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THE 20TH CENTURY AND MODERN MUSIC



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THE 20TH CENTURY AND MODERN MUSIC

Have you seen Fantasia? It’s the

Disney movie that interprets classical

music through images of coffins

bouncing down stairs, Mickey Mouse

playing Sorcerer’s Apprentice, hippos,

elephants, ostriches and crocodiles doing

ballet; centaurs, fauns, satyrs and nymphs.

The music in the part of the film that shows the

beginnings of life and the final destruction of the dinosaurs, is The Rite

of Spring, by Igor Stravinsky. It was written in 1913 and caused a riot at

its first performance. “What were those sounds coming from the

orchestra?” “That can’t be a bassoon! A bassoon shouldn’t or couldn’t

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sound like that!!” “What’s the rhythm?” “Are they in tune? “Terrible!

Stop!!” These words described the reactions of audience at that first

performance. These words can also describe the reactions to a lot of

the music that has been composed in the past century. Stravinsky

(1882-1971), Bela Bartok (1881-1945), Arnold Schoenberg, (1874-1951)

are three major composers of the first half of the 20th century whose

bold musical ideas threatened the sense and sensibilities of the musical

establishment. This was a time of rule-breaking. Our familiar scale—do

re mi fa so la ti do—was replaced by lots of unfamiliar combinations of

tones. It was alarming! It was exciting!

The past hundred years have seen many changes in all the arts.

Music has probably gone through the most dramatic changes of all.

Experiments and discoveries in the science of sound and electronics

have enabled many of today’s composers to create symphonies,

concertos, operas, and other musical compositions without ever

leaving their electronic keyboards, or needing instrumentalists and

singers to perform their work. The same is true for the listener. In the

Middle Ages it was mainly monks in church who heard music. In the

Baroque period classical music was performed for only the wealthiest

of people. In the Romantic period everyone could go to a concert hall

to hear music. During the twentieth century, great performances of

could be heard at home on the radio or phonograph. Today, we can

download music from the Internet. There’s never been a better time to

learn to love “Music Through the Ages!”


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