It is probably trivial to say that twentieth-century popular culture was marked by a “romantic” streak. The “romantic,” after all, is widely associated with the assertion of the individual against the group, ranging his (the presumed subject is more often than not male) powers of imagination, inspiration and intuition against reason and logic, valuing nature and the natural over and against culture – all criteria which have long since degenerated into the clichés of the modern culture industry. In other words, the problem is that, with such broad and shallow parameters, it would be hard to say what part of life has not been touched by the romantic or “romanticism” with a small ‘r’, and how any of it can be distinguished from the general commercialization and industrialization of culture. To make the claim, then, that not merely the ‘romantic’, but Romanticism in its proper sense – invoking the aesthetic and cultural movement which fomented at the end of the eighteenth century in close cultural proximity with the events of the French Revolution – has relevance to twentieth-century and contemporary popular music would call for more precise as well as profound premises. What we now refer to as the Romantic movement, with a capital ‘R’, escaped triviality because it was just as much concerned with community and the collective as with the individual. For Romantic artists (and critics) the imagination and intuition were valued precisely because of the way they both served and consummated reason and logical thinking. The subject of Romantic art, often depicted in sublime images of the ruination of culture, was primarily the relation between culture and nature rather than ‘authentic nature’ in itself. Romantic imagery contested the growing ascendancy and hegemony of commercial interests and industrial capitalism over both human and non-human natures, helping to give shape to a budding anti-capitalist and ecological counter-culture and politics (which was sometimes extended to the arena of sexual politics as well, in Mary Wollstonecraft’s call, for example, for a complete “revolution in female manners”). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the surrealists eagerly embraced this revolutionary side of Romanticism. In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, André Breton cited “romantic ruins” as a good reason to “smile” at the “incurable human restlessness” that would also buoy the Surrealist movement and revolution. Surrealism, in turn, exerted a pronounced influence on Francophone-Caribbean artists and anti-imperialist politics, most notably in life and work of Aimé Césaire and the concept of Négritude. Romantic anti-capitalism, however, has had proponents on both the left and right, was not in any way predetermined from the start with a liberal or radical orientation, and has sometimes even been a vehicle for fascist and racist ideologies. Of the two most famous theorists of the sublime, the first, Edmund Burke, was an archconservative and antagonist of the French Revolution, whereas the second, Immanuel Kant, was an enthusiast of the Revolution and a champion of the Enlightenment project more generally. Despite this political diversity, Romanticism was oriented around a shared preoccupation with the aesthetic as a crucial dimension of human experience. In his Aesthetic Theory, Th. W. Adorno specifies that it was during the Romantic period that the dimension of ‘the aesthetic’ and of art as a distinct, secularized entity was first explicitly formulated. More than a bucolic celebration of ‘nature,’ Romanticism, with the notion of the cultural landscape, conceived art as a site of reconcilement and mutual in-formation of the natural and the cultural. Romantic artworks, above and beyond a murky reflux of “feeling,” are held to convey meanings or ideas, albeit not ones objectified in significative language. “This,” Adorno writes, “is the locus of one dimension of romantic experience that has outlasted romantic philosophy and its outlook”. It was Romantic art, furthermore, where the “inwardly infinite comportment of art” – the aesthetic expectation of what Adorno cites in French as the apparition, the spiritual vision – distinctly appeared and could be formulated as a concept: “Romanticism wanted to equate what appears in the apparition with the artistic. In doing so, it grasped something essential about art, yet narrowed it to a particular… romanticism imagined that through reflection and thematic content it could grasp art’s ether”. Following Adorno’s reflections and further developing them, it can be thus claimed that in Romantic art the idea of artistic genius crystallized in the idea of the new, appearing as the re-discovery of the archaic, and that Romantic works, properly speaking, were marked by a distinct resistance to neoclassical ideas of mimesis (as a delimited and contained imitation of the universal in the particular). This is what accounts for Romantic art’s sublime aspect and for the richness of its formal innovations and new forms of mediation. From this perspective, Romanticism appears not as an endorsement of the ‘more natural’ or ‘authentically individual,’ but rather as a field of contradictions and tensions between feeling and reason, formlessness and form, individual and collective, nature and history. It is therefore also possible to associate in different ways the concepts of Romantic and Romanticism, broadly understood, to phenomena of contemporary culture, in general, and contemporary music, in particular, thus inquiring into the sometimes concealed but nevertheless present and indeed important legacy of the Romantic movement and worldview in popular music of our time. In adopting a broad and open philosophical approach – the only one which can do justice to the multiform and complex character of both Romanticism (as a concept and an artistic movement) and popular music– we have collected in this volume some articles which investigate twentieth-century and/or contemporary popular music as reflective of the Romantic impulse in artistic production. .

Introduction: Romanticism and Popular Music (con D. Burke, C.J. Campbell, T. Laughlin, J. Luftig) / stefano marino. - ELETTRONICO. - (2021), pp. 7-12.

Introduction: Romanticism and Popular Music (con D. Burke, C.J. Campbell, T. Laughlin, J. Luftig)

stefano marino
2021

Abstract

It is probably trivial to say that twentieth-century popular culture was marked by a “romantic” streak. The “romantic,” after all, is widely associated with the assertion of the individual against the group, ranging his (the presumed subject is more often than not male) powers of imagination, inspiration and intuition against reason and logic, valuing nature and the natural over and against culture – all criteria which have long since degenerated into the clichés of the modern culture industry. In other words, the problem is that, with such broad and shallow parameters, it would be hard to say what part of life has not been touched by the romantic or “romanticism” with a small ‘r’, and how any of it can be distinguished from the general commercialization and industrialization of culture. To make the claim, then, that not merely the ‘romantic’, but Romanticism in its proper sense – invoking the aesthetic and cultural movement which fomented at the end of the eighteenth century in close cultural proximity with the events of the French Revolution – has relevance to twentieth-century and contemporary popular music would call for more precise as well as profound premises. What we now refer to as the Romantic movement, with a capital ‘R’, escaped triviality because it was just as much concerned with community and the collective as with the individual. For Romantic artists (and critics) the imagination and intuition were valued precisely because of the way they both served and consummated reason and logical thinking. The subject of Romantic art, often depicted in sublime images of the ruination of culture, was primarily the relation between culture and nature rather than ‘authentic nature’ in itself. Romantic imagery contested the growing ascendancy and hegemony of commercial interests and industrial capitalism over both human and non-human natures, helping to give shape to a budding anti-capitalist and ecological counter-culture and politics (which was sometimes extended to the arena of sexual politics as well, in Mary Wollstonecraft’s call, for example, for a complete “revolution in female manners”). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the surrealists eagerly embraced this revolutionary side of Romanticism. In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, André Breton cited “romantic ruins” as a good reason to “smile” at the “incurable human restlessness” that would also buoy the Surrealist movement and revolution. Surrealism, in turn, exerted a pronounced influence on Francophone-Caribbean artists and anti-imperialist politics, most notably in life and work of Aimé Césaire and the concept of Négritude. Romantic anti-capitalism, however, has had proponents on both the left and right, was not in any way predetermined from the start with a liberal or radical orientation, and has sometimes even been a vehicle for fascist and racist ideologies. Of the two most famous theorists of the sublime, the first, Edmund Burke, was an archconservative and antagonist of the French Revolution, whereas the second, Immanuel Kant, was an enthusiast of the Revolution and a champion of the Enlightenment project more generally. Despite this political diversity, Romanticism was oriented around a shared preoccupation with the aesthetic as a crucial dimension of human experience. In his Aesthetic Theory, Th. W. Adorno specifies that it was during the Romantic period that the dimension of ‘the aesthetic’ and of art as a distinct, secularized entity was first explicitly formulated. More than a bucolic celebration of ‘nature,’ Romanticism, with the notion of the cultural landscape, conceived art as a site of reconcilement and mutual in-formation of the natural and the cultural. Romantic artworks, above and beyond a murky reflux of “feeling,” are held to convey meanings or ideas, albeit not ones objectified in significative language. “This,” Adorno writes, “is the locus of one dimension of romantic experience that has outlasted romantic philosophy and its outlook”. It was Romantic art, furthermore, where the “inwardly infinite comportment of art” – the aesthetic expectation of what Adorno cites in French as the apparition, the spiritual vision – distinctly appeared and could be formulated as a concept: “Romanticism wanted to equate what appears in the apparition with the artistic. In doing so, it grasped something essential about art, yet narrowed it to a particular… romanticism imagined that through reflection and thematic content it could grasp art’s ether”. Following Adorno’s reflections and further developing them, it can be thus claimed that in Romantic art the idea of artistic genius crystallized in the idea of the new, appearing as the re-discovery of the archaic, and that Romantic works, properly speaking, were marked by a distinct resistance to neoclassical ideas of mimesis (as a delimited and contained imitation of the universal in the particular). This is what accounts for Romantic art’s sublime aspect and for the richness of its formal innovations and new forms of mediation. From this perspective, Romanticism appears not as an endorsement of the ‘more natural’ or ‘authentically individual,’ but rather as a field of contradictions and tensions between feeling and reason, formlessness and form, individual and collective, nature and history. It is therefore also possible to associate in different ways the concepts of Romantic and Romanticism, broadly understood, to phenomena of contemporary culture, in general, and contemporary music, in particular, thus inquiring into the sometimes concealed but nevertheless present and indeed important legacy of the Romantic movement and worldview in popular music of our time. In adopting a broad and open philosophical approach – the only one which can do justice to the multiform and complex character of both Romanticism (as a concept and an artistic movement) and popular music– we have collected in this volume some articles which investigate twentieth-century and/or contemporary popular music as reflective of the Romantic impulse in artistic production. .
2021
Romanticism and Popular Music, in Scenari. Rivista semestrale di filosofia contemporanea, vol. 14
7
12
Introduction: Romanticism and Popular Music (con D. Burke, C.J. Campbell, T. Laughlin, J. Luftig) / stefano marino. - ELETTRONICO. - (2021), pp. 7-12.
stefano marino
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