Chapter 15: European Impressionism and Modernism

Chapter 29:
Early-Twentieth Century Modernism
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
• Personified the cultural pluralism and stylistic diversity
of cutting-edge art music
• Modern masterpieces in many different genres: opera,
ballet, symphony, concerto, church Mass, cantata
• Born in Russia
– Became a French citizen in 1934
– Became an American citizen in 1945
• Rose to international fame as a composer of ballet music
– Russian ballet period
• Composed for the Ballet russes, working with
impresario Sergei Diaghilev
• Russian stories
• Achieved international fame
Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, 1913)
• The greatest masterpieces of modern music
• Most notorious premiere in the history of Western music
– A riot broke out due to the shocking music and
• Primitivism: Attempts to capture the unadorned lines,
raw energy, and elemental truth of non-Western art and
apply it in a Modernist context
• Pounding rhythms, almost brutal dissonance, and a story
that takes use back to the Stone Age
• Percussive orchestra:
– Percussion section enlarged
– Strings required to play percussively
– Bright, brittle, almost brutal sounds pounded out by
the percussion, heavy woodwinds, and brass
• Irregular Accents:
– Placed accents where they are not expected and on
unaccented beats to create explosive syncopations
The Rite of Spring
• Polymeters:
– Two or more distinctly different meters simultaneously;
creates rhythmic complexity
The Rite of Spring
• Polyrhythms:
– Two or more independent rhythms sounding
The Rite of Spring
• Ostinato Figures:
– Repeating figure
– Ostinatos with fast tempos give the music an incessant,
driving quality
• Polychords:
– Two triads sounding simultaneously; creates a harsh
and biting sound
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
• Second Viennese School: Schoenberg and his students
Alban Berg (1885-1935) and Anton Webern (1883-1945)
• Created atonal music
• Triad rejected as a structural principle
• Father of Twelve-tone composition
• Melodies highly disjunct
• Harmonies exceedingly dissonant
Pierrot lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot, 1912)
Schoenberg’s best-known composition
Soprano soloist and chamber ensemble
Expressionist style
Sprechstimme: “Speech-voice”
No. 6, Madonna:
– Depicts the protagonist’s tormented, hallucinatory
vision of the suffering Madonna at the cross
– Dissonant harmonies; atonal; disjunct vocal style;
Sprechstimme creates an almost-hysterical sound
– Unfolds like a stream of consciousness
Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music
• New system for writing large-scale compositions in
the new atonal music
• Based on a tone row:
- Consists of all twelve tones
- No note repetition until the entire row is played
- Row order consistent through the entire composition
- Row unique for each composition
• Serial Music: Music in which elements such as pitch,
timbre, or dynamics come in a fixed series
• Created musical unity by basing each piece on a
single, orderly arrangement of twelve tones
Trio from Suite for Piano, Op. 25 (1924)
• Suite for Piano: One of Schoenberg’s first serial
– Collection of 7 brief dance movements
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