At the turn of the century, music was characteristically late Romantic in style. Composers such as Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Jean Sibelius were pushing the bounds of Post-Romantic Symphonic writing. At the same time, the Impressionist movement, led by Claude Debussy, was being developed in France. The term was actually disliked by Debussy: “I am trying to do ‘something different—in a way realities—what the imbeciles call ‘impressionism’ is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics” —and Maurice Ravel’s music, also often labelled with this term.
Many composers reacted to the Post-Romantic and Impressionist styles and moved in quite different directions. The single most important moment in defining the course of music throughout the century was the widespread break with traditional tonality, effected in diverse ways by different composers in the first decade of the century. From this sprang an unprecedented “linguistic plurality” of styles, techniques, and expression. In Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg developed atonality, out of the expressionism that arose in the early part of the 20th century.
He later developed the twelve-tone technique which was developed further by his disciples Alban Berg and Anton Webern; later composers (including Pierre Boulez) developed it further still. Stravinsky (in his last works) explored twelve-tone technique, too, as did many other composers; indeed, even Scott Bradley used the technique in his scores for the Tom and Jerry cartoons. After the First World War, many composers started returning to the past for inspiration and wrote works that draw elements (form, harmony, melody, structure) from it.
This type of music thus became labelled neoclassicism. Igor Stravinsky (Pulcinella and Symphony of Psalms), Sergei Prokofiev (Classical Symphony), Ravel (Le tombeau de Couperin) and Paul Hindemith (Symphony: Mathis der Maler) all produced neoclassical works. After World War 2, composers sought to achieve greater levels of control in music in their pieces (e. g. 12 tone technique and later serialism). The twelve tone technique is a technique ensuring the use of all 12 notes in the chromatic scale, this prevented the unbalanced emphasis on individual notes.
In the 1940s and 50s composers, notably Pierre Schaeffer, started to explore the application of technology to music in musique concrete (Dack 2002). The term Electroacoustic music was later coined to include all forms of music involving magnetic tape, computers, synthesizers, multimedia, and other electronic devices and techniques. From the early 1950s onwards, Cage introduced elements of chance into his music. This has resulted in various musical techniques such as indeterminacy, aleatoric music, music, intuitive, and free improvisation. In the 1970s and onwards, new technology was available and used in classical music.
This new technology was experimented with and improvised that same key qualities of basic classical music, but had newer and broader styles and techniques (e. g. 12 tone technique). This component in section A of the piece conveys a short list of variety in the musical concepts (bars 6-7). The vivid sway motion throughout this section is due to its branch of late Romanticism (early 1900s). Romanticism was an emotional and expressive period of time where many different cultures, art, architecture and music was impacted by the social status of this time.
Music in general was driven by this emotion and hardship that underwent at the time i. e the French revolution. This emotion gave the composers much more expression and diversity, with less formality and structure (a characteristic of music of the classical period). With this new contemporary classical style of music, the ideas and implementations of previous styles and periods had an effect on the way this music was played, i. e. the sway motion and range of mixed dynamics. In this section is phrasing slurs are used to join the notes together to build its melody into being more ‘sway like’ giving it a legato motion.
In the harmony a short part of an arpeggio is played and graduated into a whole chord finishing the scale. This repetitive motion of the harmony in the left hand has created a slight question and answer between the melody and harmony in this section. This component from section B of the piece is a variation of the first part, with added techniques, dynamics, notes, and variety to build more expression into the piece (bars 14-15). The expression of the composers of this time period in post-1945 was shown through the sorrow and despair of World War II.
Through the devastation and war experienced by the composers at this time, the change in variety and diversity of pitch was minimal, but the feeling experienced were immense. These immense feelings portrayed in the massive output of dynamics and expressive techniques used in these contemporary classical styles, and further developed this category of music. This section uses broken chords in the harmony to build the tempo and texture from the section A. whilst the melody is still similarly structured but further developed in the use of notes values. This component shows the transition of section B into the new section C.
In this transition the dynamic change gradually to fit the expression and use of whole (triad) chords in section C. The use of the Crescendo into forte, portrays a wide variety in dynamics throughout the piece (the previous sections were piano and mezzo-piano, from above). Forte in the next section conveys the composers’ anxiety and anger in this time of war, and conveys to the responder through this wide range of dynamics the emotions and distress people went through during this time. This component conveys the transition between section C and section D.
Through this transition the dynamics change from a forte (loud) to a pianissimo (very soft), these dynamics give the piece a wider range in terms of dynamics and convey a lot more expression to the responder. The melody however is similar but in a higher octave, this give the piece a sequence and conveys the idea of repetition throughout the piece. The density of section D get thinner, as the harmony is reduced to one note played with longer note values, i. e. semibreves. Composers during this period of post-1945 used a wide range and variety of dynamics to expressive themselves with the troubles and hardships they went through after the war.
This variety is vivid in this piece as this section contains that branch from forte to pianissimo. Throughout this composition the ideas, implementations and characteristics of contemporary classical music have been vivid throughout this composition. I believe the use of the six concepts have been diverse through this piece and have truly illustrated the sound and tone of contemporary classical music. Throughout the piece, the dynamics have changed rapidly and shown a large variety of expression and emotion in the composition.
The use of one instrument in the composition has shown the audience that the composers for Contemporary Classical music have independence on lots of instruments and thick density, as this does not convey emotion as easy of thin density pieces. The structure of theme and variation, a common structure used in contemporary classical, often used to build and gradually strengthen the motif or chord progression of the piece, this creates suspense and other emotions to the listeners. The techniques used were quite minimal but, strong i. e. the legato, slurs, broken chords.
The duration of the notes and piece were quite wide in range, and diverse in created a multiple of different variations of the melody. The tone colour of the piece was very emotional in the way of being sad, spooky, and dark but happy in the sense that the sound was evolving into something brighter with a hint of darkness. Overall this composition created for the ‘annual Young Composers Symposium’ has conveyed the aspects and characteristic of Contemporary Classical music to the audience, and has successfully illustrated the musicological context of the style in developing the use of the 6 concepts in the composition.
Courtney from Study Moose
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