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Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy (18621918) was a 20th-century French composer and one of the
most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music.
Life and Music

Claude Debussy was born on the 22nd August 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.
In 1880, Tchaikovsky commented on one of Debussy's early pieces: "It is a very pretty piece,
but it is much too short. Not a single idea is expressed fully, the form is terribly shriveled, and
it lacks unity."

It was not until 1894, aged 32, that Debussy completed the first piece to truly declare his
independence of thought: Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune, a highly innovative piece
inspired by a poem of Stephane Mallarm.

After his first successes, Debussy began serious work on his opera Pelleas et
Melisande(completed in 1902) and the three orchestral Nocturnes (completed in 1899).

Debussy entered a new creative phase in 1903 with La Mer, completed while staying in
Eastbourne, where he observed that "the sea behaves with British politeness".

The success of Pelleas et Melisande's long-delayed premiere in 1902 made Debussy a

celebrity. He subsequently began a passionate affair with Emma Bardac, one-time mistress of
Gabriel Faure, whereupon his wife unsuccessfully attempted to shoot herself.

In 1914, just as he was at the height of his powers, Debussy discovered he had cancer. An
operation left him so debilitated that he composed nothing for over a year.

Before his death on March 25th 1918 in Paris, he completed one final masterwork, the Violin
Did you know?
Debussy's obvious talent for the piano led to his winning a place at the junior department of the
Paris Conservatoire in 1872 when he was only 10 years old.

Maurice Ravel
Regarded alongside Debussy as the leading French composer of his time, Maurice
Ravel was a master of his craft, weaving a child-like wonder and nostalgia for the
past into music of exquisite charm and poise.

Who was he? Creator of magical new soundscapes.

Why is he important? Put French neo-classicism on the map, and super-refined orchestral
What are his most famous works? Ma Mre Loye; Daphnis Et Chlo; Pavane Pour Une
Infante Dfunte; Le Tombeau De Couperin; Bolro; Piano Concerto in G.
Ravels music was a natural extension of his inner being. Few, if any, composers can be said to
exhibit such intimate correspondences between their day-to-day lives and their music.
His fastidiousness over every aspect of his scores was reflected in his obsession with appearing
immaculately groomed and dressed at all times. He was a particularly keen follower of the latest
fashions in ties and gloves, and one of his most prized possessions was a pair of black patent
leather shoes.
Ravel was especially proud of his Basque heredity on his mothers side, which resulted in a series of
priceless Hispanic gems, including Alborada Del Gracioso (from Miroirs), Rapsodie Espagnole and
the gently smouldering Pice En Forme De Habaera.
His love of all things mechanical is reflected in the clockwork precision and intricate logic of his
writing. He possessed a magical, child-like sense of wonder and innocence what one of his closest
friends described as his enjoyment in everything which found an outlet in such ecstatically
inspired scores as the ballet Ma Mre Loye (Mother Goose) and the opera Lenfant Et Les
Sortilges (The Child And The Spells).

Arnold Schnberg

Arnold Schnberg (13 September 1874 13 July 1951) was an Austrian composer and painter, associated with
the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. After his move
to the United States in 1934, he altered the spelling of his surname from Schnberg to Schoenberg.
Schnbergs approach, both in terms of harmony and development, has been one of the most influential of 20thcentury musical thought. Many European and American composers from at least three generations have
consciously extended his thinking, whereas others have passionately reacted against it. During the rise of the
Nazi Party in Austria, Schnbergs works were labelled as degenerate music.
Schnberg was known early in his career for simultaneously extending the traditionally opposed German
Romantic styles of Brahms and Wagner. Later, his name would come to personify innovations in atonality
(although Schnberg himself detested that term) that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century
art music. In the 1920s, Schnberg developed the twelve-tone technique, an influential compositional method of
manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale. He also coined the term developing
variation, and was the first modern composer to embrace ways of developing motifs without resorting to the
dominance of a centralized melodic idea.
Schnberg was also a painter, an important music theorist, and an influential teacher of composition; his students
included Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Hanns Eisler, Egon Wellesz, and later John Cage, Lou Harrison, Earl
Kim, Leon Kirchner, and other prominent musicians.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (Russian: ) (17th June 1882 6th April 1971) was a
Russian composer who first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge
Diaghilev and performed by Diaghilevs Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet): LOiseau de feu (The Firebird) (1910),
Petrushka (1911), and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1913).
Stravinskys compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. After his first, Russian (expressionistic),
phase he turned in the 1920s to neoclassicism. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional
musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, symphony), frequently concealed a vein of intense emotion beneath a
surface appearance of detachment or austerity, and often paid tribute to the music of earlier masters, for example
J.S. Bach, Verdi and Tchaikovsky.
In the 1950s he adopted serial procedures, using the new techniques over the final twenty years of his life to write
works that were briefer and of greater rhythmic, harmonic, and textural complexity than his earlier music. Their
intricacy notwithstanding, these pieces share traits with all of Stravinskys earlier output; rhythmic energy, the
construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few cells comprising only two or three notes, and clarity of form,
instrumentation, and of utterance.

Bla Bartk

Bla Viktor Jnos Bartk (25 March 188126 September 1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and collector
of Eastern European and Middle Eastern folk music. In Hungarian, the family name precedes the first name, i.e.,
Bartk Bla.
Bartk was born in Snnicolau Mare/Nagyszentmikls (Present day Romania). He is considered one of the
greatest of 20th-century composers, and was also one of the founders of the field of ethnomusicology, the study
and ethnography of folk music. This interest in and knowledge of traditional music, especially that of his own
culture, had a great influence on many of his own compositions.

In 1911, Bartk wrote what was to be his only opera, Bluebeard's Castle, dedicated to Mrta. He entered it
for a prize by the Hungarian Fine Arts Commission, but they rejected his work as not fit for the stage
(Chalmers 1995, 93). In 1917 Bartk revised the score for the 1918 premire, and rewrote the ending.
Following the 1919 revolution, he was pressured by the new Soviet government to remove the name of the
librettist Bla Balzs from the opera (Chalmers 1995, 123), as he was blacklisted and had left the country for
Vienna. Bluebeard's Castle received only one revival, in 1936, before Bartk emigrated. For the remainder
of his life, although he was passionately devoted to Hungary, its people and its culture, he never felt much
loyalty to the government or its official establishments.

George Gershwin

George Gershwin (1898-1937) was an American composer and pianist. Among his
best known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue and An
American in Paris, as well as the opera, Porgy and Bess.
Life and Music

Born Jacob Gershvin on 26 September 1898 to poor Jewish immigrants, he grew up in

Manhattan and Brooklyn. He frequently skipped school and felt inadequate beside his smarter,
better-behaved older brother Ira except when it came to girls.

There was no music in Gershwins family, but when he was 12, they bought a piano and
immediately it was clear that he had a remarkable natural talent.

In 1914, Gershwin got a job as a song-plugger in Tin Pan Alley. With no radios or
gramophones, sheet music publishers pushed their popular songs by having someone play
them in shops, over and over again.

By his early 20s, Gershwin was much in demand. Having formed a permanent song-writing
team with his lyricist brother Ira, he was writing two shows a year for Broadway, and his fame
spread to London.

By the early 1930s, Gershwin could do no wrong. He was established as a popular composer,
and as a conductor and performer of his works to packed houses. He mixed with composers
including Prokofiev, Poulenc and Ravel. Arnold Schoenberg became a close friend and hailed
Gershwins distinctive melodic and harmonic idiom as something entirely new.

In his mid-30s, Gershwin was plagued by headaches, and puzzled by the smell of burning
rubbish that only he seemed to notice. His problem, dismissed as hysteria by family and
colleagues, who sent him to the psychiatrist rather than the doctor, proved more physical: a
brain tumour. He died aged 38.
Did you know?

It seems to be an almost legal requirement for TV and movie producers to use Rhapsody in Blue over all
and any footage of New York. Gershwins songs have been used in countless films, including Four
Weddings and a Funeral, When Harry Met Sally and Loves Labours Lost. Summertime, probably one
of the most recorded songs of all time, has appeared in TV ads for Pimms and Galaxy chocolate.

John Cage

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 August 12, 1992) was an American composer, philosopher, poet,
music theorist, artist, printmaker, and amateur mycologist and mushroom collector. A pioneer of chance music,
electronic music and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the postwar avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century.
He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with
choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cages romantic partner for most of their lives.
Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 433, the three movements of which are performed without
a single note being played. The content of the composition is meant to be perceived as the sounds of the
environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, rather than merely as four minutes and thirty three
seconds of silence, and the piece became one of the most controversial compositions of the twentieth century.
Another famous creation of Cages is the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by placing various objects
in the strings), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces, the best known of
which is Sonatas and Interludes (194648).
His teachers included Henry Cowell (1933) and Arnold Schoenberg (193335), both known for their radical
innovations in music and coincidentally their shared love of mushrooms, but Cages major influences lay in
various Eastern cultures. Through his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, Cage
came to the idea of chance-controlled music, which he started composing in 1951.


Neoclassicism in music was popular in the twentieth-century. Mostly between the two World Wars. This
kind of music is when composers try to come back to beautiful ways with the broadly defined way of
"classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotions. Neoclassicism had two
distinct national lines of development. They were French andGerman. Neoclassicsim was a beautiful trend
rather than a movement. Many composers normally do not think of themselves as "neoclassicists." But
some really do have some elements of the style.
Neoclassical music, or new classical music, is a style of music that drew its inspiration from the traditional
elements of classical music, including emotional restraint, balance, order and clarity. Popular between World
War I and World War II, the music was a rebuttal to the much less formal and more emotional music of the
Romantic Period. Neoclassical music written by composers in the first half of the 20th century aimed to
restore the link to musical tradition following a wave of musical experimentation at the beginning of the 20th
century. The composers did not want to ignore developments in music after the Classical Period but wanted
to reintroduce a clear form, a tonal center and a melodic element. They added to the classical structure
more modern chromatic elements, use of dissonance and varied rhythm that had been developed since the
Classical Period.
One of the first works that can be referred to as neoclassical music was Symphony No. 1 in D major, by
Sergei Prokofiev, which the composer called The Classical Symphony. This work, written in 1917, was in
four movements in the style of a Franz Joseph Haydn symphony, though the composer used modern
techniques within the classical form and the symphony reflects the composers own compositional voice. In
the 1920s, Igor Stravinsky composed some works that generally looked back on the style of Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart or Johann Sebastian Bach. These works used much smaller musical ensembles than the
large-scale orchestras he had previously used and incorporated wind instruments, the piano and chamber
orchestras. Notable works from his Neoclassical Period include the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto and
the Symphony of Psalms.
Stravinskys view was that the composers ability to express his musical personality was not restricted by
adoption of the classical form but that composing within an established order could enable greater
expression of musical ideas. Not all composers of neoclassical music had similar aims, and composers with
very diverse styles have been considered part of the neoclassical movement. The German composer Paul
Hindemith wrote works in the 1920s that used counterpoint in a complex manner, owing a debt to Bach, and
this music also has been referred to as neoclassical.
Music that recalls the period of Bach and his contemporaries also is often referred to as neo-Baroque. Dmitri
Shostakovitch wrote a set of preludes and fugues for piano partly inspired by his admiration for Bach, and
this work could be referred to as neoclassical music, even though it is written in the idiom of Shostakovichs
own musical work. Shostakovitch also wrote pieces within the framework of traditional musical forms as a

result of his problems with the political authorities of his time, who expressed the view that some of his
music was out of touch with the wider populace.


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