Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Music of the 20th century

In this history of music and arts, every period has its own characteristic style which is associated with the society from which it originated. The period of the 19th and 20th century perceived the two world wars, and had been a period of many changes: advancement in technology, a period of many inventions such as the telephone, television, electronic light, computers, cassette tapes, synthesizers, CD players, and many others. Because of this inventions, experimentations were made in the field of music and arts.


Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

He studied with Guiraud and others at the Paris Conservatoire and as prizewinner went to Rome, though more important Impressions came from his visits to Bayreuth and from hearing Javaneese music in Paris.

Debussy and Impressionism

The Impressionist style of painting developed in the late 19th century in France. Although the Impressionist movement did not exclusively consist of French artists, it did start in France and the French painters are among the most well-known. Several earlier artistic movements, such as Classicism and Realism, influenced the Impressionist painters. In 1855, a World Fair was held in Paris, and art was given significant attention. This contributed to Paris’ reputation as the center of the art world and the place to be for aspiring painters, such as the group that would come to be known as the Impressionists.

Impressionism is a style borrowed from painting which creates an illusion of light and atmosphere by using colors side by side instead of blending them. The artist avoids realism in favor of conveying impressions.


Achille-Claude Debussy, 1862-1918, Nocturnes. Completed December 15, 1899 (at 3 a.m., according to an inscription on the manuscript), first performance October 27, 1901, in Paris. Scored for 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, cymbals, snare drums, tympani, 2 harps, female chorus, and strings.

3 Shorts Composition of NOCTURNES

1. Nuages- (Clouds) Debussy pictures the sky with slow and melancholy passages of clouds. The warmth of Nuages recalls a summer love affair.

2. Fetes- (Festivals) is a restrained yet joyous celebration, the sort that generates lifelong memories without ever disturbing the neighbors.

3. Sirenes- (Sirens) builds on a simple two-note motives to seduce the listeners into Debussy’s river, just as dangerously as the mythological beauties who have lured innumerable sailors to their doom over the centuries.

The Music of Bela Bartok

Bela Bartok (1881-1945), a Hungarian, is considered a famous progressive modern musical composer, a great pianist, teacher and researcher. He was one of the leaders of Hungarian nationalism and made use of the Hungarian folk tunes in his music. Just like Stravinsky, he was one of the composers who belonged to the movement of Neo-Classicism: a return to the simplicity of Classicism and combining of modern sound with classic form.

His style is characterized by rhythms which are percussive and intricate because of the influence of the Hungarian dance patterns. He used polyrhythm, which means using two or more different rhythms played at the same time. In some of his compositions like “Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, no.1”, you will notice the irregular grouping of beats.

Polytonality, which is the simultaneous combination of two or more tonalities in a composition, can also be found in Bartok’s compositions.

Antonio Molina and Impressionism

Dr. Antonio Molina (1894-1980) was one of the 20th century composers who wrote art music. He was considered the “Claude Debussy of the Philippines” because he was the first to introduce several important devices, technically characteristics of impressionism in music.

One of Molina’s popularly known, compositions is “Hatinggabi”. Another composition of Molina is “Dancing Fool”. In this composition, he made use of the whole tone scale and used it as a descriptive device.

Schoenberg and Expressionism

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

Austrian composer, Schoenberg’s development of the twelve-tone method of composition was a turning point in the 20th century music. He was a self taught musician.

Another philosophy of art which affected the music of the 20th century is expressionism. It is a style which seeks to express emotion with exaggerations rather than represent the physical world. The followers of the movement believe that this world is full of tension, and people are irrational, rebellious and scared to be alone.


Many of the 20th music reflects an artistic movement called expressionism, which stress intense and subjective emotion. Painters, writers, and composers explored inner feelings rather than depicting outward appearances. The expressionists rejected conventional prettiness.

Arnold Schoenberg was known for the radical sound of his music. In this song cycle, “Pierrot Lunaire”, he made use of different style of singing which is called Sprechstimme. Pierrot Lunaire calls for unusual style of vocal performance halfway between speaking and singing.


Literally it means speech voice. It is a manner of performing a song which sounds half-sung and half-spoken.


is identified, by the time signature, a fractional symbol in which the numerator specifies the number of beats per bar, and the denominator specifies the relative note value assigned to one beat.

Syncopation (Accent)

the suppression of an expected rhythmic accent by the continuation of an accented tone that begins just before it.

The Music of Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

A Russian composer, later of French (1934) and American nationality. Stravinsky was regarded as the world’s greatest composer. His once revolutionary works were modern classics.

Like Debussy and Schoenberg, Stravinsky a composer from Russia, was also one of the 20th century composers who established new trends in music, instead of just using the new trends in his music, he combined the traditional and modern trends.

Electronic Music

Music that requires knowledge or use of electronic devices to produce or manipulate sounds during its composition and performances.

With the advancement in technology, many composers are experimenting new sound sources such as electronic, environmental and other non-tonal sound. Traditional instruments are used but in different way. Even computers, cassette tape recorders, and synthesizers are used.

Concrete Music

Music created by reworking natural sounds recorded on discs or tapes.

Filipino Contemporary Composer

Nicanor Abelardo (1893-1934)- Our foremost Kundiman composer also showed the elements of modernism in his music. This is heard in his “Cinderella Overture” and “Sinfonietta for Strings”

Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag (1918-)- Neo-classicist. The music of Kasilag is unique in which she was able to combine the music of the east and west. This is shown in her Tocatta (1958) were she made used of the piano, clarinet, oboe kulintang and turiray. The Kuiliontang is very prominent in her “Concert Divertisement”.

Dr. Jose Maceda (1917-)- is the pioneer and exponent of avant-garde music in our country. When he was in France, he joined the Music Concrete movement. An example of his work is “Ugnayan”(1974). Most of Maceda’s composition make use of a large number of people and the environment.

Dr.Ramon Santos (1941-)- Another way of combining western and non-western materials and structures is shown by Dr. Ramon Santos. He made use of Asian material in his new way of composing. We will hear in his composition new concept and system of composing which he learned from his studies abroad.

At present there is a group of young composers who are active in promoting this so called New Music. Some of them are Ryan Cayabyab, Chino Toledo, Laverne Dela Pena, Arlene Chongson,and Jonas Baes.

Music 20th 21st Cen.Dalagangan