MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A New Look at New Romanticism

Jacob Druckman in 1986; photo by Irene Haupt

Jacob Druckman in 1986; photo by Irene Haupt

This summer’s 65th anniversary season of the Aspen Music Festival is keyed to the theme of “The New Romantics.” Here’s the feature essay I wrote on current manifestations of “New Romanticism”:

In the summer of 1983, the composer Jacob Druckman triggered something of a mild shockwave in the musical world by programming a festival interrogatively titled “Music Since 1968: A New Romanticism?” This would be the first of two annual new-music festivals that Druckman curated around the rubric of “New Romanticism.” Both were given by the New York Philharmonic during his tenure as the orchestra’s composer-in-residence.

Druckman’s manifesto-like essay introducing the program declared that “the tide began to change” among composers during the mid-1960s, and that amid the profusion of recent new works could be discerned “a gradual change of focus, or spirituality, and of goals.”

He adapted Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous dichotomy of the logical, rational “Apollonian” versus the ecstatic “Dionysian” as representatives of the polar impulses driving creativity (both gods, it’s perhaps helpful to recall from ancient Greek mythology, being sons of Zeus and thus half-brothers). The recent tidal shift, argued Druckman, was toward the “Dionysian qualities” of “sensuality, mystery, nostalgia, ecstasy, transcendency. Whether this new music will be called ‘Neo-Romantic’ or some other term is yet to be seen….”

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Filed under: aesthetics, American music, Aspen, style

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