Twentieth century
1900-present

contempoary museum of art 

Representative composers:  Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Bartok, Varese, Ives, Cage, Prokofiev, Copland, Zwilich, Adams

MELODY:  Wide-ranging disjunct lines, often chromatic and dissonant, angularity accentuated by use of octave displacement.

            Angularity accentuated:  unbalanced, fragmented melodies

            Octave displacement:  Jumping to a much lower or higher octave

HARMONY:   Highly dissonant; dissonance no longer must move to consonance but may move to another dissonance.

RHYTHM:  Vigorous, energetic rhythms; conflicting simultaneous meters (poly-meters) and rhythms (polyrhythms) make for temporal complexity.      

Polymeters:  two or more meters sounding simultaneously

Polyrhythms:  two or more rhythms sounding simultaneously

COLOR:  Color becomes an agent of form and beauty in and by itself; composers seek new sounds from traditional, acoustical instruments, from electronic instruments and computers, and from noises in the environment.

TEXTURE:  As varied and individual as the men and women composing music.

FORM:  A range of extremes; sonata-allegro, rondo, theme and variations benefit from a Neo-classical revival; twelve-tone procedure allows for an almost mathematical formal control; yet chance music permits random happenings and noises from the environment to shape a musical work.

Sonata-allegro: A dramatic musical form of the Classical and Romantic periods involving an exposition (the principal section, in which all thematic material is presented), development (where they play around with the exposition), and recapitulation (the return to the exposition), with optional introduction and coda (a final and concluding section of a composition).

Rondo:  an ancient musical form (surviving into the twentieth century) in which a refrain alternates with contrasting material.

Theme and Variations:  a musical form in which a theme continually returns but is varied by changing the notes of the melody, the harmony, the rhythm, or some other element of the music.

Twelve-tone composition:  a method of composing music, devised by Arnold Schoenberg, that has each of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale sound in a fixed, regularly recurring order 

Chance music (aleatory music):  music that involves an element of chance (rolling dice, choosing cards, etc.) or whimsy on the part of the performers; especially popular with avant-garde composers.