The Cultural Pendulum – No Such Thing

I’ve heard of this notion of a “cultural pendulum” in a couple places.

The first was in a discussion about Minimalism and the music of Steve Reich.  It was suggested that since Minimalist music is tonal and rhythmical, perhaps the cultural pendulum is swinging back to the days when tonal and rhythmical/dance music was the norm (unlike most Modernist classical music).

In a recent discussion about consonance and dissonance in jazz, someone suggested that the pendulum has swung back to consonance in the recent decade.

Have you heard of it before?

Of course, when you’re only given two opposing, musical variables – tonal vs. atonal, consonance vs. dissonance, rhythmic vs. non-rhythmic, good vs. bad – it’s temping to use a pendulum as an analogy to measure them.

But why isn’t it called the “tonal pendulum,” or “rhythmical pendulum?”

The word “cultural” is misleading.  It suggests that culture itself can be measured through time, with a pendulum.  In this case, there’s no such thing as a cultural pendulum.  Culture moves forward, no matter what.

Here’s a related video you may find interesting.  I also think it’s a neat variation on culture bubbles.

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