Also unusual is the clear narrative form of "Adriana Mater,'' in a continental context where new operas are generally modernist deconstructions.
"This is not a post-modern, distanced view of the very idea of opera,'' says Salonen. "It's an opera which absolutely believes in the art of opera, a simple story told in a linear way. It is a statement of faith in the fact that opera is an art form which can deal with big emotions and huge subjects. I'm very tired of the modernist idea that there are things you should not do because they are against the historic determinist paradigm or the Hegelian dialectical idea.''
Note that the writer of the article says that AM is not “modernist” because it has a “clear narrative form” and Mr. Salonen says it’s not “post-modern” because it’s a “simple story told in a linear way” and that he is tired of the "modernist" view of opera, which he says rejects linear story-telling. Mr. Salonen doesn't say he is also tired of modernism. His disavowal of modernism for AM seems like a continuation of his disavowal of pomo.
The issue here for me is not whether Ms. Saariaho’s opera is “modernist” or “postmodernist” but rather the use of those terms as a shibboleth to identify one as being among friends or as club with which to beat upon one’s enemies. In any case, it’s clear that there’s not clarity about what modernism is and what post-modernism’s relationship to it is.
And vice versa.
* * * * *
While we're on the subject of postmodernism, I recently read Christopher Butler's Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction and am now reading Glenn Ward's Teach Yourself Postmodernism. The two authors take very different approaches, with Mr. Butler adopting a very skeptical stance and Mr. Ward a more sympathetic yet questioning posture.
Neither writer has much to say about music. Even given that, I can highly recommend them both.
Reading both of these books and thinking about the ideas and issues involved made me thinkof this story from Silence:
Before studying Zen, men are men and mountains are mountains. While studying Zen, things are confused. After studying Zen, men are men and mountains are mountains. After telling this, Dr. Suzuki was asked, "What is the difference between before and after?" He said, "No difference, only the feet are a little bit off the ground."