Twentieth Century Classical Music Essay

Twentieth Century Classical Music Essay

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The Twentieth Century saw many rapid changes in society with the industrial revolution, rise of capitalism, women’s suffrage, challenging of religious concepts and World Wars. These changes led to people questioning everything they had known, including music. The questions asked led many composers into developing experimental ideas that were radical and unusual which gave rise to the Modernism era of music.
The earliest modernist movement is referred to as Impressionism. Closer to symbolism, impressionism is music that suggests and creates an atmosphere for listeners to come up with their own interpretation. A famous impressionism work is Three Nocturnes (1899) by composer Claude Debussy. Inspired by artist James Whistler, Debussy sought to use music to show the fluidity and mystery of light. (Nocturnes) The first of the nocturnes is titled “Clouds” and suggests relaxing while watching the clouds pass by. The piece introduces new ideas as it is played to the pentatonic scale, which is just the five black keys of the chromatic scale. While seeming to be in sonata form of ABA’ , the exposition (A) contains the entire form of aba and the recapitulation (A’) does not contain the full sequence. The English horn motive returns several times but the cloud sequence remains the theme of the piece. The cloud theme is repeated over and over at different pitches and instruments but is still unchanged in base form. Soft and restrained the composition accomplishes its purpose of invoking an image of a peaceful evening watching the clouds go by. The refinement of Debussy created another modernist movement called primitivism. (Kerman)
Primitivism is the unrestrained expression of pre-technological cultures. (Blood) The cultures were seen as be...


... middle of paper ...


...tely write a piece of music that sounds ugly. Musicians feel the need to invent new sounds and forms, creating new techniques. While the avant-garde music may only appeal to a few, when they are added to old techniques, new music that delights all audiences is born.



Works Cited

Blood, Brian. "Music of the 19th Century." Dolmetsch Online - Music Theory Online. Dolmetsch Organisation, 06 Sept. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
Kerman, Joseph, and Gary Tomlinson. Listen. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. CD.
Kerman, Joseph, and Gary Tomlinson. Listen. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. Print.
"Nocturnes." LA Phil. Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
Taylor, Rebecca. "A Comparison of the Approaches of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern to Serialism in Their Music." MusicTeachers.co.uk (2002): 2-4. Resources. MusicTeachers.co.uk, 2002. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

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