What determines the formal structure in 20th century music? It seems that much of the music written in the early decades of the 20th century would lack structure (so it sounds to me)... Any thoughts?
I'll deal with this in some detail soon, but I want to open the question up to anybody who cares to take a shot at it, either in the comments or from their own podium.
I think that musical structure is, regardless of style, a very useful illusion. Wallace Stevens built an entire poetics around the idea that the human mind has such a "rage for order" that we will impose order, or "structure", even where there is no inherent order:
Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
Composers place "jars" in their music as ways for listeners to create/perceive and order to the music they are hearing. Performers can differ as to where in the piece the jars are located, and through accents of various kinds point them out to the listener.
We think of structure in functionally tonal music as a result of the deployment of changes and different melodies in time, to create a convincing musical argument. How is structure created or implied or facilitated in music that is not functionally tonal? Conversely, given our rage to order, is unstructured music even possible?