CHAPTER 12: INTO THE 20TH CENTURY ART MUSIC OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Adapted from Introduction to Music Appreciation by Hanse, Whitehouse and Sliverman with additional text
Dr. N. Boumpani and Dr. J. Carteret
INTO THE 20TH CENTURY
As the nineteenth century ended, common musical rules were questioned, bent, reinvented, altered, and sometimes thrown away completely. Toward the end of the Romantic era, music began to diverge into many genres and styles. It would be difficult to present music of the twentieth century (1910 to present) clearly as a unified style because many new and unusual trends developed and continue to develop today.
Some composers both returned to tradition forms as others moved farther from them during the twentieth century. This chapter will give a brief overview of artistic developments that led to significant twentieth-century styles, the historical context of the twentieth century, and detailed introductions to specific schools of thought and genres of the modern age.
The term twentieth-century music generally refers to formal concert music of the 1900s, rather than rock, pop, jazz, or world music (Burkholder). (Although we will study these genres later.) Twentieth-century composers embraced this term to name their musical era because it seemed modern and exciting and the various styles of music could not be combined together under one stylistically descriptive term. Twentieth-century music was preceded by several late Romantic era developments, including impressionism and neoclassicism. In the 1900s, expressionism, serialism, modernism, electronic music, minimalism, experimental music, and chance music emerged and became intellectually based musical styles. While music was distinguished by form and instrumentation in the Classical period and by composer and nationality in the Romantic period, music of the twentieth century seems to fit into trends and movements tied closely to visual arts.
We are only going to examine 4 genres of 20th Century art music: Impressionism, Expressionism, Neoclassicism, and Electronic Music. These four areas should give you a glimpse into the many different directions music took and, at the same time, became the catalysts for new music that followed.
RELEVANT HISTORICAL EVENTS
By the early 1900s, the Western world had experienced the second industrial revolution and welcomed the age of the automobile. A major earthquake hit San Francisco early in the century, devastating residents and destroying their property. The aviation industry was developed by creative and courageous pioneers who conducted early flights and combined the internal combustion engine with the winged glider to produce an airplane. Just as a general feeling of prosperity settled on people of the twentieth century, the luxurious cruise ship Titanic sank and World War I began.
The early twentieth century brought wars and major political changes throughout the world. World War I (1914-18) involved what were commonly referred to as the great powers. This term refers to major nations that participated in the war and sat on either the Allies side or the Central Powers side. This war involved more than seventy million servicemen and women, more than nine million of whom died. The impact of World War I was widespread and led to political changes in various nations, including the former German, Ottoman, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires—all of which dissolved.
A second major war followed only twenty-one years after the first one ended. World War II (1939-45) was a global war even larger in scope and significance than the first. More than one-hundred million people served in militaries throughout the war. This time, though, countries joined either the Allies or the Axis’ side. Both military and civilian deaths occurred, including millions of civilians who were killed in the concentration camps of Germany and the death camps of Stalin’s Soviet Union. To bring the war to an end, the United States dropped 2 atomic bombs on Japan. It has been estimated that between thirty-five and sixty million people died in World War II (“World War II”). After the war, totalitarian governments in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia continued to kill millions of people over political ideologies.
The 20th century saw the rise of political doctrines from the left side of political thought. Socialism and communism were attempts to bring about a fairer distribution of wealth; however, to enact this system, totalitarian leaders rose. In Germany, Hitler forwarded a brand of socialism called National Socialism. This became known as Nazism. Russian and China both adopted communist approaches to government. These systems all adopted strict control of personal freedom in order to maintain their hold on power. None of these systems worked in bringing about any equality or fairness.
After WWII the United States was the world’s first superpower and created an economy that gave Americans the best standard of living in the world. At the same time, great inequality existed as the descendants of African American slaves had their freedoms limited, mainly in southern states. As the century progressed legislation was created to address these wrongs, but problems still continue to this day as compromise, the essence of a democracy, struggles in the light of ideologs.
The women’s suffrage movement began in the 1800s. It was first formalized in 1848 at the convention in Seneca Falls, New York. This movement aimed to reform voting rights to allow women to vote and run for political offices. Women gained the right to vote in 1920 after WWI had ended. At the same time, under the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a group from Congress met with world banking leaders and the Federal Reserve Act was enacted which essentially took control of the cash supply of the United States from Americans and put it in the hands of bankers from both America and overseas. This bank is not a branch of the government, but a privately owned business. The reason for establishing this bank was to stop inflation and avoid booms and recessions in our economy, thereby securing a strong economy. In spite of the outcome of this bill, the United States became a debtor nation and the Federal Reserve not only failed to create a stable economy, but did nothing to stop the cycle of booms and regressions, and could not halt the Great Depression of 1929.
During the 1920s, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) began to compose neoclassical works that involved composing techniques from the Classical period (beginning with the ballet Pulcinella), and Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) shifted from writing a massive opera to creating twelve-tone serialism. Both of these composers are presented later in this chapter.
A few years later, between WWI and prior to WWII, countries throughout the world experienced economic hardship as they entered a period known as the Great Depression. In the United States, unemployment soared and stock prices declined by 89 percent. Between 1929 and 1954, stock prices were volatile, and unemployment hit 24.9 percent at one point (Taylor). This depression lasted until the early part of the 1950s when the United States economy became the strongest in the world.
Recorded sound was developed in the late nineteenth century, and movies and television were invented during the 1900s. The first films were silent, but, as technology advanced, producers realized the power of music in film (this will be discussed in the next chapter. Europe was behind the United States in developing this revolutionary and impressive art. The first “talkie” movie the Jazz Singer was shown in London in 1928, and before long, studios in both Europe and the United States had moved to using recorded sound in films. The first feature-length European talkie was the British film Blackmail (1929), directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Thompson and Bordwell 3-4).
The development of recorded sound and video affected music production in the 1900s in two ways. First, musical works became available to an even wider audience, through records and radios, and early films used Western concert music to accompany the film. Second, and an unfortunate negative effect, was that musicians who performed in communities for enjoyment began to compare themselves to trained instrumental and vocal stars heard through new technology, and over time, the general population produced fewer and fewer musicians.
MODERNISM IN MUSIC
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, certain composers wrote pieces that left the realm of tonality and entered the world of abstract musical sounds. Claude Debussy paved the way for unique approaches to tonality by writing impressionist music, where the key or tonal center was deemphasized or hidden. He worked with new scales, like the whole-tone scale. In 1913, Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring changed performance music dramatically with its aggressive music. Some composers’ works were called neoclassical because they clung to older tonalities and rules of composing and created music inspired by the Classical period with modern flair. More remote and innovative composers, such as John Adams, György Ligeti, John Cage, and others, created experimental, chance, and minimalist works. In this section we will examine only a few short works from four different genres.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE ROMANTIC ERA AND MODERN MUSIC
The Romantic period was a time of breaking the mold, and the twentieth century has been a time of innovation. In the Romantic era, composers branched out, invented their own forms if needed, and focused on emotion and expression over restraint. Although Romantic composers tried smaller and larger forms, some chromaticism, and more complex textures, the modern period has unleashed a wealth of new scales, ideas, and approaches. The whole-tone scale and other new scales were widely used, and serialism had been developed to systematically involve all twelve notes in an octave. Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg were pivotal figures who created innovative ways to approach tonality, rhythm, meter, and harmony. Avant-garde composers like Varèse and Cage used instruments and electronics in new ways, developing electronic, minimalist, and chance music and pushing the idea of “serious” music further from the mainstream. Modern composers today, such as Steve Reich, continue these developments.
CHARACTERISTICS OF 20TH CENTURY MUSIC
In the 20th century, voices were used a lot like non-vocal instruments. Sometimes voices were expected to produce sound effects, non-textual noise, and wide leaps as in an expressionist or serial work. Later 20th century music used traditional instruments in unusual ways.
TIMBRE, OR TONE QUALITY
New timbres were explored in depth during the twentieth century. Although Romantic-period composers explored a variety of timbres, twentieth-century composers pushed the limits much further. Instruments produced unusual timbres in experimental music and modern works.
In earlier periods, texture included a discussion about melody, harmony, and rhythms. In the twentieth century, texture was no longer the emphasis of a composition but can be discussed conceptually. For example, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire was based on serialism. In serialism a clear melody doesn’t line up with other musical factors as a particular texture like homophony or polyphony. Instead, one must discuss the twelve-tone row and its role in the overall work.
During the twentieth century, composers varied in their use of changing tempos. Stravinsky generally wrote for a fairly regular tempo. In his middle period, however, Schoenberg focused on freeform, non-metered improvisational music called free atonal expressionism.
In earlier era, the use of dynamics was usually used to communicate emotion or expression, or it was used for contrast. In the twentieth century, dynamics were used as another manipulative tool, similar to changing a rhythm or a pitch. Dynamics were also used to give the music expression, make it interesting, and add variety.
Some twentieth- century composers favored the neoclassical trend of using forms from previous eras: the sonata, the rondo, and other common forms. Experimental and modernist composers favored using no form at all. Sometimes, ideas were through-composed and never repeated.
SPECIFIC MODERN GENRES
FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM - CLAUDE DEBUSSY
Impressionism originated in France as a reaction against the emotional music of the Romantic era. During the late Romantic period, French composer Claude Debussy used impressionism to create works with special whole-tone and pentatonic scales. The goal of impressionist music was to produce a mood or sense of something without boldly presenting it. Impressionist music is delicate, sensuous, and calm.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was born in France in1862 to a very poor family. Debussy was another child prodigy who began instruction at the age of 7 and entered the Paris Conservatory of Music at the age of 11. Students and teachers were impressed with him, but his innovative style was hard for many to understand. After spending time in Russia, he eventually returned to France and won the prestigious Prix de Rome prize for his cantata L'Enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Child). This prize allowed him to study in Rome for 3 years. While in Rome for only 2 years, he was greatly influenced by the music of Richard Wagner.
Debussy would go on to write many works, including opera and string quartets, and became the premier composer in France during his lifetime. Most of the music the Debussy is known for, however, is his piano music in the impressionist style. This is where we will begin our study of 20th century music.
Claude Debussy was the primary composer of impressionism. He worked to communicate images, feelings, and moods through his music rather than by portraying literal descriptions common to program music. Debussy can be considered the bridge between the Romantic period and the Twentieth Century, similar to Beethoven being considered the transitional composer between the Classical and Romantic periods. Some of Debussy’s popular piano and orchestral works include Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894), Nocturnes (1899), La Mer (1905), and “Claire de Lune” (1905), a simple melody included in any concert band method book on the market today. Debussy’s impressionist compositions were instrumental works for both piano and orchestra.
The rich texture (this does not mean texture in the musical meaning, as we have previously studied) of Debussy’s music is lush and sensual. The tonality is vague and difficult to pin down, as there is no clear tonal center. The basis of a whole-tone scale is that all notes are equally separated, and there are no patterns of whole and half steps. Instead, all pitches in a whole-tone scale are a whole step apart. Using this and other new scales, Debussy invented unusual harmonies in his music that kept listeners on edge as they waited for the music to settle somewhere. An example of Debussy’s impressionistic style can be heard in the short work La fille aux cheveux de lin which translates to “the girl with the flaxen hair.” Although this piece has been written for piano, over the years it has been arranged for many different instruments and ensembles. This is a very short piece so we will present three different arrangements of the work (you only need listen to the piano version, unless your instructor assigns more). Before you listen to any version, please read the words to the poem from which Debussy based the music. Then listen to the music with the words in mind. You will be asked to give your interpretation of the work.
PRELUDES BOOK I, “LA FILLE AUX CHEVEUX DE LIN”
C. Debussy (1862-1918)
FOCUS: This impressionistic piece is Debussy’s musical “thoughts” as he contemplates a woman with golden hair. Try to keep that in mind as you listen.
La fille aux cheveux de lin by Charles-Marie René Leconte de Lisle
Sitting amidst the alfalfa in flower,
Who sings in the cool morning hour?
It is the girl with the flaxen hair,
The beauty with cherry lips so fair.
Love, in the summer sun so bright,
Sang with the lark for sheer delight.
Your mouth has colors so divine,
It tempts a kiss, o, were it mine!
Come chat with me in the flow’ring grass,
Girl with the long lashes, silken tress.
Love, in the summer sun so bright,
Sang with the lark for sheer delight.
Do not say no, o cruel girl!
Do not say yes, far better still
To read your large eye’s longing gaze,
Your rosy lips which I so praise!
Love, in the summer sun so bright,
Sang with the lark for sheer delight.
Farewell to deer, farewell to hare!
And to red partridges! I shall dare
a kiss of your crimson lips to steal,
your flaxen locks to caress and feel!
Love, in the summer sun so bright,
Sang with the lark for sheer delight.
EXAMPLE: La fille aux cheveux de lin, C. Debussy
Flute, harp and orchestra
ASSIGNMENT: As you listen to the above piece, explain what you might see, in your mind, as you hear the music. You DO NOT have to stick to Debussy’s title. Use your imagination and explain how it starts, builds up at times, and ends. For example, I might see a pancake that has been left uneaten and, as soon as the family is out of the room, slowly arises and starts to dance and float through the air, etc. etc., etc., until the end where it simply floats off into the distance. That may be a silly explanation, but, if I coordinated it with the music, it might work. So, be creative.
EXPRESSIONISM - ARNOLD SCHOENBERG
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was born in Vienna Austria. His father owned a small show shop. Neither his mother nor his father was musically inclined; however, Vienna was the center of music at this time, and living there greatly influenced Schoenberg. Schoenberg was composing before the age of nine, and was soon composing for string quartets. When Schoenberg was 16, his father died and Schoenberg had to work in order to help support the family. At the same time, he played cello in an amateur orchestra and learned harmony from the conductor. Eventually the group performed Schoenberg’s music and he began to compose more music as he experimented with new harmonies. His early attempts at this new style were not received well by the public; however, these pieces have become some of his best known. In spite of the lack of public understanding, Schoenberg, with the encouragement of other composers of the day, continued to compose.
Schoenberg was hired as a professor at the Stern Conservatory where he went on to help guide other famous composers, as well as write a number of books on composition. Around 1908, his works began to move away from traditional tonality. By 1921, he had created his 12-tone system of composition. This system was based on a series of 12 different tones that create a “tone row.” The row may be played in its original form, played backwards, inverted, or played backward and inverted. It can also be “transposed,” meaning the tone row can start on a different pitch, as long as each subsequent pitch was the same distance for the first note as in the original tone row. All harmony came from the use of the tone rows.
The rise of Hitler and National Socialism forced Schoenberg to emigrate to the United States where he took a position at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston. In 1934 he moved to California, became a US citizen, and held minor teaching positions at the University of Southern California and UCLA. He continued to compose until he died in 1951.
Pioneered by Schoenberg and his students, Anton Webern and Alban Berg, expressionism was a style of atonal music that later led to the development of serialism. Atonal music is music that does not have a tonal center. Until this point, most of the music we have heard had a tonal center, or a tonic. We might call this a “home base” that lets us know we have arrived at an end point. Together Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg were known as the Second Viennese School (1903-25) because they developed revolutionary musical ideas in Vienna—the same city where Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven (the First Viennese School) composed and performed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Schoenberg was a traditional and conservative music composition teacher, but his spirit of ingenuity and creativity drove the expressionist movement.
One of Schoenberg’s first expressionist works was the Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 (1909), which was written in an attempt to avoid any kind of structure or form. This goal was a direct rebellion against the structure and form valued in the Classical and Romantic periods. Schoenberg was influenced by the philosophies of the subconscious mind published by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). As a result, Schoenberg attempted to create music that flowed freely of its own will, like subconscious thought (Carpenter). While this method of composing was interesting, it was difficult to regulate and eventually led to the creation of serialism, which, in contrast, was ruled by strict order, form, and method.
We will hear a very short work from Schoenberg’s 5 Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16. It will be the 1st movement within this work, “Premonitions.” There is no listening guide for this, since the music does not follow a form. Please listen to the music and think of what you hear before you complete the assignment below. The work is only 2:12 long.
EXAMPLE: 5 Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16: I. “Premonitions” Schoenberg
DISCUSSION: In the Chapter 12 discussion board, explain in a paragraph or two what you hear in this music. Also add what you think about it, how it makes you feel. You may even explain why you like it or do not like it; however, if you are going to give an opinion of whether you like it or not, please say why. You do not have to reply to anyone’s post, but please read a few.
NEOCLASSISICM - IGOR STRAVINSKY
Not all composers wanted to explore new musical territories in the same ways. Several preferred to abide by traditional composing rules and norms while experimenting with ideas “within” those rules. This style was called neoclassicism (Walsh). To help traditionally composed music sound more relevant for modern times, composers introduced devices or tools, such as chromaticism and polytonality (two distinct key centers at the same time), into their works. Igor Stravinsky was one such composer. He entered the musical scene with experimental, and controversial, music, but later wrote in a neoclassical style.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was born in Russia, the son of the principal bassist for the Mariinsky Theater (a principal bassist is usually the most qualified in an orchestra). Stravinsky was, however, mainly self-taught as a child. Although Stravinsky entered law school, he continued to pursue music by studying composition with famed Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov. Stravinsky’s compositions caught the ears of others and, by 1913, he had composed some of his greatest works, including the Rite of Spring. Eventually, in 1940, Stravinsky came to America and settled in California. There Stravinsky began to write in the 12-tone style of Schoenberg and continued to compose until his death in 1971.
Stravinsky wrote the ballets Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). These works expressed bold, dissonant sounds that at first repelled listeners. The Rite of Spring incited a riot at its first performance in Paris because of the primal nature of the ballet choreography involved (explained more below). The dancing portrayed violence, a mating scene, and the wildness of nature. Stravinsky’s music was remarkably different from other music of the music of this period, although it was similar to extremes often portrayed by other composers. His music was edgy, intense, and bold. As you listen to an excerpt from The Rite of Spring, notice the dissonant harmony and the changing rhythms and meters. The timing will seem inconsistent; therefore, look for patterns and change.
When Stravinsky was asked about his compositional style for this work, he answered: “I was guided by no system whatever in “Le Sacre du Printemps.” “I had only my ear to help me; I heard and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which “Le Sacre” passed” (Classicfm.com). If you remember the story of Handel composing The Messiah in such a short time, this story is similar. Stravinsky tried to explain the same process. The story was based on archeological finds that supported the story of the pagan rites used in ages past. These rites would include selecting a virgin to dance herself to death in order to please the powers of whatever deities the people served in antiquity, and grant a successful harvest that year. The first performance was in Paris, France in 1913. History reports that the audience was so shocked by the work that it created a riot in Paris; however, it has since been learned that the anti-Russian groups in Paris probably planned the riots before the performance even began. A year later, the performance of the same work resulted in the audience carrying Stravinsky out of the theater on their shoulders in triumph.
EXAMPLE: Part I: The Augurs of Spring (Dance of the Young Girls) from The Rite of Spring Stravinsky
THE RITE OF SPRING, PART 1 THE “AUGERS OF SPRING”
Igor Stravinsky (1882‐1971)
FOCUS: How the music serves the story
In this part, an old woman enters and begins to foretell the future. After this movement, young women begin arriving and begin the dance.
About the listening guide: Since Stravinsky explained that he did not use any specific form for this music, a listening guide to explain it is, in large part, a disrespect to the composer. Since Stravinsky simply stated that he wrote “what came to him, we will explain the music using the elements and how they change.
Therefore: PLEASE LISTEN TO THE MUSIC FIRST WITHOUT THE GUIDE TO SIMPLY GET AN EMOTIONAL REACTION FROM THE MUSIC. After that, use the guide to help sharpen your understanding of the music. Also, we will make use of very non‐musical terms to help you get a handle on what is happening in the music.
|0:00||Example of pulsating, short (staccato) dissonant chords in the strings with accents (the louder “hits” are accents. We will call this the “chomp”)|
|0:08||Example of a polyphonic setting of bassoons on one melodic line and English horns on another.|
|0:13||Chomp returns, with short dissonant staccato trumpet accents.|
|0:18||Muted brass, oboe, English Horn, with clarinets and piccolos over the staccato strings|
Trill (fast movement back and forth between 2 notes) on the bassoon
Strings begin sets of three note figures that seem to rock back and forth
|0:28||Piccolos and flutes play downward runs which are followed by clarinets. The flutes run up as the clarinets run down|
|0:36||Chomp returns, with accents that are enhanced by the horns.|
|0:45||Bassoons come in with staccato melody over the chomp (our label: tiptoe melody)|
|0:56||Trombone enters with short piece of bassoon melody, answered by bassoons, then followed by 16 chomps.|
|1:04||Bassoons and oboe, later joined by the flute take on the “tiptoe melody” with a short phrase by the trombone.|
|1:16||Music comes to a pause (called a fermata), followed by a quick three note motive in low brass and timpani to another pause.|
|1:23||Flurry of high woodwinds leads to the English horn playing a down‐up‐down‐up pattern, (we will call the tick‐tock) which is handed over to trombone.|
|1:29||Clarinets play alternating sets of 4 notes moving up then four moving down|
|1:34||Tick tock returns with bassoon trill|
|1:40||French Horn introduces a short, melodic motive (we will call “smooth”, which is answered by a flute.|
|1:51||Oboes play a 4‐note rhythm which leads to a short motive being passed around the woodwind instruments|
|2:01||“smooth” melody returns in flute|
“smooth” melody continues in flutes while other woodwinds, strings and timpani play staccato “up‐down” pattern and clarinets double that rhythm.
The trumpets come in with a melody that seems twice as slow as everything else.
Music seems to build
|2:31||Music gets soft, strings play a staccato descending pattern as upper woodwinds punctuate the music with staccato accents|
|2:40||Piccolo has short melody as orchestration thins. then other instruments begin to enter, mainly staccato. the music builds in intensity and dynamic level until it ends abruptly. (actually, it leads into the next movement of the piece.|
The above listening guide may seem as confusing as the music, but it is only intended to help you gain some understanding into the elements of music. You probably noticed that there was no real “melody” that you can remember. This movement is but one example of Neoclassicism in the 20th century.
In discussing electronic music, we will be looking into the art music of that genre. Later in the book we will address popular electronic and digital music. The development of recording technology allowed composers to use the recording process as a new musical form. In the 1950s, musicians in Paris experimented with using magnetic tape to manipulate sounds, calling the medium musique concrète. This term was first used by composer Pierre Schaeffer in 1948. Edgard Varèse (1883-1965) was one composer widely known for exploring this style. He was born in Paris and studied music both there and in Berlin in the early 1900s. His early works were burned in a 1918 fire, shortly after which he moved to New York. Varèse formed the International Composers Guild in 1921 and began composing electronic compositions in 1953. His early music interests indicate that he attempted to produce works requiring recorded sound long before the technology was available. Many people followed Varèse’s music throughout his life, including Frank Zappa, who is said to have first listened to a record of Varèse’s music when Zappa was fifteen. Edgard Varèse Radio is available online with streaming samples of his work, including a sample of the innovative Poéme Électronique. We will listen to this work through the NAXOS database. You do not have to listen to all of it, but please listen to at least the first 4 minutes before you do the assignment below. You may want to hear this all the way through because, if nothing else, it is different.
EXAMPLE: Poéme Électronique. Varèse
DISCUSSION: - What do you think about this electronic work as music? Please post a few sentences about what you think it means, or why you think it is, or is not music. ALSO – please reply to at least 1 post.
Other electronic developments in music included the invention of the synthesizer and Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI). Music and instrumental sounds could be created using a computer, allowing composers to control every part of a musical piece by programming the note lengths, dynamics, pitches, and other features into the equipment. Melody, harmony, and texture, as have been presented in this course, do not occur in most electronic compositions the same way they have in music of past centuries. Instead, the tones and sounds are treated as elements to be manipulated and serve as the building blocks of an electronic composition. Pierre Boulez, Arthur Honegger, Lejaren Hiller, and Karlheinz Stockhausen are some noteworthy composers of electronic music.
The 20th century witnessed more changes in society in the first half century than people had seen in the previous 500 years. For centuries travel was limited, for most people, to horses and carriages, but inventions like the automobile and the airplane changed life forever and rockets have carried men to the moon and returned them safely. Two world wars unleashed destruction unlike anything humans had ever seen, culminating in the detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan. The rise of America as a democracy was answered in Europe by the rise of socialism that led men with dictatorial powers to kill millions of their own people.
The invention of the record player, radio, and film projector meant that people were able to enjoy music without going to live performances. This made music available to almost everyone. Composers of the 20th century took music in different directions creating new genres of art music. Some composers began to write without regard to form and some without regard to the tonal practices of the past. We discussed four of these styles.
French Impressionism, which was developed in large part by Claude Debussy, centered on creating moods in the music that were the result of the composer’s feelings about people, places or things. Melodies were not an important aspect of the music and any melodies that did occur were the result of the composer’s feelings. Expressionism, as in the music of Arnold Schoenberg, took music totally away from the tonal practices of the past and created music where every pitch was equal. Neoclassicism, as found in the music of Stravinsky, was the movement to try and return to the classic characteristics of balance, form, clarity, and emotional restraint. Electronic music opened the door to another realm of creating music that required only a few performers, or even 1. There were other directions that music took during this time; however, for this text, this is as far as we will go.