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Music Viva Voce 1900 1945 (Early 20th Century)

4241 words - 17 pages

Introduction

The high value placed on individuality and personal expression in the romantic era grew even more pronounced in the 20th century. This was partly the result of several features of 20th-century life. More people from more social and geographic backgrounds than ever before were able to study music and develop their aptitude for composition. An enormous range of tastes and skills thus became a feature of modern composition. Radios and recordings brought music from once-remote countries in South America and the Far East to the attention of musicians in all parts of the world. The speed of modern communications made it possible for listeners to evaluate innovations more quickly than ...view middle of the document...

The most prominent representatives of neoclassicism were Igor Stravinsky and German-born Paul Hindemith. Others included the Russians Sergey Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich. Many American composers have embraced the principles of neoclassicism, largely as a result of their years of study in Paris with the French composer-teacher Nadia Boulanger. These Americans included Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, and Virgil Thomson.

Nationalism
Meanwhile, musical nationalism continued to flourish, all composers of this style were ardent collectors of their national fold songs, first by transcribing them manually, and then, when phonographic equipment became available, recording them.

Music and politics
The political upheavals of the 20th century, particularly the two world wars, had a profound effect on music, as on other art forms. During the economic depression which followed World War 1, composers were forced to pare down their musical resources. Works that had required huge and expensive symphony orchestras gave way to small chamber ensembles, evident in the post-war works of Stravinsky and 'Les Six'. Another noticeable influence during the 1920s and 30s was that of jazz, exported to Europe from the USA, and taken up with enthusiasm in England, France and Germany.

Tonality
In the early 20th century the vocabulary of tonal theory is decisively influenced by two theorists: composer Arnold Schoenberg whose work "Harmonielehre" describes in detail chords, chord progressions, vagrant chords, creation of tonal areas, voice leading in terms of harmony. To Schoenberg, every note has "structural function" to assert or deny a tonality, based on its tendency to establish or undermine a single tonic triad as central. At the same time Heinrich Schenker is evolving a theory based on expansion of horizontal relationships. To Schenker the background of every successful tonal piece is based on a simple cadence, which is then elaborated and elongated in the middle ground and the background. Though adherents of the two theorists argued back and forth, in the mid-century a synthesis of their ideas was widely taught as "tonal theory", most particularly Schenker's use of graphical analysis, and Schoenberg's emphasis on tonal distance.
The practice of jazz developed its own theory of tonality, stating that while the cadence is not central to establishing a tonality - the presence of the I and V chords and either the IV or ii chord in progression is. This theory emphasized the play of modal elements against tonal elements, in an effort to allow improvisation, and inflection of standard melodies. Among theorists influenced by this view are Meier, Schillinger and the be-bop school of Jazz.
Australian composer Arnold Schoenberg began experimenting first with atonality, in which the 12 notes of the chromatic scale are treated equally, and then with an original method of musical organization called the "12-note system". This method in which musical building...

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