Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 4 (July-Sept 1983) p. 47.


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Music and Modernism

Ashok D. Ranade

HERE ARE some cultural terms which seem to possess an enduring prestige. More often than not such a prestige indicates the presence of qualities which have an inherent capacity to answer certain needs of the collective cultural mind. Such terms mirror the living, contemporary aspect of social life and, therefore, acquire a hold over thinkers as well as laymen. Modernism is one such term.

The etymology of the term modernism carries a useful hint of the basic cause of its perennial attraction. Modernism or modernity lead us back to 'modernus5, meaning "just now\ In contemporary usage too, the terms signify a desire 'to be with the present'. The desire to keep pace with the times is not a new phenomenon. All evidence suggests that modernity and its characteristics have a tendency to recur. Every student of cultural history comes to note that cultural modernity had been here before. The wider the spectrum before us, the stronger the feeling that creative minds had been 'modern' before our times.

However, the distinction between modernism and modernity cannot be overlooked. Firstly because they are overlapping concepts and secondly because very often they are confused with each other. Modernity is a broad term encompassing within it the areas of science, religion and art. Modernism is a narrower manifestation which moves to establish a clearer, coherent and almost philosophic relationship with a particular, well-defined life-area. Of necessity, an 'ism5 tries to construe

Journal of Arts and Ideas 4 7


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