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MUSIC 1AA3 (24)

The Twentieth Century - textbook notes

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Lara Housez

The Twentieth Century (1901-2000) - Advances in technology o Sound recordings, radio, film, television, computers - Listeners had greater access to more diverse kinds of music than ever before - Composers created entirely novel approaches to music by writing works without a tonal center and without a clear sense of meter or regular rhythm - Others incorporated sounds from the music of non-Western cultures - Electronically generated sounds started being incorporated into the timbre - Ragtime, jazz, blues developed novel ways of applying tonal harmonies and metered rhythms - Influence of African American and Latin composers/musicians became more pronounced Modernism - Pablo Picasso – art retains elements of representation, but the sense of perspective is heavily distorted, several different angles at once; known as cubism - Disregard for tradition and a quest for novelty that far exceeded any such drive in the past - Modernist painters rejected the time-honoured idea that a painting had to represent a particular object o Abstract art – colour and form o Gone was depth, illusion of perspective o Contemporary - Modern architects o Eliminated ornamentation o Smooth, clean lines - Modern novelists o Writing in unbroken stream of consciousness – readers were often at a loss to decipher any clear story line Audio technology - Listeners could hear music when and where they wanted to - Thomas Edison – cylinder disk in 1877 - 1897 – 78rpm disks - Radio stations – 1920s - Eventually film, television, internet - Traditional written notation became irrelevant in many musical styles - In the 1940s composers could manipulate sounds by splicing and re-recording taped sounds - “Good Vibrations” Beach Boys – 1960s, composed entirely in the studio - 1990 rap group Public Enemy – entirely studio created sounds for “Fight the Power” Social Diversity - In the 19040s, American society was sharply divided along racial lines – segregation - Cotton Tail – Duke Ellington and orchestra – whites and African Americans together - Music helped bridge the divide between races – as early as 1930s whites and blacks played together - Pop music has been an integral part of social change and protest o Gospel in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, psychedelia in the antiwar movement of the 60s and 70s, punk as an outcry against economic repression in the 70s and 80s, and hip-hop as a statement on racism and discrimination at the end of the century and beyond Globalization - Debussey heard Javanese musical ensemble known as gamelan play at the Paris International Exposition in 1889 – revelation - Growing ease of telecommunications and transportation made the world of 2000 a far smaller place than it had been in 1900 - National economies grew increasingly dependent on one another - Disparate cultures mingled even within individual composers and performers who often rebelled against the notion that they or their music belonged strictly to one tradition or another Claude Debussy (1862-1918) - Straddled 2 centuries – was born during US civil war and died a few months before the end of WW1 - Regarded as 1 great composer of 20 century th - No other single figure of his era did more to expand the possibilities of form, harmony, and timbre - Born on outskirts of Paris – studied piano at Conservatory of Paris, won prestigious prize in composition - Highly unconventional career as a composer - He never held a public post, accepted no students on any regular basis, and rarely appeared in public as a pianist or conductor - Pushed the boundaries of composition with increased intensity - Sought to create sounds that had never been heard before - Master of orchestration - Worked in obscurity - The Afternoon of a Faun – initially greeted with indifference/scorn, are not recognized as masterpieces - He had many imitators (known as Debussyistes) - Death was widely mourned Impressionism – an artistic movement focused more on sensations, perceptions, and light than on the direct representation of objects; in music – the term was used by critics of the early twentieth century to describe harmonies, melodies, and forms they considered indistinct - Particularly important in painting – artists focused more on sensations, perceptions, and light than on direct representation of objects o Monet, Renoir - Effects of light on our perception of an object - Colour took precedence over line - Idea was to capture a moment in time – worked quickly to reproduce on canvas the fleeting appearance of a scene and then moved on to the next painting – critics called their owrks unfinished - In music – blurring harmonies, rhythms, forms – avoid clear cadences and rhythmic patterns, music seems to ebb and flow – great emphasis on the timbre - Reality reconstructed in the mind from our sensory perceptions of the world Voiles (1910) - Can mean either sails or veils - Placed the title at the end of the written score rather than the beginning - Timbre is muted, melodies appear and disappear without development or conclusion, harmonies remain unresolved, rhythm never establishes any strong sense of meter - Fits sails and veils as they are both light and fluttering and constantly in motion Timbre - Nonpercussive sound - Asked pianists to play as if there were no hammers - Persistently soft volume – more intimate timbre - Got the idea from Javanese gamelan – collection of drums, gongs, xylophones, plucked string instruments at International Exposition in Paris in 1889 - Gentle, floating timbres of what is essentially a percussion ensemble Melody – fragments - Sound like fragments of themes - 1 – downward contour, ending with an upward leap - 2 – a single repeated note in the bass - 3 – a slow, rising three-note figure - 4 – a turning figure - 5 – a harp-like glissando figure - Each theme is fluid, altered slightly every time it returns - Music as a whole avoids any strong sense of direction – not moving towards a goal or climax - Succession of slowly changing images Dynamics – whispering, hinting - Except for one very brief passage in the middle the entire work is written at the level of piano or pianissimo - Extremely low dynamic reinforces the nonpercussive timbre of the instrument – pianist touches the keys lightly or even wiping/caressing them rather than striking them - Allows the 1 forte moment to stand out - Structural importance of the dynamics – providing a point of contrast against an otherwise unchanging plane of softness Rhythm – where’s the downbeat? - Notated in duple meter - But no sense of a fixed metrical pattern - Music floats or drifts - Repeated Bb’s in the lower register help obscure the meter of the work even more – they fall off the beat at times, disappear, returns, disappears again – is unpredictable Charles Ives (1874-1954) - Absorbed and rebelled against almost every musical tradition of his time - Son of a Civil War bandmaster – grew up in Danbury, Connecticut where he learned many different kinds of music – orchestra repertory of the concert hall, church hymns, band music, popular songs – worked all of these idioms into his own music, often in the same work - Had a day job in insurance to support his wife and kids, composed only in his spare time, but his music was rarely performed or published during his lifetime - Only toward the end of his life did critics and performers begin to take note of his music - Recognized as a pioneer who had challenged convention and gone against the grain The Unanswered Question (1908) - Contrast of the old and new - “please don’t try to make things nice, all the wrong notes are right” – he once told a scribe he had hired to copy some of his music Contrasting timbres - Strings o Small string orchestra of violins, violas, cellos, double basses, play throughout the entire work from beginning to end without pause - Solo trumpet o Interjects “The Unanswered Question” at 5 different points over the course of the piece - Wind quartet o Ensemble of 4 wind instruments (2 flutes and 2 clarinets) respond to the question each time with a different answer Layered texture - The strings seem utterly oblivious to the dialogue taking place between the two groups of wind instruments - 3 blocks of sounds – the strings, solo trumpet, winds – are moving completely independently of one another Atonal vs. Tonal harmony - Tonal – harmonic center of gravity, central note (tonic) provides a strong sense of resolution; consonance - Atonal – no harmonic center of gravity, no single note exerts the kind of force, attraction, all notes are of equal weight, no note is more important, notes don’t line up as we expect; dissonance, doesn’t feel finished or resolved - Strings play tonal harmony – slow, measured place, resolved, nothing left open-ended - Trumpet – 5-note figure with no harmonic center, atonal - Wind quartet – become more tonally diffuse and rhythmically independent as the work progresses, atonal Dynamics - Strings play very quiet, pianissimo, throughout with no change in tempo o “The Silence of the Druids – who know, see, and hear nothing” - Trumpet – same tone of voice each time o “The perennial question of existence” - Flutes – gradually more active, faster, and louder as the work progresses o The hunt for “The invisible answer” Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) - The composer as outside - Tortured soul – an outside who longed to be accepted yet never felt comfortable regardless of his place in the world - Widely perceived as a musical radical, he considered himself a traditionalist who was extending the heritage of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms - Jewish, converted to Christianity, and then back to Judaism - Austrian, moved to Vienna and Berlin, and then the US when the Nazis took over Germany - Moved to LA - Twelve-tone composition – organized pitches into rows of 12 different notes – each of the 12 tones had equal weight, none was repeated before all the others had been played - Taught at UCLA Expressionism – a broad artistic movement that flourished in music, painting, and literature in the early decades of the twentieth century in which psychological truth took precedence over beauty and inner emotion took precedence over any sense of external reality - Painters – exaggerated imagery and sometimes garish colours to create art that was not so much beautiful as probing – the expression of inner moods and thoughts, give voice to the unconscious, to make apparent humanity’s deepest and often darkest emotion o Bypasses the ego (the conscious self) and aims straight for the id, the unconscious bank of basic instincts and drives o Rejects conventional techniques of representation, favouring instead devices that exaggerate and distort o Dismissed by conservative critics at the time, now recognized as one of the most important outcomes of modernism in the twentieth century - Film – especially in Germany – dark, severe, highly stylized films o Gruesome and surreal o Rarely involve action, instead revolve around issues of insanity and psychologically abnormal o Fritz Lang – Metropolis, M o Influenced Tim Burton and David Lynch of today “Columbine” from Pierrot lunaire (1912) - “Columbine” is one of a set of 21 songs for soprano and a small ensemble of instruments - Not beautiful in any conventional sense – purposely set this anguished text to music that is equally tormented; he saw no point in trying to project pain through beauty, the music cap
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