Rethinking theories about “classical music is punk” composers like Beethoven

Posted on: September 28, 2021

“A cursory search for information about iconic composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt or Stravinsky inevitably yields articles and blog posts proclaiming them the ‘original punk rockers,’ linking them with … bands like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and The Clash,” writes Alexander Carpenter in Wednesday’s (9/22) The Conversation (Australia). “Who are the supposed punks of the classical music world? It seems that, for many commentators, any composer who went against the grain in some way was a punk [including] the medieval nun Hildegard von Bingen … Tchaikovsky [and] Mozart…. But Beethoven … appears to be the exemplar of a proto-punk…. Musicologist William Kinderman’s very recent book about the political nature of Beethoven’s music describes the composer as a ‘Rebell und Punk.’ … Punk rock … is … in essence, a rock revival movement rather than an anarchic reimagining or refashioning of music…. If we must draw some connecting lines … we could look to [Stravinsky’s] 1913 ballet Le sacre du printemps … reputed to have sparked a riot, and … lauded as a turning point in the development of musical modernism. This performance, like the legendary first gig by the Sex Pistols in 1976, has since become shrouded in myth.”