Chapter 35. The End of the Millennium

Chapter Outline



In the last three decades of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first, the Western musical tradition continued to diversify. New institutions were created to preserve the history of jazz and popular music, while new types such as punk and rap emerged to meet new functions. Digital synthesizers and computers provided new resources for electronic music in both classical and popular traditions. New forms of mixed media challenged old distinctions between art and popular music and between music, theater, dance, and other arts. Among composers in the classical tradition, an increased interest in reaching a broad audience produced a number of new currents, including minimalism and neo-Romanticism. At the same time, almost all the trends discussed in the previous chapter continued, and many composers pursued individual paths. 

Because this chapter cannot do justice to all the varied music of this era, we will look at only a few salient issues. We will begin with a survey of the changing world of music, noting especially the broadening conception of music as an art, the influence of new digital technologies, and the increasing importance of mixed media. We will then examine four trends that seem especially prominent in these decades: the fragmentation of popular music; minimalism and its offshoots; a rising concern among classical composers for writing immediately accessible music; and the impact of non-Western musics on musicians in Western traditions. 

Chapter Outline: 

  1. Developments since 1970
    1. Musical changes during the last few decades
      1. The broadening conception of music as art
      2. The influence of digital technologies
      3. The increasing importance of mixed media
    2. Four trends are especially prominent.
      1. The fragmentation of popular music
      2. Minimalism and its offshoots
      3. Composers in the classical tradition wrote more accessible music.
      4. The influence of non-Western music
    3. Historical developments
      1. The late 1960s and 1970s saw numerous political and economic shocks, including assassinations, riots, and a presidential resignation.
      2. Cold War tensions decreased, and Communism eventually collapsed in Eastern Europe in the 1990s.
      3. New conflicts and threats emerged, most notably in the attacks on September 11, 2001.
      4. Global economies became more interdependent.
      5. Communication technology produced cable television, personal computers, fax machines, and cell phones.
      6. The arts appealed to a growing international audience.
        1. In this multinational world, people are exposed to a great variety of music on a daily basis.
        2. Characteristics of various musical types have crossed over and blended with other musical traditions.
  2. Broadening the Meaning of “Art Music”
    1. Jazz
      1. Each style of jazz continues to be performed and to attract listeners.
      2. All styles of jazz are available on recordings; historical recordings have been transferred to compact discs (see HWM Music in Context, page 947).
      3. New institutions preserve the classics of jazz, as jazz is now regarded as art music with its own classic canon.
    2. Rock
      1. The history of rock music is now taught at colleges.
      2. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame preserves the rock legacy (see HWM Figure 35.1).
      3. Continuing sales of recordings of rock music from the 1950s and the number of “golden oldies” radio stations give evidence of a tradition of classics.
    3. Country music
      1. Country music has also developed a classic repertory.
      2. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville opened in 2001.
    4. Musicals
      1. Classic musicals have been revived on Broadway and around the world.
      2. New musicals often aspire to a high art level.
      3. Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930), the dominant figure in American musicals, uses a mixture of art song and popular styles.
      4. Sondheim’s subjects would not have been done earlier.
        1. Company (1970) is a plotless social commentary.
        2. Sweeney Todd (1979) deals with a murderous barber.
        3. Sunday in the Park with George (1984) is based on a painting.
        4. Assassins (1991) features assassins of American presidents.
      5. Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948), the leading English composer of musicals, draws on a wide range of styles, while retaining the focus on melody.
        1. Jesus Christ Superstar (1970-71) is a rock music retelling of the life of Jesus.
        2. Evita (1976-78) is about Eva Peron, the wife of the Argentinean dictator.
        3. Cats (1981) is based on poetry by T. S. Eliot.
        4. The Phantom of the Opera (1986) is based on the classic book and film.
      6. Claude-Michel Schönberg, a French composer, has created a number of successful musicals.
        1. Les Misérables (1980) is based on Victor Hugo’s novel.
        2. Miss Saigon (1989) retells Madama Butterfly in the context of the Vietnam War.
      7. Rent (1996) by Jonathan Larson adapts the plot of La Boh�me to a story of New York in the era of AIDS.
      8. Asian classic traditions have also received international recognition.
  3. New Technologies
    1. Digital synthesis, recording, and reproduction have had a major impact on the creators and listeners of music (see HWM Music in Context, page 947, and Figure 35.2).
    2. Sampling
      1. This new process allows one to create a new composition by patching together digital portions of previously recorded music.
      2. Sampling has been used extensively in rap, other forms of popular music, avant-garde, and classical concert music.
    3. Composers have explored advancements in computers.
      1. Charles Dodge (b. 1942)
        1. Speech Songs (1972) features computer-synthesized vocal sounds.
        2. Manipulations of lifelike imitations of speech create a word-based music.
      2. Paul Lansky (b. 1944) developed his own software to create music.
        1. Smalltalk (1988) manipulates speech, and Night Traffic (1990) manipulates traffic noises, transforming them beyond immediate recognition.
        2. He also draws upon pop traditions, includ-ing tonal harmonies and a regular meter.
      3. Jean-Claude Risset (b. 1938) served as director of the Institute for Acoustic and Musical Research and Coordination in Paris.
        1. Inharmonique (1977) uses a computer to mediate between live musical sounds and synthesized sounds.
        2. He continues to design new sounds through the interaction of sound waves, harmonics, timbre, and other elements of sound.
  4. Mixed Media
    1. Stage shows and music videos
      1. By the 1980s, stage shows for popular music concerts involved elaborate sets, costumes, intricate choreography, and visual effects.
      2. Music videos
        1. Short films accompanying the performance of popular songs came of age in the early 1980s.
        2. The cable channel MTV promoted music videos.
        3. Videos were elaborate productions, with sets, costumes, dancing, and quick editing.
    2. Laurie Anderson (b. 1947) is one of the leading performance artists (see HWM Figure 35.3).
      1. Anderson employs a wide range of media, including singing and violin-playing.
      2. O Superman (1981), featuring her synthesizer-processed voice in a simple song, became a pop hit.
      3. United States I-IV (1983) is a seven-hour stage show that uses all the tools of modern media.
    3. Spectacle works
      1. STOMP (1991), created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholase, has no dialogue and consists of performers using everyday objects to produce elaborate percussion music with stunning choreography (see HWM Figure 35.4)
      2. Blast! (2001) by Jim Mason brought the routines of marching-band halftime shows to Broadway.
    4. Film music
      1. In some recent films, music has become a central part of the total artwork.
      2. American Graffiti (1973) set a pattern by using pop music of the 1950s and 60s.
      3. Full symphonic scores with leitmotives, such as heard in the music by John Williams (b. 1932) for the Star Wars movies, has reemerged in film scoring.
      4. Symphonic soundtracks have become popular recordings, outpacing other orchestral music.
  5. The Splintering of Popular Music
    1. Disco
      1. This style began as a type of dance music in New York during the 1970s.
      2. The music catered to African Americans, Latinos, and gay men before becoming an international craze.
      3. Slick production and lush orchestrations characterized these uniform, 4/4 meter dance works.
      4. Disco reached a height with the film Saturday Night Fever (1977), featuring music by the Bee Gees.
    2. Other rock types
      1. Punk featured a hard-driving style and voiced teenager alienation.
        1. The Sex Pistols popularized edgy fashions and preached nihilism.
        2. Most punk musicians were untutored and used raw, unskilled sounds.
      2. New Wave groups, such as Talking Heads, maintained the nihilism of punk but incorporated trained musical skills.
      3. Grunge
        1. This is one type of alternative rock, a general term for rock music that is separate from the mainstream.
        2. Grunge, centering in Seattle in the early 1990s, combined nihilism and the electric-guitar sound of heavy metal with intimate lyrics and dressed-down fashions.
        3. Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991) brought grunge to national attention.
    3. Rap
      1. Rap began in the 1970s as part of the African-American urban youth culture.
      2. The style featured rhymed lyrics over repeated dance beats.
      3. From its New York beginnings, it has branched out into multiple types.
        1. Gangsta rap celebrates lawlessness.
        2. Conscious rap voices the woes of inequality and racism.
      4. Public Enemy led the ranks of conscious rap with songs like Fight the Power (see HWM Figure 35.5).
      5. Rap soon appealed to white suburban teenagers and to international audiences.
    4. Music subcultures
      1. Women’s music is often in a folk style and reflects a feminist perspective.
      2. Christian rock uses current popular styles to convey evangelical Christian themes.
  6. Minimalism
    1. Minimalism is considered to be the leading musical style of the late twentieth century.
      1. Materials are reduced to a minimum and procedures are simplified.
      2. The content of the music should be readily apparent.
      3. Minimalism began as an avant-garde style but became a popular and expressive technique.
      4. Influences for minimalism came from numerous sources:
        1. Rock music
        2. African music
        3. Asian music
        4. Tonality
        5. Romanticism
    2. Minimalism in art
      1. The term, first coined by an art critic in 1965, was applied to art that reduced materials and form to fundamentals.
      2. The works were not intended to express feelings or states of mind.
      3. Minimalist works often feature repetition of simple elements (see HWM Figure 35.6).
    3. Early minimalism in music
      1. Musicians in New York and California created a parallel movement.
      2. La Monte Young (b. 1935), one of the pioneers, used improvisation over a fundamental drone on synthesizer in The Tortoise: His Dreams and Journeys (1964).
    4. Terry Riley (b. 1935)
      1. Riley was a member of La Monte Young’s ensemble.
      2. He experimented with tape loops that played the same material repeatedly.
      3. In C (1964) applied similar procedures with live instruments.
        1. Any number of instruments can play; each plays the same series of brief repeated figures over a pulsing octave C.
        2. The number of repetitions in each part and the coordination of parts are left to the performers in the tradition of indeterminacy.
        3. These elements create a steady pulse with a slow change from consonance to dissonance and back.
    5. Steve Reich (b. 1936)
      1. Reich, along with Glass and Adams, brought minimalist procedures into art music with the intent of appealing to a wide audience.
      2. He developed a quasi-canonic procedure in which musicians play the same material out of phase with each other.
      3. Piano Phase (1967), for two pianos (see HWM Example 31.1)
        1. The same figure is repeated several times.
        2. One pianist then pulls ahead slightly, creating new harmonic combinations,
      4. Reich founded his own ensemble, and wrote percussive music in the 1970s.
      5. He attracted a wide range of listeners from the classical and pop worlds.
      6. Reich used minimalist techniques to create large-scale works with significant emotional content in the 1980s, such as Tehillim (1981), a setting of psalm texts in Hebrew.
    6. Philip Glass (b. 1937)
      1. Glass studied at Juilliard with Nadia Boulanger.
      2. In Paris he met and worked with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar.
      3. In the mid-1960s, he composed music that combined the rhythmic organization of Indian music with simple harmonic progressions and the amplification of rock music.
      4. Einstein on the Beach (1976) is a one act, four-hour opera.
        1. There is no text other than solfege syllables, and the staging is nonsensical.
        2. The music consists primarily of repeated arpeggiations.
        3. The orchestra includes electronic keyboard instruments, woodwinds, and a solo violinist.
      5. Other operas followed, including The Voyage (1992).
    7. John Adams (b. 1947; see HWM Figure 35.7)
      1. Phrygian Gates for piano (1977-78) represents minimalism in its early transitional phase.
      2. Adams later combined minimalism with other techniques and styles.
      3. Harmonielehre (1985), a symphonic poem, recalls Mahler or Berg.
      4. Nixon in China (1987) is an opera dealing with Nixon’s visit to China.
        1. Minimalist techniques are combined with formal Baroque opera.
        2. Short, driving ideas constantly evolve.
      5. Later works rely less on minimalism and more on traditional harmonic and contrapuntal means.
    8. Phrygian Gates by Adams (see NAWM 168 and HWM Example 35.2)
      1. This twenty-four-minute piano work relies predominantly on rapid repetitive figuration or alternating chords.
      2. The pitch content goes through a number of changes, what Adams calls “gates.”
        1. He explores seven tonal centers moving through the circle of fifths: A, E, B, F-sharp, C-sharp, G-sharp, and D-sharp.
        2. Each key center begins with the pitch content of the Lydian mode and then changes to that of the Phrygian mode.
        3. The pitches of the seven tonal centers correspond to the notes of the A Lydian mode, the first set of pitches in the work.
      3. In the A Lydian section, pitches are added one at a time, beginning with E and ending with A.
      4. The arrival of A Phrygian (measure 114) coincides with the first forte dynamics.
      5. The E Lydian area (measure 137) begins with a dynamic drop and builds to a fff at the arrival of E Phrygian (measure 236).
      6. Adams alters rhythm, register, and chords to provide contrasts and emotional surges.
  7. The New Accessibility
    1. Audiences and the classic tradition
      1. Composers in the classical tradition faced a new reality in the late twentieth century.
      2. Despite the support of universities, they found it difficult to get their works performed after the premieres.
      3. Few compositions entered the classical repertory.
      4. Some composers sought to appeal to a wider audience through minimalism and other techniques.
    2. Accessible modernism
      1. Some composers have used modernist ideas and procedures that are simple and easy to grasp.
      2. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939; see HWM Figure 35.8)
        1. Zwilich combines continuous variation with older formal devices.
        2. Her use of developing variation is similar to the procedure used by Schoenberg, but the idea is much simpler and more readily understood.
    3. Symphony No. 1 (1982) by Zwilich (NAWM 169)
      1. This work earned Zwilich a Pulitzer Prize in Music, the first ever given to a woman.
      2. Familiar harmonic materials
        1. Tonal centers
        2. Prominent thirds and fifths
        3. Occasional triads
        4. The E-major triad and passionate melody at measure 13 recall Mahler.
      3. Developing variation
        1. All of the melodic material evolves through variation from the first fifteen measures.
        2. The opening threefold rising third serves as a motto and establishes A as the tonal center.
        3. This motive and an answering rising fifth create the central material for the movement.
        4. Several melodies are derived from this material.
        5. Recurring melodies are subject to further variation.
      4. The movement builds in tempo, dynamics, and density to a central allegro and then slows and thins to a quiet close.
    4. Radical simplification
      1. Some composers embraced a radical simplification of materials.
      2. One such type is minimalism, but other musical techniques also reflect this trend.
      3. Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)
        1. This Estonian composer began with neoclassical and serial works and juxtaposed modernist and Baroque styles.
        2. He later studied Gregorian chant and early polyphony.
        3. Seeking greater international opportunities, P�rt settled in Germany in 1980.
      4. Tintinnabuli
        1. The term is derived from the bell-like sonorities that it can produce.
        2. It features counterpoint between a mostly stepwise diatonic melody and voices sounding notes of the tonic triad determined by a preset system.
        3. Pärt developed this method in the 1970s
    5. Seven Magnificat Antiphons by Pärt (1988, rev. 1991) (NAWM 170)
      1. These choral works are based on antiphon texts from the week prior to Christmas.
      2. The traditional Latin has been translated into German, and these are Pärt’s first works using the language of his adopted country.
      3. O Weisheit (NAWM 170a)
        1. The text is set syllabically and homophonically.
        2. Measure lines indicate lengths of individual words and do not suggest meter.
        3. The principal melody in the tenors moves by steps within a range of a third.
        4. The pitches from the other voices are from the A-major triad.
        5. The basses and sopranos sing E and A only.
        6. The altos sing the pitches from the triad that are closest to the notes of the tenor melody.
      4. O König aller V�lker (see NAWM 170b and HWM Example 35.3)
        1. The second tenor has a modal tune centered on A.
        2. The second soprano forms an augmentation canon with the tenor.
        3. The altos recite the text on D.
        4. The other parts sound notes of the D-minor triad.
        5. The texture alternates between consonance and diatonic dissonance.
    6. Quotation and polystylism
      1. Quotation and collage included past and present styles.
      2. This style is similar to postmodernism, which considers all epochs and cultures equally for source material (see HWM Figure 35.9).
      3. Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
        1. Schnittke worked in the Soviet Union primarily as a film composer and moved to Germany in 1990.
        2. As the Soviet government relaxed its cultural controls in the 1960s, he explored several modernist techniques.
        3. Schnittke later turned to polystylism, a combination of new and old styles.
        4. Symphony No. 1 (1969-72) incorporates passages from works by numerous classical composers that present conflicting styles and historical periods.
        5. His later works, including eight more symphonies, focus more on a small number of ideas borrowed from or modeled on earlier music.
      4. John Corigliano (b. 1938)
        1. This American composer often draws upon styles from the Baroque and Classic to avant-garde.
        2. The opera The Ghosts of Versailles (1987) uses serial and other modern techniques to portray the ghosts, while the play is set in a Mozart opera style.
        3. Symphony No. 1 (1989) is a memorial to friends who died of AIDS and incorporates quotations of some of their favorite pieces.
      5. Peter Schickele (b. 1935)
        1. His early works are mostly tonal and draw upon a variety of styles.
        2. He is best known for creating music under the guise of P. D. Q. Bach, the fictitious youngest and least of J. S. Bach’s sons.
        3. With this persona, Schickele spoofed classic traditions, performers, and musicologists.
        4. Example: the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn (1964)
    7. Neo-Romanticism
      1. Some composers adopted the familiar tonal idiom of nineteenth-century Romanticism, a trend known as neo-Romanticism.
      2. Penderecki
        1. Following his earlier works, Penderecki turned to a style that focused on melody and drew upon neo-Romantic features.
        2. Polish Requiem (1980-84) combines neo-Romanticism with elements from Renaissance and Baroque styles and his textures from the 1960s.
      3. George Rochberg
        1. After working in serialism and quotation, Rochberg embraced neo-Romanticism in the 1970s.
        2. In String Quartet No. 5 (1978), three of five movements are neo-Romantic; the styles and forms evoke a wide range of composers and periods.
        3. The mixture of styles challenged the notion of stylistic uniformity.
      4. David Del Tredici (b. 1937)
        1. His early works are serial and atonal.
        2. He changed styles when he set excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s stories for children.
      5. Final Alice (1975; see HWM Example 35.4)
        1. Del Tredici based this work on the text from the final chapters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
        2. It is scored for amplified soprano, who narrates and sings several arias, and orchestra, including banjo, mandolin, accordion, and two soprano saxophones.
        3. A rising major sixth is the central motive of “The Accusation,” sung by the White Rabbit.
        4. Most of the music is tonal, ranging from folklike to the style of Richard Strauss.
        5. The “strange occurrence” is set with atonal music and the sounds of the Theremin.
        6. Del Tredici renounced the modernist idea of progress (see HWM Source Reading, page 962).
    8. Extramusical imagery and meanings
      1. Composers using various styles sometimes invoked extramusical meanings, such as spirituality, to give unusual sounds clear meanings.
      2. Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931)
        1. She gave many of her works a spiritual dimension, despite the official atheism of her native Soviet Union.
        2. Rejoice! (1981) is a five-movement sonata for violin and cello inspired by devotional texts.
        3. Quotations from the Ukrainian philosopher Grigory Skovoroda appear at the beginning of each movement.
        4. The sonata expresses the transcendence from ordinary reality to joy.
        5. The passage from a fundamental note to its harmonics represents this journey.
      3. Rejoice!, fifth movement by Gubaidulina (NAWM 171)
        1. The fifth movement, Listen to the still small voice within, is a study in chromatics, tremolos, and harmonics.
        2. The violin introduces a sequence of four gestures.
        3. Three variations on the same series of ideas follow (measures 33, 70, and 122).
        4. The cello slowly and chromatically descends two octaves during the movement.
        5. The movement ends as both instruments play high natural harmonics.
      4. John Tavener (b. 1944)
        1. Stravinsky influenced the early works of this English composer.
        2. He began to incorporate elements of music for the Orthodox Church in works such as Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (1977) for unaccompanied choir.
        3. He developed a harmonically simple, chant-derived idiom and applied it to a series of instrumental works on religious subjects.
        4. The Protecting Veil for cello and string orchestra (1987) is the best-known of these works.
      5. R. Murray Schafer (b. 1933) is the leading Canadian composer of this era.
        1. He has worked in a variety of styles.
        2. Several orchestral works reflect the culture of the Inuits, natives of Canada.
        3. He developed environmental music, which moves musical performance out of the concert hall.
      6. Wilderness Lake by Schafer (1979)
        1. This work is to be performed at sunrise and sunset at a lake away from human settlements.
        2. Twelve trombonists, positioned around the shores, play meditative melodies cued by a conductor in a raft.
        3. Animal sounds are also added.
      7. Joan Tower (b. 1938)
        1. Many works by this American composer are based on images.
        2. Silver Ladders (1986), for orchestra, has rising lines representing ladders and other imagery.
  8. Interactions with Non-Western Music
    1. Minimalism is inspired in part by music from Asia and Africa.
    2. Some composers draw on Asian and African music more directly.
      1. Bright Sheng (b. 1955)
        1. Born and trained in China, he moved to New York in 1982.
        2. His music integrates elements of Asian and Western music.
      2. Seven Tunes Heard in China, No. 1, Spring (1999; NAWM 172)
        1. This suite for solo cello can be linked to the cello suites of Bach.
        2. Sheng calls upon the style of Chinese music and imitates the sound of Chinese string, wind, and percussion instruments.
        3. The predominantly pentatonic Chinese tune is fragmented and spun out using both Baroque and modernist techniques.
        4. The key area centers on the tritone of A and E-flat.
      3. South African Kevin Volans (b. 1949) has brought about a similar union of Western and African traditions.
      4. Peter Schulthorpe (b. 1929), from Australia, uses Aboriginal melodies.
    3. World Beat
      1. African popular music, called World Beat, reached international audiences.
      2. Musicians like Nigerian Fela Kuti (1938-1997) merged popular styles from the United States with local traditions.
      3. World Beat was assimilated by some Western artists, such as Paul Simon on his album Graceland (1986).
      4. All of these works are quintessentially Western, representing the centuries-old capacity of European music to absorb regional and foreign elements.
  9. The New Millennium
    1. Trends change too quickly to complete an overview of recent music.
    2. All music seems to be searching for both a niche of committed listeners and for a wide audience.
    3. The instant success of figures such as Beethoven, Verdi, Duke Ellington, and the Beatles no longer seems to be possible in such a divided world.
    4. Music of the past and of the entire world is more available than ever, allowing us to focus on variety, not just a handful of individual composers.
    5. With technology, the untrained can now make music; we may be returning to a time when every singer sings his or her own song.

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