An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music

By Peter S. Hansen | Go to book overview
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Preface

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK is to present the main lines of development of twentieth-century music through a study of selected compositions by its most influential composers. The author assumes that the student has some knowledge of the main stream of music and an understanding of its underlying principles (such as tonality, harmony, form, etc.), since the new style traits are presented as outgrowths of this more familiar music. On the other hand, extensive technical knowledge is not necessary to use this book. It is designed for college courses having no other prerequisite than an introductory course in music, such as Introduction to Music or Music Appreciation.

In surveying the era and attempting to evaluate its musical achievements, one finds that the first half of the twentieth century has as many shifting patterns and designs as a kaleidoscope. To impose a definitive pattern is impossible at this time and the different books devoted to the subject reflect various points of view. Some books supply us with a year-by-year recording of events while others describe musical activities within geographical boundaries. Still others discuss the period by writing biographies of composers, analyzing significant compositions, or by defining certain aspects of music theory. All of these approaches are valid and helpful to students.

This book seeks to treat the principal factors involved-personalities, chronology, style-in a manner that shows various interrelations as well as fundamental trends in the development of the art. The special problem of writing contemporary cultural history is the necessity of making judgments about persons, events, and works of art that have not yet stood the test of time--the only true criterion of aesthetic value. As a result it is inevitable that there will be differences of opinion concerning emphasis and proportion in such a book as this and that the final decisions will be more personal than if one were making a survey, say, of the music of the first half of the sixteenth century. The present author has been guided in his decisions by his experiences with

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