Music in the 20th Century Revision Notes

These notes are based a lot on the BBC bitesize notes, and cover the basics of Expressionism, Minimalism and Musicals. Hope they help!

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Music in the 20th century
Expressionism
The 20th century was an exciting period in music. One of the first new styles to
appear was expressionism.
The term expressionism was originally borrowed from visual art and
literature.
Expressionist composers poured intense emotional expression into their
music exploring their subconscious mind.
Expressionist music often features:
A high level of dissonance
Extreme contrasts of dynamics
Constantly changing textures
`Distorted' melodies and harmonies
Angular melodies with wide leaps
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Study: Arnold Schoenberg
An example of an expressionist composer is Arnold Schoenberg, who was a
gifted composer, teacher and painter.
His first compositions were Romantic in style, but later his style of composition
changed.
His music became increasingly dissonant and chromatic in the style of
Expressionism.
He composed a expressionist piece called Five Pieces for Orchestra, and soon
after evolved a new system to replace tonality in his music. This was called
serialism.
Five Pieces for Orchestra
Five Pieces for Orchestra is written for a very large orchestra, which includes some
very unusual instruments and grouping.
Instead of the usual paired flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, he used three of
each, and also included:
Piccolo
Cor Anglais
Clarinet in D
Bass Clarinet
Contrabassoon
In the brass section, there were extra horns, trumpets and trombones, plus a
tuba.
The percussion section included xylophone, cymbals, tam tam and bass drum.
Instruments were often playing at the extreme of their registers, and there are
many performance directions in the score. Schoenberg was looking for very
specific tone colours or timbres.

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Movement four ­ Peripetie
Movement four of the Five Pieces for Orchestra is a very intense, restless
and dramatic movement with frequent shifts in orchestration, speed and
mood.
It is a musical `kaleidoscope' of constantly changing musical patterns.
To listen to Peripetie, follow this link!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/music/music_20th_century/schoenber
g5.shtml
Minimalism
Minimalism is a style of music which originated on the West coast of America in the
1960s with composers such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Philip Glass.…read more

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Every musical has:
Libretto - the overall text including the spoken and sung parts
Lyrics ­ the words to the songs
Most songs are either action songs, which move the plot forward, or character
songs, which enable a character to express their feelings.
Within these two formats, different song types can be found, including:
Ballads
Comedy songs
Production numbers
Rhythm songs
Although most musical use dialogue some are through-composed. There is little or
no dialogue, and nearly everything is sung.…read more

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