Post-1900s Era (1900-2000)

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    John Philip Sousa

    He wanted to write operas but was so bad at it. He ended up becoming known for his marches and brought wind bands to America (they were already gaining traction in Europe). He conducted "The President's Own" Marine Band.
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    Scott Joplin

    He was considered the "king of ragtime." He was also the first African-American composer to win international fame. Charlie Chaplin included some of his music in the 1928 film, "The Circus." His most recognizable piece is "Maple Leaf Rag" written in 1899.
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    Charles Ives

    He is considered one of the most innovative and original composers. Many call him one of the greatest of the first half of the 20th century. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his 3rd Symphony, but his 4th Symphony wasn't performed until after his death. He made a living in insurance.
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    Robert Nathaniel Dett

    He helped found the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1919. He composed "Cave of the Winds March and Two Step."
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    Luigi Russolo

    He was an Italian Futurist painter, composer, and builder of experimental instruments. He did not use your typical instruments in his compositions; he made all of them himself and separated them into six families of noises. He wrote a manifesto titled "The Art of Noises" in 1913.
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    Florence Price

    She was the first black female composer to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra. Her first composition was published at age 11, graduated at age 14 as Valedictorian, and was the only one out of 2,000 students to double major at the New England Conservatory.
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    Nadia Boulanger

    She composed some music but mainly focused on teaching other composers how to find their own "voice." Practically every major composer of the 20th century went to her and learned from her.
  • Blues

    The earliest recordings of Blues music are from the 1920s, but the style reaches all the way back to the 1890s. Just like ragtime, it was another precursor to jazz. Billie Holiday is known for her renditions of blues songs. Some of the earliest female singers include: Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.
  • Ragtime

    This style of music is one of the major precursors to jazz. It was and African-American piano style with highly syncopated rhythms and sectional forms.
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    Lili Boulanger

    She is the younger sister of Nadia Boulanger. They both composed music, but many people, including Nadia, agreed that Lili was the better composer. The two sisters were very close, so when Lili died very young, it led her sister to begin teaching others and encourage them to find their own "voice" in their compositions because that's how Lili composed.
  • Films

    The earliest "film scores" were actually live musicians playing along with silent films in the theaters. Composers also did not begin composing scores for films until around 1914; before that they just used music of older composers. Some of the most famous composers of the 20th century composed for film including: Copland and Stravinsky.
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    William Grant Still

    He was the first black composer to have his work performed by a major ensemble. He was also the first Black American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in 1936.
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    Henry Cowell

    He was John Cage's teacher (which explains a lot) and a huge supporter of Charles Ives. He was an innovator who drew from non-Western music, and invented many new things like new piano techniques and chance music. He coined the term tone cluster, but Charles Ives created the idea. He composed "The Tides of Manaunaun" in 1912 which uses a lot of tone clusters.
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    George Gershwin

    He wrote in many genres: for film, Broadway, and the concert hall. One of his most famous works is the opera "Porgy and Bess" in 1935.
  • Maple Leaf Rag

    Composed by Scott Joplin. It is one of the staples of the ragtime era.
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    Duke Ellington

    He was a major band leader in the swing and the big band era. He was the house bandleader for the Cotton club in New York City. It is believed that most of the music he composed was actually written by members of his band, and he took credit for it.
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    Aaron Copland

    He was a composer, teacher, critic, conductor, and sponsor of concerts. He composed something for almost every genre but did not compose much in each. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris at the age of 20.
  • The Unanswered Question

    Composed by Charles Ives. It can not be classified under a specific genre; it is simply classified as: Orchestral piece. It was written in 1906 but not published until 1940. It was written for three groups of instruments: strings, one solo trumpet, and a wind quartet.
  • Tone Cluster

    Henry Cowell coined the term we use now; however, Charles Ives was using tone clusters well before the 1900s.
  • The Tides of Manaunaun

    Composed by Henry Cowell. He uses tone clusters quite a bit in this piece.
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    John Cage

    He was a composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. His most famous work, and most arguably his most controversial piece, was 4'33". He came up with our current definition of music which is "sound organized through time." He would use anything as an instrument, like a feather and a cactus.
  • The Art of Noises

    Written by Luigi Russolo as a letter to his friend and fellow Futurist composer Balilla Pratella.
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    Billie Holiday

    She was one of the leading female jazz singers and broke racial barriers by singing and performing with white bands.
  • Jazz

    It gained popularity in America in the early 20th century but has been around or a while. It gets its roots from West African music and takes from many African traditions.
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    Leonard Bernstein

    Similar to Aaron Copland in he did everything: conductor, composer, teacher, lecturer, etc. he just wasn't as good at it. One of the librettists for West Side Story, and we can hear that in the complexity of the music.
  • National Association of Negro Musicians

    It was founded in 1919 by R. Nathaniel Dett to help preserve and encourage music the music of African Americans.
  • Swing

    Also known as the big band era towards the end. Came from the improvisational style of New Orleans jazz. Duke Ellington is considered the most brilliant composer of this era.
  • John Williams

    He is probably the most well-known film composer ever with many classics such as: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Jaws, and many more. His music returns to full orchestral resources and the use of leitmotifs. He was greatly influenced by Wagner.
  • Porgy and Bess

    Written by George Gershwin. Gershwin himself said it was written as an American folk opera. It was the first ever opera with an all black cast. As a result, it did not get its main stage production at the National Theatre in Washington DC until 1936 when the theatre managers agreed to a fully integrated audience.
  • Peter and the Wolf

    Composed by Sergei Prokofiev. He was commissioned to write something that would help cultivate musical taste in children.
  • Appalachian Spring

    It was a ballet written by Copland for Martha Graham. In 1945 he made an orchestral suite out of it like he did with most of his other ballets.
  • Bepop

    It was the new "cool" jazz with fast tempos and lots of improvised solos. Very similar to jazz but faster.
  • A Black Pierrot

    Composed by William Grant Still as an echo to Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire". There was quite a bit of blues influence in this piece.
  • Chance Music

    Also known as Indeterminacy or Aleatory Music. Some elements are left up to chance in a performance. It was made popular by John Cage, but the idea was actually invented by his teacher Henry Cowell.
  • Rock 'n' Roll

    It is a blend of jump blues and honky-tonk with a bit of an edge. It was targeted towards teenagers and created an atmosphere where both races came together. It shows the beginning to the end of racism and the Civil Rights movement in America.
  • Musique concrete

    It was a new style that relied on sounds of nature that were recorded and manipulated to create music that could then be played along with on an instrument.
  • Electronic Period

    This is when technology starts to take over a bit more and we begin using it to further advance music into what we know now.
  • 4'33"

    Composed by John Cage. This is his most famous and controversial piece because it is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence and the ambient sounds of the room. Cage himself said the title is actually the amount of time it takes; it can go for as long or short as the performer(s) want.
  • West Side Story

    It was a major turning point in musical theater and where Broadway was heading. The music was very complex and musicals at the time were not complex music-wise.