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Music in Modernism
c. 1900-2000
by Andrew Lesser, M.M.
Into the Twentieth Century
Western music in the years 1900-2000 is
primarily classified as the most recent “complete” period
in music history. Though it is still relatively early in the
twenty-first century, we can safely assume that the
course of music will continue to fundamentally shift as it
did approximately one hundred years ago. Though many
composers of the Romantic era began to experiment in
tonal deconstruction, the first major starting point of a new, original change in music came with
the total abandonment of tonality with Arnold Schoenberg and his Second Viennese School. As
with the beginning of the twentieth century, the early twenty-first century has also been marked
with dramatic changes, mostly resulting from the explosion of technological resources such as the
microchip, personal computers, and the internet that began in the final decades of the previous
century. Still, it is difficult to put a proverbial “stamp” on exactly when music began showing signs
of what is now referred to as modernism, but historians generally agree that the very beginning of
the century is an acceptable marker, though Schoenberg’s formal break with tonality did not
begin until 1907.
Tonality was not the only norm that twentieth century composers abandoned. All
throughout music history, particularly from the Baroque era through to the Romantic is known as
the “common practice” period, where the accepted rules of musical theory were put into place and
refined by subsequent composers. The twentieth century is the first example in history where
music theory was defined by the individual composers working with their own methods and
concepts. As such, many of these innovations did not come easily to a willing public; Stravinsky’s
Le Sacre de Printemps (“The Rite of Spring”) met with a public riot at its Paris premiere in 1913.
Richard Strauss’ works were referred to as “a blood-curdling nightmare”, and Arnold Schoenberg
was called “the leader of cacophonists”. Even more consequential in the development of
modernism was the socio-political background of the time, particularly in the rise of a world war
in 1914, and a second in 1939. History has repeatedly shown that world events have drastically
influenced the course of the arts, including the present. World culture was shaken to its core by
the events of September 11, 2001, and the resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the first time,
the twentieth century saw the world as one global stage, where factors such as the nationalism of
the nineteenth century and the collapse of tonality in the early twentieth would combine to create
a new form of expression never heard before in the history of music.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Composers in the Transition
The composers of Germany and Austria were the first to take steps into a larger tonal
vocabulary. Though considered more of a Romantic figure than a modernistic one, Gustav
Mahler (1860-1911) set new standards as musical director of the Vienna Opera Orchestra,
particularly in his massive symphonies (see Composer Profiles). Germany at the time was a center
of cultural activity; nationalistic pride was at its zenith, a stark contradiction to the events leading
to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Mahler’s expressive melodies and shifting
harmonic textures brought the orchestral sound to a new standard, and he is often seen as the
final link in the chain of famous German-Austrian symphonists, from the days of Haydn and
Beethoven to the Romantic Brahms and Bruckner. Though Mahler’s works convey a diverse
tapestry of harmonic color, he does not stray too far from an overall tonal scheme. However, like
Beethoven, Mahler has been referred to as straddling the gap between the two ages, firmly placing
his feet in the Romantic era, yet looking boldly into new future possibilities.
Mahler’s younger contemporary, Richard Strauss (1864-1949), took several steps further,
solidifying the direction of music for decades to come. Strauss (see Composer Profiles), the son of
a prominent horn player, perfected his technique early by studying the works of Mendelssohn and
Schubert at the behest of his father. His first major departure from traditional tonality was his
tone poem Aus Italien, Op. 16 (“From Italy”) in 1886. Strauss would compose another seven tone
poems, all of which have entered the permanent
repertoire as orchestral masterpieces. These works
brought Strauss enormous popularity and
established him as the most advanced
compositional mind of the late nineteenth
century. In the early twentieth century, Strauss
turned to operatic works with two operas that
changed the course of Western music, Salome
(1905) and Elektra (1908). In their psychologically
complex plots, Strauss stretches the limits of
tonality to their extremes. The response to these
operas was deafening in its intensity; few critics
could accept these works as “music”. Regardless,
Strauss had effectively set the stage for what was to
Richard Strauss, his wife Pauline,
come, and although he had a long and prosperous
and son Franz (1910)
career, he never ventured again to the extremes of
Salome and Elektra, but returned to a more traditional route of tonality. Operas such as Der
Rosenkavalier (1910) and other works including the Vier letzte lieder (“Four Last Songs”) for
soprano and orchestra continued his dominance as the most brilliant composer of his generation,
but he would leave newer, more daring musical innovations to his contemporaries.
Other composers that produced works of increasing tonal degradation include Max Reger
(1873-1916) and Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915). Reger, though he only lived to forty-three years
of age, produced approximately two hundred separate works. His works display heavy
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
chromaticism and complexity, but still remain largely tonal. Reger possessed a deep knowledge
and appreciation for the music of J.S. Bach, and credited him with his musical development and
inspiration. This is shown in many of his organ works, particularly in the Symphonic Fantasy and
Fugue for Organ, Op. 57, subtitled “Inferno”. Though not German, Alexander Scriabin was trained
at the Moscow Conservatory, and spent most of his life living in Switzerland. Similar to Reger,
Scriabin embellishes his tonal structures with chromatic tendencies, which unlike Reger,
eventually progresses into a total separation from tonality. Regardless of tonality, both composers
still maintained a healthy relationship with nineteenth-century form and structure, a trait that
neither would break from. It was therefore up to Schoenberg and his students to make the first
major step into a new and original form of musical expression, one that can truly be said to have
begun the twentieth century’s age of modernism.
Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School
The single most influential development in twentieth-century music occurred early in the
century with the abandonment of the triad as the basis for tonal works. Since the Renaissance, the
organization of tones into scales relying on a tonal center had held strongly for over four hundred
years. Now, that method was being called into question as the only form of musical expression.
The group that was responsible for this innovation was known as the Second Viennese School,
which was comprised of three members: Anton Webern (1883-1945), Alban Berg (1885-1935), and
its founder, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). Schoenberg (see Composer Profiles) can be credited
for the first usage of music with no tonal center, better known as atonality, in his works
composed after 1907. Before that, his music demonstrates extreme chromaticism but still remains
tethered to traditional tonality. Between 1907 and 1909, Schoenberg dispensed with tonality
altogether in a series of works that began a literal revolution in musical history. Schoenberg
himself knew this, and truly believed his role was to create a new form of expression by what he
referred to as “the emancipation of the dissonance”.
Schoenberg’s experiments into a more economical
musical form were completely opposite the ideals of the
late-Romantic era. Melodies are much more compact,
sometimes containing as little as three notes. In addition,
there are no florid embellishments or ornamentation; each
musical line is carefully constructed to contain only what is
necessary. However, there is still a great deal of underlying
emotion and personal expression in this clarity of thought,
which led to the adoption of the term “expressionism” to
describe the atonal works of Schoenberg and his
contemporaries. Pieces such as the Five Orchestral Pieces,
Op. 16 (1909), Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912), and the Four
Orchestral Songs, Op. 22 (1916) were designed to convey the
inner emotions of the psyche, typically in a stark, often
Arnold Schoenberg teaching composition
at UCLA during the early 1940’s
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
distorted manner. The Expressionist movement in painting was subsequently taking place in the
art world; many artists’ works represent feelings on the subconscious level, demonstrating
conflict, anxiety, and distress. Artists who are most associated with the Expressionist movement
include Edvard Munch (The Scream), Vincent van Gogh (The Starry Night), and Wassily
Kandinsky (Composition VII).
After World War I, Schoenberg devised a further development of expressionism after not
publishing any music for six years. This development consisted of using sequences of each note of
the chromatic scale in a series called “rows”, where each note would only be used once until the
next sequence began. The initial row could be altered in different ways to vary the melodic and
harmonic content of the music, and is now known as serialism, or twelve-tone music. There are
four ways to present a tone row. First, the row can be performed in its original form, called the
prime. From there, the row can be played backwards, known as retrograde. The original row can
also be inverted, or turned “upside down”, and finally, the original row can be played backwards
and inverted at the same time, which is called retrograde inversion. The tone row can be played
in any rhythm, instrumental combination, range, and can also start on any pitch, as long as it
follows two basic rules, which are that all twelve tones of the chromatic scale must be used in a
single tone row, and that all tones must be used only once, not repeating until the beginning of
the next row. Some of Schoenberg’s most influential works containing twelve-tone technique
include the Violin Concerto, Op. 26 (1936), A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947), and the
unfinished opera Moses und Aron.
Before immigrating to the United States in 1933 during the rise of the Third Reich,
Schoenberg taught his method of composition to a group of devoted followers. Two of these
students in particular stood out as worthy successors to
Schoenberg’s creation, Anton Webern and Alban Berg.
Both composers studied under Schoenberg before he
devised the twelve-tone method, and each student’s works
during the Expressionistic phase of their development
reflects their own original understanding of personal
expression. Webern (see Composer Profiles) would use
extreme brevity in his works, only applying the basic
essentials in short, compact pieces that hardly ever stray to
higher dynamic levels. His combined thirty-one published
works are shorter than one Mahler symphony, yet contain
an enormous amount of musical activity. When he adopted
the twelve-tone method after World War I, Webern
continued his use of small textures and brief durations in the
motivation to communicate clarity of thought through
controlled emotional reserve.
Berg (also see Composer Profiles), however, utilized
Alban Berg (left) and
more freedom with Schoenberg’s methods and remains the
Anton Webern (right).
most “Romantic” of the three composers. Like Webern, Berg
began writing atonal works and updated his practice to the twelve-tone system when Schoenberg
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
perfected his technique. Berg’s most famous work is the opera Wozzeck, Op. 7, written in 1922 and
first premiered in 1925. The success of Wozzeck made Berg the most widely performed composer
of the Second Viennese School; his ability to immerse both serial and non-serial composition into
his works makes his music much more flexible than Webern and to a certain extent Schoenberg
himself. Similar to Webern, Berg did not compose a very large output either, but nevertheless, his
works equally stand out as influential musical achievements, and are some of the most individual
compositions of the twentieth-century.
The Impressionists
Like the Expressionist movement that swept much of Western Europe in the early
twentieth century, art served as a catalyst in France for a group of composers that mirrored what
painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, and Renoir were contributing to French culture. These
composers, writing in what is now termed “Impressionism”, received their name from the
common theme of musically depicting a general emotion or atmosphere rather than a story or
episode. This is much more commonly related to a progression or evolution of late-Romanticism,
and not at all in the vein of Expressionism. Impressionism is primarily characterized by depicting
a general landscape or emotion in ambiguous natural sounds and tone colors, usually
accomplished by shifting harmonies and unconventional orchestrations. The “impression” of a
scene is described without telling a definite story as much as painting an atmospheric picture.
Previous composers of the Romantic era that helped to sow the seeds of Impressionism include
César Franck, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Gabriel Fauré. All of these composers served to influence
who is now considered the greatest French composer of the twentieth century, Claude Debussy
(1862-1918). Debussy (see Composer Profiles) had his training in the French Conservatory,
although he was also influenced by Richard Wagner, nineteenth
century Russian music, and the Javanese gamelan orchestra,
which he first heard at the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition.
While Debussy maintained a tonal center in his works, his
melodic materials never reach what could be called a traditional
“theme”. Instead, chords and harmonic movement serve to
connect smaller motivic ideas as a means to heighten the
orchestral color and instrumental sonorities. His most famous
piece is the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, L. 83 (“Prelude to
the Afternoon of a Faun”), followed by his orchestral works
Nocturnes, L. 86 and La Mer, L. 109 (“The Sea”). His piano pieces,
particularly his Estampes and Images also demonstrate
Debussy’s penchant for unusual tonal combinations. He was the
Claude Debussy in 1888,
first composer to use the whole tone scale consistently in his
painted by Marcel Baschet
works, and also favored using Medieval modes as opposed to the
more traditional major/minor scale forms.
The only other French Impressionist composer whose name is normally mentioned
alongside Debussy’s is Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Ravel, thirteen years Debussy’s junior, also
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
trained at the Paris Conservatory, although he was expelled in 1895 for failing to win a competitive
medal in any competition. He later returned to the Conservatory in
1898 and stayed until 1903, studying with Gabriel Fauré. Unlike
Debussy, Ravel did not win the Prix de Rome, but nonetheless
attained an international reputation as an Impressionistic
composer, experimenting with exotic harmonies, such as in the
Habanera from his Rhapsodie Espagnole (1907) and his most
famous piece, Bolero (1928). Ravel also incorporated several musical
influences aside from impressionism, including dance forms and
even American jazz. Much of his music, however, was influenced by
his teacher Fauré, though his attention to detail and technique
were fostered by a reverence of J.S. Bach and W.A. Mozart. His
melodic motifs owe much to Debussy, in addition to his elaborate
textures and orchestrations. Ravel’s harmonies, however, are much
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
more stable than Debussy’s, preferring traditional root movements
to ambigious chordal progressions. His most impressionist works are the Rhapsodie and the ballet
Daphnis et Chloé (1911). Though not as innovative as Debussy, Ravel remains a master artist who
strived to display simplicity and technical refinement in all his works.
Two other influential composers also wrote works that rejected the German idea of
expressionism, but did not join Debussy and Ravel in the Impressionist movement. Erik Satie
(1866-1925) is an enigmatic figure in twentieth century music. He entered the Paris Conservatory
in 1879 but was deemed untalented by his teachers. After a brief stint in the military, Satie wrote
mostly miniatures for piano, and earned a living by playing in cabarets and writing songs for
dance halls. His most famous piece is the Gymnopédie No. 2 (1888), but is also mostly known for
his collections of short piano pieces with humorous titles such as Flabby Preludes, Dried Up
Embryos, and Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear. Though not nearly as influential as Debussy or
Ravel, Satie’s music would serve to inspire later
French composers including Francis Poulenc,
Arthur Honegger, and Darius Milhaud. Paul
Dukas, on the other hand, is now famous
primarily for one work, L’apprenti sorcier (“The
Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), written in 1897. Dukas
was a fellow student of Debussy’s and was also
influenced by his work, in addition to Beethoven,
Berlioz, and Franck. After winning second place
in the prestigious Prix de Rome, Dukas left the
conservatory and began a career as a composer
Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,
and music critic. After a modest reception of his
featured in Disney’s Fantasia (1940)
Symphony in C in 1896, Dukas achieved fame with
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, written a year later. In 1927, Dukas was appointed as professor of
composition at the Paris Conservatory, where his many students included Carlos Chávez and
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Olivier Messiaen. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was later animated and remains the best known piece
from Disney’s Fantasia (1940).
The Soviets at the Turn of the Century
At the end of the nineteenth century, Russian music possessed a strong foothold on
mainstream European influences, particularly the music of Tchaikovsky and the Russian Five. Of
all the Five, Rimsky-Korsakov would stand out as the major representative of Russian nationalism,
while Tchaikovsky firmly stood as the keeper of the older nineteenth century traditions. Each of
them would have successors that would further the scope of Russian music and both of them
would do so in completely opposing ways.
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) firmly kept to the Tchaikovsky method of composition,
rooted in the older forms and structures and never venturing beyond the realm of tonality. Unlike
his fellow student and friend Alexander Scriabin, Rachmaninov (see Composer Profiles) would
not follow his contemporary’s innovations. However, upon Scriabin’s death, Rachmaninov
performed a series of recitals dedicated solely to his colleague and friend’s works. Rachmaninov’s
reputation spans both that of a piano virtuoso and a master composer. As a student at the
Moscow Conservatory, Rachmaninov’s style of traditional Romanticism appeared early. His
primary mentor was Tchaikovsky, who seeing the young man’s talent, offered to have
Rachmaninov arrange his ballet The Sleeping Beauty as a piano transcription. Rachmaninov’s Trio
élégiaque was written in response to Tchaikovsky’s untimely death, revealing an intense darkness
of emotion and sadness in the composer’s style.
In 1917, Russia became engulfed in a Civil War later called the “October” or “Red October”
Revolution. The political faction known as the Bolsheviks revolted against and ultimately
overthrew the Russian Provisional Government in Petrograd. The resulting Civil War lasted from
1917 until 1923, where a number of independent countries were formed, including Estonia,
Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The former Russian Empire was renamed the Soviet
Union, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. Many independent Russians, including
Rachmaninov, fled the country during this time and never returned. Rachmaninov himself
relocated to Switzerland and finally America, becoming an American citizen in 1943, the year of
his death.
Another Russian composer that eventually
immigrated to America, though his journey in the
history of music was noticeably divergent from
Rachmaninov’s, was Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971).
Known as one of the greatest composers of all
time, Stravinsky (see Composer Profiles) defined
new tonalities and expressions that were
completely opposite Rachmaninov’s nineteenth
century traditionalism. Ironically, Romanticism is
where Stravinsky’s career began as a student of
Igor Stravinsky, right, with Sergei Diaghilev.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
the great Russian nationalist Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov from 1903 to 1908. From there, his career
soared after developing a partnership with Sergei Diaghilev, pictured above, an impresario and
entrepreneur who formed one of the greatest ballet companies of the twentieth century, the Ballet
Russes. Stravinsky composed three ballets for Diaghilev: The Firebird, Petrushka, and his most
famous work, Le Sacre du printempts (“The Rite of Spring”). The Rite of Spring is particularly
notable as one of the most innovative works ever
composed; it was described by the music critic
and historian Harold Schonberg as “what
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Wagner’s
Tristan were to the nineteenth century”. The
ballet itself was described by Stravinsky as “a
young girl, ready to be sacrificed, dances herself
to death”. The primitive and brutal score reflects
the intense subject matter through heavy
percussive rhythms, shifting melodic fragments,
and unique orchestral colors that were so unlike
Scene from “The Firebird”, featured in Disney’s
anything heard before that it caused a literal riot
Fantasia 2000.
at its Paris premiere in 1913. Later in his life,
when Stravinsky had moved to California, Walt Disney asked him if he could use The Rite of
Spring as part of his new movie, Fantasia. Stravinsky was excited about the idea, and while
Disney’s vision of using the beginnings of life on Earth instead of a tribal sacrifice contrasted from
the concept of the original ballet, Stravinsky himself participated in the creative process. When
Fantasia premiered in 1940, Stravinsky was the only living composer that Disney had chosen as
one of the musical segments. After his death in 1971, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite was chosen to be
included in Fantasia 2000, and he remains the only composer aside from Beethoven to have two
separate works featured in the series.
Stravinsky lived abroad for much of his life, settling in Switzerland, France, and ultimately
America, only returning to Russia once in over fifty years. Because of this, he is seen as much
more of a worldly composer than a Russian nationalist like his post-World War II Soviet
contemporaries. He despised the Russian “October” Revolution and the Bolsheviks and remained
a staunch monarchist to the end of his life. His musical tastes, however, were constantly shifting.
After his so-called “Russian” period, he began what is now called his “neo-classicist” period
around 1920 while living in Paris. Neo-classicism became a popular style for composers who
wished to use twentieth-century vocabulary in the context of older forms, particularly that of the
Baroque and Classical styles. Many of Stravinsky’s neo-classic works reflect an interest in oratorio,
concerto grosso, medieval mass, and early symphony and sonata formats. Works such as the
Histoire du Soldat (“The Soldier’s Tale”), Octet for Wind Instruments, and Oedipus Rex began an
entirely new genre for contemporary and future composers.
Stravinsky ended his career by experimenting with twelve-tone music in the style of
Arnold Schoenberg a year before Schoenberg’s death. This development in Stravinsky’s music,
which began around 1939, is marked as his “third”, or “serial”, period. Much of Stravinsky’s music
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
of this time has not entered the permanent repertoire, but without a doubt contains the
unmistakable hallmarks of Stravinsky’s stylistic innovations.
The European Cosmopolitan Scene
The rest of Europe was not exempt from developing its own advancements in twentieth
century music. From Eastern Europe to the British Isles, new forms of expression were made and
new talents were discovered that explored models of the past, traditional folk music, and charted
new courses in musical development. In Italy, Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) continued the
operatic tradition of his predecessor, Giuseppe Verdi. Puccini (see Composer Profiles) is
considered the last of the great Italian opera composers, as his success rivaled Verdi’s and left no
future composers to succeed him after his death. Puccini retained the traditions of the past and
did not participate in the radical musical advancements of the rest of Europe. Nevertheless, that
did not have any bearing on his enormous popularity, and his operas still draw top billing around
the world.
In Czechoslovakia, Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was the leading composer into the twentieth
century. While his works have not completely penetrated the modern repertoire, his use of the
native folk music of his homeland gave him recognition as a national figure. Inspired by his
countrymen Antonin Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, Janáček preceded the evolution of folk music
as a tool for mainstream composition in Eastern Europe. This development was realized in the use
of Hungarian folk music by Béla Bártok (1881-1945) and Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967). Kodály is
known as much for his contribution to music education as his compositional work. His works
completely absorb the stylistic flavor of Hungarian folk song, mostly in assigning priority to the
melodic lines. Folk song, Kodály theorized, was essential to the cultural development in young
students, and his use of singing and playing folk songs in school is universally known as the
“Kodály Method”.
Bártok (see Composer Profiles) worked
with Kodály for many years piecing together
the numerous folk melodies that he called
“peasant songs”. While Franz Liszt was one of
Bártok’s earliest influences, he did not believe
that Liszt captured the true essence of
Hungarian music. Liszt worked chiefly from
using gypsy melodies, which in Bártok’s
opinion was a mere imitation of Hungary’s
cultural identity. Using a wax cylinder
phonograph, such as the one pictured on left,
Bártok and Kodály scoured the Hungarian
Béla Bártok (pictured fourth from left) recording
countryside searching for authentic examples
traditional Hungarian folk music. Picture taken by
of folk music. The result was a number of
Zoltán Kodály.
masterpieces Bártok composed, reconciling
traditional folk songs with orchestral technique.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
In addition to his importance as a composer, Bártok would later be called one of the
world’s pioneering ethnomusicologists. Ethnomusicology, or the study of music in specific local
and worldwide contexts, focuses on music from around the world as a basis for understanding
cultural traditions through music and the arts. Like Kodály, Bártok was also a consummate
educator, but more often through piano technique than with general classroom education. His
major contribution to the field of piano literature is the Mikrokosmos, a set of six volumes of
piano etudes graded by difficulty. Today, the Mikrokosmos has the same influence in piano
education as Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier and the Debussy Preludes.
In Northern Europe, the countries of Scandinavia produced two of its most beloved
composers, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) and Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). Sibelius, born in Finland,
achieved fame by adapting the folklore of Finland’s culture in his orchestral works. Kullervo
(1892), En Saga (1895), and the famous tone-poem Finlandia (1899) were all developed from
Finnish literature. Sibelius’ other source of recognition is his seven symphonies, each extending
the late-nineteenth century tradition, but with a sense of originality and creativity that continues
to inspire musicians of the present day. Like Bártok, Sibelius drew from folk material in his
melodies, but diverges from Bártok’s path in his use of traditional tonal structures and an
abundance of stepwise diatonic motion. Sibelius’ contemporary, the Danish born Carl Nielsen,
also wrote using the more traditional nineteenth century symphonic style, yet was able to achieve
a personal form of expression through tonal structure. His works are known for their almost
Classical-style textures and the heavy use of variation through melodic counterpoint, such as in
his most famous works, including his Flute Concerto, Clarinet Concerto, and his six symphonies.
The New English Tradition
While the rest of Europe had consistently developed its own musical culture since the
Classical and Romantic periods, England had strangely remained silent since the death of Henry
Purcell more than two hundred years prior. Since then, not one major English composer had
asserted themselves before the beginning of the twentieth century. A major reason behind this
was the dominance of George Frederic Handel when he visited England during the first half of the
eighteenth century. Extraordinarily popular with the English people, Handel’s impact on British
music continued well after his death in 1759. During the nineteenth century, Handel’s popularity
was transferred to another German, that of Felix Mendelssohn. In addition to his own works,
Mendelssohn frequently conducted works by Handel, Bach, and Haydn, which greatly appealed to
English sensibility. At his death in 1847, England had not produced a major composer in almost
two hundred years.
This period of stark inactivity changed dramatically with the new generation of British
composers, beginning with the emergence of Edward Elgar (1857-1934). Elgar was the very image
of English militarism; tall, mustached, impeccably dressed, and very proper. Almost completely
self-trained, Elgar wished to study at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany, but was unable to
attend due to the fact that his father could not afford to send him there. His career as a composer
ignited quickly with the appearance of his Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra,
commonly called the “Enigma” Variations. The reason for this title is because the piece is designed
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
so that every variation creates a characterature of each of Elgar’s personal friends. Elgar dedicated
the work to “my friends pictured within”, and even mentioned
that there exists within each movement a “hidden theme” that
in Elgar’s words, is “not played”. To date this hidden theme has
not been discovered, though scholars have postulated many
theories. The Enigma Variations were published in 1899, and
gave Elgar instant recognition as a thoroughly British
composer. In truth, Elgar was heavily influenced by the late
Romantic style of Germany and Austria, but his major
achievement was his ability to use those influences in a more
English-sounding vein. His most popular work, the set of Pomp
and Circumstance Marches, exhibit the proud, dignified air of
nobility that set Elgar’s works apart from music on mainland
Europe. In addition, the String Quartet, Op. 83 (1918), Cello
Concerto, Op. 85 (1919), and his two symphonies are gaining
ground in the mainstream repertoire. In his later life, Elgar
grew disenchanted with the direction that modern music was
Edward Elgar, circa 1900.
taking, and he decided to retire from composition in 1919.
From then on, his music was seen as more of a look back to the past, rarely performed until his
works were rediscovered by a more appreciative public in the latter half of the twentieth century.
While Elgar began England’s return to the compositional main stage, Ralph Vaughan
Williams (1872-1958) began a new tradition that gave him unprecedented success and a return to
England’s cultural roots. Like Bártok and Kodály, Vaughan Williams (see Composer Profiles)
toured the English countryside searching for English folk songs and carols to use in his own
works. His traveling companion and friend was fellow composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934), who
studied with Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music. Vaughan Williams did not ascribe
to the compositional developments of Bártok, and completely avoided the serialism of
Schoenberg: “Schoenberg meant nothing to me, but as he apparently meant a lot to other people,
I dare say that it is all my own fault”. Instead, he favored the traditions of England’s past, from
John Dunstable to Henry Purcell and every British composer in between. His most famous work,
the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, remains one of Vaughan Williams’ most identifiable
pieces. He was an especially prolific composer, writing nine symphonies, five operas, and music
for plays, film, and radio. Although he was considered a nationalist by followers of his music,
Vaughan Williams never considered himself a nationalist composer. He rejected an offer to be
knighted and other government honors, and was involved in a number of both amateur and
professional performing groups. In this way, his demeanor was starkly opposite that of Elgar,
neither that of a formal scholar or visionary, but a humanist seeking to write the very best music
he could for the sake of all that would listen.
Next to Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst was the most well-known and influential English
composer before World War I. Holst (see Composer Profiles), a great friend and contemporary of
Vaughan Williams, was much more cosmopolitan in his musical influences. While many of his
works exhibit the same English folk song and carol influence as Vaughan Williams, Holst’s
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
orchestral pieces reveal an early following of Wagner and other mainstream European models.
Studying astrology and Eastern philosophy gave Holst a unique source of inspiration, most
notably in his most popular orchestral suite, The Planets. Holst’s role in music education is also
significant; he was active in teaching young composers and musicians in both the St. Paul’s Girls
School and Morley College, in addition to lecturing at University College and his alma mater, the
Royal College of Music. Together with Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Holst served to create a new
vision for English music from the unproductive period of inactivity it had experienced for almost
two hundred years.
The Early American Sound
Much of America’s concert music at the beginning of the twentieth century was cultivated
from European-born artists or European-trained American citizens. The typical method of
building American composers and performers was to send them to European conservatories,
particularly Paris or Leipzig, for their entire musical education. American-born composers such as
Lowell Mason (1792-1872), Amy Beach (1867-1944) and Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) were all
extremely popular with American audiences, yet followed the strict European models that had
been taught to them by European musicians. Ironically, it was an immigrant European composer
that began to harness America’s folk music and open the path for further exploration. Antonín
Dvořák had left his native Czechoslovakia in 1892 and began teaching in New York at the newly
established National Conservatory of Music. His Symphony No. 9, commonly titled the “New
World” Symphony, drew inspiration from Negro folk-song like material, although no actual folk
spirituals were used in the entire composition. Dvořák suggested to American composers that a
new national musical language could easily be found in the rich folk songs of their own country.
American already had possession of a lasting heritage of popular song. Stephen Foster (18261864), known as “the father of American music”, had become known throughout the country with
songs such as Camptown Races, My Old Kentucky Home, I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown
Hair, and Old Folks at Home. These were parlor songs, however, and America had yet to develop a
national identity in the concert hall as well as the dance hall.
Though not considered a “concert” composer, an early figure in America’s musical
development was John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Sousa, born in Washington, D.C., distinguished
himself as the conductor of the Marine Band, commonly called “The President’s Own”. His father,
John Antonio Sousa, was a trombonist in the band when Sousa was young and encouraged him to
enlist in the Marine Corps. After directing the Marine Band for twelve years, he formed his own
band and toured the country performing original songs of American patriotism, mostly drawn
from his own considerable number of marches, one hundred and thirty six in all. Many of his
marches have become staples of the American patriotic repertoire, specifically The Stars and
Stripes Forever, now America’s official National March, and Semper Fidelis, the official march of
the Marine Corps. To this day, Sousa’s marches are played at ceremonial and public events
throughout the country, and his name has become synonymous with American military music.
One of the most original voices in the development of a unique American style was that of
Charles Ives (1874-1954). Though trained in the European tradition when he attended Yale, Ives’
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
(see Composer Profiles) first major influence was that of his father, George Ives. George Ives was a
U.S. Army bandleader and would frequently have his band play in Charles’ hometown of Danbury,
Connecticut. The small town marches, patriotic songs, and dance pieces of his youth made up
much of Ives’ personal style. In addition, Ives also served as a church organist before and after his
collegiate training, making him aware of the standard keyboard repertoire. Ives is also considered
unique among composers in the fact that composition was not his profession. After graduating
from Yale, Ives worked for, and later formed his own, life insurance company. This is significant
because Ives did not have to use composition to sustain himself and his family financially, and
thus gave him the ability to compose according to
his own wishes, regardless of how other musicians
or the general public responded. In fact, he
remained isolated from the public and other
composers during the bulk of his compositional
career. As a result, his music was scarcely performed
during his lifetime and was considered “unplayable”
by many professional musicians. Ives’ music
represents a combination of many different
techniques and practices, most of which had not yet
entered the compositional mainstream. Ives freely
Official Charles Ives (1874-1954) stamp
used polytonality (the use of two separate keys
simultaneously), serialism, folk songs and other
material from which he quoted often, and atonality. His ability to mesh together these different
techniques in a cohesive unit was unexplored by other composers during his lifetime. He also
pioneered the use of dividing large ensembles into smaller instrumental groups, all playing
different musical material. His piece The Unanswered Question (1906) represents this type of
advanced construction well ahead of its time. Other pieces that represent Ives’ mature
compositions include Three Places in New England (1914, revised 1929), the Symphony No. 4 (1918),
and his masterpiece, the Piano Sonata No. 2 “Concord, Mass.”, completed in 1919. Ives frequently
revised and rewrote his works, sometimes setting them aside in favor of other works and not
working on them again for years at a time. Ives cared little for the reception he received, positive
or negative, regarding his music. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his Symphony No. 3 “The
Camp Meeting”, but gave away the prize money, exclaiming “prizes are for boys, and I’m all grown
up”. Ives stopped composing entirely in 1927, saying he could no longer write music, because
“nothing sounds right”. Ives did continue to revise his earlier material, but he did not write
anything new for the remainder of his life. Though he was not fully appreciated by the musical
public at large during his lifetime, the world began to catch up with Ives around the 1960’s, and
Ives was finally recognized for the innovations he set in motion. He inspired a new generation of
American composers, particularly Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Hermann, and
Elliott Carter. Perhaps the best quote regarding Ives comes from Arnold Schoenberg in 1944,
when he was living in Los Angeles: “There is a great man living in this country – a composer. He
has solved the problem how to preserve one’s self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence
by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives”.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
The World at War
In 1918, World War I drew to a close with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The world
had been badly shaken by the extreme devastation and destruction left in the war’s wake. It
involved all the world’s major military powers, and forever changed the political and geographical
boundaries of Europe. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was torn apart, and from there emerged
several newly established independent states, including Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary,
Romania, and Yugoslavia. Russia had pulled out of the war after its collapse in 1917, during the
aftermath of the “October” Revolution. Its new revolutionary government had already begun to
establish the Soviet Union as a communist state, and Adolf Hitler used Germany’s defeat to gain
power with the National Socialist Party. He succeeded in winning the chancellorship and later
turned Germany into a complete dictatorship. The period between the wars was marked with
grave uncertainty, as rising international tensions threatened to once again plunge the world into
As was the case for a major overhaul in political and geographical restructuring, world
culture would also be largely affected by the war’s end. The philosophies of artists and musicians
had dramatically changed from their earlier viewpoints assuming that science and technology
were the source of new inspiration and creativity leading into the future. Once they had seen the
capabilities of the new war machines, laying waste to entire cities and causing mass destruction of
a level previously unheard of, these attitudes changed instantly. Deeply traumatized by the
brutality of the war, new artistic reactions against technology shifted to less complicated
structures focused on promoting economy and more simplistic means of musical communication.
A renewed effort for providing clarity and efficiency permeated Europe’s artistic atmosphere, and
an interest in reconciling with the past, created more order in both tonal and atonal
compositions. Another aspect of the war’s impact on musicians was the desire to write music that
was more accessible to the general public. As Kodály and Bártok demonstrated in their use of folk
song material in their writings, many others composed music that could be used with more
practicality and utility. The rising tide of these new ideas would lead to create a new generation of
musicians, and would also serve to alter the compositional methods of already established
France Between the Wars
A particular composer whose style had changed dramatically after the war was Igor
Stravinsky. In 1920, Stravinsky moved to Paris and became a French citizen. After hearing the
works of composers such as Erik Satie, Stravinsky started to develop his own music in the style
known as neo-classicism. As exclaimed earlier, the term “neo-classicism” does not only refer to an
increased use of techniques stemming from Classical genres, but also incorporated earlier models
from the Baroque and Renaissance periods. From the conclusion of the war stemmed a desire to
create works of art dedicated to a simpler ideal. The French poet Jean Cocteau railed against the
complexity of the “Wagnerian fog” and “Debussian mist”, declaring that all such music rests in “its
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
convolutions, dodges, and tricks”. His concept, found in the music of Satie, represented a more
common musical atmosphere: “What we need is a music of the earth, every-day music”. Satie
embodied those qualities in his brief, melodic works that weave together fragments of musical
material that are interconnected in a seamless, flowing structure. Satie’s works lack the grand
designs of the late Romantic era, and is more casual, suitable more for the café than the concert
hall. A singular work that inspired those around Satie was the ballet Parade (1917), set to a story by
Cocteau and performed by the Ballet Russes. This work and others brought Satie a cult following,
particularly in younger French composers that followed the ideals of the post-war ethic.
Six composers in particular began to gather around Satie, and in 1919 they began giving
concerts playing each others’ works and referring to themselves as “Les Six” (“The Six”).
Composed of Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Germaine
Tailleferre, and Louis Durey, the name “Les Six” was more of a reaction of French pride analogous
to the Russian “Mighty Handful”. Of these composers, three stand out as the best representatives
of the French post-war aesthetic. Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) was the closest to Satie in his
stylistic idiom. His groundbreaking work La Création du monde (“The Creation of the World”1923) was one of the first concert pieces to use American jazz as a structural foundation. Another
technique associated with Milhaud was polytonality, also used by Charles Ives in America. In his
piano suite Souvenirs of Brazil (1921), Milhaud alternates between G major in the left hand while
the right hand is playing material in D major.
Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) achieved his first success with the dramatic oratorio Le Roi
David (“King David”) in 1921. His music around the 1920’s is marked by the ideals of Le Six; more
lyrical and down to earth. However, after the 1920’s his compositions turned away from casual,
simplistic forms and started to become more complex. His extended compositions include five
symphonies and three string quartets that show an interest in more formal counterpoint,
particularly in his Fifth Symphony, written in 1951. The most dominant composer of Les Six was
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), who was mostly self-taught in composition. His musical sound is
mostly reserved, returning to the more traditional format of tonality and harmonic structure. His
music has a light, simplistic quality, particularly in the piano piece Mouvements perpétuels
(“Perpetual Motion” – 1918) and his final piece, the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1962).
Post-War Germany
Though Germany was defeated at the conclusion of World War I, in the decade following
the war, the country’s artistic and cultural life began its own rebirth. A strong reaction against the
ideals of Wagnerian late-Romanticism started to take root in the younger generation of
composers, and a call sounded for music that demonstrated more objectivity and efficiency. The
greatest German composer to come out of this post-war aesthetic was Paul Hindemith (18951963). Trained as a violinist, Hindemith (see Composer Profiles) demonstrated an early aptitude
when he was accepted into the Hoch Conservatory at the age of thirteen. Some of Hindemith’s
early compositions reflect a debt to Brahms and Richard Strauss, but during the early 1920’s
Hindemith broke free of these traditional methods and began to chart his own course. Strauss
even remarked to Hindemith at one point: “Why do you have to write this way? You have talent”.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Hindemith’s response was simply: “Herr Professor, you make your music and I’ll make mine”.
Hindemith’s music of the early 1920’s was influenced by jazz and popular music, but also featured
a predilection for returning to a more neo-classical vein, particularly in the forms and textures of
the Baroque era. The philosophy of music as a vehicle for functional means permeated
Hindemith’s compositions as well. He is credited for embodying the German concept of
Gebrauchmusik, or music used specifically for utilitarian ends. A function of this philosophy lies
in Hindemith’s compositions designed for amateurs, to be used solely for teaching purposes. As a
lifelong teacher, Hindemith published several texts on music, most notably The Craft for Music
Composition in 1937, which remains a seminal work on music in the twentieth century.
Hindemith was dismissed from his teaching position at the Frankfurt Conservatory in the
same year after members of the Nazi Party denounced his work as not representative of the “pure”
German culture. Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, publicly labeled Hindemith
as an “atonal noisemaker”. In truth, Hindemith did not follow the innovations of Schoenberg or
the Second Viennese School. He had a strong belief in tonality, as he exclaimed that “music, as
long as it exists, will always take its departure from the major triad and return to it”. Like
Schoenberg, however, Hindemith also left Germany and eventually settled in America, where he
accepted the position of professor of composition at Yale University. His tonal system, described
in The Craft of Musical Composition, is not diatonic, but uses all twelve notes equally, ranking
each interval from the most consonant to the most dissonant. His counterpoint owes more to J.S.
Bach than any other composer, and many of his fugues display homage to him. Hindemith’s
prolific output includes music for practically every instrumental combination, including solo,
chamber, concerto, and orchestral works. His most famous pieces are the symphony based on his
opera Mathis du Maler (“Mathis the Painter” - 1935) and his orchestral piece Symphonic
Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943). Hindemith’s music had a pronounced
effect among younger composers around World War II, and his influence continues to affect
composers in the present day.
The only other German composer of Hindemith’s generation that approached his level of
influence was Kurt Weill (1900-50). Both Weill and Hindemith left Germany at the rise of the
Nazi Party, but their compositional careers took very different paths. Weill studied composition
at the Music Academy in Berlin with Engelbert Humperdinck and later Ferruccio Busoni. Hardly
any of Weill’s early works before the 1920’s have survived, but most of what remains displays an
influence of Strauss and Mahler. Later in the decade, Weill turned away from the late Romantic
tendencies and starting composing music as an instrument of social change. He believed the most
effective means to accomplish this was through opera, and with his collaborator, the playwright
Bertolt Brecht, Weill created his first success, a series of six extended songs titled the MahagonnySongspiel. Their first large-scale work, The Threepenny Opera (1928), was based on the eighteenth
century Beggar’s Opera by the English composer John Gay. The opera was an enormous success,
and Weill and Brecht continued to work together until Weill left Germany in 1933. After spending
some time in France, Weill came to the United States, where most of his remaining years was
spent writing for Broadway and musical theater. He produced a number of shows, including
Down in the Valley and Street Scene, which later inspired Broadway composers including Leonard
Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Rise of the Soviet Union
Before the end of the war, Russia abruptly pulled out of the conflict to fight an internal
battle. In October of 1917, a group of working class citizens known as the Bolsheviks led by
Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) used their political influence to begin taking over government
installations in the city of Petrograd. Disgusted with the absolute and oppressive rule of the Tsar
emperors, Lenin and his followers took over the Winter Palace, seat of the Provisional
Government in Petrograd. The so-called “October” Revolution sparked a civil war that was to last
until 1922, when Russia was transformed into a socialist state. To confirm the rise of the people’s
rights under the new government, Lenin changed Russia’s name to the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (U.S.S.R.). After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin emerged as the political leader of
the Soviet Union and proceeded to further isolate the U.S.S.R. from the West as it developed into
a Communist state. Many Russians during the Revolution and the ensuing Civil War fled the
country, uncertain as to the future of their country’s government. Both Igor Stravinsky and Sergei
Rachmaninov left for Switzerland within a few years of each other, and eventually settled in
America. Those that stayed had to adapt to a new regime whose definition of what music “should”
represent affected their music, their careers, and their lives.
Though he lived outside of the Soviet Union between the years of 1918 to 1934, Sergei
Prokofiev (1891-1953) returned to his native country after Stalin consolidated his grip on Russia’s
political power. Prokofiev (see Composer Profiles) studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and
immediately made a name for himself as a young man of considerable talent. After touring abroad
in Europe and America, Prokofiev returned to Russia after establishing himself as a “modernist”
composer. In truth, Prokofiev operated mainly within traditional forms, and his best known works
employ a heavy use of neoclassical techniques, including his famous “Classical” Symphony (1917).
Prokofiev rejected the late Romantic style and could not be considered a nationalist composer,
which would bring him trouble with the ruling government upon his return to Russia. Russia had
undergone a major shift in the way art and culture was perceived. Lenin stated that all art should
“belong to the people”, and that any artistic creation not designed to serve the populace was
deemed “alien to the Soviet people”. Music as a tool for social propaganda became the sole reason
for composition in the eyes of the government, and Prokofiev often felt himself at odds with the
government’s acceptable policies. Being accused of “formalism”, or any modern music that did not
serve to promote Soviet ideals, was death to a composer’s career. Artists were even thrown in jail
if their work had any signs of foreign influence or did not reflect the struggles of the working
class. Though Prokofiev was celebrated by the government, winning six Stalin Prizes, a Lenin
Prize, and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, he constantly treaded on thin ice between
writing “acceptable” music and pursuing his own artistic preferences.
Born in Armenia, Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) did not formally study music until
after Armenia was declared a Soviet Republic in 1920. However, Khachaturian possessed such
great natural musical ability that he was admitted to the Gnessin Institute, where he studied cello
and composition. He later transferred to the Moscow Conservatory and graduated in 1934.
Khachaturian joined the Communist Party in 1943 and became popular with his ballets Gayane
and Spartacus, both of which use Russian and Armenian folk music, particularly in the famous
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
“Sabre Dance”. Khachaturian’s career took a major downturn in 1948 after the premiere of his
Third Symphony. While Khachaturian wrote the work as a
tribute to communism, Andrei Zhdanov, secretary of the
Communist Party’s Central Committee, denounced
Khachaturian, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, as “formalist” and
“anti-popular”. By then the three composers had become the
“titans” of Soviet music, but their worldwide popularity had
no effect on Zhdanov’s judgment. All three composers were
required to publicly apologize for their indiscretions, which
affected Khachaturian profoundly: “Those were tragic days for
me; I was clouted on the head so unjustly. My repenting
speech at the First Congress was insincere. I was crushed,
destroyed. I seriously considered changing professions”.
Regardless, Khachaturian and the others regained political
Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978)
favor, himself receiving four Stalin Prizes, a Lenin Prize, a
U.S.S.R. State Prize, and the title of Hero of Socialist Labor. Though he lived most of his life in
Russia, Khachaturian was a great inspiration to Armenian composers, and served to bring its
culture into the mainstream.
The third of the Soviet “titans”, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) also began his musical
training after the Revolution, and unlike Prokofiev, remained in Russia for his entire life (see
Composer Profiles). His music, therefore, is completely tied to the political trends of the new
government regime. Shostakovich himself spent his life under the constant threat of censorship
and incarceration. His life became a paradox: while enjoying the worldwide fame of a master
composer and the idolization of his fellow countrymen as a true Soviet artist, he also lived
perpetually fearing the regime he imagined would put him in jail for being too “formalist” and
modern. His predictions came true before the Zhdanov decree at the 1934 premiere of his opera,
Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. While the opera enjoyed repeated success and was
acclaimed as a paragon of Soviet art, in 1936 an article in Pravda, the official Communist Party
newspaper, announced the opera as “negative” and a “deliberately dissonant, confused stream of
sound”. It is not known why Lady Macbeth was particularly chosen as an example of the Party’s
ire, but it served to effectively censure all Soviet art that contained any hint of material not
conforming to the government’s mandates. The later 1948 decree was not merely directed at any
particular Shostakovich work, but at each of the three composers in turn, possibly simply to force
obedience as the government feared the composers’ popularity was too high. In any case, all
three, particularly Shostakovich, acquiesced, and at the end of his life revealed a loss of
confidence in himself and his work: “There were no particularly happy moments in my life, no
great joys. It was gray and dull and it makes me sad to think about it”. Shostakovich did not live to
see his music surge in popularity in the West after the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the
Communist Party, and he is remembered now as a man broken by his own government and
forced to write according to their expectations, compromising both his personal and artistic
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Other Composers of Europe
Paul Hindemith at the time between the wars had established himself as the leading
German composer of his day, though like many others he had fled to America during the rise of
the Third Reich. Composers who elected to stay in Germany were forced, much like in the Soviet
Union, to write as the government dictated. Most idealistic composers decided to leave the
country rather than incur the wrath of the dictatorship. A German composer who was successful
in both pleasing the authorities and creating a unique, personal style was Carl Orff (1895-1982).
Best known for his cantata Carmina Burana (1937), Orff’s style is direct and often primal,
demonstrated in the famous song “O Fortuna”. His vision of musical theater consisted of each
aspect, dance, music, and action, being equal on stage. This is most clearly found in his trilogy of
stage works based on Greek literary themes, including Antigonae (1949), Oedipus der Tyrann
(1966), and Prometheus (1966). Another important aspect of Orff’s career is his work in music
education. In 1924 he developed a school specifically to train young children in cooperative
ensemble performance and musical foundation. He created easily playable instruments and wrote
a series of songs designed to exercise the young student’s emerging musical abilities. Known as
the Orff-Schulwerk, his methodology is practiced by elementary music educators around the
Folk influences had dominated the music of Spain through to the beginning of the
twentieth century. Spanish nationalism up to this point had been championed by composers such
as Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) and Enrique Granados (1867-1916). The most successful Spanish
composer of the first half of the twentieth century was Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). Falla spent
seven years in France consorting with composers including Paul Dukas, Debussy, and Ravel,
which had a more worldly effect on his music. Combined with Spanish folk influences and expert
orchestrations, Falla’s main body of work includes the set of three pieces for piano and orchestra
entitled Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915) and the two ballets Love, the Magician (1915) and The
Three-Cornered Hat (1919). With these works, Falla is considered responsible for bringing Spanish
orchestral music into the twentieth-century mainstream.
Born right at the beginning of the twentieth century, Austrian composer Ernst Krenek
(1900-1991) enjoyed his first success with the jazz opera Jonny spielt auf (“Jonny Strikes Up” 1926). He began composing in the twelve-tone method in 1930, which was targeted by the Nazis in
1933. His music was subsequently banned, forcing him to relocate to America in 1938. He became
an American citizen in 1945. Following World War II, Krenek composed in a variety of
experimental medium, including serial, aleatoric (“chance” music), and even electronic music.
Pieces that best represent his later style include From Three Make Seven (1961) and Fibonacci
mobile (1964).
Italy at the start of the twentieth century remained in the grip of late-Romantic style
opera, particularly with the immense popularity of Puccini. Several composers sought to break
opera’s hold and renew the Italian symphonic tradition. One composer who was successful in
contributing fresh orchestral material to Italy’s twentieth century development was Ottorino
Respighi (1879-1936). Known primarily for his trilogy of nationalistic tone poems, including the
Fountains of Rome (1916), Pines of Rome (1924), and Roman Festivals (1928), Respighi also had a
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
great interest in 16th, 17th, and 18th century Italian music, and published new editions of works by
Claudio Monteverdi and Antonio Vivaldi.
The next generation of English composers after Holst and Vaughan Williams were best
represented by William Walton (1902-1982), Michael Tippett (1905-1998), and Benjamin Britten
(1913-1976). Britten (pictured on right), was encouraged by his
compositional teacher, Frank Bridge, to experiment on advanced
harmonic forms, and Britten was quick to assimilate these
tendencies. Though his music is essentially diatonic and very tonal,
Britten’s style is characterized by clearly defined formal structures
and a haunting quality of expression. His tribute to his teacher, the
Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge (1937) for string orchestra,
began a series of masterpieces that includes the operas Paul Bunyon
(1941) and Peter Grimes (1945). Peter Grimes, and the ensuing
orchestral suite Four Sea Interludes based on themes from the opera
catapulted Britten to international fame. This was followed by more
successes such as Billy Budd (1951) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(1960). Of his non-operatic works, Britten is most known for his
Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1945), and the 1961 War Requiem.
The American Scene
Following World War I, American composers were beginning to take their first steps
toward developing a musical language of national identity. Though previously rooted heavily in
the European tradition, American music began to take on a quality incorporating the folk and
spiritual melodies of its homeland and the rhythmic complexities of jazz music. These driving,
heavily stylized qualities were embodied in the works of George Gershwin (1898-1937), born in
Brooklyn, New York. Gershwin (see Composer Profiles) was equally comfortable writing for both
the concert hall and the theater, most notably with his
most popular concert work, the Rhapsody in Blue (1924).
The piece employs a heavy use of jazz motifs,
specifically in the “blue” note, or lowered third in the
blues scale. The opening clarinet glissando has become
synonymous with the musical styles of the American
1920’s. Gershwin’s stage and film works have also earned
a permanent place in the repertoire, and his opera Porgy
and Bess (1935) was the first opera to feature a cast
composed entirely of African-American singers. The
song “Summertime” has been performed by countless
musicians, and in 2001 the opera was named the official
Seattle Opera Company production of
opera of the state of South Carolina, where the opera is
Porgy and Bess, with Gordon Hawkins as
Porgy and Lisa Daltirus as Bess.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Though recognized as “the Dean of African-American composers”, William Grant Still
(1895-1978) did not achieve the widespread popularity that Gershwin enjoyed. Nonetheless, Still
(see Composer Profiles) was a pioneer in developing the American voice based on his work
incorporating his experiences with jazz from his youth into the orchestral mainstream. His
Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American” (1930) is a masterpiece worthy of any modern symphony, and his
orchestral suite The American Scene (1957) is a programmatic tone poem reminiscent of Smetana’s
The Moldau. Still achieved a number of accomplishments as a black man living in the first half of
the twentieth century, including the first African-American to conduct a major symphony
orchestra, and to have an opera performed on national television. His nationalistic views of black
culture being integrated into classical music were a defining step toward establishing a unique
American style.
Another American composer that incorporated popular song elements into his music was
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). Bernstein (see Composer Profiles) is mostly remembered for his
position as conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1957-1969, but is equally known for his
works including the musical scores to On the Town (1944), On the Waterfront (1954), and West
Side Story (1957). Combining the rhythmic elements of jazz and song with his knowledge of
traditional orchestral technique, Bernstein echoed the newly acquired awareness of music serving
a more nationalistic purpose. Following the beginning of the Great Depression at the end of the
1920’s, American music took on a new importance as composers actively sought out new outlets of
expression in the goal of creating a uniquely “American” sound. Among these composers include
Walter Piston (1894-1976), Virgil Thomson (1896-1989), Howard Hanson (1896-1981), Roger
Sessions (1896-1985), Roy Harris (1898-1979), William Schumann (1910-1992), and Samuel Barber
The most influential American composer out of all of
these figures was undoubtedly Aaron Copland (1900-1990).
Copland (see Composer Profiles), like many other American
composers in the first half of the twentieth century, studied
abroad in Paris under Nadia Boulanger, who encouraged
Copland’s experimentation in more modern techniques as
opposed to the nineteenth century Romantic tradition. An
advocate of the newly established call for American
nationalism, Copland spearheaded a group of composers that
would become the American version of France’s Les Six and
Russia’s Mighty Handful. His most popular works are primarily
based out of the folk idioms of the American heartland,
particularly in the western-based motifs of his ballets Billy the
Aaron Copland in 1970.
Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and Appalachian Spring (1944). His
“Fanfare for the Common Man” theme from his Third Symphony is one of the most recognized
purely “American” pieces worldwide. He also composed a number of scores for film music, most
notably for the 1939 film Of Mice and Men and Our Town in 1940. But during the years preceding
and following World War II, music had again started to venture toward new approaches, and
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
soon composers began to experiment with tonalities that would usher in a new age of how music
was defined and performed.
In the years leading up to World War II, music had once again begun to redefine itself
with new experimental techniques completely separated from European-based traditional
tonality. A group of American composers following in the footsteps of Charles Ives envisioned
music as a pure soundscape, free of the limiting rules dictated by more accepted means of musical
composition. Most of these composers worked without receiving the traditional training of formal
technique, and worked in relative isolation to mainstream musical developments. Among these
more avant-garde musicians include Carl Ruggles (1876-1971), Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), Henry
Cowell (1897-1965), Harry Partch (1901-1974), Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953), Henry Brant (19132008), and Edgard Varèse (1883-1965). A similar movement toward developing an indigenous style
devel0ped in South America, which up until the twentieth century had been rooted in European,
particularly Italian traditions. Composers such as Carlos Chávez (1899-1978), Heitor Villa-Lobos
(1887-1959), and Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) distanced themselves from the mainstream
European practices and incorporated popular song elements with modern avant-garde concert
Music Beyond World War II
The result of World War II led to a variety of developments in Western music. Since many
primary European composers immigrated to America during the pre-war years, the United States
quickly became the dominant musical influence in the modern world. The rise of Russia and
China as rival world powers transformed the global landscape, and the advent of technologies
such as global communication created an idea of a single world culture, a so-called “global village”
where information is exchanged almost as soon as it occurs. Styles and genres of music were
constantly shifting, and no one musical movement held sway over the next generation to come.
The only concept that tied together these diverse tendencies was the search for a new, more
personal means of expression. Popular music began to fuse more readily with traditional
orchestral techniques, and more composers were inclined to break from the older European
tradition entirely.
The first break from all notions of prior convention occurred through serialism.
Surprisingly, it was not Arnold Schoenberg that sparked a new treatment of serial form, but the
music of his student, Anton Webern. Webern’s works were highly praised by the younger
composers of the post-WWII generation because of their highly systematic treatment, far more so
than in Schoenberg’s music. The pre-determined set of pitches and their relationships was seen as
a more “objective” method of composition, one that mirrored the post-war aesthetic that music
had to take a fundamental shift from the past. One of Webern’s greatest champions is the French
composer Pierre Boulez (born 1925). Boulez took the example set by Webern and applied it to
more than just pitch relationships. Rhythms, dynamics, orchestrations, and articulations were
composed according to those same principles as the twelve-tone method, resulting in a new form
of serial technique called integral serialism. Boulez’s Structures I (1952) for two pianos is based
on a design that serves as a “key” to each row, which not only affect pitch, but duration, attack
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
and dynamics as well. This method can be seen as almost taking the freedom away from
compositional method, but Boulez believed that it actually freed the composer to focus on higher
priorities, such as musical texture. Texture became a defining characteristic of Boulez’s work and
his contemporaries, most notably the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007).
Stockhausen took the concept of musical objectivity a step further by completely rejecting all
notions of musical theme and thematic continuity. Musical structure influenced primarily by
mathematical and scientific techniques became a defining feature of his work, particularly in his
serial compositions. Stockhausen was also an innovator of “group” composition, a structure based
on larger musical sections comprised of separate ensemble groups. An example of this method is
found in Gruppen (“Groups”) for three orchestras, written between 1955 and 1957. The piece
consists of separate instrumental sections, each playing their own musical material in different
styles, tempos, and key signatures. The entire tapestry of sound seems to meld together into one
large sound mass. Like Boulez, Stockhausen places texture as the defining musical feature, and
traditional elements such as melody, harmony, and rhythmic direction are completely absent in
the larger whole.
Both Boulez and Stockhausen studied with Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), a French
composer who had an enormous influence upon the younger generation. Messiaen himself
studied at the Paris Conservatory under Paul Dukas and
Charles-Marie Widor, among others, and was influenced
primarily by the music of Debussy and Ravel. During World
War II, Messiaen was enlisted as a medical auxiliary, but
was subsequently captured by the Germans in 1940 and
became a prisoner of war. While interned at the prison
camp of Stalag VIII-A, Messiaen composed what has
become his most influential work, the Quatuor pour la fin
du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time”), written for
clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. The quartet is an intensely
systematic work; it employs limited ideas of thematic
development and harmonic progression, but concentrates
on rhythmic complexity throughout the four parts. In the
Quartet and many of his other pieces, Messiaen uses a
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
variety of bird-call effects, specifically in his Réveil des
recording bird calls.
oiseaux (1953), which is entirely based on bird songs obtained
through the composer’s personal research. Messiaen was also partial to incorporating exotic
musical techniques into his works, including Greek modes, Hindu rhythms, Javanese gamelan,
and Japanese influences.
The most influential American composer to advance integral serial technique was Milton
Babbitt (1916-2011). In addition to his serial works, Babbitt was one of the first pioneers of using
electronic medium in music composition. Among his many students while teaching at Princeton
University and the Julliard School include Donald Martino (1931-2005), Charles Wuorinen (born
1938), and the theater composer Stephen Sondheim (born 1930).
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Music of Chance
Another significant development in the 1950’s was the creation of music inspired entirely
by methods based on chance, taking the concept of musical choice completely out of the
composer’s hands. This music, known an indeterminate, or aleatoric, music began with the idea
that music should be composed solely as an experiment in organized sound. Sound, as defined by
these composers, could be encompassed by all manner of noise, not just merely those which could
create pitch or melody in the traditional sense. Soon these more progressive composers felt that
the accepted methods of composition could no longer satisfy their search for new forms of
expression, and turned to completely unorthodox materials. Charles Ives and Henry Cowell had
started using elements of chance music in their writings, but the composer most associated with
aleatoric music was the American John Cage (1912-1992). Cage, who studied with Cowell and
Arnold Schoenberg, began using materials other than traditional instruments in a series entitled
Construction. His First Construction in Metal (1939) calls for brake drums, a thunder sheet, and
other percussive instruments that mirror his musical landscapes. In Living Room Music (1940),
Cage notates in the score that the percussion parts can be played by “any household or
architectural elements”. Pitch and instrumentation are not the only aspects of Cage’s music that
was radically altered. His concept of time and rhythmic duration was replaced by a series of
proportional time measurements devised by strict mathematical
calculations. In 1951, Cage decided that the only true way of
creating music unhindered by human will is to take conscious
choice out of the compositional process. His student Christian
Wolff had previously introduced Cage to the I Ching, or Chinese
Book of Changes, which describes a method using trigrams to
identify order in seemingly unpredictable situations. The book
became a revelation for Cage’s music; in Music of Changes,
composed the same year, Cage uses the tossing of coins to decide
pitch, rhythm, tempo, and every other musical choice available.
His pieces have been determined by events such as notating
imperfections in a piece of paper, using star charts to identify
pitches, and tipping water-filled conch shells that creates a
different performance every occurrence.
John Cage (1912-1992)
Cage’s most famous, and controversial piece, remains 4’33’’
(1952). In addition to using chance elements to create sound, Cage believed that silence is equally
influential in a musical performance. Originally composed for piano, but later transcribed for
every solo or instrumental combination available (including full orchestra), the piece consists of
three separate movements that require the performer to remain silent for the entire duration.
Premiered in 1952 by the pianist David Tudor at a recital of contemporary music, the audience
expressed confusion and general dissatisfaction at not experiencing any musical content. Cage,
equally unhappy with the audience’s response, replied: “They missed the point. There’s no such
thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full
of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made
all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out”. 4’33’’ remains the most outspoken
example of chance music; the very performance must be different every time. Other composers of
the time that experimented with aleatoric music was Boulez, Stockhausen and several of Cage’s
students including Earle Brown (1926-2002), Morton Feldman (1926-1987), and Christian Wolff (b.
Mass Effect
The breakdown of traditional tonality, rhythm, and structure continued in the second half
of the twentieth century. No longer did music have to contain a specific key center, form, or
directional foundation. Between the experiments of the serial and indeterminate composers, an
idea of music composed of individual elements working together to form a greater whole gave
way to a new concept of music composed primarily of larger segments. Among the earliest
exponents of these new developments was Karlheinz Stockhausen in his works during and beyond
the 1950’s. Stockhausen referred to the process as “group composition”, where masses of pitches
was joined together to create a single effect. This is displayed in Stockhausen’s Gruppen
(“Groups”) for three orchestras, written between 1955 and 1957. The piece consists of three
separate ensembles, each led by a separate conductor, playing their own individual material. The
three groups each have separate tempos, time signatures, and musical material that meld together
into a solid mass of sound. Pierre Boulez had also begun to compose with texture as the foremost
priority in his music, specifically in Le Marteau sans maître (“The Hammer Without a Master”) in
1954 for alto voice and six instruments.
Two eastern European composers have become the most well known in music that feature
group composition, Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933) and György Ligeti (1923-2006). Penderecki’s
earlier works show an influence of serialism, but in the late 1950’s his preferences changed to
creating tone “clusters”, or tonal groups made up of close intervals, usually chromatically. His
most well known work is the 1960 Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for fifty-two
instruments. Hearing any individual pitches during the work is virtually impossible as a wave of
sound consumes the general atmosphere. There are no defined avenues of key, rhythm, or
musical form, and specific instrumental effects are used, such as the string instruments
performing on the soundboard and the tailpiece. Ligeti’s early works use a variety of folk music,
mostly acquired through his studies with Bartók at the Budapest Academy. Like Penderecki,
Ligeti’s style changed during the late 1950’s when he began working with tone clusters, as
evidenced in the 1961 piece Atmosphères. Ligeti’s tone clusters change constantly, creating a
continuing transformation of musical texture. His use of unconventional sounds is demonstrated
in Lux aeterna (1966), and Lontano (1967), described by Ligeti as “a metamorphosis of intervallic
Other composers who have advanced music using the techniques of massed sound include
the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) and the American Elliott Carter (b. 1908).
Xenakis first studied as an engineer and mathematician, and subsequently used his knowledge of
calculations into his music. His musical studies continued under Messiaen, and after
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
experimenting with indeterminacy, began applying both aleatoric and finite material into his
musical structures. Highly complex, Xenakis’ work employs some chance elements into the
details, but always moves toward a definite
goal. In his book Formalized Music (1963),
Xenakis translates mathematical theories
of probability into musical notation,
specifically in the example of his piece
Metastasis (1954). Elliott Carter, like so
many other Americans of the time, studied
music with Nadia Boulanger during the
1930’s. His early works were rooted in ne0clasicism, but during the 1940’s Carter
broke off from that tradition and started
composing with a focus on maintaining an
even rhythmic flow that transformed and
Graph for measures 309-17 from Iannis Xenakis’
evolved with the changing texture. The
Metastasis (1954).
result, defined by Carter as “metrical
modulation”, is present in works such as
the Second String Quartet (1959) and the Third String Quartet (1971), both of which were awarded
the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and 1971, respectfully. His view of rhythm consisting of multiple layers
led Carter to discard the notion that each individual part was its own self-contained unit. Instead,
Carter treats the structure as ongoing, sometimes notating each part in completely different
tempos. In his own words, Carter wished to create a “large, unified musical action”. On December
11, 2008, Carter celebrated his 100th birthday, and continues to teach and compose to the present
Following the intense experimentalism of the previous decade, the 1960’s were
characterized by a return to more basic compositional methods, particularly in the influence of
Asian music and centered in the Javanese and Balinese gamelan traditions. Combined with the
new wave of popular music in rock and jazz and supported by the use of synthesizers and other
electronics, this new style consisted of understated forms, repetitive rhythms, and pure,
consistent textures. Known as minimalism, music written in this style is exactly that; an endless
hypnotic progression leading to no particular goal or end. The most basic musical techniques are
used, and whatever melodic or harmonic constructs are present are extremely limited. The first
recognized composer to develop his music is this style was La Monte Young (b. 1935). Young
applied the principles of Webern’s music in its brevity and applied it to improvisational work.
Most of his compositions use an extremely limited amount of actual musical material; his X for
Henry Flynt (1960) consists solely of one musical sound, the striking of an unidentified percussion
instrument that is left up to the performer to decide. Terry Riley (b. 1935), who performed with
Young in his ensembles, began composing minimalistic music with tape loops, creating
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
repetitions within perfectly maintained rhythmic intervals. Influenced by both jazz and Indian
music, Riley’s In C (1964) has become a defining work for the minimalist movement, and served to
influence other composers within and outside the genre.
Two of the most influential composers in the minimalistic style are Steve Reich (b. 1936)
and Philip Glass (b. 1937). Born in New York City, Reich studied composition with musicians
including Vincent Persichetti, Luciano Berio, and Darius Milhaud, and was one of the performers
on the first performance of In C. His own compositions originated from twelve-tone influences,
but changed dramatically after a five-week study in Ghana, where he learned about Javanese
gamelan music. He developed a new technique involving the playing of two identical sequences,
each moving at a different speed. Known as “phase-shifting”, Reich gradually separated the
sequences out of sync with each other, so that they occurred at slightly different speeds. An
example of this is the 1967 piece Piano Phase, where two pianists perform relatively the same
musical material, first playing in unison, but gradually shifting out of time with each other.
During his career, Reich has experimented with the combination of live performers and recorded
tape, such as in pieces like New York Counterpoint (1985) and Different Trains (1988). In March
2011, Reich premiered WTC 9/11, composed for the victims of September 11, 2001.
Philip Glass completed his composition degrees at the University of Chicago and the
Julliard School, studying alongside Reich with Persichetti and Milhaud. In 1964, Glass traveled to
Paris and studied with Nadia Boulanger, and was later influenced by Indian and Asian music
when he traveled to northern India in 1966. Upon returning to New York in 1967, Glass formed a
performing ensemble with some of his fellow former classmates, including Reich. Glass’
minimalistic works began in the late 1960’s with Music of Fifths (1969), which consists of one
single line that doubles in fifths for the entire duration. In the 1970’s Glass focused on stage
works, culminating in his three famous operas, Einstein on the Beach (1975), Satyagraha (1980),
and Akhnaten (1983). Over his most distinguished career, Glass has written for virtually every
musical genre, including film and television. He has been nominated for Golden Globes and
Academy Awards for the musical scores to films including Kundun (1998), The Truman Show
(1999), The Hours (2002), and Notes on a Scandal (2006). He continues to perform as part of the
Phil Glass Ensemble, and has collaborated with artists and musicians including Mick Jagger, Paul
Simon, David Byrne, and David Bowie.
Though not exclusively minimalistic, John Adams (b. 1947) considers himself a “poststyle” composer, employing several minimalism techniques such as the repetition of patterns.
Born in Massachusetts, Adams studied composition at Harvard University with Roger Sessions
and David Del Tredici, among others. Disillusioned by the rigidity of serialism, Adams became
invigorated after reading John Cage’s book Silence (1973), and subsequently began to experiment
with electronic music and minimalism. His influential works in minimalism include Phrygian
Gates (1978) for solo piano, Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) for full orchestra, and his most
famous work, the opera Nixon in China (1987). Adams has also written for most musical genres,
though not all in the style of minimalism. His piece On the Transmigration of Souls, written as a
memorial piece for the victims of September 11, 2001, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003, and in the same
year, Lincoln Center presented a festival entitled “John Adams: An American Master”, the most
extensive festival that the venue has ever devoted to a living composer.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Technology in Music
Since the introduction of the phonograph in 1877, invented by Thomas Edison, technology
has served an increasingly dominant role in music composition and performance. The practical
application of using technology to create and perform new works of music was not explored until
the beginning of the twentieth century, where new inventions gave composers a completely new
landscape of sound possibilities. Among those inventions include the telharmonium, invented in
1906 by Thaddeus Cahill, capable of producing
electrically generated sounds, and the theramin,
invented in 1920 by Lev Termin. The theramin
was capable of producing a continuous stream of
sound by manipulating alternating frequencies.
Electronic instruments had their debut in
modern music after World War II in the 1950’s.
The earliest process of electronic sound-making
involved creating tapes of recorded natural
sounds and editing those sounds; transforming
them into entirely new entities. This technique,
pioneered at the French National Radio in 1948,
A performer playing a theramin, generating sound
was called musique concréte, because all the
without actually touching the instrument.
collected sounds originally came from natural, or
“concrete” sources.
Soon afterward studios were created for the specific development of sound recording and
manipulation, most notably in Cologne, Paris, Milan, and Princeton. Composers who had
previously written in serial form, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Milton Babbitt, and John Cage,
were drawn to this new resource, and began to compose using electronic sounds and live
recordings. Stockhausen’s Study I (1953) and Gesang der Jünglinge (“Song of the Youths” – 1956)
both represented a dramatic shift in how music could be performed without the need for a live
performer. By 1960 electronic music had become the newest innovation in contemporary music.
Films, television, and radio had begun to employ a heavy use of electronics, and the invention of
the synthesizer allowed the integration of multiple elements such as an oscillator, amplifier, and
other components into a single control keyboard. In 1965, Robert Moog, a New York sound
engineer, developed the Moog synthesizer, the first commercially available synthesizer and the
most sophisticated electronic instrument of its time. The synthesizer appealed not only to
contemporary composers, but to rock, jazz, and new wave musicians that integrated the
instrument into their genres as well. Milton Babbitt in particular was drawn to what the
synthesizer could accomplish, resulting in groundbreaking works such as his Composition for
Synthesizer (1961) and Philomel (1964). Philomel in particular combines live and recorded sounds
as a performing soprano sings in combination with a tape of her own recorded voice. By 1970,
electronics in music had infiltrated virtually every genre of both contemporary and popular
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
The addition of using computers to generate sound began in the late 1950’s when Max V.
Matthews, an American electrical engineer, developed the first computer program able to create
musical sound. The program, developed at New Jersey’s Bell Laboratories, was called Music V, and
soon afterward computer sound programs were installed at Princeton and Stanford in the mid
1960’s. Computers could also function as controllers; sending instructions to electronic equipment
and serving as a unifying controller for
multiple devices. The development of MIDI
(Musical Instrument Digital Interface) in the
1980’s allowed a wide variety of musical
devices, including both computers and
electronic musical instruments to
communicate with each other in a shared
digital language. Today, technology is used
extensively to produce, perform, and share
music around the world. Musical composition
programs such as Finale and Sibelius can
generate entire works using any known
combination of musical sounds, and music
A screen shot of the musical sequencer program
Mixcraft 5.0.
sequencers including Mixcraft and Garage
Band can give anyone the ability to create
entire musical scores. Sharing music around the world has become almost instantaneous with
devices such as the iPod, iPad, and internet-based applications and websites such as YouTube,
Facebook, and Grooveshark. Increasing at an exponential rate, it is difficult to say what new
innovations await the 21st century, but it is obvious that technology will continue to play a
dominant role in music of the future.
Music in the Present and the Future
The idea that music could be created through an unlimited number of means to express
an endless array of concepts combined with new technologies that allowed greater reaches of
communication and possibilities in sound gave rise to the experimental genres that defined the
mid-twentieth century. By the 1970’s, however, the younger generation of composer had turned
toward a more conservative route. Their desire was to make music more accessible than their
predecessors, because while the music of the experimentalists may have been groundbreaking in
its originality, their audiences became so specialized that the mainstream had been left out.
During that time, the popular vein of music began to gain influence as jazz gave way to rock n’
roll and its descendants. Composers from the 1970’s onward wished to appeal to a wider audience,
and so they returned to the roots of tonality while utilizing the techniques from the past and the
present. Born in West Virginia, George Crumb (b. 1929) has used a variety of instrumental
combinations, including electronic medium, to explore new timbres and sound combinations. His
writings also involve contrasting multiple stylistic influences, a technique that has become
increasingly popular among late twentieth century and early twenty-first century composers.
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Crumb also includes a variety of non-traditional instruments, specifically in his most famous
work, Ancient Voices of Children (1970), which involves a toy piano, prayer stones, and a musical
saw. The use of unorthodox instrumentation continues to be a favorite technique among
contemporary composers.
The return to tonality has been called the “new romanticism” by musicians of the current
age; one of the earliest exponents of that development is David del Tredici (b. 1937). Tredici,
who studied with Roger Sessions among others, was originally trained in the serial medium.
Tredici, however, followed a different path with his early works, setting multiple texts by James
Joyce and contemporary poets, reflecting a tendency toward homosexual themes. As an advocate
for gay rights, Tredici has been twice named OUT Magazine’s Man of the Year. Tredici’s most
famous compositions are his set of works based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in
Wonderland, including the Alice Symphony (1969); Final Alice (1976) and Child Alice (1981), which
won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for its first part, entitled In Memory of a Summer Day.
Women composers, though not a novelty to composition, began to gain more universal
acceptance and appreciation in the second half of the twentieth century. The first Pulitzer Prize
given to a woman was awarded in 1983 to Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939). Zwilich (see Composer
Profiles) also received the first doctorate in composition given to a woman by the Julliard School,
and went on to earn five honorary doctorates since then. Joan Tower (b. 1938), while born in New
York, lived for ten years in Bolivia, where she adapted South American rhythms into her mature
works. Among her most famous pieces is the Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (1987), inspired
by Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Libby Larson (b. 1950) established the American
Composers Forum in 1973 during her time studying at the University of Minnesota. With a
catalogue of over five hundred works, Larson is one of the most prolific composers of the present
age, and has over fifty recorded CD’s of her music.
Among those composers who have continued to develop music into the twenty-first
century include John Corigliano (b. 1938) and Tan Dun (b. 1957). Both composers (see
Composer Profiles) have earned wide international acclaim by incorporating traditional, folk, and
popular stylistic influences into their
music. They have also included a wide
variety of instrumentation, and have also
composed in every genre of music
available, including orchestral, chamber,
vocal, opera, and film. It is impossible to
display a comprehensive list of all the
influential composers of today’s
generation, as so many diverse
compositional approaches define the
musical society of the present. The
current musical scene is a flurry of activity
Home page for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra,
with an entire range of subcultures that
developed by Google in 2008.
interact with each other. The global village
of music in the present provides a wealth of material that composers draw upon, combining and
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
redefining at an exponential rate. These materials now come from a variety of sources, including
any and all previous stylistic tendencies and techniques from all corners of the world. It is difficult
to see the far-reaching capabilities of this new musical “openness”, but it is clear to see that it is a
world full of exciting opportunities.
For Review:
Germany and Austrian composers began what would be called the transition to a more
modern tonal language, particularly in the symphonies of Gustav Mahler and the tone
poems and operas of Richard Strauss.
Arnold Schoenberg and the members of the Second Viennese School led the
revolution of atonality, where music has no tonal center and is characterized by its brutal
and distorted views of the human subconscious. This is mirrored in the Expressionist art
movement of the early twentieth century.
Schoenberg also developed the concept of serialism, or using sequences made up of
twelve-tone rows in varied form. His students and contemporaries, Anton Webern and
Alban Berg, made further developments to this concept and solidified it as a new form of
musical expression.
In France, Impressionism became heavily popular with the works of Claude Debussy
and Maurice Ravel. Other influential composers, though not considered Impressionists,
living at the time include Erik Satie and Paul Dukas.
Russian music before Modernism was heavily influenced by Tchaikovsky and the Russian
Five. While they were students together, Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninov’s
music could not be further apart. Trained by Rimsky-Korsakov, Igor Stravinsky became
the most innovative of the three, specifically in his groundbreaking work, Le Sacre du
printempts (“The Rite of Spring”).
Other members of the European musical scene defined new forms of expression, ranging
from Béla Bártok and Zoltán Kodály’s use of Eastern European folk music, to Italian
opera under Giacomo Puccini, and new stylistic approaches from British composers such
as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst.
American music was born out of the European tradition, and it was not until composers
such as John Philip Sousa and Charles Ives appeared that the United States had their
own individual voice.
Music after World War I took on a very different function from the pre-war years.
Composers including Paul Hindemith, Dmitri Shostakovich, and the composers of Les
Six saw music as encompassing a more utilitarian function, and created music that was
more objective and economical as opposed to works that were designed to exalt the
human condition.
American composers began to develop their cultural sound, though many of its greatest
advocates were trained in Europe. They used American folk melodies and jazz harmonies
to create a new, uniquely American style of music. These influences can be seen in the
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
works of George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland, among many
After World War II, musical developments completely broke away from all sense of prior
convention. Integrated serialism took over the compositional avant-garde during the
1950’s in the works of Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Milton Babbitt.
Another advanced development was aleatoric, or “chance” music, that relied heavily on
indeterminate elements. The most influential advocate of this music was Boulez,
Stockhausen, and the American composer John Cage.
Musical texture and massed blocks of sound defined the works of composers through the
1950’s. Krzysztof Penderecki and György Ligeti defined a new expression of sound,
while Iannis Xenakis and Elliott Carter took the concept of rhythm and applied new
forms of mathematical modulations.
The 1960’s saw a return to musical simplicity in the style of minimalism, which conveyed
the most basic of music elements in a repeating structure of minimal musical elements.
Composers who excelled in this genre include Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John
Technology has become a defining force for modern music since the beginning of the
twentieth century. The invention of the synthesizer and advances in digital sound
technology has given a new wealth of music material to composers around the world.
Music in the present day is more aligned with appealing to the general public. Styles and
techniques across time periods and nations are freely employed in a cross-culture
environment of musical opportunity.
Suggested Listening:
Gustav Mahler:
Symphonies 1-9 (10, Mvt. I); Das Lied von der Erde (“Song of the Earth”); Songs of a Wayfarer
Richard Strauss:
Tone Poems: Aus Italien, Op. 16 (“From Italy”), Don Juan, Op. 20, Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24
(“Death and Transfiguration”), Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28 (“Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry
Pranks”), Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (“Thus Spake Zarathustra”), Don Quixote, Op. 35, Ein
Heldenleben, Op. 40 (“A Hero’s Life”), Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53 (“Domestic Symphony”), Eine
Alpensinfonie, Op. 64 (“An Alpine Symphony”)
Operas: Salome, Op. 54, Elektra, Op. 58, Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59 (“The Rose Knight”)
Other: Metamophosen for 23 solo strings, Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 11, Vier letzte
lieder (“Four Last Songs”)
Max Reger: Symphonic Fantasy and Fugue “Inferno”, Op. 57; Variations and Fugue on a Theme of
Mozart, Op. 132
Arnold Schoenberg: Transfigured Night, Op. 4 (1899); The Book of the Hanging Gardens, Op. 15
(1909); Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 (1909); Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912); Four Orchestral Songs,
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Op. 22 (1916); Violin Concerto, Op. 26 (1936); Theme and Variations for Band, Op. 43 (1943); A
Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947); Moses und Aron (unfinished, 1932)
Anton Webern: Five Pieces for String Quartet, Op. 5 (1909); Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 10 (1913);
String Trio, Op. 20 (1927); Symphony, Op. 21 (1928); Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30 (1940)
Alban Berg: Quartet, Op. 3 (1910); Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 (1915); Wozzeck, Op. 7 (1922);
Lyric Suite (1926); “Lulu” Suite (1935)
Claude Debussy: Orchestral: Nocturnes, L. 86; La Mer, L. 109 (“The Sea”); Images, L. 122; Prélude à
l'après-midi d'un faune, L. 83 (“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”)
Piano: Children’s Corner, L. 113; Préludes, Book 1, L. 117; Études, L. 136
Opera: Pelléas et Mélisande, L. 88
Maurice Ravel: Rhapsodie Espagnole (1907); Mother Goose (1912); Daphnis et Chloé (1912); Le
Tombeau de Couperin (1919); La Valse (1920); Bolero (1928); Piano Concerto for Left Hand (1930)
Erik Satie: Gymnopédie No. 2 (1888); Sports et divertissements (1914)
Paul Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897)
Alexander Scriabin: Prometheus, the Poem of Fire; Piano Sonata No. 5; Piano Sonata No. 7
Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 1 (1891); Symphony No. 1, Op. 13 (1896); Piano
Concerto No. 2, Op. 18 (1901); Symphony No. 2, Op. 27 (1908); The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29 (1908);
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (1934); Symphony No. 3, Op. 44 (1936); Symphonic
Dances, Op. 45 (1940)
Igor Stravinsky: Scherzo Fantastique (1908); Fireworks (1908); The Firebird (1910); Petrushka (1911);
Le Sacre du Printemps (“The Rite of Spring” – 1913); Histoire du Soldat (“The Soldier’s Tale”- 1918);
Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920); Octet for Wind Instruments (1923); Oedipus Rex (1927);
Symphony of Psalms (1930); Symphony in Three Movements (1945); The Rake’s Progress (1951)
Giacomo Puccini: Operas: Manon Lescaut (1893); La bohéme (“The Bohemians” - 1896); Tosca
(1900); Madama Butterfly (1904); Turendot (incomplete – premiered 1926)
Leoš Janáček: Operas: Jenůfa (1903); Šárka (1888); Fate (1905); Glagolitic Mass (1926)
Zoltán Kodály: Psalmus Hungaricus (1923); Háry János (1926); Dances of Marosszék (1930); Dances
of Galanta (1933); Te Deum (1939)
Béla Bártok: String Quartet No. 1 (1908); Bluebeard’s Castle (1911); The Wooden Prince (1914); String
Quartet No. 2 (1915); The Miraculous Mandarin (1918); Piano Concerto No. 1 (1926); Music for
Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (1936); Contrasts (1938); Mikrokosmos (1939); Concerto for
Orchestra (1945)
Jean Sibelius: Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899); Symphonies 1-7
Carl Nielsen: Symphonies 1-6; Aladdin Suite (1919); Wind Quintet, Op. 43 (1922); Concerto for Flute
and Orchestra (1926); Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 57 (1928)
Edward Elgar: “Enigma” Variations, Op. 36 (1899); The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38 (1900); Pomp
and Circumstance Marches, Op. 39 (1901-1930); Symphony No. 1, Op. 55 (1908); Symphony No. 2,
Op. 63 (1911); String Quartet, Op. 83 (1918); Cello Concerto, Op. 85 (1919)
Ralph Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony (1909); On Wenlock Edge (1909); Fantasia on a Theme
by Thomas Tallis (1910); A London Symphony (1913); A Pastoral Symphony (1921); English Folk Song
Suite (1923); Sea Songs (1923); Symphonies No. 4-9 (1931-1957)
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
Gustav Holst: First Suite in E-flat (1909); Second Suite in F (1911); Saint Paul’s Suite (1913); The
Planets (1916); Egdon Heath (1927); Hammersmith (1931)
John Philip Sousa: Marches: The Stars and Stripes Forever; Semper Fidelis; Riders for the Flag; The
Thunderer; Washington Post March; Manhattan Beach March; King Cotton; The Liberty Bell
Charles Ives: Variations on “America” (1892); Symphony No. 1 in D minor (1901); Symphony No. 2
(1902); The Unanswered Question (1906, revised 1934); Central Park in the Dark (1909); Symphony
No. 3 “The Camp Meeting” (1910); Three Places in New England (1914, revised 1929); General
William Booth Enters Into Heaven (1914); Symphony No. 4 (1918); Piano Sonata No. 2 “Concord,
Mass.” (1919)
Darius Milhaud: The Bull on the Roof (1919); Souvenirs of Brazil (1921); La Création du monde (“The
Creation of the World”- 1923); The Blue Express (1924)
Arthur Honegger: Le Roi David (“King David – 1921); Pacific 231 (1923); Piano Concerto (1925);
Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (“Joan of Arc at the Stake” - 1935); Symphony No. 5 (1951)
Francis Poulenc: Mouvements perpétuels (“Perpetual Motion” – 1918); Stabat Mater (1950); Gloria
(1959); Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1962)
Paul Hindemith: Tanzstücke, Op. 19 (“Dance Piece” – 1922); Kammermusik No. 1 (1922); Kleine
Kammermusik for wind quintet (1922); Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 38 (1925); Konzertmusik Für
Blasorchestra, Op. 41 (“Concert Music for Wind Orchestra” – 1926); Mathis du Maler (1935); Violin
Concerto (1939); Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1939); Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by
Carl Maria von Weber (1943); Symphony in B-flat for Concert Band (1951); The Harmony of The
World (1957)
Kurt Weill: Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927); The Threepenny Opera (1928); Four Songs of Walt
Whitman (1942); Street Scene (1946)
Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 19; Scythian Suite, Op. 20; Symphony No. 1 “Classical”,
Op. 25; Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26; Lieutenant Kije, Op. 60; Romeo and Juliette, Op.
64; Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67; Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78
Aram Khachaturian: Gayane (1941); Spartacus (1950-54); Masquerade Suite (1944)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10; Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Op.
29; Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47; Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 70; Festive Overture,
Op. 96; Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 102; Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana (1936); Music for Children (1950-54)
Manuel de Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915); Love, the Magician (1915); The ThreeCornered Hat (1919)
Ernst Krenek: Jonny speilt auf (1926); Sestina (1957); From Three Make Seven (1961); Fibonacci
mobile (1964)
Ottorino Respighi: Fountains of Rome (1916); Pines of Rome (1924); Roman Festivals (1928)
Benjamin Britten: Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge (1937); Paul Bunyon (1941); Peter Grimes
(1945); The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1945); Billy Budd (1951); War Requiem (1961)
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1924); Piano Concerto in F (1925); Three Preludes for Piano
(1926); Strike Up the Band (1927); An American in Paris (1928); Cuban Overture (1932); Porgy and
Bess (1935); Shall We Dance (1936)
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American” (1930); Troubled Island (1939); The American
Scene (1957)
Leonard Bernstein: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1939); On the Town (1944); Candide (1953); On
the Waterfront (1954); West Side Story (1957); Mass (1971); Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish” (1977); Slava!
(1977); A Quiet Place (1983)
Aaron Copland: El Salón México (1936); Billy the Kid (1938); Of Mice and Men (1939); Quiet City
(1940); Our Town (1940); An Outdoor Overture (1941); Rodeo (1942); Danzón Cubano (1942);
Lincoln Portrait (1942); Appalachian Spring (1944); Third Symphony (1946); Clarinet Concerto
(1948); Emblems (1964)
Virgil Thomson: Symphony on a Hymn Tune (1928); Four Saints in Three Acts (1928)
William Schumann: George Washington Bridge (1950); New England Triptych (1956)
Samuel Barber: Overture for The School for Scandal, Op. 5 (1931); Symphony No. 1 (1936); Essay for
Orchestra, Op. 12 (1937); Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 (1938); Knoxville, Summer of 1915 (1948); Summer
Music for Wind Quintet (1956)
Carl Ruggles: Men and Mountains (1924); Sun-Treader (1931)
Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2 “Mysterious Mountain”, Op. 132 (1955)
Henry Cowell: Aeolian Harp (1923); The Banshee (1925); Sinister Resonance (1930)
Harry Partch: Li Po Songs (1933); Barstow (1941); The Letter (1943); Delusion of the Fury (1966)
Henry Brant: Verticals Ascending; Horizontals Extending; Meteor Farm (1982); Ice Field (2001)
Edgard Varèse: Offrandes (1921); Hyperprism (1923); Ionisation (1931); Ecuatorial (1934)
Carlos Chávez: Xochipilli (1940); Toccata for Percussion (1942)
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Rudepoema (1926); Bachianas brasileiras (1930-45)
Alberto Ginastera: Danza argentinas (1937); Variaciones concertantes (1953); Don Rodrigo (1964)
Pierre Boulez: Piano Sonata No. 2 (1948); Structures I (1952); Le Marteau sans maître (“The
Hammer Without a Master” – 1954)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Kontra-Punkte (1952); Composition No. 2 (1953); Zyklus (1959)
Olivier Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time” – 1940);
Turangalîla-symphonie (1948); Réveil des oiseaux (1953); Chronochromie (1960)
Milton Babbitt: Three Compositions for Piano (1947); Composition for Four Instruments (1948); All
Set (1957); Philomel (1964); String Quartet No. 3 (1970)
John Cage: Construction (1939); Living Room Music (1940); Music of Changes (1951); 4’33’’ (1952)
Krzysztof Penderecki: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960); Symph0ny No. 3 (1995)
György Ligeti: Atmosphères (1961); Lux aeterna (1966); Lontano (1967);
Iannis Xenakis: Metastasis (1954); Stratégie (1962)
Elliott Carter: Eight Etudes and a Fantasy (1949); String Quartet No. 2 (1959); Piano Concerto
(1965); Concerto for Orchestra (1969); String Quartet No. 3 (1971)
Steve Reich: Piano Phase (1967); Clapping Music (1972); New York Counterpoint (1985); Different
Trains (1988)
Philip Glass: Music in Twelve Parts (1974); Einstein on the Beach (1975); Satyagraha (1980);
Akhnaten (1983)
John Adams: Phrygian Gates (1977); Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986); Nixon in China (1987);
Fearful Symmetries (1988); On the Transmigration of Souls (2002); Doctor Atomic (2005)
Music in Modernism – c. 1900-2000
George Crumb: Echoes of Time and the River (1967); Black Angels (1970); Ancient Voices of
Children (1970); A Haunted Landscape (1984)
David Del Tredici: An Alice Symphony (1969); Final Alice (1976); Child Alice (1981); Dracula (1999);
In Wartime (2003);
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Symphony No. 1 “Three Movements for Orchestra” (1982); Celebration for
Orchestra (1984); Concerto Grosso (1985); Symbolon (1988); Symphony No. 4 “The Gardens” (1999);
Millennium Fantasy (2000); Symphony No. 5 “Concerto for Orchestra” (2008); Shadows for Piano
and Orchestra (2011)
Joan Tower: Wings (1981); Sequoia (1981); Island Rhythms (1985); Fanfare for the Uncommon
Woman (1992); Paganini Trills (1996); Stroke (2010)
Libby Larson: Symphony No. 1 “Water Music” (1985); Symphony No. 2 “Coming Forth Into Day”
(1986); Songs from Letters (1989); Frankenstein (1990); Ring of Fire (1995); Try Me, Good King: Last
Words of the Wives of Henry VIII (2000); Dreaming Blue (2002); This Unbearable Stillness (2003);
An Introduction to the Moon (2005); Western Songs (2005); Sifting Through the Ruins (2005)
John Corigliano: Gazebo Dances (1974); Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1977); Altered States
(1981); Symphony No. 1 (1988); The Ghosts of Versailles (1991); Symphony No. 2 (2000); Concerto for
Violin and Orchestra “The Red Violin” (2003); Symphony No. 3 “Circus Maximus” (2004)
Tan Dun: Marco Polo (1996); Symphony 1997: Heaven Earth Mankind (1997); Water Concerto
(1998); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); Water Passion after St. Matthew (2000); Hero
(2002); Paper Concerto (2003); The First Emperor (2006); Earth Concerto (2009); Internet
Symphony No. 1 “Eroica” (2009)
Corigliano, John (2012, August 15). Retrieved from
Craft, Robert & Stravinsky, Igor. Memories and Commentaries. Faber and Faber: New York, 2002.
Crumb, George (2012, August 15). Retrieved from
Del Tredici, David. (2012, August 15). Retrieved from
Dun, Tan (2012, August 15). Retrieved from
Kennedy, Michael. Richard Strauss. Schirmer Books: New York, 1976.
Larson, Libby (2012, August 15). Retrieved from
Morgan, Robert P. Twentieth-Century Music. W.W. Norton and Company: New York, 1991.
Morgan, Robert P., ed. Anthology of Twentieth-Century Music. W.W. Norton and Company: New
York, 1992.
Palisca, Claude, ed. Norton Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1, Third Edition. W.W. Norton
and Company: New York, 1996.
Grout, Donald & Palisca, Claude. A History of Western Music, Fifth Edition. W.W. Norton and
Company: New York, 1996.
Schonberg, Harold. The Lives of the Great Composers, Third Edition. W.W. Norton and
Company: New York, 1997.
Treitler, Leo, ed. Source Readings in Music History. W.W. Norton and Company: New York, 1998.
Wilson, Elizabeth. Shostakovich: A Life Remembered. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1994.