‘Function beyond Function? Reflections on the Functionality of the Autonomous’ by Mladen Dolar

WAGNER: MANUSCRIPT, 1866. Orchestral score for Act II (‘cudgel scene’) of Richard Wagner’s ‘Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg,’ 1866.

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What purpose does music serve? Of all the arts, music has always seemed to be the most autonomous, free from the bonds and limits of representation. Hence its functionality within this very autonomy or non-functionality: its link with the sacred, elevation over the economics of survival, its ritual value. This traditional view was brought to a crisis in the nineteenth century with the autonomy of art within the autonomization of different social spheres. This demanded a redefinition of autonomy and function which, through a radicalization, eventually led to modernism.

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