I'm listening to Ensemble Modern's recording of Frank Zappa's Put a Motor in Yourself. Would I recognize Zappa as the composer if I didn't already know? Probably not. And is Frank Zappa postmodern? Of course.
In yesterday's comments, Richard Friedman suggests he and I both like modern but not postmodern music. The former is clearly true -- Cowell! Varese! Antheil! the austere Copland! Ok, not everything but more than I ever knew. On the postmodern pop side, I get a thrill (usually) from examples like Radiohead, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Frank Zappa (at least when he doesn't sing).
On the classical side, a much harder call. To investigate, I reread listen101's quote of Johnathan D. Kramer's list of postmodern musical traits. Then, on to Wikipedia's postmodern music entry, pointing out minimalism as the first postmodern style, starting with La Monte Young and Terry Riley. But wait, Terry Riley, in my opinion, doesn't fit. I've never talked to him but what I've seen and heard from afar indicates he doesn't have a smidgen of irony in him. He may have written some music that today sounds very much of its era (say, A Rainbow in Curved Air) but I think he was and is quite sincere, all flowing from his strong spiritual beliefs. Young, presumably sincere as well, does embrace more of the postmodern ethic e.g. his playing microtonal electric piano in the Forever Bad Blues Band crosses barriers between "high" and "low" styles. Robert Palmer in the liner notes:
Stylistically, this "roadhouse blues/rock" covers a lot of territory. Among them, Young and His Forever Bad Blues Band cohorts have had experience of boogie woogie, shuffles and stomps, country blues, Chicago electric blues, heavy metal, punk, noise, raga, modal jazz/blues (note guitarist Jon Catler's extended quote from "Summertime"), bebop, trudge, grunge, thrash...the list goes on. These influences don't pop sequentially so much as they coexist, layered into the music throughout, in constant flux between overt expression and occultation.
Zappa's music is a stew of influences as well.
While confirming Young's place in the American musical tradition (if not the 19th century European one), Devin Hurd makes a comment that particularly applies for me in listening to Zappa and Young:
Why deprive one's self from so many compelling sounds and ideas? Even the most distasteful music is informative.
On the other hand, the music of Riley has a certain aesthetic I find appealing and often peacefully mesmerizing. Similarly, I'll highlight Richard Friedman's Owed to Michael Nyman, more urgent than Riley but entrancing nonetheless.
One related note: at work today I had some Haydn string quartets on in the background. So tranquil it reminded me of a Betty Davis movie, (Now, Voyager) partially set in a sanitarium. Not coincidentally, the local classical radio station titles their sampler CD KDFC Islands of Sanity. No James Tenney in that collection. And I can imagine Fred saying all this modern and postmodern trash belongs on a CD Islands of Insanity...