- Contemporary classical music
Periods of Western art music Early Medieval (500–1400) Renaissance (1400–1600) Baroque (1600–1760) Common practice Baroque (1600–1760) Classical (1750–1830) Romantic (1815–1910) Modern and contemporary 20th century (1900–2000) Contemporary (1975–present) 21st century (2000–present)
Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s with the retreat of modernism. However, the term may also be employed in a broader sense to refer to all post-1945 modern musical forms.
Generally "contemporary classical music" amounts to:
- The modern forms of art music
- The post-1945 modern forms of post-tonal music after the death of Anton Webern
(including serial music, electroacoustic music, musique concrète, experimental music, atonal music, minimalist music, etc.)
- the post-1975 forms of this music
(including post-modern music, Spectral music, post-minimalism, sound art, etc.)
- The post-1945 modern forms of post-tonal music after the death of Anton Webern
At the beginning of the 20th century, composers of classical music were experimenting with an increasingly dissonant pitch language, which sometimes yielded atonal pieces. Following World War I, as a backlash against what they saw as the increasingly exaggerated gestures and formlessness of late Romanticism, certain composers adopted a neoclassic style, which sought to recapture the balanced forms and clearly perceptible thematic processes of earlier styles; see also New Objectivity and Social Realism). After World War II, modernist composers sought to achieve greater levels of control in their composition process (e.g., through the use of the twelve tone technique and later total serialism). At the same time, conversely, composers also experimented with means of abdicating control, exploring indeterminacy or aleatoric processes in smaller or larger degrees. Technological advances led to the birth of electronic music. Experimentation with tape loops and repetitive textures contributed to the advent of minimalism. Still other composers started exploring the theatrical potential of the musical performance (performance art, mixed media, fluxus).
To some extent, European and the US traditions diverged after World War II. Among the most influential composers in Europe were Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. The first and last were both pupils of Olivier Messiaen. The dominant aesthetic at this time was integral or 'total' serialism, which took the ideas of Anton Webern as a model and became increasingly focussed on complexity.
In America, composers like Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Henry Cowell, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, George Rochberg, and Roger Sessions, formed their own ideas. Many of these composers represented a new methodology of experimental music, which began to question fundamental notions of music such as notation, performance, duration, and repetition, while others fashioned their own extensions of the twelve-tone serialism of Schoenberg.
Developments since the 1970s
Since the 1970s there has been increasing stylistic variety, with far too many schools to count, name or label. However, in general, there are two broad trends.
- The first is the continuation of modern avant-garde musical traditions and experimental music.
- The second are schools that seek to revitalize tonal style found in traditional western music.
Many of the key figures of the high modern movement are alive, or only recently deceased, and there is also still an extremely active core of composers (e.g., Elliott Carter), performers, and listeners who continue to advance the ideas and forms of Modernism.
Serialism is one of the most important post-war movements among the high modernist schools. Serialism, more specifically named "integral" or "compound" serialism, was led by composers such as Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen in Europe, and by Milton Babbitt, Donald Martino, and Charles Wuorinen in the United States. Some of their compositions use an ordered set or several such sets, which may be the basis for the whole composition, while others use "unordered" sets for the same purpose. The term is also often used for dodecaphony, or twelve-tone technique, which is alternatively regarded as the model for integral serialism.
Between 1975 and 1990, a shift in the paradigm of computer technology had taken place, making electronic music systems affordable and widely accessible. The personal computer had become an essential component of the electronic musician’s equipment, entirely superseding analog synthesizers and fulfilling the traditional functions of the computer in music for composition and scoring, synthesis and sound processing, control over external synthesizers and other performance equipment, and the sampling of audio input.
Epitomized by the works of such composers as Hugues Dufourt, Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, and Horaţiu Rădulescu, "spectral music" implies the use of the spectrum of a sound as a basis of composition.
A number of spectral composers are from Romania; these include Iancu Dumitrescu, Octav Nemescu, Ana-Maria Avram, Costin, Calin Ioachimescu, and Corneliu Cezar. Other spectral composers include Philippe Hurel, Michael Levinas, and Phillippe Leroux, Joshua Fineberg, and Julian Anderson.
The influence of postmodernism in music is vast, but the definition of what constitutes "postmodern music" is open to interpretation.
Musicians often associated with the term include: Scottish composer James MacMillan (who draws on sources as diverse as plainchant, South American 'liberation theology', Scottish folksongs, and Polish avant-garde techniques of the 1960s), the American Michael Torke (drawing on European music of the early 19th century, minimalism, jazz, and popular music), and Mark-Anthony Turnage from the UK (drawing from jazz, rock, Stravinsky, and Berg).
Some authors equate polystylism with eclecticism, while others make a sharp distinction. Polystylism is the use of multiple styles or techniques of music, sometimes within the same composition, and is seen as a postmodern characteristic. Polystylist composers include Luciano Berio, William Bolcom, Peter Maxwell Davies, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hans Werner Henze, George Rochberg, Frederic Rzewski, Alfred Schnittke, Frank Zappa and John Zorn.
Musical historicism—the use of historical materials, structures, styles, techniques, media, conceptual content, etc., whether by a single composer or those associated with a particular school, movement, or period—is evident to varying degrees in minimalism, post-minimalism, world-music, and other genres in which tonal traditions have been sustained or have undergone a significant revival in recent decades. Some post-minimalist works employ medieval and other genres associated with early music, such as the "Oi me lasso" and other laude of Gavin Bryars. Other composers have assimilated elements of medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, or romantic styles in varying degrees, including Benjamin Bagby, Thomas Binkley, Easley Blackwood, René Clemencic, Joseph Dillon Ford, Vladimir Godar, Ladislav Kupkovič, Winfried Michel, George Rochberg, Christopher Rouse and Jordi Savall.
Peter Schickele wrote works that parody many different styles of classical music and often draws upon specific works for its inspiration. They were mostly published as albums under the name of P. D. Q. Bach, a composer he invented and then pretended to have discovered among the children of J.S. Bach. Some of these works are published under his own name, however, such as Eine Kleine Nichtmusik a work which layers quotes from other classical music and many folk melodies over the top of a complete performance of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
The historicist movement is closely related to the emergence of musicology and the Early Music Revival. A number of historicist composers have been influenced by their intimate familiarity with the instrumental practices of earlier periods (Hendrik Bouman, Grant Colburn, Michael Talbot, Alexandre Danilevsky, Paulo Galvão, Roman Turovsky-Savchuk). The musical historicism movement has also been stimulated by the formation of such international organizations as the Delian Society and Vox Saeculorum.
The vocabulary of extended tonality, which flourished in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, continues to be used throughout the contemporary period. It never has been considered shocking or controversial in the larger musical world—as has been demonstrated statistically for the United States, at least (Straus 1999, 322–29, et passim). Composers who have worked in the neoromantic vein after 1975 include John Williams, John Corigliano, George Rochberg (in some of his works), David Del Tredici, Ladislav Kupkovič, Gian Carlo Menotti, Krzysztof Penderecki, Isang Yun, Christopher Rouse, Lorenzo Ferrero, and Ennio Morricone
Art rock influence
Similarly, many composers have emerged since the 1980s who are heavily influenced by art rock. Many, such as Scott Johnson, Steven Mackey, and Tim Hodgkinson, started out as rock musicians and only later moved into the realm of scored music. Other notable composers who draw on rock include Christopher Rouse, Marc Mellits, Evan Ziporyn, Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Elliott Sharp, John Zorn, Steve Martland, Anne LeBaron, Paul Dresher, Kitty Brazelton, Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Robert Paterson, Annie Gosfield, Randall Woolf and Nick Didkovsky. Many of these composers (Gordon, Lang, Mellits, Dresher, Wolfe, Ziporyn, Martland, Branca) are post-minimalist in orientation, but some (Didkovsky, Brazelton and Rouse) are very much not.
"World music" influence
Some composers mix western and non-western instruments, including gamelan from Indonesia, Chinese traditional instruments, ragas from Indian Classical music. There is also an exploration of eastern-European and non-Western tonalities, even in relatively traditionally structured works. This trend was present already in the 1920s and 1930s, for example in the music of Béla Bartók, Henry Cowell, Colin McPhee, Alan Hovhaness, and Lou Harrison, and slightly later in the work of Olivier Messiaen, Chou Wen-chung, Halim El-Dabh, and Peggy Glanville-Hicks. The trend can be found also in the context of post-minimalist works, such as Janice Giteck's and Evan Ziporyn's Balinese-influenced works. Some composers have used traditional instruments from their own cultures, such as Tōru Takemitsu, Minoru Miki, Chen Yi, Zhou Long, or Julian Kytasty. World music influence may also be found in the context of post-classic tonality, such as in the music of Bright Sheng, or in the context of thoroughly modernist works by composers such as Claude Vivier.
A movement in Denmark (Den Nye Enkelhed) in the late nineteen-sixties and another in Germany in the late seventies and early eighties, the former attempting to create more objective, impersonal music, and the latter reacting with a variety of strategies to restore the subjective to composing, both sought to create music using simple textures. The German New Simplicity's best-known composer is Wolfgang Rihm, who strives for the emotional volatility of late 19th-century Romanticism and early 20th-century Expressionism. Called Die neue Einfachheit in German, it has also been termed "New Romanticism", "New Subjectivity", "New Inwardness", "New Sensuality", "New Expressivity", and "New Tonality".
Styles found in other countries sometimes associated with the German New Simplicity movement include the so-called "Holy Minimalism" of the Pole Henryk Górecki and the Estonian Arvo Pärt (in their works after 1970), as well as Englishman John Tavener, who unlike the New Simplicity composers have turned back to Medieval and Renaissance models, however, rather than to 19th-century romanticism for inspiration. Important representative works include Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (1976) by Górecki, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten (1977) by Pärt, and The Veil of the Temple (2002) by Tavener, "Silent Songs" (1977) by Valentin Silvestrov.
New Complexity is a current within today's European contemporary avant-garde music scene, named in reaction to the New Simplicity. Amongst the candidates suggested for having coined the term are the composer Nigel Osborne, the Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich, and the British/Australian musicologist Richard Toop, who gave currency to the concept of a movement with his article "Four Facets of the New Complexity".
Though often atonal, highly abstract, and dissonant in sound, the "New Complexity" is most readily characterized by the use of techniques which require complex musical notation. This includes extended techniques, microtonality, odd tunings, highly disjunct melodic contour, innovative timbres, complex polyrhythms, unconventional instrumentations, abrupt changes in loudness and intensity, and so on. The diverse group of composers writing in this style includes Richard Barrett, Brian Ferneyhough, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, James Dillon, Michael Finnissy, James Erber, and Roger Redgate.
Though not a New Complexity composer himself, the Progressivist (or Neological) composer Neil March studied with Roger Redgate and his concept of "Polyfluidity" owes much to the influence of New Complexity.
Minimalism and post-minimalism
The minimalist generation still has a prominent role in new composition. Philip Glass has been expanding his symphony cycle, while John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, a choral work commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, won a Pulitzer Prize. Steve Reich has explored electronic opera (most notably in Three Tales) and Terry Riley has been active in composing instrumental music and music theatre.
Many composers are expanding the resources of minimalist music to include rock and world instrumentation and rhythms, serialism, and many other techniques. Another notable characteristic is storytelling and emotional expression taking precedence over technique. Post-minimalism is also a movement in painting and sculpture that began in the late 1960s. (See lumpers/splitters)
Composers often obtain unusual sounds or instrumental timbres through the use of non-traditional (or unconventional) instrumental techniques. Examples of extended techniques include bowing under the bridge of a string instrument or with two different bows, using key clicks on a wind instrument, blowing and overblowing into a wind instrument without a mouthpiece, or inserting object on top of the strings of a piano. Composers’ use of extended techniques is not specific to contemporary music (for instance, Berlioz’s use of col legno in his Symphonie Fantastique is an extended technique) and it transcends compositional schools and styles.
Exponents of extended techniques in the 20th century include Henry Cowell (use of fists and arms on the keyboard, playing inside the piano), John Cage (prepared piano), and George Crumb. The Kronos Quartet, which has been among the most active ensembles in promoting contemporary American works for string quartet, takes delight in music which stretches the manner in which sound can be drawn out of instruments.
Developments by medium
- Inclusion of new instruments (amplified instruments, rock/jazz instruments, synthesizers, computer, non-western instruments, pre-recorded parts, experimental custom-made instruments)
- Concertos for non-western instruments (Nancy Van de Vate)
- Inclusion of visuals
Notable composers of operas since 1975 include:
Composers such as Mark Camphouse, Michael Colgrass, Michael Daugherty, David Del Tredici, Karel Husa, David Maslanka, Olivier Messiaen, Alfred Reed, Joseph Schwantner, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Frank Ticheli, and Eric Whitacre have composed notable works for concert band in recent years.
Contemporary classical music can be heard in film scores such as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), both of which used concert music by György Ligeti, and also in Kubrick's The Shining (1980) which used music by both Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki. Jean-Luc Godard, in La Chinoise (1967), Nicolas Roeg in Walkabout (1971), and the Brothers Quay in In Absentia (2000) used music by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Contemporary music festivals
- Agora Festival, Paris, France
- Ars musica, Brussels, Belgium
- Avaton Music Festival, Limassol, Cyprus
- Bang on a Can Marathon
- Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (Santa Cruz, CA)
- Dallas Festival of Modern Music
- Darmstädter Ferienkurse
- Donaueschingen Festival
- Gaudeamus Foundation Music Week in Amsterdam
- highSCORE Contemporary Music Festival Concerts are held in historical Pavia, 35 km south of Milan. Mid-July.
- Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
- Lucerne Festival
- Other Minds
- Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 
- Warsaw Autumn in Poland
- ^ Botstein "Modernism" §9: The Late 20th Century (subscription access).
- ^ "Contemporary" in Du Noyer 2003, 272.
- ^ Du Noyer, Paul (ed.) (2003), "Contemporary" in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Flame Tree. p 272. ISBN 1-904041-70-1
- ^ Leon Botstein: "Modernism" ¶9 Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 28 April 2007), <http://www.grovemusic.com>
- ^ Whittall "Neo-Classicism" (subscription access).
- ^ Schwartz and Godfrey 1993, chapter 7: "Order and Chaos", pp. 78ff.
- ^ Manning 2004, 19ff.
- ^ Schwartz and Godfrey 1993, 325.
- ^ Schwartz and Godfrey 1993, 289ff.
- ^ Botstein 2001, §8.
- ^ Holmes 2008, 272.
- ^ Johnson 2001.
- ^ Chute 2001.
- ^ Cross 2001.
- ^ OED, entry "Polystylistic", quoting Christian & Cornwall's Guide to Russian Literature (1998): "Zhdanov is eclectic; he mixes high poetic, archaic, scientific and everyday realities without imposing any hierarchy. His manner may be called ‘polystylistic’", and entry "Polystylist", quoting Musical America, November 1983: "An eclectic only passively collects material from different sources, but a polystylist puts together what he collects, consciously, in a new way."
- ^ Watkins, 440-42, 446-48.
- ^ Colburn 36-45, 54-55.
- ^ Chatham 1994.
- ^ Toop 1988.
- ^ http://www.guggenheimcollection.org/site/movement_works_Post_Minimalism_0.html.
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- Botstein, Leon. "Modernism". Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 28 April 2007). (Subscription access)
- Chatham, Rhys. 1994. "Composer's Notebook 1990: Toward a Musical Agenda for the Nineties", with "Postscript, Summer 1994". Rhys Chatham website. (Accessed 20 January 2010)
- Chute, James. 2001. "Torke, Michael." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
- Colburn, Grant. 2007. "A New Baroque Revival." Early Music America 13, no. 2 (Summer): 36–45, 54–55.
- Cross, Jonathan. 2001. "Turnage, Mark-Anthony". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Danuser, Hermann. 1984. Die Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts: mit 108 Notenbeispielen, 130 Abbildungen und 2 Farbtafeln. Neues Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft 7. Laaber: Laaber-Verlag. ISBN 3-89007-037-X
- Dibelius, Ulrich. 1998. Moderne Musik Nach 1945. Munich: Piper Verlag. ISBN 3-492-04037-3 (pbk.)
- du Noyer, Paul (ed.). 2003. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music: From Rock, Pop, Jazz, Blue, and Hip-Hop to Classical, Folk, World, and More. London: Flame Tree. ISBN 978-1-904041-70-2
- Duckworth, William. 1995. Talking Music: Conversations with John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice-Hall International. ISBN 0-02-870823-7 Reprinted 1999, New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80893-5
- Du Noyer, Paul (ed.) (2003), "Contemporary" in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Flame Tree, ISBN 1-904041-70-1
- Gann, Kyle. 1997. American Music in the Twentieth Century. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning ISBN 0-02-864655-X.
- Griffiths, Paul. 1995. Modern Music And After: Directions Since 1945. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816578-1 (cloth) ISBN 0-19-816511-0 (pbk.) Rev. ed. of: Modern Music: The Avant Garde Since 1945 (1981)
- Holmes, Thomas B. 2008. Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition. Third edition. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-95781-6 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-415-95782-3 (pbk) ISBN 978-0-203-92959-9 (ebook)
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- Nyman, Michael. 1999. Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Second edition. Music in the 20th century. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-65297-9 ISBN 0-521-65383-5 (pbk.)
- Schwartz, Elliott, and Daniel Godfrey. 1993. Music Since 1945: Issues, Materials, and Literature. New York: Schirmer Books; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International. ISBN 0-02-873040-2
- Schwartz, Elliott, and Barney Childs (eds.), with Jim Fox. 1998. Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music. Expanded edition. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80819-6
- Smith Brindle, Reginald. 1987. The New Music: The Avant-Garde since 1945. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-315471-4 (cloth) ISBN 0-19-315468-4 (pbk.)
- Straus, Joseph. N. 1999. "The Myth of Serial 'Tyranny' in the 1950s and 1960s." The Musical Quarterly 83, no. 3 (Autumn): 301–43.
- Watkins, Glenn. 1994. Pyramids at the Louvre: Music, Culture, and Collage from Stravinsky to the Postmodernists. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-74083-1
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- Procembalo complete free catalog of Contemporary Harpsichord Music
- spnm - promoting new music, UK – UK-based organisation promoting new music and composers.
- BabelScores Promoting and Circulating Contemporary Music Scores
- Q2-New York Public Radio's internet radio station and blog for innovative and contemporary classical music.
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- Art of the States
- Contemporary Classical, Internet radio
- Modern classical electronic fusion
- Common Tone podcast
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- The Living Composers Project
- Sibeliusmusic.com - Newly Created Scores Using the Sibelius Program
- Sussurro - Contemporary Brazilian Music
- Musmap.com - Contemporary Composers and Classical Performers
- Gateway to Contemporary Music Resources in France
- Contemporary composers interactive timeline, including, if available, photos and biographies (in French).
- Arizona Friends of Chamber Music commissioning program and composer pages
- New Music Blog - by critic Daniel S. Johnson.
- temp’óra - international network dedicated to the promotion of contemporary music. Data bases with thousands of links all over the world.
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