th
20 Century
From Jazz & Blues to Rock & Pop,
Classical music was also developing,
Creating many …isms in music.
Nationalism
Impressionism
Serialism
Neo-Classicism….
Nationalism
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All over the world, composers
started to develop music from
their heartland as more and
more countries cried for
independence during the later
1800s.
Each composer expressed their
own country in their own style.
Some took folk tunes and
incorporated them into their
orchestral works.
In America, Copland used
cowboy songs in his pieces,
making it sound light hearted
and fun
In Russia, Shostakovich created
deeply powerful orchestral
music telling the story of Soviet
oppression in Russia.
Listen out for large orchestral sounds
or folk like melodies
Impressionist Music
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Whole Tone Scale – moving in tones
C
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D
E
F#
G#
A#
B
C
Debussy used lots of chromaticism as well as whole-tone.
Woodwind instruments were prominent
Painting a picture like the artists of that era e.g Monet
Clair De Lune- Debussy
Neo-Classicism
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This movement rejected the Romantic period and
combined modern instrumental groups and
harmonies but kept in Classical form.
Listen out for…
Strong rhythms
Small orchestras
Abrupt modulations
Deliberate wrong notes
Stravinsky
Mozart
Stravinsky
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Stravinsky is one of the most
famous 20th century
composers, particularly
because of his famous ballet –
‘The Rite of Spring’.
Study this work on the L&T
DVD and notice how he breaks
away from the Romantic age
and uses driving rhythms,
syncopation and clashing
dissonance to create a
powerful ritualistic work. All his
ideas are centred around very
few notes – think of how you
could accomplish similar
effects in your own
compositions!
Minimalism
Steve Reich
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Short repeated patterns played in
loops.
Ostinatos
layered rhythms
Delay & reverb
Heterophony
(layering of melodies,
also found in Indonesian
Gamelan)
Serialism
Makes use of the TONE ROW – all 12
semitones put into a particular order
 Sounds Atonal (no Key)
 Often for Solo piano but can be orchestral or
for any kind of groupings
 Listen to Webern and
Schoenberg
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6 Little Pieces~ Schoenberg
Tone Row
Can you create your own Tone Row?
Sprechgesang
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A technique used in vocal
music where the singer is
required to use the voice in an
expressive manner halfway
between singing and speaking.
Many of the best examples are
by Schoenberg from the start
of the twentieth century. Listen
to this example from his work
'Pierrot Lunaire‘ on the L&T
website
Another good example of 20th
vocal techniques including
Sprechgesang is Berio’s
Symphonia
Remember, the text is not
necessarily in German
Aleatoric
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Music of Chance
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Contains phrases that can be played in any order
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Glissandos and clashing notes are common
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Atonal – This music is often not in any key
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Often small groups, not usually heard as Solo
Music Concrete
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Recorded natural
sounds which are
transformed using
simple editing
techniques such as
cutting and reassembling, playing
backwards, slowing
down and speeding up.
Other Influences
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Despite the ‘whacky’
techniques that composers
were experimenting with in
the 20th century, there were
also very pleasant sounding
orchestral, operatic and
instrumental works being
written.
Some were influenced by
the growing popularisation
of Jazz going on at the
same time. For example,
listen to George Gershwin’s
Rhapsody in Blue.
Composers such as
Rachmaninov still wrote in
a warm romantic style
while others took a more
individual approach.
Main Characteristics
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Composers abandoned traditional harmony and
started to write ATONAL music.
Lack of form – strange structure – more organic or
repetitive.
Using improvisation as a means for players to
experiment with the full range of their instrument,
sometimes creating strange noises!
The traditional styles still existed, like symphonies,
concertos, operas and chamber music but within
these styles, composers would often write in a
particular …ism (impressionism for example)
Test on concepts below…
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Nationalism
Impressionism
Whole Tone Scale
Serialism
Tone Row
Neo-Classicalism
Sprechgesang
Minimalism
Aleatoric
Music Concrete
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Tritone
Retrograde
Passacaglia/Chaconne
Polytonality
Atonality
Ostinato
Irregular Metres
Hemiola
Discord
Cluster
Col Legno