Foregrounding the link between the postmodern spatial turn and the geopolitics of the Cold War, this essay reconsiders the primacy of space and visuality in the postwar global imaginary through an examination of sound and rhythm. Henri Lefebvre’s writings on the everyday mobilize rhythm to conceptualize alternatives to the reified visual world, but his work reveals the tension between metaphorical treatments of rhythm and its sonic materiality. Turning to music as an aesthetic form defined by this relationship, the author draws on the work of Jacques Attali, Rose Rosengard Subotnik, and Jonathan Kramer to examine the politics of musical listening as a social practice. In postwar art music, minimalism is particularly notable for engendering experiences of time that resonate with postmodern spatialization. This article proceeds with a reading of John Adams’s 1987 opera Nixon in China, a work that uses minimalist procedures to depict Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China. The author contends that the opera’s use of rhythm and treatment of time reveals the anxieties of its historical moment, the concluding years of the Cold War.

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