20th Century Music Terms
Terms to know:
Impressionism – Style originating in France of only giving the impression, not details of a scene. The music sounds dreamy, blocks of sounds rather that following a Tonic/Dominant formula. The term comes from a painting by Monet entitled: Impression:Sunrise
Avant-guard – New or experimental art, music and ideas developed by the intellectual elite. Art that is before or ahead of its time.
Dissonance – Clashing tones, used much more extensively in late 19th and all of the 20th centuries.
Expressionism – German movement in art and music depicting the darkest elements of the human mind – nightmarish emotional torment. In music it was expressed in the works of Schoenberg and his students.
Serialism/Atonality/12-Tone – Schoenberg’s method of using all 12 tones equally to form a theme (tone row), thus making all notes equal so the listener hears no home note (tonic). The music ends up sounding very random.
Sprechstimme – Used in the German expressionistic music, the singer speaks the words on a pitch. A blend of speech and singing.
Aleatory (chance) music – The composer gives the performer some choices in how the
composition will be played, or leaves it to chance.
Debussy – French Impressionism
Puccini – Composer of Italian operas based on ordinary characters and events (Madama Butterfly)
Schoenberg – Viennese, 12-tone music. Pierrot Lunaire, Survivor from Warsaw
Stravinsky – Greatest composer of 20th century; Russian, Ballets; Rite of Spring, Firebird
John Cage – American composer, developed Prepared Piano, composed chance music. 4’33”
Aaron Copland – Greatest American composer; Ballets and orchestral suites: Rodeo,
Billy the Kid, Appalachian Spring. Developed what we now consider our American sound.
Scott Joplin – African American composer of ragtime.