Are Electro-Acoustics and the Vernacular the Largets Developments in 20th Century Music?

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EAMMON MSETFI Contextual studies (MU314) Convenor: Tim Howle Essay 1

Denis Smalley has suggested that the two most important musical developments in the 20th Century are the domains of the 'electro-acoustic' and the 'vernacular'. To what extent is his assumption correct?

This piece will demonstrate an understanding of the developments in 20th century music, with a detailed view on the path and expansion of electro-acoustic technology and of the vernacular. This will also be highlighting the theoretical ideas that made these large developments possible and the technological innovations that created the foundations for both these areas.

Total serialism

After composers, Wagner and Brahms, who stretched the boundaries of tonality to breaking point (Wagner notably in, Tristan & Isolde, 1857), composers wanted to experiment with new ideas. Schoenberg was the first composer to approach composition with a completely new approach, not with typical tonality but with a ‘serial method’; this was later known as ‘12 tone’ music (all 12 tones of the chromatic scale are arranged in a fixed sequence know as a ‘tone row’, all 12 tones must be used in order for the piece to progress). Webern was soon to follow Schoenberg and became a pupil of his; he soon adopted his 12-tone method and found his own individuality within the domain. For Webern this meant a focused contrapuntal style in which every element formed complex connections, with every tone having an equal importance. Although Schoenberg consciously created the method, his connection with the tonal world was never cut. On the contrary, Webern gazed openly into the future. Early Webern pieces (prior 12-tone) it is clearly apparent the influence of Schoenberg, notably Op10 (1911-1913), where he exploited his mentors use of klangfarbenmelodie (tone-colour melody), which involved splitting a melody between multiple instruments, rather than allocating it to just one instrument, as a result, adding



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