The European "modernism" of which Strauss was considered a representative in the 1890s and the "avant-garde" modernism that would exclude him in the new century differed significantly. Both are defined here as manifestations of, or critical reactions to, cultural and technological modernity. Varying shades of modernism are illustrated with reference to critical responses to Strauss and to his own 1907 essay "Is there an Avant-Garde in Music?" The length of Strauss’s career and the stylistic choices he made both reflect and problematize the once common notion that the history of the period’s music was simply one of evolutionary progress, which he first exemplified and then rejected. The varied and changing context of Strauss’s critical stance and compositional output resides not only in artistic ideas but also in politics and social practice in institutions like opera houses and concert halls and their audiences.