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Prophet And Priest, Ascetic And Mystic: Towards A Cultural Sociology Of The Twentieth Century Composer

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyzes questions of fate and destiny, good and bad fortune, in terms of the symbolic-work performed by different temporal narratives regarding modernity. The chapter argues that a theory of modernity needs to be attuned to the symbolic construction of narrative codes and binary distinctions built-into the idea of the modern, as well as its purported transcendence or negation. It presents a cultural sociology of modernity in the mould proposed by Jeffrey Alexander (2003) in his essay, Modern, Anti, Post, and Neo: How Intellectuals Explain Our Time. The chapter shows that twentieth century musical culture produced contrasting models of how the composer ought to relate to future, past and present; and, following Max Webers typology of religious professionals, suggests that the twentieth century composer has often resembled the prophet and priest, ascetic and mystic, in their attitude to the modern world.

Keywords: cultural sociology; modernity; musical culture; religious prophet; twentieth century composer



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