Twentieth Century Music: How it Developed, How to Listen to It

By Marion Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
BREAKING DOWN ESTABLISHED RULES: NEW SCALES, MELODIES, CHORDS, HARMONIC RESOURCES, RHYTHMS, ETC.*

THE uninitiated listener seeks in vain for familiar landmarks in this new tonal country which, so far, has been explored principally by those imbued with the pioneer spirit. Melody, harmony, rhythm, form, have changed. There is nothing to guide him; nothing shows him whether he is on the right path. He has new problems to solve. He tries to fit what he hears to that which he has learned to accept as musical gospel. If the Old is right, the New must be wrong because it breaks all the rules--apparently. He must learn the truth of Ferruccio Busoni's statement, "There is nothing properly modern--only things which have come into being earlier or later; longer in bloom, or sooner withered. The Modern and the Old have always been." ( A New Aesthetic of Music.)

If we apply these words in considering new scale formations, we shall find that there are practically no new scales. So-called "modern" scales are for the most part new interpretations or read- justments of age-old conventions. And here the listener may question, "How about the whole-tone scale?"

The Chinese have a legend which gives to their bamboo instruments the honor of being responsible for the formation of their scale. Lyng-lun was commissioned to systematize the confused array of sounds which constituted Chinese music. He cut a bamboo and on blowing into it, produced a tone in unison with his voice and with the sound of the waves of the river Hoang-ho. Lyng-lun decided that this was the fundamental sound of nature from which all other tones were derived. In answer to his musing, the magic

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*
The author recommends that the Appendix: Explanation of Musical Terms be read in conjunction with this chapter.

-101-

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