20th Century Composers

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    Richard Wagner

    • German dramatic composer
    • Infamously known as Hitler’s famous composer (though they did not live in the same time)
    • Works became synonymous with the Nazi party due to his outspoken anti semitic views and dramatic, emotion-evoking works
    • Notable works: The Ring of the Nibelung  and Lohengrin
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    Modest Mussorgsky

    • One of the "Mighty Five" Russian composers
    • Compositions inspired by Russian history, folklore, and national themes
    • Notable works: Night on Bald Mountain and Pictures and an Exhibition
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    Antonin Dvorak

    • Czech composer
    • Inspired by American music including African American spirituals
    • Notable work: New World Symphony
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    Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov

    • One of the "Mighty Five" Russian composers who developed nationalistic style classical music
    • Used Russian folk music, introduced new harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic elements
    • Wrote "Principles of Orchestration"
    • Notable works: Scheherazade, Cappriccio Espagnol
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    Leoš Janáček

    • Czech composer, musical theorist, and folklorist
    • inspired by Eastern European folk music
    • Notable work: On an Overgrown Path, piano sonata
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    Gustav Mahler

    • Last "Austro-German" composer
    • Prolific conductor as well as composer
    • Known for unusually large orchestration
    • Notable work: Symphony No.8 “Symphony of a thousand”
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    Claude Debussy

    • French impressionist composers
    • One of the first Western composers to used pentatonic and whole tone scales
    • Notable work: Claire de Lune
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    Richard Strauss

    • Austrian composer at the end of the Romantic era
    • Most famous work is an opera called "Salome", was controversial for its use of dissonance and it's sacreligious plot
    • major breakthrough that allowed other composers to begin experimenting with non-traditional techniques
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    Carl Nielson

    • Danish composer, most prolific composer from Denmark
    • Inspired by Brahms and Grief
    • Notable works: Helios Ouverture and Maskarade (which became known as the “Danish National Opera”
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    Jean Sibelius

    • Finnish composer, most prolific of the time
    • struggled with alcoholism throughout his life which influenced his writing
    • music was popular in England and US but dismissed by Austria-German people
    • Notable work: Finlandia
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    Erik Satie

    • French Impressionist composer
    • Influenced other French composers to stray from Wagnerian style music
    • Notable work: Gymnopédies
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    Scott Joplin

    • American composer, "King of Ragtime"
    • Spent years of his life trying to compose an opera called "Treemonisha" that was sadly never finished
    • Notable works: Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer
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    Will Marion Cook

    • American composer, violinist, and conductor
    • Wrote an opera inspired by Uncle Tom's Cabin
    • Notable works: Clarindy, Dahomey (inspired by New World Symphony)
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    Arnold Schoenberg

    • father of 12-tone composition
    • one of the primary members of the Second Viennese School of music
    • Notable work: Pierrot Lunaire (introduction of Sprechstimme)
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    Charles Ives

    • American experinmental composer
    • Worked as an insurance agent as well as a composer and organist
    • Notable works: From the Steeples and the Mountains, The Unanswered Question
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    Maurice Ravel

    • French impressionist composer, pianist, and conductor
    • Experimented with textures, orchestration, and styles
    • Notable work: Boléro
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    Bruno Walter

    • German born conductor, escaped Nazi Germany and fled to California
    • One of the most prolific conductors of the 20th century
    • Worked closely and produced similar works to Mahler
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    Manuel De Falla

    • Spanish composer and pianist
    • One of the most prolific Spanish composers of the 20th century, influenced by Spanish church music and folk music
    • Notable works: The Three-Cornered Hat and Nights in the Gardens of Spain
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    Béla Bartók

    • Hungarian composer
    • Studied folk music, was one of the founders of what is now known as ethnomusicology
    • notable works include: Concerto for Orchestra, Mikorkosmos, opera "Bluebeard's Castle"
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    Igor Stravinsky

    • Russian composer, composed in many different styles
    • Madie innovations in rhythm and harmony
    • Notable works: Firebird and Rite of Spring
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    Percy Grainger

    • Australian composer, arranger, and pianist
    • works contributed to the revival of British folk music
    • Notable work: arrangement of Country Gardens for piano
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    Anton Webern

    • Austrian composer
    • Second Viennese School
    • Works often considered inaccessible by many performers
    • Notable work: Six Bagatelles for String Quartet
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    Edgard Varèse

    • French composer, went to New York after being released from the French Army
    • Notable work: Ameriques
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    Alban Berg

    • Austrian Romantic composer
    • member of the Second Viennese School
    • Studied with Schoenberg, learned 12-tone technique
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    Sergey Prokofiev

    • Russian Neoclassical composer
    • Studied with Rimsky Korsakov
    • Lived in Stalinist Russia, his works were denounced by the Russian government which was a massive blow to his career
    • Notable works: Romeo and Juliet and Peter and the Wolf
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    Darius Milhaud

    • French composer and conductor
    • Member of "Les Six"
    • Musical influences included jazz and Brazilian music, polytonality
    • Taught many significant modern composers including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis
    • Notable works: La création du monde
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    Paul Hindemith

    • German composer, music theorist, violist
    • Advocate for Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) in the 1920s
    • Influenced by Debussy and Ravel
    • Modernized musical forms from Renaissance and Baroque eras
    • Notable work: Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
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    Erich Korngold

    • Czech composer
    • child prodigy, performed publicly and composed from a young age
    • "Father of the Film Score"
    • Notable works: scores for the films The Adventures of Robin Hood and Another Dawn
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    George Gershwin

    • American composer from New York
    • inspired by jazz music
    • Notable works: Blue Monday Blues (opera) and Rhapsody in Blue
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    Francis Poulenc

    • French composer and pianist
    • one of "Les Six" composers who strayed from German Romanticism and French Impressionism
    • Notable works: Dialogues des Carmélites and Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani
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    Duke Ellington

    • Jazz pianist, composer, conductor
    • Commonly referred to as "The Duke"
    • Notable work: Black, Brown, and Beige
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    Kurt Weill

    • German composer
    • Fled Nazi Germany
    • Wanted to write music that served a useful purpose for society
    • Notable works: Threepenny Opera, Mack the Knife
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    Aaron Copland

    • American composer, incorporated aspects of jazz and folk music into his works
    • Active member of the composer community as member of the American Composer alliance, advocate for young composers
    • Won Pulitzer Prize for composition “Appalachian Spring” (1944) Notable work: A Lincoln Portrait
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    Harry Partch

    • American composer from California
    • Invented many of his own instruments for his own composition including a 43 note scale marimba
    • Inspired by Lou Harrison
    • Notable work: Oedipus
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    Dmitri Shostakovich

    • Russian composer
    • Experimented with avant-garde techniques in early career, fell subject to the pressures and traditionalism of Stalinist Russia
    • Influenced by Tchaikovsky and Hindemith
    • Notable works: Festive Overture and Symphony No. 5
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    Olivier Messiaen

    • French contemporary composer
    • Heavily inspired by bird song and Roman Catholic theology
    • Experimented with non-western scales and modes
    • Notable works: Quartet for the End of Time and The Awakening of the Birds
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    John Cage

    • American avant-garde composer, very experimental
    • Utilized many unorthodox instruments and instrumentation
    • Used the principle of “indeterminism” or randomness in his works, huge departure from western music. Advanced the conversation of the question “what is music”
    • Notable work: “4’33””
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    Benjamin Britten

    • British composer, perhaps most prolific of the 20th century
    • Influences include Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven
    • Notable works: opera "Peter Grimes" and "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra"
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    Lou Harrison

    • American composer and music critic
    • Inspired by Henry Cowell and Indonesian gamelon music
    • Notable works: opera "Rapunzel"
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    György Ligeti

    • Austrian-Hungarian avant-garde classical composer
    • Influenced by Stockhausen
    • Notable work: 2001: A Space Odyssey"
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    Pierre Boulez

    • French avant-garde composer and conductor
    • Influences include Messian, Leibowitz, and Schoenberg, used techniques of 12-tone and serialism
    • Notable works: Piano Sonata No 2 (1948) and Pli selon pli (1957-1962)
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    Morton Feldman

    • American composer
    • Experimented with non-traditional notation, improvisation, timbre, and silence
    • Worked with and inspired by John Cage
    • Notable works: Piano Piece and For Bunita Marcus
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    Tōru Takemitsu

    • Japanese composer
    • largely self-taught
    • Inspirations included Debussy. Messiaen, Schonberg, and Cage
    • Combined Eastern and Western musical techniques and themes
    • Scored more than 90 films
    • Notable works: Small Sky, Rain Tree, Three Film Scores
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    Bernard Hermann

    • American composer, often referred to as a “music-dramatist” as he wrote mainly for opera and film
    • Was a passionate advocate for music being widely accessible, was heavily involved with both radio and television broadcasting of musical programs
    • Championed composer Charles Ives
    • Notable work: film score for American Horror film "Psycho"
  • Steve Reich

    • American composer
    • Pioneer of minimalism
    • Notable works: It's Gonna Rain and Music for 18 Musician
  • Philip Glass

    • American minimalist composer
    • Wanted to bridge the gap between classical and popular music
    • Many influences including everything from classical works to David Bowie
    • Notable work: Music in 12 Parts
  • John Adams

    • American composer
    • Rooted in minimalism and contemporary classical music
    • Influenced by John Cage
    • Notable work: Nixon in China
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    Karlheinz Stockhausen

    • German composer
    • known for controversial electronic music and serial compositions
    • Influenced by Stravinsky
    • Notable work: nineteen Klavierstücke (piano pieces)