On Radio 3 Now

In Tune

16:30 - 17:30

Sean Rafferty presents a selection of music and guests from the arts world.

Next On Air

17:30 Opera on 3

View full schedule

Music Timeline
The Royal Ballet Corps dancing 'Les Noces' to the music of Stravinsky
Modernism
By the end of the nineteenth century the increasing scale of forces used in orchestras and opera houses was fast reaching saturation level. In addition, the harmony used to realise ever more subtle or extreme shades of emotion was at times so strained as effectively to undermine the whole system upon which it was based. While some composers were determined to continue as far along the path as they could go, others sensed the need to move off in new directions.
  • Claude Debussy pursued an art that replaced statement with suggestion and grandiose structures with fluid relationships.
  • Igor Stravinsky grew up within the nationalist tradition of Russian music. Having shocked audiences with the extreme dissonance and wildly irregular rhythms of his ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913, he changed tack only to change it again thereafter, exploring neo-classicism before finally succumbing to serialism.
  • Serialism was invented by Arnold Schoenberg as a means to extricate himself from an impasse brought on by an extreme use of expressive dissonance that finally led him to abandon the standard harmonic relationships altogether. These he replaced with a method of composition using the twelve notes of the chromatic scale in a pre-ordained order. Initially adopted by only a handful of his own pupils, in modified form Schoenberg's invention became important for many composers in the post-Second World War era.
  • The works of Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten were widely recognised as important contemporary contributions based on more traditional procedures.
  • With the fragmentation of a communal musical lingua franca early on in the twentieth century, and the eventual disenchantment with the possibilities of serialism towards the end of it, the scene appeared to be set for a new development, which came from America in the form of minimalism. Though derided by some, the new language gradually acquired a more solid reputation through the more sophisticated uses to which it was put by John Adams.

Guide to Classical Music
Index
Related Links
on radio 3
on bbc.co.uk
on the web
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.