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Modern (Serious) Period Return to List of Periods   Post your comments to the blog here.
The Modern (Serious) period lasted from 1911 to 2030 approximately.
Modern (Serious)

Modern (Serious) is the  term used to describe "serious" music written roughly after the start of the 20th century. The term is contrasted with Popular Modern, which overlaps the same period. My use of the word Serious does not imply that the music cannot be amusing, light-hearted or enjoyable.

A few composers who lived in the first decades of the twentieth century,  built on the romantic style of the previous musical period. Examples are Sibelius and Holst.

However, the period is dominated by composers who try to do something different. For them, it was, and continues to be, a kind of musical revolt. Everything many of them wrote was driven by an urgent desire to be completely new, utterly different, with little or no connection to the masterpieces of earlier centuries.

They abandoned the conventions of harmony and cadences, so a listener would be deliberately left hanging on a dominant or diminished chord.. They abandoned the distinction between consonance and dissonance. In earlier music, dissonance was used rarely, and usually only in passing on to a consonance. In modern music, dissonance is almost more common than consonance, and it still sounds jarring to many ears today.

They abandoned conventional tonality, in which the music starts and ends in a recognizable key, and is centred on one tone and its tonic chord. Instead they introduced the 12-tone scale, which uses all 12 of the chromatic tones in the equi-tempered octave, and has no feeling of a 'home' note or resting place.

The use of percussion has increased enormously in this period. All sorts of exotic percussion instruments are utilized in musical works, from African drums to vacuum cleaners, from Indonesian gamelan gongs to typewriters. Noise has become a valid element in modern (serious) music.

In 1913, at the premiere of a new ballet by Stravinsky, called 'The Rite of Spring', the audience rioted at the cruel dissonance and barbarity of this new music, and the police had to be called in. Since then, audiences have become more broad-minded, though also probably a lot more polite and tolerant of those who want to listen. And people have realized that a lot of Stravinsky's music is worth listening to. So as time goes by, much modern (serious) music will be forgotten, though a few gems will no doubt emerge, as has happened in the past.

Tunes originating from the Modern (Serious) period. Audio is available for 73 tunes for this period.
No.Name of WorkComposerCategoryEnsemble
1 Adagio for strings, Op 11BarberShort PieceOrchestra
2 Aspirations OvertureGomersallOvertureOrchestra
3 Blue Bells of ScotlandWallaceShort PieceSolo
4 BoleroRavelTone PoemOrchestra
5 Classical Symphony Op 25ProkofievSymphonyOrchestra
6 Concierto de Aranjuez - slow movementRodrigoConcertoOrchestra
7 Etude, Op. 2, No.11 in c-sharpScriabinShort PieceSolo
8 Fanfare for the Common ManCoplandShort PieceOrchestra
9 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas TallisVaughan-WilliamsTone PoemOrchestra
10 Fantasia on GreensleevesVaughan-WilliamsTone PoemOrchestra
11 Firebird SuiteStravinskyBallet MusicOrchestra
12 Floating - for piano and stringsGomersallTone PoemOrchestra
13 Gayane BalletKhachaturianBallet MusicOrchestra
14 Gymnopédies (for piano)SatieSuiteSolo
15 JerusalemParrySacredOrchestra
16 Liberty Bell MarchSousaMarchMilitary Band
17 Lieutenant Kije Suite - Op 60ProkofievSuiteOrchestra
18 Maple Leaf RagJoplinShort PieceSolo
19 Midsummer Vigil (Swedish Rhapsody No.1)AlfvenShort PieceOrchestra
20 Minuet for Hand BellsGomersallChamber MusicOrchestra
21 Mock MorrisGraingerShort PieceSolo
22 Mouvement perpetuelsPoulencShort PieceSolo
23 Mysteria - Tone Picture for Orchestra.GomersallTone PoemOrchestra
24 New RagJoplinShort PieceDuet
25 Peter and the WolfProkofievSuiteOrchestra
26 Piano Trio in DGomersallChamber MusicTrio
27 Punch (Le Polichinelle)Villa-LobosShort PieceSolo
28 Rite of Spring - Adoration of the EarthStravinskyBallet MusicOrchestra
29 Romeo and Juliet Suite - Madrigal - Love themeProkofievBallet MusicOrchestra
30 Rumanian Folk DancesBartókShort PieceSolo
31 Rustle of Spring Op 32 No.3SindingShort PieceSolo
32 Savannah ExcerptsGomersallSuiteOrchestra
33 Shepherd's Hey, from English Morris DancesGraingerShort PieceSolo
34 Spartacus BalletKhachaturianBallet MusicOrchestra
35 Study in Rondo FormGomersallChamber MusicWind Chamber Groups
36 Study in Ternary FormGomersallShort PieceString Quartet
37 Taiti Trot (Tea for two)ShostakovichShort PieceOrchestra
38 The Blackbird (Tone Poem)GomersallTone PoemOther Ensembles
39 The Easy WinnersJoplinShort PieceSolo
40 The EntertainerJoplinMiscellaneousOther Ensembles
41 The Lark AscendingVaughan-WilliamsTone PoemOrchestra
42 The Old Woman and the PedlarGomersallChamber MusicString Quartet
43 The Planets SuiteHolstSuiteOrchestra
44 Tranquil OvertureGomersallOvertureOrchestra
45 Waltz from masqueradeKhachaturianWaltzOrchestra
46 Waltz No.2 from Suite for Variety Orchestra.ShostakovichWaltzPops Orchestra
47 West to East - Suite for OrchestraGomersallSuiteOrchestra
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