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Modern and Postmodern Western Music

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Modern music always tried to break the common practice in search of something new. Musical modernism was defined by Botstein (n. p.)5 as a concept of modernity characterized by positivism, mechanization, urbanization, mass culture and nationalism. The aestheic reaction to all these development was reflected in the modern music. While considering the history of modern music it is often said to be influenced by the ones developed in ancient Greece. Evidences were also found that the Church music in Western Europe was dominated by the Greek music practices and systems.

But it is seen that the modern music actually reached its graceful self only after removing all the traces of Greek influence from it. 6 The modernism in music showed very distinct characteristics which made it different from its previous musical eras. The major characteristics of modern music were the use of sound based composition, extended techniques and sounds, speech and singing and expansion on abandonement of tonality. In terms of sound based composition the modern music took liberty to use almost any kinds of sound, even the noise like factory or mechanical sounds. 7 This liberal use of sounds in the music truly characterized the revolutionizing approach of modern music tending to break the concepts of the previous age.

The excessive use of instruments and and speakers in the musical composition was a uniqueness of the modern era citing a shift from the premodern softer tone of music. 8 The use of extended techniques in terms of percussion orchestra, string instruments, piano, etc. gave a more theatrical appearance to the music. The justly tunes microtonal music was also the characteristic of modern music.

The most unique character of modern music was the use of speech in the music. 9 The song with intermittent speeches received instant popularity in the modern era of music. Atonality, polytonality, twelve tone techniques, tone cluster, dissonant counterpoint, serialism, etc. are the contributions of modernism to the history of music. In spite of its instant popularity modern music received some harsh criticisms also. According to Cavell (187)10 the excessiveness in all aspects of modern music sometimes have made the music incomprehensible to the audience and grew various complexity. Several works of modern age composers are found in history.

One of such great composer was Cecil Taylor who literally revolutionized jazz music in the modern era. Cecil Taylor was born in 1929 and was drawn to music since his childhood.

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preview essay on Modern and Postmodern Western Music
  • Pages: 7 (1750 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Unsorted
  • Level: Ph.D.
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