The Twentieth-Century | LCIT | SIU

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The Twentieth-Century

KandinskyBy the turn of the century and for the next few decades, artists of all nationalities were searching for exciting and different modes of expression. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg explored unusual and unorthodox harmonies and tonal schemes. French composer Claude Debussy was fascinated by Eastern music and the whole-tone scale, and created a style of music named after the movement in French painting called Impressionism. Hungarian composer Béla Bartók continued in the traditions of the still strong Nationalist movement and fused the music of Hungarian peasants with twentieth century forms. Avant-garde composers such as Edgard Varèse explored the manipulation of rhythms rather than the usual melodic/harmonic schemes. The tried-and-true genre of the symphony, albeit somewhat modified by this time, attracted such masters as Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich, while Igor Stravinsky gave full rein to his manipulation of kaleidoscopic rhythms and instrumental colors throughout his extremely long and varied career.

While many composers throughout the twentieth-century experimented in new ways with traditional instruments (such as the "prepared piano" used by American composer John Cage), many of the twentieth-century's greatest composers, such as Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini and the Russian pianist/composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, remained true to the traditional forms of music history. In addition to new and eclectic styles of musical trends, the twentieth century boasts numerous composers whose harmonic and melodic styles an average listener can still easily appreciate and enjoy.