A Qualitative Study on Popular and Classical Music

Topics: Music, Orchestra, Arnold Schoenberg Pages: 10 (2893 words) Published: October 8, 2011
A Qualitative Study on Classical Music from the
20th Century to the Present


I. Introduction
II. Musical Characteristics
III. Major Stylistic Developments
IV. Chosen Composers of the Major Stylistic Developments V. Conclusion

Classical Music from the 20th Century to the Present

Music is part of our daily lives. Also, no one can deny the fact that music is a language and like language, it is subjected to evolution.
Music from the 20th century to the present is known as the modern music era. Modern music, as might be expected, has been subject to advancements in technology. It has been, like everything else, affected by the rate of speed of technological accomplishments in this century.

Because classical music is one genre of music, it is expected that it has also evolved during this period of time and it is has also been subjected to advancements in technology.

Musical Characteristics

About the only generalization one can make about modern classical music is to say, it is diverse and often complex. Composers have written for every conceivable medium from a single, solo instrument to a huge symphony orchestra. They have written for conventional orchestra instruments, expected performers to play conventional instruments in nonconventional ways, and written for nonconventional instruments, adding them to the orchestra or creating new ensembles.

Composers have written for a tremendous diversity of instrumental combinations, many of them small in number and many incorporating the solo voice. When a composer wrote for large orchestra, the texture frequently was more thin and transparent than was common in orchestral writing towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Chromaticism had increased and harmony had become complex, at times reducing the clarity of tonality to the point of absence of tonal center. Melodies were longer, phrases were less clear, and form was more difficult to discern.

To a great extent, twentieth-century composers have placed considerable emphasis on timbre and rhythm rather than on melody and harmony, creating the need for a different way of listening to music than when a melody predominates. Silence has become a conscious compositional device in modern music and not just a time for a performer to rest.

The organization and form of music ranged from totally controlled to free and improvisatory music. In controlled music, the composer gives minute instructions about how the music should be played. In the more free music, performers, in some cases, are given instructions to improvise passages, usually within certain guidelines and restrictions. Much of this music is organized in time segments, measured in seconds rather than bars and phrases.

The horizontal pitch organization is typically angular and disjunct, moving with wide intervals or skips. Melodic lines span wide, even extreme, ranges. Dissonance is the rule, and unresolved dissonances and sustained tension are common.

Modern classical music may be tonal, but any sense of a major or minor key most likely will be obscure. Some music lacks any sense of key feeling, and some may sound in two or more keys at the same time. Frequently, pitches are based on scales other than major or minor. They may incorporate scales found in other cultures or scales invented by the composer. The five-note pentatonic scale and a whole-tone scale, which excludes half steps, are common in some modern pieces. Many modern composers, however, are experimenting with a return to tonal music.

Major Stylistic Developments

Certain developments in musical style have occurred in the twentieth century. Some are derived from or run parallel to developments in painting; some are a continuation of earlier stylistic concepts in music; still others are musical developments which belong distinctly to the twentieth century. It should be kept in mind, in any case, that no one stylistic development represents all the...
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