an aesthetic of triviality, noise and speed censured by many composers like Chopin, Liszt and even Berlioz: not in the least conservative, these musicians were actually genuine “antimoderns”, in the mould of Baudelaire explaining that true art, open to innovation, should free itself from fashion to attain eternity. The fact that modernity’s status was increased by standing against antiquity or conservative trends, meant that it came under criticism by the Romantics for opposing eternal or universal values.

    Person - 1
  • BAUDELAIRE, Charles (1821-1867)
  • Symposia - 1
  • French Modernity in the time of Berlioz (2010)