About the modern era in general
The First and Second World Wars profoundly changed the world. Not only buildings crumbled; people’s values and minds were also shattered. Everything could be questioned. Art responded to this chaos with both rationalism and randomness. The post-war reconstruction saw the ascendance of rock’n’roll, TV, sexual liberation and rebellion against everything. This was fertile ground for the avant-garde in art. The modern era is typified by a fragmenting of styles, combinations across cultural and stylistic boundaries, the preponderance of technology and stylistic isolation. Today, digitalisation is having a massive impact on music and on commercialisation in general.
I am a selector of notes, from the cornucopia that is the forces of nature. –Leif Segerstam
Music in the modern era
Before the Second World War, Expressionism had levelled the musical playing field by declaring all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale equal. After the war, European musicians soon began to think about how to organise the other parameters of music. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Darmstadt School explored the issues raised by modernism. The result was serialism, where all musical parameters, not just pitches, were organised according to a pre-determined order. In contrast and as a reaction to this strict pre-determination, aleatorics gave performers the option to choose their material and how to perform it, thus influencing the end result. Reactions to the modernity and utter complexity of some contemporary music resulted in the birth of minimalism and Neo-Classicism, which drew on simplicity and traditional musical forms. As technology evolved, electronic music and spectral music emerged. Musical thinking expanded from individual notes to fields and to extra-musical phenomena such as noise. Microintervals were introduced. This proliferation of approaches and techniques means that it is no longer possible to codify universal rules for music.
Rhythm in the modern era
Rhythm may be indeterminate.
Melody in the modern era
There may be no melody at all.
Harmony in the modern era
There are many ways of looking at harmony.
Form in the modern era
Solid form is the origin of all freedom.
Tonal colour in the modern era
Tonal colour may be the main thing.
Dynamics in the modern era
Sound technology emphasises dynamics.
Modern composers seek sound sources beyond conventional instruments, such as electronically generated sounds, scrap metal or the sound of traffic.
The label ‘modern composers’ covers a wide range of artists that may be considered to have begun with great names such as Oliver Messiaen (1908–1992) and John Cage (1912–1992) who have had a strong influence on today’s composers.
Witold Lutoslawski (1913–1994)
Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001)
Luigi Nono (1924–1990)
Pierre Boulez (1925–2016)
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007)
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-)
Arvo Pärt (1935-)
Steve Reich (1936-)
Some of Finland’s best-known contemporary composers
Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928–2016)
Kaija Saariaho (1952-)
Magnus Lindberg (1958-)