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20th Century Unit 1: Early ViolinUnit 2: Baroque Musical Period Unit 3: Classical Musical Period Unit 4: Romantic Musical Period Unit 5: 20th Century Musical PeriodUnit 6: Non Traditional



  1. World Wars and experimentation in music.
    Many significant historical and political events have taken place since this era began, including two world wars. The upheavals of these times have caused composers to take many different directions, including new forms of musical expression. Some of these new forms include the following 20th century styles of music.
    1. Impressionism.
      This term describes a form of music in which new sounds and sonorities are used to convey fleeting impressions, movement and moods. Forms often used in Impressionistic music include symphonies and smaller character pieces such as preludes and nocturnes.
    2. Expressionism.
      This style of music is exemplified by compositional techniques such as twelve-tone music and serialism. The twelve tone technique, developed by the composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), refers to a system where the composer arranges the twelve notes of the chromatic scale in a fixed order. This ordered sequence of the twelve notes is called a twelve-tone row or series that forms a unique melody. Composers using this method generally would not repeat any note in the tone row until the entire series of twelve notes had been heard. Variations to the tone row include retrograde, inverted and transposed versions of the tone row. Twelve-tone music often is highly atonal, and has been used with music forms such as quartets in unconventional ways. The twelve-tone technique was later called serialism, and continues to be used by some composers today.
    3. Chance Music.
      Also called aleatory music. In this form of music, indeterminancy is used in the composition of the music, performance, or both. The result is a new piece of music each time the chance music is performed.
    4. Electronic music.
      A few of the various forms of electronic music include: electronically produced sounds (e.g. music concrete which uses manipulated real sounds from a tape recorder); computer generated pitches, sounds, textures and compositions (including microtonal music); and combinations of traditional instruments with computer generated music.
  2. Past musical styles and forms have remained in use.
    Musical forms and styles from previous musical periods have also been used during this era, often in experimental ways such as Post-Romantic, Neo-Classic and Neo-Baroque styles. Additionally, early music groups have been formed to perform the music of past eras such as the Baroque and Classical periods, often using authentic performance practices and period instruments.
  3. Popular music has increased in importance.
    During this era, art music acquired the status of an elite form of entertainment that many members of the general public could no longer relate to. Popular music such as jazz, country, rock, pop, rap, hip-hop and other contemporary forms of popular music have become the predominant music listened to by the general public. Whereas in the past, classical music was the popular music of its day, this no longer is true.
  4. New Directions.
    All sounds, styles and forms of music are now possible for composers, listeners and musicians, including the music of non-western cultures. Composers are writing both highly sophisticated and complex art music, often understandable only to an elite few, as well as art music accessible to the masses, such as music composed for movies and musical theater. Although the attendance at public classical music concerts may be waning in some cities, the core of classical music supporters remains strong. A rising tide of musical amateurs, eager to learn how to play musical instruments and to perform classical music has also emerged in recent years. Traditional modes of musical instruction and printed sheet music are plentiful, and new directions in technology such as online learning and immediate access to digital sheet music and recordings offer abundant opportunities for lifelong learning and active music making.