Modern Music, 1900-1950 By Michelle Miller. Chapter 8. Modern Music. The twentieth century is sometimes referred to as the era of “isms.”
Modern Music • The twentieth century is sometimes referred to as the era of “isms.” • Music of this time included dissonance, complex new rhythmic elements, the use of polytonality, electronic instruments, and the introduction of random chance elements. • Most recent developments include Abstract Expressionism, Post Modernism, Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Neo-Romanticism, and Eclecticism. • Most composers wrote their own style of music not caring what the audience thought about it.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) • Lived in Paris • In 1913 he unleashed a ballet “La Sacre du Printempts” (The Rite of Spring). • In this piece he added a new sense of primitive rhythmic intensity, which, when added to the erotic intensity of the dance, caused a controversy at the premiere.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) cont • The plot line follows the abduction of a young girl who is eventually forced to literally dance herself to death. • The ballet is presented in two large sections titled The Adoration of the Earth and The Sacrifice. (CD 3 Track 7) • Stravinsky asks various parts of the orchestra to play music in two or more different key centers at the same time, a technique called polytonality. • Almost every wind instrument has complex solo moments at some point.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) cont • Neo-Classical refers to the reduced size and/or instrumental make-up of a chosen ensemble, a return to the use of simpler formal structures, consciously altered melodic and/or harmonic concepts, or any combination of the above elements. • Stravinsky was never content to keep writing works in exactly the same style, and thus Neo-Classical applies to varying degrees, depending on the composition.
Arch Form can be thought of as a five- or seven-part rondo where the thematic order has been altered to form an arch, for example A-B-C-B-A or A-B-C-D-C-B-A. • This was used by Bela Bartok (1881-1945). • Nationalism also became a prominent technique of the twentieth century music.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) • One of his most famous ballets is Rodeo, which tells the story of a cowgirl trying to capture the fancy of the head wrangler. • None of the cowboys notice her until she shows up at the end wearing “girl clothes” instead of the other western outfits. • Copland adapted the ballet into a four movement symphonic suite: Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne, Saturday Night Waltz, and Hoe Down. • In the piece Copland uses western folk tunes for melodic themes as well as new material to capture the “western” feel.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) • Hoe Down: (CD 4 Track 6) • Simple A-B-A formal structure • Has a theme based on an old square dance tune Bonaparte’s Retreat (A) • Copland plays the melody, writes a variation of that melody, then returns to the original melody. • The trumpets introduce the B theme.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) • As Schoenberg incorporated more Expressionism into his music, his compositions became increasingly dissonant, with thinner textures and a harsher overall sound. • He wrote the chamber work Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Parrot). In this composition he said “The colors meant everything, the notes nothing at all.” • Every detail was meant to convey inner thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) cont • In other works he used the 12-tone method, which is a completely different system of musical organization also known as serialism. • It is based on mathematical formulas, with complete disregard for the old ideas of consonance and dissonance.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) cont • Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Parrot): (CD 4 Track 7) • Written in 1912 • Contains 21 movements • Avoids any strong sense of a tonal center or harmonic focal point. • Schoenberg uses a new half-speaking, half-singing technique called Sprechstimme. • This movement is about a clown, Pierrot, who tries to rub a white spot off his black clothing, but its actually moonlight shining on his clothing. • From the mid-point of the movement to the end is an exact mirror; the instrumental parts form a palindrome, meaning they are the same forwards and backwards.