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Postmodernism is many things to many people, yet no single product or outcome of the postmodern era is representative of the entirety of the idea. Postmodernism was more than simply a collection of items, but rather an entire way of life shaped by the generational and worldwide shifts occurring in the world at the time. Postmodernism represents a period of time, with undefined borders, but certainly the height of Postmodernism began during the late 1960s and ended in popularity by the 1990s, with a new wave of intellectual thinking taking the center stage. (Essortment, 1) To define it roughly, postmodernism is about self-expression and creativity, the ability to take risks, as well as to break convention with the past. The mental constraints placed on the world due to the existential fear of nuclear destruction, as well as the impending doom of constant war due to the American troubles in Vietnam (Vassar, 1), the persistent aggression of the Communist bloc, and the first explorations into space forced an explosion of change in the West. A tidal shift had occurred without being announced, and it was named Postmodernism. Postmodernism is not seen in one form, but rather in many, through the eyes of the creative generation which lived it, and was expressed in Music, Architecture, Literature, Feminism, and in many more ways from the late 1960s until the early 1980s.
One also cannot reach the height of Postmodernism without first understanding what Modernism was, and why Modernism is so clearly linked to postmodernism thinking. The political events taking place in the world dealt heavily with the mindsets of the Modernist-age. The Gilded Age of excessive wealth in the 1920s, and then the starkness of the Great Depression of the 1930s led in to the seminal event of the century: World War II. The war destroyed half of the world's civilizations, and the nuclear bomb took with it the innocence of humanity. Modernism was born. The basic tenets of Modernism were to seek perfection both in form and in function, to find utility in the mundane, and to try to conform to rigid structures of society in order to create a stronger society as a whole. The modernist image was partly formed due to the technological advances of the time, those being microwaves, radio waves, greater manipulation of iron, greater trade, the creation of the Interstate highway system, as well as the discovery and subsequent controlling of nuclear technology, both as a weapon and as a source of energy. (Evans, 1) These ideas all melded into a vision for the world as an optimistic place, which can be 'corrected' if scientific measures are adapted, and the hierarchy of society remains intact. Modernism did not end with a bang, like the Gilded Age had, but rather Modernism ended simply because it had become tiresome and boring to those who espoused it for the twenty years from 1945 to 1965. Capacity changed in the world, air travel and television had changed everything, and therefore new ideas were not just requested, but were required in order to fulfill the leading intellectuals of the postmodern era.
If Modernism meant creating a perfect life for the citizens of the Western world, and did so through clean lines, box-style architecture, jazz and big band music, apocalyptic and fatalistic literature, and ultimately spreading the idea of cultural conformity, then Postmodernism is the exact reverse, by design. The baby boomer generation, as they came to be known due to the explosive population growth across the entire world after 1945 until about 1960, which doubled the world's population. This had a significant impact on city planning and even the way people began to think about their surroundings, particularly in urban environments. Postmodernism reached into the core beliefs of home ownership, individuality, and the concept of the automobile as the ultimate expression of freedom, which came to define the baby boomer generation as a whole. (Hurd, 1) This period changed the way cities looked, as suburban cities grew tremendously, and urban centers were vacated and left to rot. The idea of the commute became the daily life of the American worker, and as such society became far more segmented and non-neighborly. The implications for the social and demographic changes of the time were tremendous, and will be investigated in greater detail.
Postmodernism in music represented more than youthful values of the 1960s, but rather the intellectual idea that there is no need for perfect orchestration in music, or that every composition needs to fill a certain length of time or particular genre. (Dorsten, 1) Certainly the fundamentals of music never changed, but the intent of the musician had, and therefore postmodern music launched a plethora of creative ideas and individuals into the music world. Music during this time lost its purpose of primarily serving radio stations only, as record players became more and more widespread and cheap, and therefore albums became the most important driver of musical profits. When record labels realized that filling the pop charts with familiar hits of the past would no longer cut it, and that the people of the postmodern world only deemed their music to be listenable, record labels gave artists greater creative license to construct their albums as they saw fit. A greater connection to the fan base was also established due to the mainstream availability of television by the mid-1960s, a technology that had previously been too expensive for the average family to own.
Music at this time was not just influenced by the greater ability of the listener to hear the music at any time, but also the ability of the musician to alter their music, as well as other advancements in recording technology greatly altered the quality of music for the better. Sounds were cleaner and crisper than ever, and artists were more willing to break the mold and create seemingly outrageous albums, such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, an album which does not even directly promote the band, nor follows any of the prior conventions set by albums. (Poetry in Music, 1) Every song on the album was meant to be a full effort by the band instead of half of an album being considered filler, and therefore "Singles" were not as important as the album in its entirety. Because millions were affected by music, and the entire industry shifted as such, the entire music industry between the mid 1960s and the late 1970s saw a tidal shift in the way business was conducted, with profits going to the artists, and less so to the music vendors.
Postmodernism even bent the physical world, as it would change the profession of architecture dramatically, as the uniformity of Modernism became blasphemous, and the personality and individuality of the architectural firm became the most important factor in a building. Mixing architectural styles from the past with modern technology gained popularity during Postmodernism. For example, the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco, built in the 1970s, represented the peak of Postmodern architecture and the idea of blending the ancient structure of the pyramid with a modern function of the common skyscraper came to life. (San Francisco Gate, 1) This postmodern trend of blending styles did not stop at pyramids and boxes, but also included domed roofs, stained glass windows, and the re-emergence of stonework. Postmodernist architecture was not simply rejecting the mundane forms of the Modernist era in exchange for some other earlier period of architecture, but rather postmodernism sought to create entirely new ways to think about constructed space. Buildings were no longer built solely for purpose, as structures such as the Glass House taught us that even a see through all-glass structure is possible and, with inspiration, can be entirely unique and livable at the same time. Postmodernist architecture also rejected the ideas of sculpture as Bronze pieces, and as requiring the imagery of a sculpted piece of work. Instead, sculpture became emblematic of feeling, of design, of industrial capability, and represented the streamlined thought process of the postmodern mind, without sacrificing the creativity inherent in any postmodern piece. (Rybczynski, 1) Every city in the world has several postmodern buildings to point to, from the largest metropolises to the smallest suburbs, reflecting on just how widespread the ideas of postmodernism were. The movement represented the way that the postmodern generation thought the world should look, and as such a surprising amount of familiarity was formed between architectural buildings built during the postmodern period.
Postmodernism also affected the Art community, creating superstar artists out of relatively novice ones, such as Basquiat and Andy Warhol. (Andy Warhol Biography, 1) These artists redefined what it meant to even practice art, creating exhibitions rather than pieces, and inviting grand galas to their show openings. The popularization of pop art converged with all of the other strands of postmodernism, and was expressed in novel methods by the postmodern art community. Even though the quality of artwork during the postmodern period required less technical skill, the…[continue]
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