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Influential Composers Of Early 20th Century

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Influential Composers Of Early 20th Century

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Zoltan Kodaly, Edgar Varese, Igor Stravinsky.Three foreign-born composers whose output ranges from unobtrusively important to riot inducing works.They encompass music’s three principles: education, exploration, experimentation.

Deemed “Hungary’s greatest composer and music pedagogue” (Jeter) Zoltan Kodaly, was born December 16, 1882.As a child, Kodaly taught himself piano, violin, cello, and voice.Later, he pursued Composition/Education degrees at Budapest’s Academy of Music and, in 1905, collaborated with friend, Bela Bartok, to preserve folk songs, collecting roughly 100,000 in his lifetime.

Kodaly’s compositional reputation is one of moderation and consistency.His works are harmonically smooth, minimally contrapuntal, and, as Bartok described, “…the perfect embodiment of…Hungarian spirit” (www.bbc.co.uk)The orchestral suite from opera Hary Janos (the story of an imaginative soldier with no regard for reality) remains Kodaly’s most popular work.His Sonata for solo Cello is similarly regarded as “one of the great virtuoso instrumental pieces of the 20th century”

Kodaly primarily influenced education. Returning to Budapest’s Academy of Music as a professor, he committed himself to creating a musically literate society.He implemented daily music classes at primary school level, and composed choral exercises for children.Kodaly’s three-pronged approach—1) aural, 2) written, 3) read—taught children to sing in tune, improvise, and sight-sing impeccably.The method combined rhythm symbols, syllables, and hand signals.These hand positions provided singers with visual cues of pitches and tonal relationships.Kodaly also devised “solfege”—a way of simplifying music for beginners.Kodaly’s innovative methods became Hungary’s state policy after World War 2, eventually spreading worldwide.Today, Hungary’s Zoltan Kodaly Grammar School still pursues music literacy by providing children an outlet for intensive study (Jeter).

On December 22, 1883—several hundred miles from Hungary—French-born, Edgar Varese, welcomed life and a lifelong love affair with music.Percussion and woodwinds fascinated him, even during childhood.By age 11, he had composed an opera and imagined, one day, of transmuting the Zambesi River’s “turbulent movement into sound.” (www.bbc.co.uk)Varese’s father harbored hopes for his son to become an engineer, hopes which bred a violent father-son relationship.After a final fall-out with his father, Varese relocated to Paris to study with Charles Wilder.His most fruitful years of composition would occur in New York City, between 1920-1934.

Exploration was vital to Varese’s legacy. While traces of Stravinksy and Debussy are audible in Ameriques (his American debut composition for large orchestra), Varese attempted to go even farther afield.His music introduced “new fashions of attack…” (Ministere des Affaires) along with “slabs of monumental sound…juxtaposed [with] scraps of melody” (www.
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