Comments on a Research Paper

by Dr. William Carson

Music History II

Significant Composers of the 20th Century

History is full of greats;[1] men and women that [2] have forged ahead and helped develop a new and different style of living, creating or leading. George Washington was one of the great founders of our country. Leonardo da Vinci was a great artist and inventor. Shakespeare was the great poet and writer of Elizabethan England. And the three great composers of the early 20th century were Arnold Schöenberg, Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók.[3]

Béla Bartók was very [4]influenced by the folk music of his homeland. In 1904, he started collecting Hungarian, Slovakian, and Romanian folk songs from singers and performers. The songs and melodies that he collected inspired Bartók and were integrated into his own interesting and new compositions. His one act opera, Bluebeard's Castle, is based mostly on Hungarian peasant music. By the early 1920's, Bartók's influences expanded to include Schöenberg and Stravinsky's works, and his music started to be more atonal. In 1919, he wrote The Miraculous Mandarin, which did not premiere, however, until 1926 because of the controversy due to the subject matter of the piece. At the end of the 1920's, however, Bartók's music started to sound more neoclassical.[5]His Music for String, Percussion, and Celeste (1936) demonstrates this. Written in the style of a Baroque suite, Music for String, Percussion, and Celeste, with the first movement being slow and alternating from fast to slow to fast in the three following movements. [6] This piece also introduced the slap bass, which became known as the Bartók pizzicato. [7] While he was writing his Music for String, Percussion, and Celeste he was also working on his Mikrokosmos, a 6 volume set of piano and compositional techniques. In each of the six volumes he included Hungarian scales and folk music. [8] His most famous work, and most loved by musicians, is the Concerto for Orchestra (1942-1943). The second movement of the piece, "The Game of the Pairs", has trumpet, bassoon, clarinet, and other instruments duets written in strange intervals. For example, the clarinet parts were written a 7th apart, while the trumpets were written a 2nd apart. In the third movement, "The Interrupted Intermezzo", Bartók pokes fun at Shastakovich's [9] 7th Symphony, showing that it is sometimes good to have a sense of humor in the music world! [10]

A close contemporary of Bartók, born just one year after Bartók's birth, Igor Stravinsky, was also influenced by folk motifs from his homeland. [11] The use of Russian folk songs and folk tales are present in several of his works. Through his connections with his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, he [12] met Sergei Diaghalev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes. Stravinsky soon found himself writing ballets for the famous ballet company centered in Paris. His first piece for the ballet, L' Oiseau de Fue (The Firebird) (1909-1910) used the octatonic scale and on rhythms [13] and was based on Russian folksongs. The Firebird helped to create a new style for ballet. [14] The most famous work of Stravinsky's is his Rite of Spring (1911-1913). This piece was received very poorly in at its premiere. [15] Its rhythmic complexity and strange dissonances were something that audiences were not used to hearing at that time. [16] Stravinsky's works were always new and inventive. He never seemed to write the same style twice. His compositions differ so much from one another that it is sometimes hard to tell that you are hearing a Stravinsky piece at all. His style and techniques also influenced several other 20th century composers. Les Noces (The Wedding) (1914-1923) was the basis for Orff's Carmina Burana. [17] Several of Stravinsky's pieces were influenced by other composers as well. [18] Joplin's ragtime music was the inspiration for Ragtime for 11 Instruments, and Pulcinella was written in honor of Giovanni Pergolesi.

The most important composer of the early 20th century, Arnold Schöenberg, was born in Vienna on September 13, 1874. [19] He started composing when he was very young and before he had any real formal study.[20] Schöenberg was the founder for the 2nd Viennese School. [21] His first compositions had some influences from composers such as Wagner and Brahms. Verklarte Nacht (1899), a string sextet, was one of his earlier works that gave him fame among the Viennese people. [22] While in Vienna, Schöenberg took on two students, Anton Webern and Alban Berg. Webern and Berg became two important composers in the 20th century. By applying Schöenberg's teachings, Berg's Wozzeck and Webern's creation of Klangfarbenmelodie led the change from atonal music to the use of the 12-tone system. [23] While teaching in Vienna, Schöenberg wrote what was later to be called the apotheosis of romanticism, Gurrelieder (1903). [24]This was one of the largest pieces for orchestra and choir. It contained several mixed choruses, an 8-part male chorus, 5 solo voices, and a sprecher, or speaker. This led into his more atonal phase of composition. The emancipation of dissonance was a creation of Schöenberg's that threw out all of the rules of composition. [25] With the emancipation of dissonance, he began to put emphasis on non-harmonic tones. These non-harmonic tones seldom resolved and the triad stopped being the sole reference for compositions.

Then, in 1912, Schöenberg premiered his chamber work Pierrot Lunaire. This piece included eight different instruments, but required only five players. Its unique instrumentation and the use of Sprechstimme, or speak singing, made this piece very different than anything that had been done before it.[26] From 1916-1921 Schöenberg stopped writing music. He instead concentrated on writing his rules for the 12-tone system. This system was a form of serial music that made every note in the scale of equal value. To use the 12-tone system properly, every note in the 12 note chromatic scale needed to be used before going back and repeating any other note. This new technique shattered the old thoughts of tonality and created an entirely new way of thinking about music in the 20th century. [27]

All three of these composers forged ahead in their musical styles and formed a new technique in music.[28]Bartók's Mikrokosmos, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and Schöenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and 12-tone system made these three composers the forerunners of 20th century music. [29]

1. Actually it would be better to use a full colon (:) or dash (--)

2. Please use "who" to refer to people. "That" is for things.


3. Nice lead-in


4.Very is a very informal word. Don't use it in academic writing.






5. Is "sound" the correct verb? Is it really something you can "hear," or is it more something you notice if you study it-in other words, might "appear" be a better verb here?

6. This is an awkward sentence and would be better broken into two sentences.

7. Did it invent it or just introduce it? And is it just used by the basses the way it was in jazz? Good place for a paragraph break here.


8. And the significance of this is what?



9. Spelling…

10. So? Does this suggest that it is significant?


11. Nice transition.

12. Too many pronouns. Better say "Stravinsky" again in this sentence.



13. Huh? On rhythms?.

14. Be more specific. Did it influence anyone? Who? New paragraph here.

15. So? So were lots of bad pieces that aren't significant.

16. Then what happened?



17. Hmmm. Was it the basis or simply "a strong influence." I don't think Orff said to himself "I will base this piece on Les Noces."

18. Wait-you were saying that he influenced others. Does it make him important to be influenced by others? Perhaps you should stress that he was able to be influenced by other and still write music that was distinctly Stravinskyian.

19. I wouldn't make this kind of a statement until I had set up with some pretty strong arguments. If you have done a good job showing how important Stravinsky was, I will not want to believe that Schoenberg is as important, for example.

20. If you start the paragraph by stating that he was the most important, then everything that follows must support that contention. The fact that he didn't study doesn't make him important. Perhaps you should instead suggest that, like George Washington or Leonardo DA Vinci, Schoenberg followed a non-traditional path to reach the heights of his greatness.

21. Was he really a founder? Was it really a school?

22. Why? Does this support your point?

23. But neither of those are really 12-tone-they are atonal. Only later did they embrace the 12-tone system.

24. Why are you out of chronological order? The system came in the 1920's.

25. Did it throw them all out? Was it a creation of his, or rather a term used to describe the way he wrote atonal music?



26. How about the extreme avoidance of any tonal references that exceeded even his previous efforts in atonal music?



27. You know-I'm not so sure it shattered tonality. I think his atonal music did that-I think the system just codified the method of composing atonal music.

28. "A" new technique? How about "new techniques?" How about you get more specific about who was influenced by these techniques? You need to defend your premise more effectively. More references to specific composers and pieces of music and quotes from respected authors. Then you can persuade me.

29. And now you need your conclusion-who is the most important and why is he or she more important that the others?



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