Monday, March 3, 2014

Observance of Pluralism, a Progeny of Postmodernism (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University deals with promoting a healthy congregation of a variety of religions, but its definition of pluralism is general enough to fit the parameters of music: pluralism is a thought or a practice of actively understanding and utilizing seemingly different aspects shown in this world in a coexisting manner.1 In terms of music, the difference between postmodernism and pluralism could be as follows: postmodernism shows the usage of different styles or genres in a piece of music; pluralism shows the usage of different elements of different styles or genres in a piece of music, which means a single section of a piece could contain numerous musical and technical aspects that are different in style.

The following is the second example of the "Pluralism" posts:

Music in Pluralism (2010) is a very direct and descriptive title of this piece by William Zuckerman, and it may be one of the first musical works that actively promote the term and the meaning of musical pluralism. The piece is written for a 13-member "orchestra," which also comprises of an electric guitar, bass guitar, a drum set, and an upright piano (the upright was first used because the venue of the premiere did not have a grand piano, but I am not sure at this time whether the composer decided to keep the upright as his instrumentation of choice after the premiere). It is a 50-minute piece of light, moving images, music, and dance that has a root in minimalism; then again, it has roots in basically everything that the composer was thinking of when writing the music. Each voice complements the other, but the musical elements used in each voice are sometimes quite different from each other. For example, the melody could have a minimalist style while the harmony could have a style of tonal, more classical structure, and the chord progression could be written in the style of rock & roll. Sometimes, one voice may contain multiple genres and styles of music at the same time.

The pluralistic method used in Songs may be recognized as a "pale" comparison to that used in Music in Pluralism, although Songs is not exactly a pluralist piece (if it can be placed in any -ism at all). However, the fact that the music contains seemingly disparate elements in a harmonious manner may help the listeners either place Bolcom's music in the same genre or--better yet--not place it in any genre at all.

1 Eck, Diana L. "The Pluralism Project at Harvard University." What Is Pluralism? Harvard University, 2 June 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <>.

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