In this paper I discuss the notion of ‘socialist modernism’ and argue for its introduction into Serbian music history and musicology as an appropriate label for a vast number of works composed in the seventh and eighth decades of the 20th Century. The term is borrowed from Serbian art theory, where it was introduced by Ješa Denegri, who defined ‘socialist modernism’ as a further development of the notion of ‘socialist aestheticism’, which was the first sign of distancing from the ‘socialist realism’ as the dominant aesthetic position in the years immediately after the end of the WWII. While both terms have been widely used to discuss the visual arts and architecture (e. g. Miško Šuvaković), they have not been applied to the study of Serbian and Yugoslav music history. It is my goal to analyse the main facets of ‘socialist modernism’ and to compare this notion to other prominent terms, which are commonly used to describe the art music production of the majority of Serbian composers in the given period, notably to ‘moderated modernism’ and ‘neoclassicism.’
Denegri used the notion of ‘socialist modernism’ to point to the specific position of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ‘between East and West’ during the Cold War. He defined it as a “unique formation that emerged at the crossroads of the features of Eastern and Western cultural models.” Similar tendencies can also be observed in Serbian art music since the late 1950s, with an increasing desire to ‘catch up’ with the dominant currents of European musical (high) modernism.
As a paradigmatic example of this stylistic approach in art music of the 1960s and 1970s, I discuss the poetics of Aleksandar Obradović (1927–2001), one of the most prominent Yugoslav (Serbian) composers of the period, whose artistic profile vividly illustrates the currents of political developments and changes in Yugoslav art in the second half of the 20th Century.
Janković-Beguš, Jelena (2017) ‘Between East And West’: Socialist Modernism As The Official Paradigm Of Serbian Art Music In The Socialist Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia . In: Musicologist: International Journal of Music Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 141-163. Available at https://openmusiclibrary.org/article/1030753/.