IB Music/Music History/Modern Period

Characteristics (1900-1945)Edit

Tone colorEdit

  1. Has major role in keeping unity
  2. noiselike and percussive sounds used
  3. Glissando, flutter tonguing, and pizzicato common
  4. Percussion standard, numerous
  5. Piano used percussively
  6. Transparency: individual lines clear
  7. Less emphasis on blended sound


  1. Consonance and dissonance
    • Composers began using dissonant chords more
    • no longer general principle of stability
  2. new chord structures
    • Polychord: one traditional chord on another
    • Fourth chords used, instead of thirds
    • Tone cluster: chord of notes only half step apart

Alternatives to the traditional tonal systemEdit

  1. Church modes revived
  2. Polytonality
  3. Bitonality



Impressionism and symbolismEdit

Impressionism emerged from France in the late 19th century. There were two main composers, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel.

In reaction to the Romantic period, it used more expression in the atmosphere of the piece rather than the music itself.

Whole tone scales were prominently used, and the songs were usually instrumental. Woodwinds were dominant in the pieces, while strings blended colors instead of making block sounds.

It had indefinite rhythms, and it was more fluid filled with downbeats.

Simplicity and abstraction was explored, and was greatly influenced by non-Western arts and Dadaism. Artists sought fresh concepts in foreign music, such as Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe.

Light, lacy chords develop the shimmery and hazy atmosphere of Impressionistic music. Dissonance was usually left unresolved, creating irregular phrases and concealed cadences.

Rather than using triads and four-note chords as used previously, five-note combinations known as ninth chords (1-3-5-7-9) were brought up. This formed dissonant polychords of 6 and 7 notes.

It was the transition from the Romantic period to the Modern era. Though its duration was fleeting, Debussy and Ravel are considered some of the greatest composers.

Claude DebussyEdit

Maurice RavelEdit


Igor StravinskyEdit

Stravinsky explored neoclassical and serial (twelve-tone) techniques. His post-Impressionism piece, the Firebird was greatly acknowledged. His ballet, The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps), embodies the cult of primitivism, and aroused a riot at its notorious first performance. The percussive use of dissonance is prominent in many pieces, and polyrhythms, polytonality, and metric irregularity are used.His melodies were often influenced by Russian folk-songs.


Expressionism was the German response to French Impressionism. The Germans dug down to the depths of the soul, whereas the French explored the impressions of the outer world. Some composers influenced by this style was Arnold Schoenberg. The musical characteristics of Expressionism include wide leaps in the melody and the use of instruments in extreme registers.

Anton WebernEdit

Bela BartokEdit

Dmitri ShostakovichEdit

Charles IvesEdit

George GershwinEdit

William Grant StillEdit

Aaron CoplandEdit

Last modified on 28 October 2013, at 18:47