Eduardo de La Fuente

La filosofia weberiana del profeta e il compositore d'avanguardia

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Max Weber's sociology of the prophet and the avant-garde composer Max Weber's lecture "Science as Vocation" touches upon the possibility that artistic work constitutes a "vocation" with its own set of ethical prescriptions. This paper suggests that Weber's account of religious "ethics" can be usefully applied to modern artistic conduct. The modern artistic personality is separated from the mass or laity much as the "religious virtuoso" is from the "religiously unmusical". Furthermore, the ethic governing the outlook of the avant-gardist resembles the "prophetic ethic" which Weber detailed in Ancient Judaism. As a figure of "pathos" and "solitude", who "actively" rejected the world, the Old Testament prophet of misfortune is a prototype of the form of ethical conduct which the avant-gardist embodies. While existing adaptations of Weber's typology of the prophet highlight its utility for the sociology of art and literature, this paper argues that the field of music has perhaps produced the best examples of the type of "calling" in question. The Weberian account of the ethic of the prophet provides a theoretical explanation which not only resonates with the fate and fortunes of the twentieth century composer; it also suggests a useful way of conceiving the inevitable "routinization" and waning appeal of "avant-gardism" as a way of organising musical creativity.

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