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The 20th Century
Transcript of The 20th Century
Modernism: Shock of the New
A phenomenon that affected music, art, and literature in the 20th century. Not a style itself, but an attitude that gave rise to a variety of important styles and movements.
"Creators must look straight ahead." -Pierre Boulez
Modernism in music meant the abandonment of conventional form and
tonality. Tonality was not lost, only presented non-traditionally.
Some of these stylistic movements are as follows: impressionism,
primitivism, neoclassicism, minimalism, serialism, aleatoric music.
Modernism sought to erase all links to the past-as we all know this is impossible-however, stronger distinctions separated the 'old from the 'new.'
Some World Events:
Wars, revolutions, and international conflicts dominated the century.
World War I-1914-1918-Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations.
Mid 1920s-most of the world entered an economic depression.
Early 1930s-economic uncertainty in Germany led to Adolf Hitler's rise to power.
The United States plummeted into the Great Depression after experiencing an economic boom in the 1920s. In 1932-one-third of America's workforce was unemployed.
World War II-1939-1945-the bloodiest conflict in history-50 million dead-The Holocaust.
1948: Cold War 1950-53: Korean War 1964-1973: Vietnam War
On a good note:
1964-1965: Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.
1969: American astronauts land on the moon.
1990s: Internet introduced to broad public!!
Social and Technological Advances:
1903: Orville and Wilbur Wright achieve the first machine-powered controlled flight.
1908: Henry Ford's motor company starts mass-producing the
The Wright brothers
Film: 1891-Thomas Edison developed the first moving picture. "Talkies" arrived in 1927, major feature films in color produced in the 1930s.
The Radio was invented by Guglielmo Marconi in 1894. In 2000, there were 10,300 commercial radio stations.
1927: Television was invented. 1981: the personal computer became a common amenity.
Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, T. S.
Eliot, Samuel Beckett, Aldous Huxley,
George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison,
Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes...
The first practical sound recording was created by Thomas Edison in 1877 of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Up until the late 19th century, music had always functioned as a social art-the performing and listening experience was shared.
The phonograph and other recording technology changed the way music was produced and consumed.
This evolution turned music into an increasingly less social experience-music became a passive experience.
Some felt that new sound technology and the absence of a performer robbed music of its emotional and expressive power.
Others embraced these advances in sound: pianist Glen Gould argues that he "could better serve music in a recording studio than in a concert hall."
Either way, the distinction between live and recorded music became less clear especially during the last few decades of the 20th century.
Recording technology was an unprecedented force for the reproduction and dissemination of music.
Music played a vital role in the ongoing struggle for racial justice, particularly in the United States. Ragtime, jazz, and rock are genres that all overcame resistance.
Texture: simple or extremely complex
Melody: non-diatonic scales-whole-tone, pentatonic
Instrumentation: electronic production of sound expanded timbre-electric guitar, synthesizer, and the computer.
We will focus on four stylistic movements and composers from each...
Impressionism: blurring of distinct harmonies, rhythms, and forms. "Masses of sound."
Claude Debussy was one of the most prominent impressionists, even though he hated the term and referred to anyone who used it as an imbecile!
Claude Monet-Impression: Sunrise
Primitivism: elevation of rhythm to a level of unprecedented
importance. It was largely a rejection of traditional norms.
Pablo Picasso-Self Portrait 1907
Igor Stravinsky composed within the style of primitivism
as well as neoclassicism and serialism.
Neoclassicism: counterreaction to aforementioned styles, along with serialism. A return to past music and tradition.
Bela Bartok, Aaron Copland, and Duke Ellington composed in this style.
lack of a tonal center-notes are transposed into a series of rows.
Arnold Schoenberg was the master mind behind these weird combinations of sound.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
" I love music passionately, and because I love it I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it. It is a free art, gushing forth-an open-air art, an art boundless as the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea! "
Born Achille-Claude Debussy in St. Germain-en-Laye, Paris on August 22, 1862 into a poor family of farmers.
After moving to Paris, Debussy studied with Maute de Fleurville-a former student of Chopin.
1873-At age 11 Debussy was accepted into the Paris Conservatory.
1884-After winning the Grand Prix de Rome and moving there,
Debussy became influenced by Wagner.
1887-Moved back to Paris and lived a life of a starving-artist. He met Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Stephane Mallarme. Their poetry became the basis and inspiration of much of Debussy's work.
"There is no theory. You merely have to listen. Pleasure is the law."
Besides being influenced by Wagner and French poets, Debussy was overtaken by non-western music and instruments.
Debussy made two visits to Bayreuth-Wagner music festivals-in 1888 and 1889. Though he rejected Wagner later in life, referring to him as "the old poisoner," Debussy's music explodes with Wagnerian influence.
After attending the Paris Exposition in 1889, Debussy became entranced by the Javanese gamelan and other non-western sounds.
In 1894 Debussy finished composing "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun)." This is considered his first great work.
This piece is based on a poem by Mallarme.
It premiered in 1894 and was played horribly! However, the prelude still managed to spark an impression.
The music displays harmonic ambiguity, flexible tonality, fluid melodies, and a dreamy atmosphere of sound.
Leonard Bernstein analysis
Debussy's opera Pelleas et Melisande premiered in 1902 and by 1905 he was world famous.
The success of the opera created a cult of followers known as, Debussyme.
Excerpt from Act III
1906-1908: Debussy dedicated "Children's Corner" to his daughter Claude-Emma, who was named after him and his wife Emma.
This collection of works, as well as other pieces were recorded on piano rolls, to be played on a mechanical Welte Mignon player piano.
Perhaps the greatest masterpiece of musical Impressionism is "La Mer (1903-05),"and the closest Debussy came to writing a symphony.
Each movement captured the energy of the ocean:
I. From Dawn to Noon at Sea II. Play of the Waves III. Dialogue of the Wind and Sea
1910: Debussy became a victim of cancer and died in 1918 during a German invasion of Paris. Due to the war, Debussy's death was unnoticed.
Charles Ives (1874-1954)
"Music does not represent life, it is life."
Born in Danbury, Connecticut on October 20, 1874.
Ives was musically trained by his father-who had hoped he would become a concert pianist!
"Variations on America" was written when Ives was 17 and was inspired by the training he received.
After studying music at Yale, Ives decided not to pursue a career in music. Since he did not intend to "starve on dissonances," he became an insurance man in NYC.
Ives composed steadily, while founding the most successful insurance company in the country-Ives & Myrick-and married Harmony Twichell in 1908.
Besides becoming one of the most influential American composers, Ives is known as a pioneer in the insurance business.
"The Unanswered Question"
Composed in 1906, and remains Ives' most important work.
Three independent groups of music in one- the strings represent
"the Silences of the Druids," (the silence of the universe), the
trumpet intones the "Perennial Question of Existence," and the
woodwinds (flutes and other people) are the "Fighting Answerers."
The strings consist of mysterious, slow tonal chords. The trumpet-the questioner-is portrayed by an indefinite tonality, while the woodwinds become increasingly atonal and dissonant as their frustration grows.
"The Unanswered Question"
This work reflects the philosophy that some questions are unanswerable...
"The impossibilities of today are the possibilities of tomorrow"
Most of Ives' compositions were considered unplayable-he once referred to one of his chaotic performances as "a town meeting-every man for himself."
Ives disliked "pretty sounds," and would often recreate the sounds around him-nature, city-life, the country. He figured, this is life, so why shouldn't music sound like people and the world?
Ives composed symphonies, sonatas, and about 114 songs.
Some of these songs are: "Central Park in the Dark," "General William Booth
Enters into Heaven," and "The Cage."
In 1918 Ives suffered a heart attack and never fully recovered.
He sent out copies of his music in the 1920s and performances began to appear in the 1930s, however, Ives did not care for public recognition, since he was writing the sounds of his life.
Charles Ives died on May 19, 1954 in New York City and was called by many as the greatest American composer.
Ives and his wife, Harmony are buried together.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
"The 'world's greatest living composer will end up living more for what he did to music rather than for what his music did for the majority of his listeners."
Born on June 17, 1882 in St. Petersburg, Russia into a musical family.
Despite Stravinsky's talent, his family insisted on a career in law.
1902: Stravinsky met Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and began to study intensively with him. That was the end of law school!
After Rimsky-Korsakov died in 1908, Stravinsky did not have another teacher, but became quite famous a few years later.
Stravinsky was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev to compose a piece for the Ballet Russes. "Firebird" became an overnight success.
Premiered in Paris, 1910 and made the 28 year old composer famous overnight!
According to Debussy: "It is not a perfect piece, but from certain aspects it is nevertheless very fine, for here the music is not the docile servant of the dance."
This piece led to the composition of Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring" (1913).
"Le Sacre du Printemps" (The Rite of Spring)
Stravinsky talks about music creation, God and his life
The premiere on May 29, 1913 resulted in a riot!
Laughter, catcalls, whistles, and fights blurred the music.
Stravinsky was unprepared for the explosive crowd.
Who wrote this fiendish Rite of Spring
What right had he to write the thing,
Against our helpless ears to fling,
It's crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang,
Despite the eventful premiere, "The Rite of Spring"was ahead of its time. Primitive rhythms, metrical shifts, and
shattering force displaced itself from the audience at the time, but it is now considered an important part of ballet repertoire.
Stravinsky outdid himself for the last time with "Rite of Spring." He would never compose a piece like it again.
He experimented with every form of music during his time and lived all over the world. Stravinsky was displaced during WWII and lived between California and NYC for the remainder of his long life.
Stravinsky died in New York on April 6, 1971 and was buried
in Venice near Diaghilev.
In music, he will be forever known as the symbol of progressiveness.
Bela Bartok (1881-1945)
"My own idea-which I have been fully conscious since I found myself as a composer-is the brotherhood of peoples...I try-to the best of my ability-to serve this idea in my music."
Born on March 25, 1881 in the town of Nagyszentmiklos, Transylvania.
Music became Bartok's refuge at a young age-he was a sickly child.
Bartok's public debut as pianist and composer was made at age ten.
1904: Bartok became entranced with Hungarian "Gypsy" folk melodies and began to collect these songs for years. Thousands of melodies were published and it remains one of the most important works of ethnomusicology.
Bartok was not the first ethnomusicologist-the study of world music and culture through fieldwork-but he is one of the most significant.
Ethnomusicologist, Francis Densmore recording
"Those days I spent in the villages among peasants were the happiest of my life."
The folk music Bartok was preserving also served as a musical awakening and a breaking away from past influences.
These folk melodies pushed Bartok in the direction of primitivism dissonance, and chromaticism.
Second String Quartet 1915
Bluebeard's Castle 1911
Bartok was displaced because of WWII-like many other European composers-and he would spend the last five years of his life in the U.S.
His most important work, "Concerto for Orchestra" was composed in 1943. Before Bartok's genius aroused the American public, he died.
Bartok died of leukemia on September 26, 1945
His wife, Ditta was devastated and could not hear his music for nearly twenty years.
Bartok is an invaluable part of the 20th century and the then burgeoning field of ethnomusicology.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
"I think Schoenberg would do better to shovel snow than scribble on music paper." -Richard Strauss
Born in Vienna on September 13, 1874 and was raised an Orthodox Jew.
Schoenberg was determined to become a composer in his youth.
He began as a Romanticist, but by 1900 Schoenberg's music was protested!
From this point on, "the scandal never stopped."
Schoenberg's music entered the realm of atonality: "I already feel the opposition that I shall overcome. It is not lack of invention or of technical skill that has urged me in this direction. I am following an inner compulsion that is stronger than education."
"I am a conservative who was forced to become a radical"
Schoenberg disliked the term "atonal," and preferred "pantonal."
Atonal music avoids key and tonal centers. Schoenberg called
it "the emancipation of dissonance."
He replaced the seven-tone scales with all twelve tones of
the chromatic scale.
An early example of this new expression was a collection of 21 songs for soprano and chamber ensemble from 1912-"Pierrot Lunaire."
By the 1920s, Schoenberg fully developed his twelve-tone method.
The organizational system of a "row" was realized in a matrix.
The result of this method influenced many and turned away many more!
The movement known as serialism, which heightened the original method, became known as a branch of mathematics.
After being persecuted by the Nazis, Schoenberg emigrated to the U.S. and taught in Boston. Besides his pupils Anton Webern and Alban Berg, Schoenberg taught John Cage and became friends with George Gershwin.
He died in Los Angeles on July, 13 1951. To this day, his "scandal" remains.