Stanley Cavell's 1965 article “Music Discomposed” argues that modernist works have become codependent on the philosophical justification surrounding their production and consumption. The writings and compositions of two contemporary composers, György Ligeti and Helmut Lachenmann, echo this argument, confronting the role of criticism as a responsibility the modernist object bears toward a skeptical listener. Ligeti's Apparitions (1959) deals specifically with serialism as both a modernist legacy and a hindrance to the composer's “seriousness and... sincerity” that Cavell considers of central importance to modernist art. It functions as a metaphor in se, representing Cavell's hypothetical example of a solution to a compositional problem that “has become identical with the aesthetic result itself.” Lachenmann's Kontrakadenz (1970–71) concerns itself with the strained relation of artwork and audience in an era that demands an unprecedented trust in the musical object. It thus engages its audience in its own critical project, in an open dialogue with traditional forms and functions. Both works suggest that modernist music can escape the cycle of justification between the musical object and its analysis only when the object itself acknowledges the dangers inherent in the modernist situation and engages its audience directly in its risky endeavor.

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