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Religions 2013, 4(4), 687-700;

The Offence of Beauty in Modern Western Art Music

31 rue Deparcieux, Paris F-75014, France
Received: 23 October 2013 / Revised: 3 December 2013 / Accepted: 4 December 2013 / Published: 18 December 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music and Spirituality)
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In recent decades, beauty has become a largely unfashionable, even offensive notion within art and philosophy. As Eastern Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart, has pointed out, this offence has a twofold sense. Firstly, the ‘beautiful’ has been dismissed as philosophically insignificant in comparison to the ‘sublime’ by an intellectual tradition tracing itself back to Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Secondly, the making of apparently beautiful art has, especially after the Shoah, frequently been regarded as ethically offensive in the face of suffering in the world. The present essay discusses how these two critiques of the beautiful find themselves reflected in twentieth and twenty-first century musical aesthetics, with particular reference to the writings of Theodor W. Adorno, and asks what solutions have been found by composers of Christian sacred music in the Western tradition confronted by this ‘taboo on beauty’. View Full-Text
Keywords: beauty; atonality; David Hart; Adorno; Leibowitz; Messiaen beauty; atonality; David Hart; Adorno; Leibowitz; Messiaen
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Bannister, P. The Offence of Beauty in Modern Western Art Music. Religions 2013, 4, 687-700.

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