Publication details

Nationalism and Modernism : Czech (Exterritorial) Modern Music


SPURNÝ Lubomír

Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Proceedings
Conference ON THE MARGINS OF THE MUSICOLOGICAL CANON : The Generation ?f Composers Petar Stojanović, Petar Krstić ?nd Stanislav Binički
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Czech music; national music; Zdeněk Nejedlý; exterritorial music
Description This paper presents a reflection on the reception of some Czech composers who played prominent roles in the first half of the 20th century. A significant portion of the period which is in the focus of this paper is described in the book Czech Modern Music: A study of Czech Musical Creativity (1936) by Vladimír Helfert. Helfert’s attempt to write a distinctive history of Czech modern (read: national) music is built on the concept of an indigenous historiography and parallels broader cultural and political movements. Helfert’s point of view is focused on his own nation in search of its identity. The author’s interpretation is governed by the effort to free Czech music from foreign influences. On a laboratory scale, he measures the degree of identification with national culture and the methods with which individual authors expressed specifically Czech musical thinking. Such a way of thinking can be placed in opposition to the term „Exterritorial Mu- sic,” which appears in Adorno’s work The Philosophy of New Music (1949). According to Adorno, the Late Romantic music lost its national character, for which it deservedly paid a price. Overcoming alienation, the music entered the realm of nationalist reactionary ideology. Progressive tendencies of occidental music appeared without the “shameful stain” only in the exterritorial music of Janáček and Bartók. If Janáček, Hába or Martinů survived Adorno’s critique, Vítězslav Novák or Josef Suk certainly failed. Adorno would have likely pronounced Novák’s music nationalistic and reactionary – holding onto tradition and reaffirming it, as if Czech music could do nothing but cultivate some sort of local historical hypothesis of composers whose time passed a long time previously. In this paper the two aforementioned views are critically considered along with other views as well as notions on national stereotypes related to Czech music.
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