Decentering Musical Modernity

PDF Decentering Musical Modernity 2022-06-22

Book author
  1. Chien-Chang Yang
  2. Tobias Janz
Product pages

This collection investigates the concept of modernity in music and its multiple interpretations in Europe and Asia. Through contributions by both European and Asian musicologists it discusses how a decentered understanding of musical modernity could be matched on multiple historiographical perspectives while attentive to the specificities of local music and their narratives in Asia and Europe. The essays connect local, global and transnational history with sociological theories of modernity and modernization, making the volume an important contribution to overcoming the Eurocentric dichotomy between western music and world music within the field of historical musicology.


Nearly two decades after the beginning of a new century, musicology’s role in a continuously changing world order is changing too. The thirty years since the turning point of 1989 have been characterized by the restructuring of governance and society in large parts of the former Eastern bloc in Europe, a liberalization of trade and the rapid development of markets in parts of Asia and South-America, the revolution of digitalized mass communication, and—more recently—also by political turmoil, the reinvigoration of vociferous nationalism and massive economic and humanitarian crises. Music is certainly connected to the migration and exchange taking place between the economically more and less advantaged parts of the world, but today there is also the rapid and seemingly boundless migration of music via the internet. Under these circumstances, music changes not only its physical (and nonphysical) mediality, but also its place in the changing social orders. If—in the view of the traditional Europe-centered music history—the nineteenth century was culturally dominated by the ruling bourgeois society, and if the music of the twentieth century was shaped by the social tensions produced by capitalism, totalitarianism and the bipolar world order after 1945, the twenty-first century might become the century of musical cultures between the poles of global deterritorialization and national or regional reterritorialization. Musicology is confronted by new materials, new problems, and perhaps also its different roles within societies. And as musicology is a readily globalized academic discipline represented in universities and institutions everywhere, this challenge brings together colleagues from very different places working under different academic traditions. Paradoxically, in times when universalist thinking is seriously questioned from all sides, there seems to be an urgent need for common and perhaps universal bases in order to enable a scientific discourse within musicology that can handle the complexity of global musical cultures in the present. Decentering Musical Modernity, the programmatic title of this volume, can be read as a formula expressing this need through emphasizing the ambivalence between the universalist concept of modernity and the renunciation of any hegemonic discourse of musical modernity. A greater sensitivity toward the current situation in different parts of the globe likewise changes the perspective adopted in music historiography. And a new and different perspective will naturally tend to restructure the history of music itself. But simply denying universalist thinking might result in its opposite: in particularism or—to put it in more negative terms—in cultural relativism. Currently favored approaches like “entangled history” intend to overcome the divide between universalism and particularism. And in a way, every contribution to this volume struggles with the difficulty of bridging the gap between hegemonic and relativist thinking about music. Given that the outlined problem is not entirely new for historical musicology and the existing solutions might not be sufficient for a dialogical approach involving colleagues from both sides of the Eurasian continent, it seems appropriate to begin with a reflective consideration of past attempts to cope with the global diversity of musical cultures—in Europe or “the West” and, starting a dialogue in the mode of histoire croisée, in East Asia as well. The concluding paragraphs of this introduction will outline some principles and ideas for a new and comparative perspective on East Asian and European music history.​
Extention type
File size
8 MB
First release
Last update
0.00 star(s) 0 ratings

More resources from Tokyo