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Thread: What is so great about the 20th century's music?

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    Default What is so great about the 20th century's music?

    First off, I apologize for my English. Second, I am a complete amateur listener (but I've been listening to classical music for almost 10 years now) so I guess many members here are professional performers and composers, academics or have some knowledge with music theory. So please don't take it so seriously as I am already a lowly peasant!

    I began with classical music as many noobs (Vivaldi, Mozart, and all the lightweight and funny music of the 18th century) then began to dive into the more serious Mozart and Bach works and then Beethoven concertos and, his and Schubert's chamber music. Then I fell in love with the traditional and strict romantic composers, I find Brahms the perfect composer who brought music to its climax especially in his chamber music works. I love also many works by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and I find sublimity in almost anything written by Rachmaninoff. I love Mendelssohn and Chopin too!

    Then, Wagner and Debussy came to this world.

    I read many articles and reviews by professionals that consider these 2 guys as the founders of 20th century music. Let us ignore Wagner and his profound techniques as professionals always say that peasants like me won't understand. But let us talk about Debussy, his followers and what they did to music. As a _noob_, I've always thought that they only sought (Debussy, Stravinsky and all second viennese guys and their followers) to break harmony and strip off any trail of beauty and the listener should comply to their lawless and often lifeless notes. Did they just have disdain for anything traditional and well organised, did they think that chaos and ugliness must be sought? I still love many of the 20th century works (An exception is Ravel, and of course Rachmaninoff as I said before and some Mahler (I find his 8th and 2nd symphonies are excellent and only matched my Bethooven's!) I even consider Ravel's string quartet 1movment as the greatest chamber music piece I have ever heard). But generally, music became gradually so ugly and pretentious to me (I tried to listen to Stockhausen! what the actual ***!).

    In conclusion, after years of trying to understand and appreciate, I just cannot understand most 20th music and I think it is mostly overrated and pretentious and nothing beautiful comes from it no matter what I force myself to appreciate it! And I always say to myself that classical music stopped entirely since Rachmaninoff died!

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    There's no arguing about taste.

    Where you fail to hear the beauty, others do. There is no right or wrong.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    dogen
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    +1.

    We are all free to like or dislike any music.

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    I know, I just tried to say that since debussy, stravinsky and schoenberg, music gradually and irreversibly just went too far/weird/pretentious to the extent (I think) it cannot be called music at all. It is not just a difference between baroque/classical, classical/romantic. It just went too far.

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    Any provocative effect is quite limited here, due to discussions about the subject having been had at regular intervals.

    You seem to like some diversity in music, but put your limit at a certain point (which however is an imaginary point both chronologically and stylistically speaking, since a lot of say neo-romantic music, or music with neo-romantic traits, or "easier" music, was composed after Rachmaninov).

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    For me music is for enjoyment and if I don't like certain pieces I simply don't listen to them. I do like certain pieces of 20th century music and other pieces I don't. Whether music has gone downhill this century I don't know, but I remember what the conductor Hans Vonk said in response to a question about modern music: "Possibly there is no time like now when composers were more out of touch with audiences."

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say there is anything more special or less special about 20th century (or not traditionally harmonic) music. I like it, but it took me a long time, and if I'm being honest I probably don't get quite as much enjoyment out of it as I do from more traditional harmonies and melodies. Or maybe it's not lesser enjoyment, but a different kind of enjoyment. Either way it's enjoyment.

    My suggestion is to try not to force yourself to enjoy it and to try not to be offended if others enjoy it. There is plenty of the more traditional music -- tons more than any of us can ever listen to in many lifetimes, and none of it is going away. Maybe someday the appreciation of other forms will come if you desire it. Or not. There is no shame in not liking something.
    Last edited by Weston; Jun-18-2016 at 17:05.

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    The majority of listeners and concert goers seem to disagree with you. There is an enormous amount of very popular 20thc music that is widely heard as profound, interesting and beautiful.

    (And I was originally just going to write "Not again" again. )
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Jun-18-2016 at 17:00.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Hans Vonk said in response to a question about modern music: "Possibly there is no time like now when composers were more out of touch with audiences."
    This is supposed to be a bad thing? Let's recall what happens when artists aren't "out of touch" with audiences: Hollywood (embarrassing fluff that no one would watch more than once). Or in the case of music, you get endless thousands of pop albums that NOBODY listens to, they only listen to the hits that play on radio, everything else is filler that is composed to please the average listener but actually almost no one bothers to listen to more than once. Trying to please the masses is a terrible thing if your heart isn't in it.

    Personally I enjoy atonal music more than the classics these days. It's horror music for a horror world (e.g. early Penderecki), mystical music for a mystical world (1950s Messiaen), it's artistically creepy (Schoenberg, Sessions), and other things you just don't find in earlier music except in small doses at most.

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    Quote Originally Posted by micro View Post
    I know, I just tried to say that since debussy, stravinsky and schoenberg, music gradually and irreversibly just went too far/weird/pretentious to the extent (I think) it cannot be called music at all. It is not just a difference between baroque/classical, classical/romantic. It just went too far.
    Of course it can be called music. It's music you don't like.

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    There was a time in my life when my experience almost exactly mirrored yours (I did always love Wagner). I adored pre-20th century music, but even Ravel and Debussy were a bit unpleasant to me. Stockhausen's and others' music sounded horrible. I couldn't understand why people would write music like that, and in some sense, I didn't feel much of it was music.

    I'm not sure what was different between our subsequent attempts to enjoy/appreciate the new music. My experience is similar to Weston's above. I listened repeatedly to much varied new music. The process was slow, but ultimately I began to find that some of the new music was enjoyable and even beautiful. I have continuously found that music I previously thought was awful I now enjoy. Sometimes I can easily remember what I found unpleasant about music I now like, but other times, as with Stravinsky, I can't easily imagine not liking the music.

    Your experience is similar to a high percentage (maybe the vast majority) of classical music lovers. It's wonderful that you adore pre-20th century classical music. There's so much that is beautiful, moving, and simply sublime. The vast majority of people somehow do not like that music. It turns out that there is also so much 20th century/contemporary music that many of us find compelling and thoroughly enjoy. There does not appear to be some simple, straightforward process to get people like you and me to like this newer music, but it certainly is possible. And many of us on TC feel it was well worth the effort.
    Last edited by mmsbls; Jun-18-2016 at 17:49.

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    As people who grow up hearing music based largely on the norm of Western tonal harmony (which musicians call "common practice"), we all have different responses to music that either extends or departs from that norm. Common practice reached its fullest development between the 18th and early 20th centuries, and that's the period from which dates most of the "classical" music which is still best understood and enjoyed by a majority of listeners.

    It sounds as if you're one of those listeners. You have plenty of company and need not apologize for your tastes. But you seem awfully ready to generalize about the music you don't like and about 20th-century music in general. If anything characterizes the music of that century, it's variety. Just for fun, look at this list of 20th-century composers:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ical_composers

    How many of them have you listened to? How much of an effort have you made to learn about what they were trying to do and say? I might also ask whether you've listened to much Medieval and Renaissance music, and then whether you've made the acquaintance of music from other parts of the world - India, perhaps, or China - which is put together quite differently from Western music but is found to be beautiful and meaningful by those who grow up hearing and performing it. I've found that with a little attention much of that beauty and meaning can come through even to someone raised on Bach and Chopin.

    Just keep listening. Nobody is obligated to subject himself repeatedly to music he loathes, but if you encounter music that doesn't really grab you yet seems to have some qualities you find intriguing, listen some more and try to identify what it is about it that seems interesting. I'll bet that whether or not you come to like their music, you will at least come to hear Stravinsky and Messiaen and Berg as music. And if you never get as far as Stockhausen and Xenakis, don't worry about it!
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jun-18-2016 at 17:58.

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    Quote Originally Posted by micro View Post
    music gradually and irreversibly just went too far/weird/pretentious to the extent (I think) it cannot be called music at all.
    I'm glad 20th century music went far & weird - these are reasons why I listen to such music! My favorite period is post-WW II through the 1970s.

    As a footnote, I've notice that those years ending in the number '9' tend to symbolize trends within 20th century compositions.
    By 1949, 12-tone techniques and the Darmstadt scene began to exert tremendous influence on young composers and academia.
    By 1959, a subset of composers (Scelsi, Xenakis, Ligeti, Cerha, Penderecki, etc.) went on their own independent paths towards sonorism as a reaction against rigid dodecaphony [and they couldn't return to Romantic tonal music and simultaneously 'save face' and be taken seriously].
    By 1969, further reactions against serialism formed what we now consider as Minimalism (via Philip Glass, Steve Reich + others).
    By 1979, institutions such as IRCAM and composers such as Hugues Dufourt had already begun to arrive at what is called Spectral Music via application of computer science in music.

    Thereabouts is where my interest subsides a little, and I'm hard-pressed to associate any aspect of current music from the past 30 years into specific trends - so I don't know exactly what to say regarding years 1989 & 1999.

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    Stravinsky and Sibelius are what's great about 20th century music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boldertism View Post
    Stravinsky and Sibelius are what's great about 20th century music.
    The 20th century was the century of the "S"s, just like the 19th century had its three "B"s, at least until Berlioz was replaced by that upstart Bach. Let's see, there's Sibelius, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Schnittke, and that other guy whose name I never remember.


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