The Modern Period
1900 - Present
All New ... All the Time
What was life like?
The Modern Period covers many years and probably the most changes of any time period. It's cool because we're still in it but it's hard to know how to look at what's happening now in terms of music history.
The Modern Period lasts from the beginning of the 20th Century to now. In that time there been so many major changes in the way people live. Things like electricity, radio, television, air travel, the internet and social media have changed everything about our lives.
Another big change is the division between Classical Music and Popular Music. Classical Music doesn't just mean music written in the Classical Period - it's come to mean orchestral or symphonic music. It's the type of music that we learn about on this site. Until the Modern Period it was the popular music as well. But with the invention of Jazz in the early 1900s a whole new type of music started to exist. It was the music played on the radio and in clubs and today it's the music that you like to listen to.
Most of the composers we'll look at in this period were and are composers of classical music like Debussy, Kodály, Copland, Menotti and Prokofiev. We'll also learn about some living composers like Eric Whitacre.
Changes and Experiments
As the world changed so did the type of music that composers were trying to write. In the United States, Jazz used African rhythms and improvisation (making things up on the spot) to create an entirely new type of music. In Europe and Russia composers were trying to make music sound more like it came from their specific countries rather than having everything sound the same.
As time went on here was and is lots of experimenting. There were composers like Arnold Schoenberg who tried using all 12 tones on the piano, Phillip Glass tries using basic musical elements and repeating them, John Cage used unusual instruments and even wrote a piece called 4'33" which is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. Other composers like Eric Whitacre try to use technology to create a new type of musical experience.
One of the biggest changes of the Modern Period is Pop Music. As music became available to anyone because of radio and recordings lots of different types of music began to be popular and classical music became less important. These videos talk about some of the types of pop music.