Culture Shock 1913, a recent WNYC podcast, set the tone for my New Year musings. Listening to the stories plunged me into the past while I wondered about the present. The changes and choices that happened in the years before World War I and into the 1920s set the tone for the remainder of the century. It was a time when idealism and upheaval became enmeshed in life and in the arts. The result was absurdity, irony, and a strong dash of fire. I have lived through two-thirds of the century since 1913 and for me, Hans Richter’s 1928 Dada film, Ghosts Before Breakfast, represents this period almost perfectly.
Riots in formerly sedate concert halls and American outrage at the abstract art exhibited in Armory Show of 1913 were fresh in the memories of some of my teachers.
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The invention of the zipper and the production of the Model T exemplified the dizzying speeds of increasing mobility and the sloughing off of old standards.
Women’s fashions became sensuous and devil-may-care.
Artists of the time sought meaning and redemption in social or creative dogmas.
The legacies of 1913 and the years that followed have been swallowed up by more recent revolutions and discoveries. When historians and scholars look back on 2013, what artists and musicians will be recognized as the ones who foretold the future?