Kanako Abe's Conference at Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien in 2015 About The H


I'm going to talk about aesthetic transition in the history of Classical music after 1850.

From the middle of the Romantic period, the saturation of the tonality system began. Tristan Harmony, that many musicologists consider as the Milestone for the destruction of the tonality system, appeared for the first time in in 1859 in the opera "Tristan und Isolde" composed by Richard Wagner, who was the most influential composer of the time. A lot of composers under the influence of Wagner started to look for the music language which deviated from the Tonality system in different ways.

In Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century, the "Wiener Moderne" period began. While Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler gloriously composed gigantic symphonic works making full use of virtuosity in orchestration and dense harmony, 3 composers from the "Second Viennese School", Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, were exploring about Dodecaphony, the twelve-tone technique. The first dodecaphonic work "Suite for piano op.25" was composed between 1921 and 1923 by Schönberg. Berg composed a lot of lyric works including two important operas Wozzeck and Lulu, using tonal color freely in dodecaphony. But it's especially Webern who influenced the next generation in a major way. His research on the decomposition of all parameters (pitch, value, length etc.) to control all the musical elements, anticipated the birth of "total serialism" developed by Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and other composers who participated in the Darmstadt International Summer School for New Music, founded in 1947. In Germany, in opposition to the dodecaphonist movement, Paul Hindemith promoted in the 1920's "New Objectivity" and "Neo Classicism", developing his artisanal composition technique based on the relationship between intervals.

Meanwhile, in France, the "Impressionism" movement was started by Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie. According to Boulez, it's the creation of Debussy's "Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune" in 1899 which is the beginning of the destruction of the tonal system. Debussy's innovative conception concerning tone, harmony, form, Ravel's sophisticated and detailed orchestration, and the intuitive use of higher harmonics by these two composers definitively influenced the next generation of French composers, and anticipated the birth of the Spectral Music in the 1970's. As for Satie, not only was he the mentor of the "France Six" (anti-Debussy), his attitude questioning all academism in European classical music is considered as "Dadaist" which influenced many artists and composers such as like John Cage. The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky was influenced by these French composers and created "Le Sacre du Printemps" in 1913, which, with its innovation, caused a big scandal at the premiere performance in Paris.

In the USA, Henry Cowell used the Tone Cluster for the first time in his work in 1917. During the same period, Charles Ives also used the Tone Cluster and Polytonality. In the 1920's, many American composers like Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, and Roy Harris, went to Paris to learn under the French renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger, and they founded the "Neo Classisism" movement in the USA. In 1915, the French composer Edgar Varèse settled in New York. His scientific approach to the protean sound material influenced many East Coast American composers such as Milton Babbitt and Elliot Carter. Meanwhile, Henry Cowell and his pupils developed another aesthetic. John Cage, in the 1950's, created "Experimental Music", introducing aleatory elements (chance operations) in the process of composition. Morton Feldman, who invented Graphic Notation, and Steve Reich who created Minimal Music, are among the composers of "Experimental Music".

I want to add some of the composers from all over the world that have contributed to the development of music today. Henri Dutilleux and Gérard Grisey from France; Bela Bartok, György Ligeti and Peter Eotvös from Hungary; Karol Szymanovski, Witold Lutoslawski and Krzysztof Penderecki from Poland; Arvo Pärt from Estonia; Alexander Scriabin, Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Goubaïdoulina from Russia; Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, Jonathan Harvey, Thomas Adès and Georges Benjamin from the UK; Giacinto Scelsi, Franco Donatoni and Salvatore Schiarrino from Italy; Toshiro Mayuzumi, Toru Takemitsu; Toshio Hosokawa from Japan; Tan Dun from China; Isang Yun and Unsuk Chin from Korea; Nguyen Thien Dao and Ton That Tiet from Vietnam etc.....

Now I talk briefly about the history of Electronic Music and Electro-acoustic music. The research on Electronic instruments started at the end of the 19th century, beginning in the USA, and some interesting instruments were invented such as the Theremen in Russia in the 1910's, the Onde-Martenot in France in 1928 which was used in Messiaen's Turangalîla symphony, or the Trautonium in Germany in 1929 for which Hindemith composed his Concerto for Trautonium and String Quartet. The first "Electronic music" movement was born in France under the name "Musique concrète", and was created by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry who co-founded GRM in the 1950's. Many composers such as Edgar Varèse, Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen, Yannis Xenakis, were part of GRM and composed Electronic Music. In Germany, Karlheinz Stockhausen started to compose Electronic Music at WDR Köln, and he was joined by György Ligeti soon afterwords. In Italy, Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna composed Electronic Music at RAI studio. Since the foundation of IRCAM in Paris, many composers from all over the world have studied and composed Electro-acoustic, Live-electronic Music, Open Music etc., in this Institute equipped with the most advanced technology.

Now I will mention about some important "meeting places" where many composers of different countries, different aesthetics, and different generations have met, and were inspired by each other. Donaueschinger Musiktage is a Contemporary Music Festival founded in 1921 as the gateway to success for young avant-garde composers, and as a place where promising musicians can be discovered. Lot of great composers such as Schönberg, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Messiaen or John Cage had their world premiere performance at this festival. Darmstadt International Summer School for New Music was founded in 1947. At the beginning ,Olivier Messiaen and René Leibowitz lectured on the aesthetics of Second Viennese School, Stravinsky and Bartok. Little by little, their young trainees, like Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono or Karlheinz Stockhausen, focused on research into Total serialism. Though many composers with a wide variety of aesthetics like Hans Werner Henze or György Ligeti (Tone-Cluster, microtonality), Yannis Xenakis(Stocastic Music), John Cage, later composers such as Wolfgang Rihm(Neo-Romantic), Toshio Hosokawa,Tristan Murail(Spectral music), Helmut Lachenman(Klangkomposition(Composition of sound), Brian Ferneyhough(New complexity), have been invited as lecturers. There are also several international festivals or competitions like La Biennale di Venezia, the Festival Musica de Strasbourg and the Gaudeams International Music Week which play an important role in the promotion and development of contemporary music.

In addition, I would also like to mention some major contemporary music ensembles : London Sinfonietta, founded in 1968; Ensemble InterContemporain, based in Paris, founded in 1972 by Pierre Boulez, the Ensemble Modern, a Frankfurt-based ensemble, founded in 1980, the Austrian-based ensemble Klangforum Wien, founded in 1985 by Beat Furrer. There's also the Amsterdam-based Nieuw Ensemble, the Freiburg-based Ensemble Recherche, the Köln-based MusikFabrik, and the Geneva-based Ensemble Contrechamps.

The aesthetics of contemporary music in the 21st century is difficult to define because of its diversity and absence from the Mainstream. The young generation of composers doesn't hesitate to break down walls between different fields : The fusion with Jazz, Rock, Pop...the visual arts, ethnic instruments or music...The spread of digital sounds has led to new orchestration concept, and the recent interest countries in South America and Southeast Asia have in performing classical music, all evoke the birth of new conception of time and language.


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