Contemporary classical music

Last updated

Contemporary classical music is classical music relative to the present day. At the beginning of the 21st century, it commonly referred to the post-1945 modern forms of post-tonal music after the death of Anton Webern, and included serial music, electronic music, experimental music, and minimalist music. Newer forms of music include spectral music, and post-minimalism.

Modernism (music) philosophicoesthetic stance, part of the modernist movement, underlying the change/development in musical language in the early 20th century, challenging/reinterpreting older music with new organization/approach to harmony, melody, timbre, and rhythm

In music, modernism is a philosophical and aesthetic stance underlying the period of change and development in musical language that occurred around the turn of the 20th century, a period of diverse reactions in challenging and reinterpreting older categories of music, innovations that led to new ways of organizing and approaching harmonic, melodic, sonic, and rhythmic aspects of music, and changes in aesthetic worldviews in close relation to the larger identifiable period of modernism in the arts of the time. The operative word most associated with it is "innovation". Its leading feature is a "linguistic plurality", which is to say that no one music genre ever assumed a dominant position.

Inherent within musical modernism is the conviction that music is not a static phenomenon defined by timeless truths and classical principles, but rather something which is intrinsically historical and developmental. While belief in musical progress or in the principle of innovation is not new or unique to modernism, such values are particularly important within modernist aesthetic stances.

Anton Webern Austrian composer and conductor

Anton Friedrich Wilhelm von Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. Along with his mentor Arnold Schoenberg and his colleague Alban Berg, Webern was in the core of those in the circle of the Second Viennese School, including Ernst Krenek and Theodor W. Adorno. As an exponent of atonality and twelve-tone technique, Webern exerted influence on contemporaries Luigi Dallapiccola, Křenek, and even Schoenberg himself. As a tutor, Webern guided and variously influenced Arnold Elston, Frederick Dorian, Matty Niël, Fré Focke, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Philipp Herschkowitz, René Leibowitz, Humphrey Searle, Leopold Spinner, and Stefan Wolpe.

Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments and circuitry-based music technology. In general, a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means, and that produced using electronics only. Electromechanical instruments include mechanical elements, such as strings, hammers, and so on, and electric elements, such as magnetic pickups, power amplifiers and loudspeakers. Examples of electromechanical sound producing devices include the telharmonium, Hammond organ, and the electric guitar, which are typically made loud enough for performers and audiences to hear with an instrument amplifier and speaker cabinet. Pure electronic instruments do not have vibrating strings, hammers, or other sound-producing mechanisms. Devices such as the theremin, synthesizer, and computer can produce electronic sounds.

Contents

History

Background

At the beginning of the twentieth century, composers of classical music were experimenting with an increasingly dissonant pitch language, which sometimes yielded atonal pieces. Following World War I, as a backlash against what they saw as the increasingly exaggerated gestures and formlessness of late Romanticism, certain composers adopted a neoclassic style, which sought to recapture the balanced forms and clearly perceptible thematic processes of earlier styles [1] (see also New Objectivity and Social Realism). After World War II, modernist composers sought to achieve greater levels of control in their composition process (e.g., through the use of the twelve-tone technique and later total serialism). At the same time, conversely, composers also experimented with means of abdicating control, exploring indeterminacy or aleatoric processes in smaller or larger degrees. [2] Technological advances led to the birth of electronic music. [3] Experimentation with tape loops and repetitive textures contributed to the advent of minimalism. [4] Still other composers started exploring the theatrical potential of the musical performance (performance art, mixed media, fluxus). [5] New works of Contemporary classical music continue to be created. Each year, the Boston Conservatory at Berklee presents 700 performances. New works from Contemporary classical music program students comprise roughly 150 of these performances. [6]

Consonance and dissonance categorizations of simultaneous or successive sounds

In music, consonance and dissonance are categorizations of simultaneous or successive sounds. Consonance is associated with sweetness, pleasantness, and acceptability; dissonance is associated with harshness, unpleasantness, or unacceptability.

Atonality Music that lacks a tonal center or key

Atonality in its broadest sense is music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality, in this sense, usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day, where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale function independently of one another. More narrowly, the term atonality describes music that does not conform to the system of tonal hierarchies that characterized classical European music between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. "The repertory of atonal music is characterized by the occurrence of pitches in novel combinations, as well as by the occurrence of familiar pitch combinations in unfamiliar environments".

Neoclassicism (music) music genre

Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the interwar period, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint. As such, neoclassicism was a reaction against the unrestrained emotionalism and perceived formlessness of late Romanticism, as well as a "call to order" after the experimental ferment of the first two decades of the twentieth century. The neoclassical impulse found its expression in such features as the use of pared-down performing forces, an emphasis on rhythm and on contrapuntal texture, an updated or expanded tonal harmony, and a concentration on absolute music as opposed to Romantic program music.

1945–75

To some extent, European and the US traditions diverged after World War II. Among the most influential composers in Europe were Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. The first and last were both pupils of Olivier Messiaen. An important aesthetic philosophy as well as a group of compositional techniques at this time was serialism (also called "through-ordered music", "'total' music" or "total tone ordering"), which took as its starting point the compositions of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern (but was opposed to traditional twelve-tone music), and was also closely related to Le Corbusier's idea of the modulor . [7] However, some more traditionally based composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten maintained a tonal style of composition despite the prominent serialist movement.

Pierre Boulez French composer, conductor, writer, and pianist

Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez CBE was a French composer, conductor, writer and creator of musical institutions. He was one of the dominant figures of the post-war classical music world.

Luigi Nono Italian composer

Luigi Nono was an Italian avant-garde composer of classical music.

Karlheinz Stockhausen German composer

Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. A critic calls him "one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music". He is known for his groundbreaking work in electronic music, for introducing controlled chance into serial composition, and for musical spatialization.

In America, composers like Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Henry Cowell, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, George Rochberg, and Roger Sessions, formed their own ideas. Some of these composers (Cage, Cowell, Glass, Reich) represented a new methodology of experimental music, which began to question fundamental notions of music such as notation, performance, duration, and repetition, while others (Babbitt, Rochberg, Sessions) fashioned their own extensions of the twelve-tone serialism of Schoenberg.

Milton Babbitt American composer

Milton Byron Babbitt was an American composer, music theorist, and teacher. He is particularly noted for his serial and electronic music.

John Cage American avant-garde composer

John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.

Elliott Carter American composer

Elliott Cook Carter Jr. was an American modernist composer. He is one of the most respected composers of the second half of the 20th century, having combined elements of European modernism and American "ultra-modernism" into a distinctive style with a personal harmonic and rhythmic language, after an early neoclassical phase. His compositions are known and performed throughout the world, and include orchestral, chamber music, solo instrumental, and vocal works. Carter was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Movements

Modernism

Many of the key figures of the high modern movement are alive, or only recently deceased.[ citation needed ] Despite its decline in the last third of the 20th century, there remained at the end of the century an active core of composers who continued to advance the ideas and forms of modernism, such as Pierre Boulez, Pauline Oliveros, Toru Takemitsu, George Benjamin, Jacob Druckman, Brian Ferneyhough, George Perle, Wolfgang Rihm, Richard Wernick, Richard Wilson, and Ralph Shapey. [8]

Pauline Oliveros American composer and musician

Pauline Oliveros was an American composer, accordionist and a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music.

Toru Takemitsu Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory

Tōru Takemitsu was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Largely self-taught, Takemitsu possessed consummate skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre. He is famed for combining elements of oriental and occidental philosophy to create a sound uniquely his own, and for fusing opposites together such as sound with silence and tradition with innovation.

Serialism is one of the most important post-war movements among the high modernist schools. Serialism, more specifically named "integral" or "compound" serialism, was led by composers such as Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen in Europe, and by Milton Babbitt, Donald Martino, Mario Davidovsky, and Charles Wuorinen in the United States. Some of their compositions use an ordered set or several such sets, which may be the basis for the whole composition, while others use "unordered" sets. The term is also often used for dodecaphony, or twelve-tone technique, which is alternatively regarded as the model for integral serialism.

In music, serialism is a method of composition using series of pitches, rhythms, dynamics, timbres or other musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though some of his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as a form of post-tonal thinking. Twelve-tone technique orders the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, forming a row or series and providing a unifying basis for a composition's melody, harmony, structural progressions, and variations. Other types of serialism also work with sets, collections of objects, but not necessarily with fixed-order series, and extend the technique to other musical dimensions, such as duration, dynamics, and timbre.

Bruno Maderna Italian/German conductor and composer

Bruno Maderna was an Italian conductor and composer.

Donald Martino American composer

Donald James Martino was a Pulitzer Prize winning American composer.

Modernist composers active during this period include Scottish composer James MacMillan (who draws on sources as diverse as plainchant, South American 'liberation theology', Scottish folksongs, and Polish avant-garde techniques of the 1960s), [9] Finnish composers Erkki Salmenhaara, Henrik Otto Donner, [10] and Magnus Lindberg, [11] Italian composer Franco Donatoni, and English composer Jonathan Harvey. [11]

Electronic music

Computer music

Between 1975 and 1990, a shift in the paradigm of computer technology had taken place, making electronic music systems affordable and widely accessible. The personal computer had become an essential component of the electronic musician’s equipment, superseding analog synthesizers and fulfilling the traditional functions of composition and scoring, synthesis and sound processing, sampling of audio input, and control over external equipment. [12]

Spectral music

Post-modernism

Polystylism (eclecticism)

Some authors equate polystylism with eclecticism, while others make a sharp distinction. [13]

Historicism

Musical historicism—the use of historical materials, structures, styles, techniques, media, conceptual content, etc., whether by a single composer or those associated with a particular school, movement, or period—is evident to varying degrees in minimalism, post-minimalism, world-music, and other genres in which tonal traditions have been sustained or have undergone a significant revival in recent decades. [14] Some post-minimalist works employ medieval and other genres associated with early music, such as the "Oi me lasso" and other laude of Gavin Bryars.

The historicist movement is closely related to the emergence of musicology and the early music revival. A number of historicist composers have been influenced by their intimate familiarity with the instrumental practices of earlier periods (Hendrik Bouman, Grant Colburn, Michael Talbot, Paulo Galvão, Roman Turovsky-Savchuk). The musical historicism movement has also been stimulated by the formation of such international organizations as the Delian Society and Vox Saeculorum. [15]

Neoromanticism

The vocabulary of extended tonality, which flourished in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, continues to be used by contemporary composers. It never has been considered shocking or controversial in the larger musical world—as has been demonstrated statistically for the United States, at least, where "most composers continued working in what has remained throughout this century the mainstream of tonal-oriented composition" [16]

Art rock influence

Some composers have emerged since the 1980s who are influenced by art rock, for example, Rhys Chatham. [17]

New Simplicity

A movement in Denmark (Den Nye Enkelhed) in the late nineteen-sixties and another in Germany in the late seventies and early eighties, the former attempting to create more objective, impersonal music, and the latter reacting with a variety of strategies to restore the subjective to composing, both sought to create music using simple textures. The German New Simplicity's best-known composer is Wolfgang Rihm, who strives for the emotional volatility of late 19th-century Romanticism and early 20th-century Expressionism. Called Die neue Einfachheit in German, it has also been termed "New Romanticism", "New Subjectivity", "New Inwardness", "New Sensuality", "New Expressivity", and "New Tonality".

Styles found in other countries sometimes associated with the German New Simplicity movement include the so-called "Holy Minimalism" of the Pole Henryk Górecki, the Estonian Arvo Pärt, and American-Uruguayan Miguel del Aguila (in their works after 1970), as well as Englishman John Tavener, who unlike the New Simplicity composers have turned back to Medieval and Renaissance models, however, rather than to 19th-century romanticism for inspiration.[ citation needed ] Important representative works include Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (1976) by Górecki, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten (1977) by Pärt, The Veil of the Temple (2002) by Tavener, and "Silent Songs" (1974–1977) by Valentin Silvestrov.[ citation needed ]

New Complexity

New Complexity is a current within today's European contemporary avant-garde music scene, named in reaction to the New Simplicity. Amongst the candidates suggested for having coined the term are the composer Nigel Osborne, the Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich, and the British/Australian musicologist Richard Toop, who gave currency to the concept of a movement with his article "Four Facets of the New Complexity". [18]

Though often atonal, highly abstract, and dissonant in sound, the "New Complexity" is most readily characterized by the use of techniques which require complex musical notation. This includes extended techniques, microtonality, odd tunings, highly disjunct melodic contour, innovative timbres, complex polyrhythms, unconventional instrumentations, abrupt changes in loudness and intensity, and so on.[ citation needed ] The diverse group of composers writing in this style includes Richard Barrett, Brian Ferneyhough, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, James Dillon, Michael Finnissy, James Erber, and Roger Redgate.

Minimalism and post-minimalism

Developments by medium

Opera

Notable composers of operas since 1975 include:

Chamber

Choral

Notable choral composers include René Clausen, Karl Jenkins, James MacMillan, Morten Lauridsen, Scott Perkins, Nico Muhly, Arvo Pärt, John Rutter, Veljo Tormis, Paul Mealor, John Tavener, Michael John Trotta and Eric Whitacre.

Concert bands (wind ensembles)

In recent years, many composers have composed for concert bands (also called wind ensembles). Notable composers include:

Cinema

Contemporary classical music can be heard in film scores such as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), both of which used concert music by György Ligeti, and also in Kubrick's The Shining (1980) which used music by both Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki. Jean-Luc Godard, in La Chinoise (1967), Nicolas Roeg in Walkabout (1971), and the Brothers Quay in In Absentia (2000) used music by Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Festivals

The following is an incomplete list of Contemporary-music festivals:

Notes

  1. Whittall "Neo-Classicism" (subscription access).
  2. Schwartz and Godfrey 1993, chapter 7: "Order and Chaos", pp. 78ff.
  3. Manning 2004, 19ff.
  4. Schwartz and Godfrey 1993, 325.
  5. Schwartz and Godfrey 1993, 289ff.
  6. "Master of Music in Contemporary Classical Music Performance" . Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  7. Bandur 2001, 5, 10–11.
  8. Botstein 2001, §9.
  9. Johnson 2001.
  10. Anderson 1992, 18.
  11. 1 2 Schwartz 1994, 199.
  12. Holmes 2008, 272.
  13. OED , entry "Polystylistic", quoting Christian & Cornwall's Guide to Russian Literature (1998): "Zhdanov is eclectic; he mixes high poetic, archaic, scientific and everyday realities without imposing any hierarchy. His manner may be called ‘polystylistic’", and entry "Polystylist", quoting Musical America, November 1983: "An eclectic only passively collects material from different sources, but a polystylist puts together what he collects, consciously, in a new way."
  14. Watkins, 440-42, 446-48.
  15. Colburn 36-45, 54-55.
  16. Straus 1999, 303, 307–308, 310–11, 314–29).
  17. Chatham 1994.
  18. Toop 1988.

Related Research Articles

Postmodern music is either simply music of the postmodern era, or music that follows aesthetical and philosophical trends of postmodernism. As the name suggests, the postmodernist movement formed partly in reaction to modernism. Even so, postmodern music still does not primarily define itself in opposition to modernist music; this label is applied instead by critics and theorists.

Romantic music is a stylistic movement in Western classical music associated with the period spanning the nineteenth century, commonly referred to as the Romantic era. It is closely related to the broader concept of Romanticism—the intellectual, artistic and literary movement that became prominent in Western Europe from approximately 1800 until 1850.

Aleatoric music music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed works realization is left to the determination of its performer(s)

Aleatoricmusic is music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). The term is most often associated with procedures in which the chance element involves a relatively limited number of possibilities.

20th-century classical music describes art music that was written nominally from 1901 to 2000. This century was without a dominant style and composers created highly diverse kinds of music. Modernism, impressionism, and post-romanticism can all be traced to the decades before the turn of the century, but can be included because they evolved beyond the musical boundaries of the 19th-century styles that were part of the earlier common practice period. Neoclassicism and expressionism came mostly after 1900. Minimalism started much later in the century and can be seen as a change from the modern to post-modern era, although some date post-modernism from as early as ca. 1930. Atonality, serialism, musique concrète and electronic music were all developed during this century. Jazz and folk music were important influences on many composers at this time.

Process music

Process music is music that arises from a process. It may make that process audible to the listener, or the process may be concealed.

Electroacoustic music is a style of Western art music which originated around the middle of the 20th century, following the incorporation of electric sound production into compositional practice. The initial developments in electroacoustic music composition to fixed media during the 20th century are associated with the activities of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales at the ORTF in Paris, the home of musique concrète, the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) studio in Cologne, where the focus was on the composition of elektronische Musik, and the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City, where tape music, electronic music, and computer music were all explored. Practical electronic music instruments began to appear in the early 1900s.

Karel August Goeyvaerts was a Belgian composer.

Kreuzspiel is a composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen written for oboe, bass clarinet, piano and four percussionists in 1951. It is assigned the number 1/7 in the composer's catalogue of works.

Gruppen for three orchestras (1955–57) is amongst the best-known compositions of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, and is Work Number 6 in the composer's catalog of works. Gruppen is "a landmark in 20th-century music. .. probably the first work of the post-war generation of composers in which technique and imagination combine on the highest level to produce an undisputable masterpiece".

Punctualism is a style of musical composition prevalent in Europe between 1949 and 1955 "whose structures are predominantly effected from tone to tone, without superordinate formal conceptions coming to bear". In simpler terms: "music that consists of separately formed particles—however complexly these may be composed—[is called] punctual music, as opposed to linear, or group-formed, or mass-formed music". This was accomplished by assigning to each note in a composition values drawn from scales of pitch, duration, dynamics, and attack characteristics, resulting in a "stronger individualizing of separate tones". Another important factor was maintaining discrete values in all parameters of the music. Punctual dynamics, for example

mean that all dynamic degrees are fixed; one point will be linked directly to another on the chosen scale, without any intervening transition or gesture. Line-dynamics, on the other hand, involve the transitions from one given amplitude to another: crescendo, decrescendo and their combinations. This second category can be defined as a dynamic glissando, comparable to glissandi of pitch and of tempi.

<i>Kurzwellen</i>

Kurzwellen, for six players with shortwave radio receivers and live electronics, is a composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written in 1968. It is Number 25 in the catalog of the composer’s works.

Sonata for Two Pianos (1950–51), also called simply Opus 1 or Nummer 1, is a chamber-music work by Belgian composer Karel Goeyvaerts, and a seminal work in the early history of European serialism.

Formel (Formula) is a composition for chamber orchestra by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written while he was still a student in 1951. It is given the number ⅙ in his catalog of works, indicating that it is amongst the pieces preceding the composition he recognised as his first mature work, Nr. 1 Kontra-Punkte.

Spatial music is composed music that intentionally exploits sound localization. Though present in Western music from biblical times in the form of the antiphon, as a component specific to new musical techniques the concept of spatial music was introduced as early as 1928 in Germany.

<i>Sternklang</i>

Sternklang, is "park music for five groups" composed in 1971 by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and bears the work number 34 in his catalogue of compositions. The score is dedicated to Mary Bauermeister, and a performance of the work lasts from two-and-a-half to three hours.

<i>Plus-Minus</i> (Stockhausen)

Plus-Minus, 2 × 7 pages for realisation, is a composition for one or several performers by Karlheinz Stockhausen, first written in 1963 and redrafted in 1974. It is Nr. 14 in the composer's catalogue of works, and has a variable performing length that depends on the version worked out from the given materials. The score is dedicated to Mary Bauermeister.

Leonard David Stein was a musicologist, pianist, conductor, university teacher, and influential in promoting contemporary music on the American West Coast. He was for years Arnold Schoenberg's assistant, music director of the Schoenberg Institute at USC, and among the foremost authorities on Schoenberg's music. He was also an influential teacher in the lives of many younger composers, such as the influential minimalist La Monte Young.

References

Further reading