Music Innovations for the 20th Century

There are two kinds of music progression in the 20th century. The first are those that are fully embittered with the persisting relevant methods and traditions of the past, to which music composers then seek to go against it and replace with something fresh and untraditional. While the second progressions are that who remain with the past tradition yet seeks to reinterpret it creating a fresh context. To understand well, the works of some of the greatest musicians will be discussed based from their style of music being an innovation of this new era.

The Neo-Romanticism music inspired Jean Sibelius in his theme of restoring traditional melodies and harmonies making a colorful style of emotional expression(James, 1989). His work is characterized of having an extended tonality and is freely chromatic overall which is present in “opus 63, The Symphony NO. 4 in A minor”. The music is composed of four movements, these are; (1) Tempo molto moderato quasi adagio, (2) Allegro molto vivace, (3) 2 Tempo largo, and (4) Allegro. Sibelius came out with this work by reversing the classical positions from the second and third movements by interchanging the slow movement to the third.

He did not start the symphony with the traditionally fast pacing but instead a slow movement. The melody and harmony from the piece is dominated by tritone interval which is far different from the Third Symphony. It immediately states a dark phrase for the cellos, bassoons and with the double bass that “rises the C-D-F-E over a hard unison C”(). Themes of the piece are mostly tritone in structure. On its finale, there is a vast harmonic rising tension causing a collision in A minor and E flat major keys. Adding more, there is also a bitonal smash in the recapitulation of the finale between keys A and E leading to a tonal chaos to its coda.

Adversary notes C, A, E and F individually strives for pre-eminence through a series of drudging dissonances with a lot of clashes in major and minor thirds. The glockenspiel should hail the transitory launch of A major but on its ending, the contention of C naturally force the movements setting off the symphony to end in an austere A minor. For Anton Webern, his works is from tonality breakdown. As a product of the famous musician teacher Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the well known advocator of the twelve-tone technique.

The innovation in schematic formulation of vibrant pitch, rhythm and dynamics conveyed a “serialism” style of his music. Through this, he became member of the “Second Viennese School”. Webern’s distinguishing work was availing with canons that are traditional compositional techniques. This guided him in the formation of “the Concerto” that expresses a modern language of harmony and melody. The Concerto comprises a flute, oboe, horn, clarinet, trumpet, viola, violin and piano making the opus 24 of 1934. His work with this opus number contributed to the occasionally performed pieces of today’s music(Bailey, 1991).

The tone rows of the piece are regularly arranged to benefit from the internal symmetries. Elaborating it, “a twelve-tone row may be divisible into four groups of three pitches which are variations, such as inversions and retrogrades, of each other, thus creating invariance”(Bailey, 1991). From this, it impress Webern’s work of having a “motive unity” yet incomprehensible with the melodic lines fragmentation to which the fragmentation crop up with an octave displacement and by Klangfarbenmelodie -the line rapidly moves from one instrument to another.

Igor Stravinsky quoted Webern saying, “Doomed to total failure in a deaf world of ignorance and indifference, he inexorably kept on cutting out his diamonds, his dazzling diamonds, of whose mines he had a perfect knowledge”(White, 1979). Claude Debussy is considered the foremost figure when it comes to Impressionist music, one of the best French composer and main figure of the 20th century European music. The approach of music defines virtually the conversion of late-Romantic music to modernist music to which literary French circles claim the style as period of Symbolism.

This is a form of movement which directly aroused Debussy to be both a composer as well as an active cultural accomplice. Debussy’s work showing the style is evident in the 10 minute long orchestra entitled, “Prelude to the Afternoon of Faun” ( in French, Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune). This was inspired from Stephane Mallarme poem L’Apres-midi d’un faune and later became the origin for a ballet. This composition is considered to be the turning point in music history that awakened the modern music to which, “the flute of the faun brought new breath to the art of music” (Huge, 2007).

A work which hardly grasps into tonality or harmonic purpose. The music from the prelude shows a free illustration of Mallaeme’s poem which by no means, it does not claim to be a synthesis from it. Instead, presence of succession of scenes that passes the fauns’ desires and dreams in the afternoon heat. Subsequently, exhausted from pursuing the timid flights of naiads and nymphs, he submits to an intoxicating sleep, where in he finally realized his dream in universal nature possession(Huge, 2007). The opening flute part in the orchestra showed qualities of musical modernism.

The change from chromatic descent to tritone which is below from the original pitch and successive ascent forms it. This was called prelude because he intends to write a 3 movement’s suite (Prelude, Interlude and Final Paraphrase) yet the Prelude was the only part accomplished. So then, the piece is widely known to which its fame spread throughout Europe. The works soon have been a prototype of different music in impressionist style. Neo-classicism music goes synonymous with the name Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky.

He reintroduced compositions of balanced forms and noticeably views early thematic styles to change the late Romanticism over-embellished gesticulation and lack of music form. His compositional career was notable to be of stylistic diversity which is evident to his score in “The Rite of Spring”. This piece transformed the consequent thoughts of composers regarding rhythmic structures. The revelation of pagan rituals ratifies an ancient imaginary Russia which continues to dazzle and surmount audiences. This musical work had a powerful influence that it even induced too much controversy and provoked a riot too.

Many claim it to be scandalous since aside from the outrageous costumes, it contains extraordinary choreography and bizarre account of the pagan sacrifice. Stravinsky intended to test the audience patience to the fullest as his decisive musical innovation. Furthermore, the neo-classicist shown in the piece rejects the structural tonal scheme seen in true musical classics and as substitute, it uses the lingering tonality, modality or even atonality. The term ‘neo’ simply implies the deviation of traits from “true classical music”(White, 1979).

The overall idea is an unswerving result of the anti-romanticism movement as an endeavor to treat and control ways of expressionism. For Luciano Berio, his theme is providing simple and reliable methods of recording and composing music through electronic device. His electronic music provides a rich sound exploiting even remarkable sound characteristics. The voices and orchestra from Sinfonia and “O King” are his amazing compositions showing a modern masterpiece that marks it as an innovation, postmodern imitation, and intellectual experimentation and for popular convenience.

This piece pioneered in technological assembled style of music. The section in “O King” is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. , which is incorporated to the Sinfonia. This is a workout in “rotating pitch cycles” to which the phonemes makes up King’s name and are then vocalized in a rotating order fixed in F and A containing dissimilar selection of notes prolonging each cycle. The outcome is a peculiar “harmonic cloud, oscillating between two whole-tones areas, all of which means that it sound pretty spooky”(Osmond, 1991).

Instigating with horns that sharply blare, the voices assemble in soothing yet eerie waves from the other worldly admiration, conveying to Ligeti’s Requiem mind. The syllables hover above the stratum of shimmering music, “piling up like clouds of incense with frequent spikes of brass and piano shooting through the haze like needles”(Blood, 1997). When his full name is finally spoken, a hesitant drum roll underpins the voices, bringing everything just to the edge of an uncomfortable tension—a bizarre mass fraught with the potential for violence(Osmond, 1991).

Minimalism is the one that lingers to John Coolidge Adams. This repetitive music style was developed in America during the 1960’s but this could be traced back to medieval times from the phrases of liturgy choral, from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and other works of Webern. The Chairman Dances, subtitled “Foxtrot for Orchestra” is Adams known minimalism piece lasting for around 13 minutes. It was composed in commission with the Milwaukee Symphony describing it as an “out take” of the Act III opera that his been working in Nixon China.

The piece integrates numerous dance-like tunes but it should eminent that word “dances” from the title be taken as a verb instead of s noun. This intends to depict Madame Mao “gate crashing a presidential banquet, hanging paper lanterns, and performing a seductive dance”(J. Oteri, 2000). He renders the Chairman Mao to descend from the portrait, and then the two makes a foxtrot dance, together back in time. The orchestra ends with a gramophone sound that windless down.


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