Ch. 19: Music and Modernism-Introduction to 20th Century Art
Ch. 20: The Twentieth Century: Early Modernism
Ch. 21: Alternatives to Modernism (Twentieth Century Traditionalism)
Ch. 22: The Late 20th Century (skipping this chapter)
Ch. 19: Music and Modernism-Introduction to 20th Century Art Music
Music in the 20th century becomes extremely diversified, and includes a great variety of art and popular styles of music
In art music, no one style predominates, thus we don’t have a single name for this period like we do in earlier periods such as “Romantic” or “Classical” or “Baroque.”
Some important styles of 20th Century Art Music include:
What brought about such a wide variety of styles?
Keywords: technology and scholarship
Scholarship: the study of older types of European art music (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque), folk music, American jazz, and non-Western music
Technology: access to the sounds of many of the types of music mentioned above through recordings , radio, and better transportation
Composers of Western art music became familiar with the sounds of many diverse styles of music thanks to scholarship and technology and began incorporating these styles into their music
Other key ideas
Key ideas: breaking with tradition and individualism
Composers began making radical experiments with melody, harmony, and rhythm, sometimes breaking with tradition so sharply that the public rejected their music
The tendency in the 1800s to have one’s own unique style of writing music is further intensified in the 1900s to the point where every composer’s music sounded radically different and even each piece of music by a particular composer might sound radically different
Rejection of traditional harmony
Many composers of 20th century art music rejected the traditional rules of harmony, which is found in European art music prior to about 1900, and is still found in jazz and popular music of today; in other words Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, The Beatles, and Britany Spears all follow the the traditional rules of Western harmony in their music for the most part
The traditional rules of harmony included organizing music around a central pitch called the tonic, the tendency of the dominant triad (built on the 5th tone of the scale) to move to the tonic triad (built on the 1st tone of the scale), the resolution of dissonance to consonance, the use of major and minor scales, etc.
Composers came up with all sorts of new, radical, experimental ways of organizing tones in their music, including much freer use of dissonant tone combinations
Some of these new, experimental techniques included writing music in more than one key at the same time (called “polytonality”) or completely rejecting the idea of a central pitch (“atonality”)
Ex. 1 This is the song America played in two keys at the
same time. We call this "polytonality." It gives the
music a somewhat harsh, dissonant sound.
Click on music to play
As a result of these new, radical approaches, composers of Western art music lost much of their middle class audiences
United States as a musical center
Major problems in Europe, such as two world wars and the rise of fascism and communism, caused many people to flee to the United States for safety
Those who fled included many famous musicians; as a result the United States has become an important musical center in the 20th century
American universities have become an important patron of the arts in the 20th century, replacing the courts and church of earlier times
American jazz and popular music has had a strong influence on the rest of the world
The first important musical style of the 20th century, called “Impressionism,” began as a new style in music in France during the 1890s, but actually first started as a new style in the visual arts (specifically painting) during the 1870s in France
The two most important French Impressionist composers were Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
The music of Debussy and Ravel is still admired and enjoyed by many today
Impressionism in the visual arts
Impressionism in painting began in the 1870s when French painters began breaking with traditional style
Several French painters, including Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir exhibited their works in Paris in 1874
One of the works by Monet was entitled Impression: Sunrise
An art critic who didn’t like these artists new, experimental approach called the show “the exhibition of the impressionists” and the label “impressionist” stuck
Why didn’t art critics like this new type of art at first?
Art critics of the day didn’t like the fact that these “Impressionist” artists avoided the fine lines and clear details of traditional art
Instead, “Impressionist” artists try to create a colorful, dream-like, misty atmosphere by using formless collections of tiny colored patches which only become recognizable as something when you step back and take in the entire painting as a whole
Today, Impressionist art is widely admired and enjoyed and it often depicts the joys of life and the beauty of nature (often water is involved)
Ch. 20: The Twentieth Century: Early Modernism
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Claude Debussy was a French composer who liked French Impressionist art; in the 1890s he decided he wanted to do something similar in music
Debussy’s music seems to have the same shimmering colors and dream-like, misty atmospheres, and fluidity (something not quite solid) as Impressionist art
How did Debussy make his music sound this way?
No strong beat or meter, making the music sound like it is floating
Uses softer dynamics for the most part
Frequent and subtle changes in tone colors; he rarely uses the full orchestra, instead he frequently shifts between instruments, often using soloists accompanied by the strings making the music seem like it is changing colors
Melodies are often brief and fragmentary
Avoids the clear, traditional forms, such as sonata form
Breaks the traditional rules of harmony
How does Debussy break the traditional rules of harmony?
Does not always resolve dissonance to consonance in the traditional manner
Uses many chords with four and five tones instead of the traditional triad
Ex. 2. This is an example of a series of five tone chords
(called 9th chords) in parallel motion, which Debussy often used
in his harmonies.
Click on music to play
Avoids the traditional dominant to tonic chord progression
Uses scales that do not have a strong central pitch (tonic) such as the church modes which he learned by studying Gregorian chant, the pentatonic scale which he learned from studying Asian music, and the whole tone scale, which he developed
Summary of Debussy’s music
Debussy breaks the traditional rules of music to make his music seem less clear and more colorful and “dream-like.”
Like Beethoven and Wagner, Debussy’s music had a strong influence on later composers
Debussy wrote music for orchestra and like Chopin, wrote a large number of piano miniatures
Debussy’s first important piece for orchestra in the new Impressionist style was a tone poem (piece for orchestra that tries to tell a story) called Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.
What will we hear as an example of Debussy?
Debussy, "Clouds" from Trois Nocturnes. This is an example of French impressionism and also an example of a symphonic poem, a single movement work for orchestra that tries to tell a story or describe an event, scene, or some idea. In this case, Debussy has in mind clouds floating through the sky.
Other important 20th century composers we will study
From Ch. 20
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). Stravinsky was a Russian composer, and is considered to be one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Stravinsky’s first important piece was the ballet The Firebird (1910). The Firebird is mainly written in a traditional Russian romantic/nationalist style. He then wrote another ballet, Petrushka (1911), which was somewhat more experimental and breaking with tradition. His third ballet, The Rite of Spring (1913), was so experimental and broke with tradition so sharply that it caused a riot to break out in the audience when it was first performed in Paris, France in 1913. The Rite of Spring is usually thought of as an example of a 20th century style called primitivism. Primitivism is art or music that tries to evoke the power of primitive/preliterate cultures. In the case of The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky had in mind a spring fertility ritual in ancient, pagan Russia in which a young girl dances herself to death in front of a circle of tribal elders. They are sacrificing her to the god of spring. Stravinsky makes the music sound strange, primitive, harsh, and hypnotic through the use of extremely dissonant harmonies; very heavy, percussive, repetitious rhythms; accents in odd places in the music; and fragmentary, repetitious melodies. Stravinsky uses an enormous orchestra of well over one hundred members for this piece. After about 1920, Stravinsky began writing music in neoclassical style.
Ch. 21: Alternatives to Modernism (Twentieth Century Traditionalism)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbl47eRdykl
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The other important
French impressionist composer was Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
Ravel’s style tended to be somewhat more traditional than
Debussy’s in terms of melody, harmony, form, and rhythm.
Ravel’s music often tends to have a more clearly felt beat,
clearer melodic lines with classically balanced phrase structure,
and more traditional harmonies with clearer tonal centers.
Like Debussy, Ravel was a master of subtle changes in tone colors
and also often used church modes rather than major or minor
scales. Ravel was fascinated with the music of Spain, and
some of his pieces have a Spanish flavor. Some of his most
famous pieces include Pavane pour
une infante defunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess-1899),
Bolero (1928), Alborada
del Gracioso (1905), Rhapsodie espagnole
Tombeau de Couperin (1914-17), and the ballet Daphnis
et Chloe (1909-1912). Ravel wrote music for orchestra,
as well as music for solo piano.
William Grant Still (1895-1978). Still is sometimes referred to as the “Dean of African-American composers.” He wrote over 150 compositions including symphonies, operas, tone poems, art songs, and ballets. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony of his own (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. Still was influenced by Debussy’s Impressionism and the ideals of nationalism, and the influence of the African-American folk song and spirituals is clearly evident in his work. Symphony No. 2 (“Song of a New Race”-1937), 1st movement and 4th movement.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Copland is the most famous
American composer of the 20th century. In the 1930s, he
wrote music that was very experimental and dissonant, but then he
became concerned that art music was becoming too difficult for
most people to understand, so he began writing music in a more
traditional style while still using some modern techniques of
writing harmonies. He wrote a series of ballets in this more
traditional style on American subjects (thus these ballets are
considered to be examples of 20th century American nationalism)
including Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo
(1942) and Appalachian
Spring (1944). Your book gives you one famous
example of Copland’s music, a section from the ballet Appalachian
Spring entitled “Simple Gifts.” For this section of
the ballet, Copland borrows the well-known Shaker melody “Simple
Gifts” (Shakers are a Christian sect who lived in the eastern
United States during the late 1700s and 1800s). He uses the
melody for a theme and variations format. The ballet is
supposed to tell the story of a pioneer family living in the
Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania in the early 1800s.