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I understand that the periods of music history (baroque, classical, etc.) weren't named until many years after their time. So my question is if you were to name the 20th century period of music, what would you name it?
Also how does a name become accepted by society as the name of that period? One cannot just deem it whatever they want and expect the world to follow.


Thanks,
Adam


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Originally Posted by Adam Coleman
I understand that the periods of music history (baroque, classical, etc.) weren't named until many years after their time. So my question is if you were to name the 20th century period of music, what would you name it?
Also how does a name become accepted by society as the name of that period? One cannot just deem it whatever they want and expect the world to follow.


I would call the 20th century period of music the 20th century period of music smile

The problem with the 20th century is that there was an explosion of different genres and styles of music after about 1920, so it's unlikely there will be a unifying name. Of course, there was stylistic variety in earlier eras of music as well, but I'm not sure any period has been as fertile for the development of new kinds of music than the time between about 1900 and 1950.




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Originally Posted by Adam Coleman
I understand that the periods of music history (baroque, classical, etc.) weren't named until many years after their time. So my question is if you were to name the 20th century period of music, what would you name it?
Also how does a name become accepted by society as the name of that period? One cannot just deem it whatever they want and expect the world to follow.



It all depends on usage, and who knows how that will turn out. There's no particular reason that a terminology will be based on a period of time, per se. I think it is more likely that stylistic considerations are what drives the usage. "Impressionism" seems in place already for a certain style that covers some early 20th century music. "Neo-Classical" and "12-tone" and "serial" also seem well established. I see "Neo-Romantic" getting bandied about, but it seems to actually refer to different trends (e.g., the neo-Romanticism of Howard Hansen and the neo-Romanticism of Penderecki are fairly different in nature), so it may need tweaking. There's a term I see in architecture that would make some sense if applied to classical music - "mid-century modern" - it could cover a lot of classical music, from Hindemith to Schuman to Jolivet to Ginastera.


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Originally Posted by Adam Coleman
Also how does a name become accepted by society as the name of that period? One cannot just deem it whatever they want and expect the world to follow.
First, some time has to pass.

A piece of art has to first have appeal to it's generation, and then a universal appeal that keeps it going. Charlie Chaplin was not the number one silent film comic of his time, but The Tramp is now a classic character. In fact, very few people can name any of his contemporaries.

Likewise, I don't think we're at a point where we can really judge the contemporary period, simply because we haven't had enough time to let the stuff that was popular sift through the stuff that has universal appeal. I think once this has happened, we can look at overarching trends and come up with something.

Hopefully it won' t be a mess of genres like electronic dance music seems to wish it was.


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I think that whoever writes the next standard musicology textbook would have a huge influence if they created new period names (assuming the publisher let them do that).


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Originally Posted by Adam Coleman
So my question is if you were to name the 20th century period of music, what would you name it?


Plinky plonky crash bang garbage.

Thal


I'm inclined to agree with Thal
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Eclectic.


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There are some great ideas here. I have a few thoughts:

First, we don't have to create a term for the entire century, because musical labels are usually based on things other than time-span. [Depending whom you ask, of course,] the Baroque era lasted 150 years (1600-1750), the Classical period lasted 50 years (1750-1800), and the Romantic era - who knows? 100 years? 140? Impressionism was a short one - one might say it lasted only 30 or 40 years. So, in my opinion, given the diversity of ideas and styles already mentioned, it would be perfectly legitimate and not at all unusual to divide the 20th century into multiple eras, rather than trying to find a single label for the entire century.

Second, stylistic diversity doesn't mean that we don't call it one era. The Romantic era is full of diverse styles - particularly considering the effects of nationalism - as well as diverse ideologies (absolute vs. program music, for example), and I would even say that etudes, sonatas, and operas are completely different stylistic genres. But the Romantic era is generally lumped together as one, despite this stylistic diversity, because of the overarching connection to the philosophy of Romanticism. So if we could say that there is an overarching philosophy that ties together most 20th century music, then we could label it as one era, but I'm not entirely convinced that this is the case.

Third, there is always a period of transition and overlap between eras, and those transitions can be short or long. We pick dates because it makes things easier for us, but knowing that it isn't that simple might actually simply the issue of 20th century music for us. Could we consider the early 20th century (or go a bit earlier, say 1880 - 1940) not an era of its own, but rather a long period of transition between romanticism and atonality? ("Atonality" then being a label for the main 20th century era to follow?) Even guys like Schoenberg, Prokofiev, and Bartok began by writing very romantic-sounding music. The path to atonality took a long time - decades, even an entire century for the system of tonality to gradually be broken down by adventurous composers who didn't all know where they were heading. Imagine going from the harmonic system of Mozart to Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" - it didn't happen over night. Chopin pushed tonality, Liszt took it even further, who can believe what Wagner did with the Tristan chord, Brahms resisted (who can blame him?) but couldn't stop the impressionism to follow, then there were Stravinsky and Bartok and finally we get to Schoenberg. Musicologists in 1910 couldn't have known how influential atonality, serialism, etc would be on the development of 20th century classical music, and therefore it's possible that they wouldn't have known they were in such an important period of transition when they were first describing what they thought was a new "modernist" era.

Another thought, coming off that last one, is maybe we could call the transition period an era of its own with its own name, not just "transition", or maybe it's a collection of smaller eras. As already mentioned, so many names were invented in the early 20th century as people tried to define a new era - expressionism, modernism, neo-classicism, neo-romanticism... but maybe "modernism", "expressionism", etc are not eras at all, but rather genres or styles within a larger era. Or maybe those names arose because people THOUGHT they had reached the new era, but little did they know that they still hadn't gotten there yet - they were still in midst of a wild transition.

That's what I think. Maybe I'll change my mind.

Last edited by pianojerome; 07/27/11 09:40 AM.

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If we consider the 20th century to be post-Romantic, then maybe Intellectual, or something similar? Intellectual is the politest word for me. Academic, Barren, Unmusical, Artificial, Contrived, Experimental are some other words that spring to mind. (I am not a fan........)

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I think intellectual is an excellent description of say the latter part of the 20th century and contemporary works.

In addition, you really need to have a degree and a beard to appreciate it and be able to write a thesis on one phrase.

Thal


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Originally Posted by thalbergmad
In addition, you really need to have a degree and a beard to appreciate it and be able to write a thesis on one phrase.


Frankly, I think that's nonsense. But I hear that often, even from so-called professional musicians, so I don't blame you for thinking so.

All one needs to appreciate music (and that includes contemporary music) is an open ear.


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Originally Posted by sandalholme
Intellectual is the politest word for me. Academic, Barren, Unmusical, Artificial, Contrived, Experimental are some other words that spring to mind. (I am not a fan........)
If you think of the whole broad sweep of 20thC music your adjectives apply to a rather small part of it.


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Originally Posted by mrenaud
All one needs to appreciate music (and that includes contemporary music) is an open ear.
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Originally Posted by currawong
Originally Posted by mrenaud
All one needs to appreciate music (and that includes contemporary music) is an open ear.
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I couldn't agree more!

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Originally Posted by mrenaud


All one needs to appreciate music (and that includes contemporary music) is an open ear.


Along with an open mind........ grin


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Originally Posted by mrenaud
[quote=thalbergmad]

All one needs to appreciate music (and that includes contemporary music) is an open ear.


And a critical mind.

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Somehow I feel that it's important to cite what was going in Russia during the cold war years compared to what was happening outside for polical reasons. You see Prokofiev doing his own thing, Shostakovich....but at the same time you have Messiaen, Boulez, Ligeti, Stockhousen, Webern...everybody else.

And what about Scriabin, who took quartal harmony to the extremes and landed up in a non-strictly-organized atonal idiom?


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