Author Topic: 20th Century Classical Music vs "the Rest"  (Read 2066 times)

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Offline ClassicalWeekly

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20th Century Classical Music vs "the Rest"
« on: April 01, 2011, 02:42:23 PM »
I've been overwhelmed by (and very appreciative of)  the wealth of suggestions I was given in my thread about getting exposed to and familiar with 20th century music.  I've been listening to some of the works and I have what's most likely a beginner question but here it goes:

What is it about the 20th century music that makes it so different as compared to say, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, etc?  With these composers I feel that there is more "structure" and more of a "tune" then in the 20th century works.   Mahler's 9th is quite enjoyable, but I feel as though it's a little "all over the place" and that there's less structure than in the earlier composers I mentioned.

Is it just the 20th century style that (to me) makes these works less accessible (to me)  Is it the addition of different instruments or more brass? 

And please forgive the novice question -- I'm not trying to make light of the work of the 20th century -- I'm just trying to put my finger on why it feels so "different"

Thanks.
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Offline The new erato

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Re: 20th Century Classical Music vs "the Rest"
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2011, 10:46:23 PM »
There's structure all right, but one just need more listening experience to gather it as it's more complex and less clearcut.

Philoctetes

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Re: 20th Century Classical Music vs "the Rest"
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2011, 10:52:45 PM »
There's structure all right, but one just need more listening experience to gather it as it's more complex and less clearcut.

But if you don't "get it", it's no knock on you. Sometimes the sound just won't match to your ears.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: 20th Century Classical Music vs "the Rest"
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2011, 03:37:16 AM »
Old composers wrote what came naturally to them, they weren't bogged down by a self-aware cultural context. In Spenglerian terms, composers like Mozart or Beethoven belonged to the "Becoming/Being" of Western music where as modern composers belong to the "Culture/Civilisation" phase. If you take into account that European culture died during the first half of the 20th century and was replaced by an alien entity you will understand why modern music sounds so different.

Offline Grazioso

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Re: 20th Century Classical Music vs "the Rest"
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2011, 05:15:11 AM »
What is it about the 20th century music that makes it so different as compared to say, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, etc?  With these composers I feel that there is more "structure" and more of a "tune" then in the 20th century works.   Mahler's 9th is quite enjoyable, but I feel as though it's a little "all over the place" and that there's less structure than in the earlier composers I mentioned.

That's a HUGE question  :) A lot of things make some 20th-century music sound different: lots of structural, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas came into play that didn't exist (other than maybe in embryo) before 1900. You get complex polyrythms, atonality, bitonality, aleatory (chance) elements, serialism, dodecaphony, spectralism, and on and on. The instrumental palette is also expanded far beyond what Mozart or Haydn knew, so you'll literally hear different sounds.

Be aware, though, that for every avant-garde piece of the 20th-century, you can find one that hews much closer to tradition. You have the witty neo-classicism of Prokofiev's 1st symphony, the high Romanticism of Howard Hanson, the spiritual minimalism of Arvo Pärt, etc. And of course, the early part of the century saw composers born in the 1800's continuing to work in relatively traditional, "accessible" styles: for instance, you had Elgar, Bantock, Stanford, Parry, Bruch, Zemlinsky, Korngold, Atterberg, Sinding, Børresen, etc. (Conversely, you had men like Ives, born well before the turn of the century, going on to write music that still causes people problems.)

There was no switch that was flipped in 1900; you just had a lot of ongoing diversity. (Then again, the 19th century went from Haydn to Wagner, so music got stretched dramatically during those 100 years.)

As for Mahler, he's actually somewhat akin to Mozart in his superabundance of ideas, one coming after another in quick succession. However, that plethora of ideas can work differently in Mahler, namely in that he often juxtaposes themes and tone colors of wildly different character. In the 1st symphony, for example, you get that infamously weird 3rd movement with the lugubrious bass intoning the song we know as "Frere Jacques" in a minor mode, a village band replete with someone banging away on the cymbals, a contemplative lyrical tune based on one of his songs, etc.

But in Mahler, the structure is definitely there, just on a grander scale; plus he often melds the sonata and rondo forms.


There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

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