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Jan 19, 2022 · In this article, we have come up with a brief timeline of computers that would be helpful in knowing how this extraordinary device has evolved during the last century. Let’s take a look! 1931: Vannevar Bush invented and built the Differential Analyzer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was the first originally large-scale ...
- Transitioning from The Romantic Period
- 20th Century Movements
- War and Political Upheaval
- Jazz and Ethnic Folk Influences
- Minimalism and Use of Electronics and Technology
- Aleatoric Music and Experimentalism
- Classical Music in The 21st Century
The 20th century period of music, as its name suggests, began around 1900. It is the last of the six periods of classical music erasand comes after the romantic era that ended around 1910AD. 1. Medieval era(500-1400AD) 2. Renaissance era(1400-1600AD) 3. Baroque era(1600-1750AD) 4. Classical era(1730-1820AD) 5. Romantic era(1800-1910AD) 6. 20th Century era (1900-Present) By the end of the Romantic period, classical music had reached something of a turning point, with many conventions and structures having essentially remained in place since the Baroque era of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Composers began to reject these traditions in different ways in the 20th Century, creating a broad range of totally new and often radical music. As a result, there is no regonisable unified sound to the music of this period, and it is, in general, much more stylistically divergent than the preceding eras of Western art music.
As we mentioned earlier, the 20th century isn’t made up of one style but actually several different movements that were popular with different composers and at different points throughout the 20th century. Below, we’ll take a look at some of these movements and the composers that lead the way in developing them.
With two World Wars, the 20th Century was a time of major social and political change, and it was inevitable that this would have an impact upon the arts. Working in Stalinist Russia, Dmitri Shostakovich was forced to scale back his modernism in favour of a more populist, Romantic-inspired style in his symphonic works that was acceptable to the authorities, yet which remained highly creative, while his chamber works display more overtly modernist characteristics. Perhaps partly in response to the trauma of the First World War, the interwar years saw a return to more ordered art in general, with a focus on structure and emotional restraint. In music this was manifested in Neoclassicism, a movement that took influence from the Classical period. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Sergei Prokofiev’s Classical Symphonyexemplify this as pieces that put a 20th Century twist on the stylings of 17th and 18th Century music. Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshimaby Kr...
Jazz, which was created by African Americans, was arguably the biggest musical development of the 20th Century. The USA was now a force to be reckoned with in the world of classical composition for the first time, and a number of American composers looked towards the artform for inspiration, including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and George Gerswhin. The latter’s Rhapsody in Bluebegins with an instantly recognisable clarinet glissando and makes frequent use of the blues scale: Non-American composers also took inspiration from jazz: Frenchman Darius Milhaud’s La Création du mondewas inspired by the music he heard in Harlem, New York, while Englishman Malcolm Arnold composed a concerto for swing clarinettist Benny Goodman. Composers also continued to incorporate their native folk music in their work, which was a tradition that began in the Romantic period. Béla Bartók collected Hungarian folk tunes, which provided inspiration for his own work, while Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote an...
Starting in the 1960s, the minimalist school focused on using minimal musical material and making use of repetitive patterns, loops and electronic techniques, reflecting technological advances of the day. This music was generally more consonant-sounding and less overtly challenging than the modernist school, and composers like Phillip Glass and Steve Reich became incredibly popular: Musique concretealso utilised electronics. By taking recorded sounds – of instruments, the human voice or the natural environment, for example – composers like Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen would manipulate these raw materials and turn them into sort of musical collages.
As the 20th Century continued, people came up with various inventive ways of challenging the very meaning of composition. Aleatoric music is music in which some element of the composition is left to chance. Often this means that the performer gets to determine how part of the piece should be played, perhaps with a freely improvised section. Henry Cowell’sMosaic Quartetallows the players to play fragments of the music in various different sequences, meaning that the piece can sound different each time it is performed. American composer John Cage used aleatoric elements in his music, in addition to a pioneering approach to instrumentation. He made use of a prepared piano, which has objects placed on or between the strings to alter its sound, often making it more percussive. Meanwhile, his 4’33” – in which the performers do nothing except be present for four minutes and 33 seconds, meaning that the piece is actually composed of the sounds and atmosphere in the environment – is one of t...
Important classical music continues to be made in the present day in a range of styles. The internet has made music more accessible, making it easier for sub-genres to cross-pollinate and influence each other more easily. Music and notation software have also revolutionised the ways in which we make music. Film music has become incredibly popular as an artform, and composers like John Williams and Hans Zimmer have helped bring classical-influenced music to a wider audience.
So that concludes our look at the classical music of the 20th Century. We have learned about impressionism, modernism, minimalism and aleatory, and about how war, politics and technology influenced music, as composers tore up the rules that were established in previous centuries. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about and listening to some of this radical and hugely varied music.
- What happened on 28th June 1914? Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Duchess Sophie, were shot dead by a Bosnian Serb nationalist named Gavrillo Princip in Sarajevo.
- What triggered Britain's entry into the First World War? Germany invaded Belgium. After Germany declared war on France, they sought to invade it through neutral Belgium.
- In the years before World War I, two major alliances formed in Europe - the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. Which group of countries formed the Entente?
- In both world wars Germany used their U-Boats (submarines) to attack ships heading for Britain. What was the ultimate result of this in 1917? The USA declared war on Germany.