Home » Music Appreciation » Music 1A Examples » 20th & 21st Century

20th & 21st Century

Composers of the 20th and 21st Century Era

(It is acknowledged that finding a suitable and accurate name for this era is difficult and that the boundaries of definitions of this “modern music” undergo continuous change. Until recently it was common to refer to “Twentieth Century” music when referring to the work of composers that was written after the 19th century and/or which adopted new ideas about music. Obviously, the 20th century ended some time ago…)

Claude Debussy

Impressionism in Art

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) – Claude Monet

Igor Stravinsky

(Sorry to wreck the stories you might be imagining, but reportedly… “The ‘mug shot’ from 1940 is actually a photo taken for a visa application, during the time early in his stay in the United States where he was still living in the Northeast.”)

Arnold Schoenberg

UCLA History: Composer Arnold Schoenberg Teaches at UCLA. Photo from the UCLA History Project, probably from the early 1940s

Expressionism in Art

“The Scream” – Edvard Munch


Pierrot Lunaire – Arnold Schoenberg

op. 21 (1912)

Thrice Seven Poems from Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire

#1: Mondestrunken (Moondrunk)
flute, violin, cello, piano

[Play Music]

Den Wein, den man mit Augen trinkt, The wine that only eyes can drink
Gießt Nachts der Mond in Wogen nieder, Pours nighttimes from the moon in waves,
Und eine springflut überwemmt And its springtime tide floods over
Den stillen Horizont. The horizon’s quiet bowl.
Gelüste schauerlich und süß, Aching lusts, shocking and sweet,
Durchschwimmen ohne Zahl die Fluten! Float beyond measure in the gushing philter!
Den Wein, den man mit Augen trinkt, The wine that only eyes can drink,
Gießt Nachts der Mond in Wogen nieder. Pours nighttimes from the moon in waves.
Der Dichter, den die Andacht treibt, The poet, under piety’s cover,
Berauscht sich an dem heilgen Tranke, Gets fuddled on the holy brew;
Den Himmel wendet er verzückt Towards Heaven, rapt, tilts back his head
Das Haupt und taumelnd saugt und schlürit er And giddily reeling laps and swills
Den Wein, den man mit Augen trinkt. The wine that only eyes can drink.

#13: Einhauptung (Beheading)
bass clarinet in B flat, viola, cello, piano

Der Mond, ein blankes Türkenschwert The moon, a naked scimitar
Auf eineb schwarzen Seidenkissen, Upon a black silk cushion,
Gespenstisch große – dräut er hinab Ghostly huge hangs threatening down
Durch schmerzendunkle Nacht. Through night as dark as woe.
Pierrot irrt ohne Rast umher Pierrot, who paces about in panic
Und starrt empor in Todesängsten Stares up and feels the clutch of death
Zum Mond, dem blanken Türkenschwert At sight of moon, a naked scimitar
Auf eineb schwarzen Seidenkissen. Upon a black silk cushion.
s scholttern unter ihm die Knie, Knees atremble, quaking, shaking
Ohnmächtig bricht er jäh zusammen. He falls into a faint of fright,
Er wähnt: es sause strafend schon Convinced it’s slashing down already
Auf seinen Sünderhals hernieder On his guilty sinful neck,
Der Mond, das blanke Türkenschwert. The moon, the naked scimitar.

#21: O Alter Duft (O Scent of Fabled Yesteryear)
flute, piccolo, clarinet in A, bass clarinet in B flat, violin, viola, cello, piano

O alter Duft aus Mrchenzeit O scent of fabled yesteryear,
Berauschest wieder meine Sinne; Befuddling my senses with bygone joys!
Ein närrisch Heer von Schelmerein A silly swarm of idle fancies
Durchschwirrt die leichte Luft. Murmurs through the gentle air.
Ein glückhaft Wünschen macht mich froh A happy ending so long yearned for
Nach Freuden, die ich lang verachtet: Recalls old pleasures long disdained:
O alter Duft aus Märchenzeit, O scent of fabled yesteryear,
Berauschest wieder mich! Befuddling me again!
All meinen Unmut gab ich preis; My bitter mood has turned to peace;
Aus meinem sonnumrahmten Fenster My sundrenched window opens wide
Beschau ich frei die liebe Welt On daytime thoughts of world I love,
Und trum hinaus in selge Weiten? To daydreams of a world beyond?
O alter Duft – aus Märchenzeit! O scent of fabled yesteryear!

 A Survivor From Warsaw


I cannot remember everything. I must have been unconscious most of the time; I remember only the grandiose moment when they all started to sing, as if prearranged, the old prayer they had neglected for so many years – the forgotten creed!

But I have no recollection how I got underground to live in the sewers of Warsaw so long a time.

The day began as usual. Reveille when it still was dark – get out whether you slept or whether worries kept you awake the whole night: you had been separated from your children, from your wife, from your parents, you don’t know what happened to them; how could you sleep?

They shouted again: “Get out! The sergeant will be furious!” They came out; some very slow, the old ones, the sick men, some with nervous agility. They fear the sergeant. They hurry as much as they can. In vain! Much too much noise, much too much commotion and not fast enough!

The Feldwebel shouts: “Achtung! Still gestanden! Na wird’s mal, oder soll ich mit dem Gewehrkolben nachhelfen? Na jut; wenn Ihr’s durchaus haben wollt!” (“Attention! Stand still! How about it, or should I help you along with the butt of my rifle? All right, Jew, if you really want to have it!”)

The sergeant and his subordinates hit everyone: young or old, strong or sick, guilty or innocent – it was painful to hear the groaning and moaning.

I heard it though I had been hit very hard, so hard that I could not help falling down. We all on the ground who could not stand up were then beaten over the head.

I must have been unconscious. The next thing I knew was a soldier saying, “They are all dead!” Whereupon the sergeant ordered to do away with us.

There I lay aside half conscious. It had become very still – fear and pain – Then I heard the sergeant shouting: “Abzählen!” (“Count off!”)

They started slowly, and irregularly: One, two, three, four, “Achtung.” The sergeant shouted again: “Rascher! Nochmals von vorn anfangen! In einer Minute will ich wissen wieviele ich zur Gaskammer abliefere! Abzählen!” (“Faster! Once more, start from the beginning! In a minute I will know how many I am going to send off to the gas chamber! Count off!”)

They began again, first slowly: one, two, three, four, became faster and faster, so fast that it finally sounded like a stampede of wild horses, and all of a sudden, in the middle of it, they began singing the Shema Yisroel

Shema Yisroel Adonoy elohenoo Adonoy ehod. Veohavto es Adonoy eloheho behol levoveho oovehol nafsheho oovehaol meodeho. Vehoyoo haddevoreem hoelleh asher onohee metsavveho hayyom al levoveho. Veshinnantom levoneho vedibbarto bom beshivteho beveteho oovelehteho baddereh ovveshohbeho oovekoomeho. (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One! And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and speak of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou goest on the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”)

 George Gershwin

Rhapsody in Blue

B flat major

Solo piano, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 alto saxophones, tenor saxophone, 3 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, gong, triangle, 1st and 2nd violins, violas, cellos, double basses.

      1. 1
        1. Clarinet, p, trill, upward scale and slide (glissando) to blues theme, mf, moderate tempo.
          Repeated-note theme, faster tempo, French horns and woodwinds, mf.
          Clarinet, p, trill, upward scale to blues theme in muted trumpet, mf, piano joins, crescendo to blues theme in full orchestra, ff, cymbal crashes.
        2. Extended piano solo, begins p, fast repeated chords, ff, upward scale in blues theme, low instruments join, piano alone, p, crescendo to brilliant rushing notes, fast repeated chords, ff.
        3. Full orchestra, ff, blues theme in faster tempo, piano joins, strings, crescendo to blues theme in trombone, f, trumpets,ff.
        4. Trumpet theme, marchlike beat in drums, piano.
          Clarinet, p, repeated-note theme, piano, rushing notes, full orchestra, ff, repeated-note theme, piano chords, solo clarinet, “wah-wah” muted trumpet and trombone solos, orchestra, ff, cymbals, pause.

2. a. Orchestra, f, jazzlike theme in low register, steady beat in drums, piano chords. Rising brass phrase, crescendo to full orchestra, ff, jazzlike theme in high register, piano joins, crescendo. b. Extended piano solo, varied repeated-note theme, horn, p, accompanies piano, [oboe, blues theme, piano running notes, faster tempo]. Extended piano solo, jazzlike theme in low register, steady beat, jazzlike theme in high register, ff, brilliant ascending running notes, descending octaves, ff, sudden pp, ascending phrases, pause. 3. a. Strings, p, romantic theme, horns, p, moderate tempo, high violin solo. b. Full orchestra, ff, romantic theme, drum rolls, cymbals, piano joins, bells. c. Extended piano solo, romantic theme, very fast repeated notes, brilliant ascending scale to 4. a. Brasses and piano, accelerated romantic theme, brass swells and sustained chord, fff. b. Piano and orchestra, rising chromatic scale, crescendo, ritardando. c. Piano and orchestra, ff, repeated-note theme, ritardando. d. Full orchestra, fff, blues theme, cymbal crashes, piano chords, crescendo to final orchestral chord, ff.

Charles Ives

 The Cage

A leopard went around his cage from one side to the
other side; he stopped only when the keeper
came around with meat; a boy who had been there
three hours began to wonder, “Is life anything like that?”

Ann Street

Quaint name     Ann street.
Width of same,      ten feet.
Barnums mob     Ann street,
Far from ob-     solete.
Narrow, yes     Ann street,
But business,     Both feet.
– Nassau crosses Ann
Sun just hits     Ann street,
Then it quits     Some greet!
Rather short,     Ann Street.

The Things Our Fathers Loved

1917 (subtitled “and the greatest of these was liberty.”)

I think there must be a place in the soul
all made of tunes, of tunes of long ago;
I hear the organ on the Main Street corner,
Aunt Sarah humming Gospels; Summer evenings,
The village cornet band, playing in the square.
The town’s Red, White and Blue,
all Red, White and Blue; Now! Hear the words
But they sing in my soul of the things our Fathers loved.

“They Are There! Fighting For The People’s New Free World”

There’s a time in many a life,
when it’s do though facing death
and our soldier boys will do their part
that people can live in a world where all will have a say.
They’re conscious always of their country’s aim,
which is Liberty for all.
Hip hip hooray you’ll hear them say
as they go to the fighting front.

Brave boys are now in action
They are there, they will help to free the world
They are fighting for the right
But when it comes to might,
They are there, they are there, they are there,
As the Allies beat up all the warhogs,
The boys’ll be there fighting hard
a-a-and then the world will shout
the battle cry of Freedom.
Tenting on a new camp ground.

When we’re through this cursed war,
All started by a sneaking gouger,
making slaves of men
Then let all the people rise,
and stand together in brave, kind Humanity.
Most wars are made by small stupid
selfish bossing groups
while the people have no say.
But there’ll come a day
Hip hip Hooray
when they’ll smash all dictators to the wall.

Then it’s build a people’s world nation Hooray
Ev’ry honest country free to live its own native life.
They will stand for the right,
but if it comes to might,
They are there, they are there, they are there.
Then the people, not just politicians
will rule their own lands and lives.
Then you’ll hear the whole universe
shouting the battle cry of Freedom.
Tenting on a new camp ground.
Tenting on a new camp ground

“The Unanswered Question”

Aaron Copland

Fanfare for the Common Man

Appalachian Spring Suite

Section 1

“Very slowly. Introduction of the characters (bride, groom, a neighbor, revivalist preacher and his flock), one by one, in a suffused light.” The peaceful open countryside is evoked by quiet dynamics, sustained harmonics, and evenly flowing rhythms.

Section 2

“Fast.” Strings and piano in unison suddenly begin a joyful dance tune that is American in flavor. “A sentiment both elated and religious” grows as the dance tune is combined with a solemn hymnlike melody in the ff winds. The section ends calmly; strings softly sing the hymnlike melody, while the flute recalls the dance tune.

Section 3

Moderate. Duo for the Bride and her Intended – scene of tenderness and passion.” Gently woodwind solos frame an intense dissonant passage for muted strings.

Section 4

“Quite fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feeling – suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.” Off-beat accents produce a delightfully humorous effect. After a brief pause, a slow transition begins with an “eloquent” ff passage and leads to

Section 5

“Still faster. Solo dance of the Bride – presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.” Breathless motion and rapid syncopations create excitement.

Section 6

“Very slowly (as at first).” A high solo violin begins this “Transition scene to music reminiscent of the Introduction.” Again, the peaceful countryside is evoked.

Section 7

“Calm and flowing. Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer-husband.” There are five variations on the Shaker melody, “Simple Gifts.” The theme is introduced by a clarinet.

Variation 1 – An oboe presents the theme “a trifle faster” and in a higher register.Variation 2 – Against high sounds in the piano and harp, the violas play the theme at half its previous speed. Then the violins and cellos in turn imitate the theme, creating a polyphonic texture. A brief transition leads to

Variation 3 – Trumpets and trombones proclaim the theme at twice the previous speed, against rapid notes in the strings.

Variation 4 – Woodwinds quietly play the second part of the theme at “a trifle slower” tempo than the preceding variation.

Variation 5 – The first part of the theme is majestically played fff by the full orchestra.

Section 8

Moderate. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors.” After a hushed passage for muted strings marked “like a prayer,” there is a quiet recollection of the hymnlike melody. The neighbors leave and the bride and groom are left “quiet and strong in their new house.”

Steve Reich

Philip Glass

John Adams

Nixon in China

The airfield outside Peking.  It is a very cold, clear, dry morning; Monday, February 21, 1972; the air is full of static electricity.  No airplanes are arriving; there is the odd note of birdsong.  Finally, from behind some buildings, come the sounds of troops marching.  Contingents of army, navy, and air force – 120 men of each service – circle the field and begin to sing The Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points of Attention.

CHORUS: Soldiers of heaven hold the sky
The morning breaks and shadows fly
Follow the orders of the poor
Your master is the laborer
Who rules the world with truth and grace
Deal with him justly, face to face
Pay a fair price for all you buy
Pay to replace what you destroy
Divide the landlord’s property
Take nothing from the tenantry
Do not mistreat the captive foe
Respect women, it is their due
Replace doors when you leave a house
Roll up straw matting after useThe people are the heroes now
Behemoth pulls the peasant’s plow
When we look up, the fields are white
With harvest in the morning light
And mountain ranges one by one
Rise red beneath the harvest moon

A jet is heard approaching, touching down, and taxiing across the runway.  As The Spirit of ’76 comes into view, slowing to a stop, Premier Chou En-lai and a small group of officials stroll out to meet it, casting long shadows in the pale yellow light.  A ramp is drawn up to the hatchway.  After a pause the door opens and President Nixon stands in the opening for an instant, then begins to descend the ramp, closely followed by the First Lady in her scarlet coat.  When the President reaches the middle of the ramp, Premier Chou begins to clap and the President stops short and returns the gesture, according to the Chinese custom.  He reaches the bottom step and extends his right hand as he walks towards the Premier.  They shake hands.

CHOU Your flight was smooth, I hope?
NIXON Oh, yes,
Smoother than usual I guess.
Yes, it was very pleasant.  We
Stopped in Hawaii for a day
And Guam, to catch up on the time.
It’s easier that way.  The Prime
Minister knows about that.  He
Is such a traveller
CHOU No, not I;
But as a traveller come home
For good to China, one for whom
All travel is a penance now
I am most proud to welcome you.

As the rest of the American party disembarks, the band strikes up.  The Premier introduces the President to the Chinese official entourage, and together they review the massed ranks of the honor guard.  All heads turn as they pass.  While the introductions are beginning, the President begins to sing, and , as he sings, the joy of anticipated triumph becomes the terrible expectation of  failure.  The Chinese and American official parties in due course leave the stage.  The brilliant sunshine dwindles to the light of incandescent lamps.  a telephone rings twice offstage, is picked up offstage.  In a moment Henry Kissinger interrupts the President to tell him that Chairman Mao wishes to meet with him.

NIXON News has a kind of mystery:
When I shook hands with Chou En-lai
On this bare field outside Peking
Just now, the world was listening.
CHOU May I —
NIXON Though we spoke quietly
The eyes and ears of history
Caught every gesture —
CHOU — introduce —
NIXON And every word, transforming us
As we, transfixed, —
CHOU — the Deputy
Minister of Security.
NIXON Made history.  [Our shaking of hands
Were shaping time.  Each moment stands
Out sharp and clear.
CHOU — Army.]  May I —
NIXON On our flight over from Shanghai
CHOU The Minister —
NIXON — the countryside
Looked drab and grey.  “Brueghel,” Pat said.
“We came in peace for all mankind”
I said, and I was put in mind
of our Apollo astronauts
Simply —
CHOU — of the United States
NIXON     Achieving a great human dream.
We live in an unsettled time.
Who are out enemies?  Who are
Our friends?  The Eastern Hemisphere
Beckoned to us, and we have flown
East of the sun, west of the moon
Across an ocean of distrust
Filled with the bodies of our lost;
The earth’s Sea of Tranquility.
It’s prime time in the U. S. A.
Yesterday night.  They watch us now;
The three main network’s colors glow
Livid through drapes onto the lawn.
Dishes are washed and homework done,
The dog and grandma fall asleep,
A car roars past playing loud pop,
Is gone.  As I look down the road
I know America is good
At heart.  An old cold warrior
Piloting towards an unknown shore
Through shoals.  The rats begin to chew
The sheets.  There’s murmuring below.
Now there’s ingratitude!  My hand
Is steady as a rock.  A sound
Like mourning doves reaches my ears,
Nobody is a friend of ours.
[Let’s face it.  If we don’t succeed
on this summit, our name is mud.
We’re not out of the woods, not yet.]
The nation’s heartland skips a beat
As our hands shield the spinning globe
From the flame-throwers of the mob.
We must press on.  We know we want —
KISSINGER Mr. President —

Theremin — Clara Rockmore

Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center

Electronic Study No. 1

Edgard Varese

Edgard Varese and Le Corbusier — Poeme electronique

Paul Lansky

Ride – (includes versions of Idle Chatter.)

Lansky’s audio excerpts page

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Contact Info: Dan Mitchell

Office Hours

Monday & Wednesday
Room A11:
15 minutes before Music 1A
10 minutes after Music 1A
Room A91:
15 minutes before Music 51
10 minutes after Music 51
%d bloggers like this: