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1900 - 2000

Modern Period

1900 - 2000

In 1914 a social order that in many ways had changed little since the mid-nineteenth century was shattered beyond repair When Austria declared war on Serbia, a web of alliances brought all the great nations of Europe into the conflict. British and French armies faced the Germans across trenches that stretched from the English Channel to the Swiss frontier In Eastern Europe the long war demoralized the Russian army; the Tsar abdicated and a provisional government was formed in Russia, only to be overthrown by a Communist revolution. America's entry into the war ensured the defeat of Germany but the peace treaties that followed sowed the seeds of future conflict. In the late 1920s the Great Depression created mass unemployment throughout the industrial world. Hitler brought the Nazis to power in Germany, establishing a ruthless dictatorship, equalled only by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union. Hitler's territorial ambitions led to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1939; as the Soviet Union, the United States and Japan entered the war, the conflict became global. It ended in 1945 with the defeat of Germany and Japan, but at a dreadful cost in human suffering. The atomic bomb changed forever the concept of warfare.

In the early twentieth century the notion of art as an imitation of nature was overturned by the Cubism of Picasso and Braque. Other movements, such as Dadaism, stressed the irrational and the absurd, while Surrealism explored the subconscious mind. In Germany the Bauhaus school of architecture created the functional design that was so popular during the interwar years.

English music achieved world stature through Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and in the United States Ives produced music of great originality. Central to twentieth-century music were Schoenberg and his successors, who rejected traditional ideas of harmony and melody.


The early twentieth century was a time of rapid and dramatic transformation in the arts, just as it was in science and so many other fields of human endeavour. A person m 1900 looking back to his or her youth in 1850 would have remembered a world that had undergone momentous developments; 50 years later, a person looking back to 1900 would remember a time that seemed in many fundamental ways part of an entirely different era.

In 1900 the horse was still the major form of transportation in even the most highly developed countries, agriculture was the principal industry and domestic service was by far the most common form of employment for women (especially in Europe). In the United States, the latter half of the nineteenth century had been marked by the Civil War. followed by the period of Reconstruction that, despite the recession, was largely a peaceful time. The Austrian, Chinese, Russian, and Turkish empires were still intact, and in Britain Queen Victoria - that supreme symbol of stability - was on the throne she had occupied since 1837. For most people the rhythm and texture of daily life had scarcely altered during her reign. All this would be lost on the fields of Flanders; the remorseless butchery of World War 1 would drain the strength of the contending nations, laying them open to radical change.


The war to end all wars

In June 1914, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of Serbia. Austria soon declared war on Serbia, an act of aggression that brought into play a complex system of political and military alliances — Russia massed troops on the German border, prompting Germany to declare war on Russia and then on its ally, France. Germany invaded Belgium, provoking Britain to declare war on Germany on August 4. At the outbreak of hostilities there was genuine optimism that the war would be over by Christmas. This hope soon evaporated as the soldiers on the Western front became trapped in a lethal stalemate, in trenches that extended from the Belgian coast to Verdun, in northeastern France. At the third Battle of Ypres, in 1917. for example, the Britishline advanced five miles in four months, at a cost of 400,000 casualties.

Inevitably, the wholesale slaughter undermined morale and created a dangerous unrest. In 1916 the "Easter Rising" in Dublin threatened British interests in Ireland. It was swiftly quashed, but the violence only increased popular support for the republican cause.

In Russia, the situation was even more serious. By March 1917, there were strikes and food riots in Moscow and Petrograd (St Petersburg). Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a provisionalgovernment was formed under a moderate socialist revolutionary, Alexander Kerensky. Meanwhile Vladimir Lenin, a professional revolutionary who had been living in western Europe since 1907, returned to Russia in April 1917, seeing the war as the opportunity for a worldwide socialist uprising. In November 1917 (October according to the calendar then in use in Russia) he led the Bolsheviks (Communists) in overthrowing Kerensky and became m effect dictator of the country. In theory the October Revolution established the rule of the people, but in practice it was the Communist Party that ruled. Civil War between Communist (Red) forces, led by Leon Trotsky, and anti-Communist (White) forces followed. The Communists eventually prevailed, but at the cost of enormous devastation to the country.

The immediate effect of the Revolution was to take Russia out of the war. This would have strengthened the position of Germany and her allies, had they not been facing similar internal crises. In Vienna, the Dual Monarchy (of Austria and Hungary) was dissolved in 1918 and the old Hapsburg empire began to break up. In the Near East, Turkish influence continued to wane as Colonel Т.Е. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") spearheaded the Arab revolt and assisted in the capture of Damascus m 1918. Germany, too, was racked with disorder. There were mutinies at Kiel and other major ports, while Bavaria declared itself a republic. These factors, combined with the arrival of American forces m Europe, finally persuaded the German authorities to sue for peace in November 1918.

                                        Pablo Picasso. The Old Guitar Player. 1903



The Treaty of Versailles

American involvement m the war had been crucial to the Allied cause and President Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points", which included suggestions for a League of Nations, offered the best chance of a lasting peace. However, the settlement that emerged from the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was far less satisfactory. Wilson was defeated at the polls in November 1920, and his Republican successor backtracked on the United States's commitments in Europe, keeping it out of the League of Nations. Meanwhile, the other victorious powers placed the full blame for the war on Germany and tried to exact huge reparations, which were the cause of terrible hardships among its people. The injustice of this left Germans simmering with resentment and paved the way for a new conflict. It was no accident that 1919 witnessed both Mussolini's foundation of the Fascist Party in Italy, and the creation of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany.


Music in the early twentieth century

In addition to the strains it placed on political and economic institutions, the war disrupted the cultural upsurge that had taken place in the early years of the century. Nowhere had this rebirth been more startling than in Britain, which had endured a long fallow period since Tudor and Stuart times, when it was justly famed for music. In 1899 came the successful premiere of Edward Elgar's Engma variations, the work that established his reputation, followed a year later by his Dream of Gerontius. Together these works ushered in a period when British music once again achieved world stature — Gustav Hoist and Vaughan Williams being among the leaders of the revival.

The musical blossoming of the United States in the twentieth century was just as sudden and exciting, with Charles Ives the composer who marked the country's coming of age. Ives's first major works, such as the cantata Celestial city, were composed around the turn of the century. Other areas that became major centres of musical creativity during this period include Scandinavia (where Sibelius was the towering figure), central Europe (notably Bartok in Hungary and Janacek in Czechoslovakia) and Latin America (in particular Villa-Lobos).


A musical revolution

The two musical giants of the period were Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, who created a new musical language for the twentieth century. The key word is tonality, for in 1908 Schoenberg had started to write ATONAL music, that is, music not centred on any key. Schoenberg preferred the term "pan-tonal", meaning that the music embraced all tonalities, but the more negative "atonal" became the established term. Whatever it was called, to most cars (even musically trained cars) it sounded like chaos, as the reactions to it show. "A cat walking down the keyboard of a piano could evolve a melody more lovely than any which came from this Viennese composer's consciousness", wrote the critic of the Chicago Record Herald of Schoenberg's five orchestral pieces in November 1913. Earlier that year, at the premiere of Stravinsky's ballet The rite of spring in Paris, the savage dissonance of the music brought a hostile reaction from large sections of the audience and the performance eventually degenerated into a not.

Stravinsky was a friend of Picasso and they are often seen as the prime revolutionaries in their respective arts in the dazzling period leading up to World War I — a period that has never been matched for experimental fervour. In painting, a series of movements, beginning with Fauvism m 1905. undermined and eventually overthrew the idea that art was essentially the imitation of nature — an idea that had not been seriously challenged since the Renaissance. Cubism, which Picasso created with Georges Braque in 1907, was the most radical of these "-isms." 13y showing objects from several viewpoints simultaneously — as the mind knows them to be rather than as the eye sees them — they broke drastically with tradition, paving the way for abstraction. Music critics never found an "-ism" that could be made to stick to Stravinsky's music, although they applied labels like "barbarism", "dynamism", and "primitivism".

Some critics saw atonality more positively - as a kind of musical equivalent of the Expressionism that was such a powerful force in the visual arts at this time. (Schoenberg himself was a talented Expressionist painter.) But the heyday of atonal music came in the early 1920s, when Schoenberg developed the 12-notf. (or 12-tone) system, which uses all 12 notes of the chromatic scale arranged in any order as a "row" or theme m a composition. Sometimes the term SERIALISM is used as a synonym for 12-note music, although in tact the 12-note system is just one — the simplest — type of serialism.

Schoenberg's ideas came to have worldwide influence, but initially his chief followers were his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Together these three are sometimes known as the "Second Viennese School." The 12-note system that links them is a method and not a style, so their music is often dissimilar. Webern's tends to be concentrated and intense (some of his pieces last less than a minute and his entire published output amounts only to about four hours' listening), whereas Berg's is more approachable and sometimes lyrical in feeling.

In contrast to this subjective and emotional spirit, there was the order and clarity of neoclassical music. As the name suggests, neoclassicism looked back to the music of the past, specifically that of the eighteenth century, but it was not simply a pastiche. There was an added rhythmic strength that marked out such music as clearly of the twentieth century, and often a spirit of affectionate parody. Stravinsky's Pulcinella (1919—20) is sometimes cited as the first full-blown neoclassical work, although Prokofiev'sClassical symphony (1916-17) has some claim to the title. Other composers who worked in the vein included Paul Hindemith and (in his later work) Bartok. French composers such as Francis Poulenc and Jacques Ibert showed a strongly neoclassical inspiration. Even Schoenberg was influenced by neoclassicism, just as Stravinsky was influenced by serialism towards the end of his career. Neoclassicism was to some extent a reaction against the lushness of Romanticism and it often has a playful spirit, as if aiming to deflate pomposity.

Certainly, there was nothing pompous about the age that spawned it. The jazz era possessed a genuine exuberance that affected most branches of the arts. In the world of haute couture, Chanel and Poiret produced bright, streamlined fashions that complemented perfectly the contemporary taste for Art Deco. It was during the 1920s, too, that the radio and gramophone broughtjazz and dance music within reach of most people - one of the most significant developments in the twentieth century — and the influence of the new popular music can be heard in the work of such diverse composers as Stravinsky, William Walton, Maurice Ravel, and Darius Milhaud. At the same time, Kurt Weill's harsh, jazzy style, brilliantly combining the idiom of popular music with avant-garde techniques, provided a striking evocation of the brittle, decadent atmosphere of postwar Germany.


The partition of Ireland

The glamorous aspects of the age could not disguise the underlying tensions on the political scene. In Ireland, the republican question surfaced once again, following the election victor)' of the Sinn Fein Party in 1918. A Home Rule Bill was swiftly rushed through Parliament and Ireland was divided into the independent Irish Free State and the Province of Ulster, which remained part of the United Kingdom. This deferred the problem rather than solving it, as the Republicans regarded the partition as a temporary compromise, while the Ulster Unionists saw it as a permanent arrangement.



In Russia, the peace was threatened by the death of Lenin in 1924. A power struggle ensued between Trotsky and Stalin, which the latter eventually won (Trotsky was exiled in 1929). Stalin's priority was to turn the Soviet Republic into a major industrial force. In 1928, he introduced his first "Five-Year Plan", entailing widespread "collectivization" (the creation of huge, communal farms) and the liquidation of the kulak (peasant proprietor) class. Stalin's purges proceeded ruthlessly during the 1930s, rivalling the outrages committed by the Nazis.

                                                Pablo Picasso. Woman with a Mandolin. 1909



The Great Depression

The West, meanwhile, was still suffering from the economic aftermath of the war. In Germany, there was hyper-inflation -in 1923, the cost of a bus ticket soared to an extraordinary 150,000 million Marks. In Britain, the General Strike of 1926 brought the country to a virtual standstill for nine days. The crisis had been sparked by a demand by mine owners for longer working hours and lower wages and, although public support for the strike was considerable, the miners were eventually forced to comply with their employers' wishes.

Even the United States did not remain exempt from such problems. From 1927 to 1929 the American economy experienced an artificial boom, with share prices soaring amid rash speculation. In September 1929, confidence began to falter, and on October 24 came the Great Crash — known as "Black Thursday" — with waves of panic selling. Many businesses collapsed and, when American banks called in foreign loans, the panic spread outside the United States. The most devastating consequence of the Great Depression that followed was mass unemployment. By 1932 there were about 14 million unemployed in the United States, and the figures in Germany and Britain were about 5.6 million and 2.8 million respectively. There had been recessions before, but this "world slump" was worse than anything ever experienced.

In the United States the government created various schemes to help artists through the worst times. Collectively known as the Federal Arts Projects, the programmes dealt separately with music, theatre, writing, and visual arts. An enormous amount of work was produced under the auspices of the projects — artists were paid regular salaries and employed, for example, in the decoration of public buildings — but little of it attained any great distinction. The work that perhaps best captures the spirit of the Depression years is John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), which deals with the problems faced by a family trying to find a better life in California after fleeing Oklahoma's dust bowl.

The Depression swept the Republicans out of office, bringing Franklin Roosevelt a landslide victory in 1932. His "New Deal" — a recovery programme that involved massive spending on public projects in order to stimulate employment - gradually turned the economic tide. Even so, the slump had inflicted long-term damage on many economies and produced a strong political swing to the right in several European countries. It is not surprising that at such a time many people could succumb to the promise of strong leadership without thinking too hard about how it was to be put into practice; Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany must be seen in this context.


The rise of Hitler

Hitler, an Austrian by birth, fought for Germany in World "War I and believed the country was betrayed by the politicians who signed the humiliating Treat}' of Versailles. By the Treaty, Germany admitted guilt for the war and agreed to severe restrictions on the size of its armed forces; the economic and trade restrictions imposed upon it by the Allies led to severe shortages, and the country was crippled by soaring inflation. Hitlerjoined the National Socialist Party in 1919 and exploited the prevailing mood of discontent, becoming notorious as an orator in tirades against the Treaty as well as against the Jews, whom he cast as a convenient scapegoat for the country's troubles. Although he failed in an attempt to take over the government of Bavaria in 1923 (the Munich Putsch) and spent 13 months m prison, support for the Nazi party was growing, aided by the formidable propaganda skills of one of Hitler's henchmen, Joseph Goebbels. Alter the political failure of three successive chancellors, Hitler was appointed to the post in January 1933. When President Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler became sole leader (Fuhrer) of the country.


The arts under dictatorship

Hitler's ruthless dictatorship extended to the arts, which were harnessed to promote the cult of his own personality and the Nazi philosophy of Aryan supremacy. Any art that conflicted with his ideology was ridiculed, repressed, and eventually destroyed. One of the first artistic casualties of Hitler's regime was the Bauhaus, a school of architecture and applied arts that had become world famous in the years since its foundation in 1919. Its teaching staff constituted one of the finest arrays of artistic talent ever assembled in one place, and it had enormous influence on design, promoting a coolly functional style that became extremely popular in the interwar years. The Nazis shut the school down in April 1933.

Other branches of the arts soon suffered a similar fate. The Fascists coined the term entartete Kunst(degenerate art) for any art they disapproved of (which meant the work of most of the best painters and sculptors of the day). In 1937 an infamous exhibition of so-called degenerate art was held in Munich and then went on tour. Works by artists of the calibre of Picasso and Paul Klee were mocked by being shown alongside pictures painted by the inmates of lunatic asylums. "Degenerate" works were confiscated from museums; some were sold, others burned. Similarly, entartete Musik (which included all atonal music) was banned, and by the outbreak of war, about 200 composers (including Schoenberg and Webern, the surviving members of the Second Viennese School) had been deprived of their livelihoods.

Having consolidated his position at home, Hitler looked to extend his influence abroad. In defiance of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, he began to re-arm the country and, in March 1936, he occupied the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. In the same year he also formed an alliance (the Rome—Berlin Axis) with the Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, whose earlier rise to power had also been based on exploiting economic discontent and nationalistic feelings.

Hitler also aided General Francisco Franco in establishing a dictatorship in Spam by giving him material support during the country's civil war (1936—9). In 1931 the unpopular King Alfonso XIII had been driven out of Spain and the country had become a republic. Among conservatives there was resentment at the socialist and anti-clerical measures of the republican authorities, and disturbances continued throughout the early 1930s. In 1936, following the election of a left-wing Popular Front government, a military revolt broke out in Spanish Morocco, which spread to Spain itself, igniting the civil war. The rebels, under the leadership of Franco, were aided by Italy as well as by Germany. The beleaguered republican government received assistance from sympathizers m other countries — indeed the war turned Spain into an ideological battleground for all Europe. Many liberal-minded artists supported the republicans, among them the English writer George Orwell, who fought with the "International Brigades" and was wounded, later writing Homage to Catalonia about his experiences. The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German planes in 1937 inspired one of the most famous paintings of the twentieth century. Pablo Picasso's Guernica. About a million people are thought to have been killed in the war before Franco emerged victorious when he captured Madrid in March 1939, after a siege lasting more than two years.

The war in Spam provided a dress rehearsal for the wider conflict that was to come, and Franco's success undoubtedly encouraged Hitler in his ambitions. Austria and Czechoslovakia were annexed in 1938, as the Western powers persisted with their disastrous policy of appeasement. Only when Poland was overrun in September 1939 did Britain and France bow to the inevitable and declare war on Germany. Hitler was surprised but undaunted by the news. He continued his advance, occupying Norway and Denmark, and prepared his forces for the westward push. However, despite the declaration of war, there was no armed conflict. This "phoney war" became all too real in May 1940, when German troops swept through Holland and Belgium into France. The surviving Allied forces were evacuated to Britain from Dunkirk, and in the ensuing months, London was subjected to an intensive bombing campaign. It seemed that a German invasion was imminent.

Amazingly, this attack never came. In 1941, the fortunes of war began to shift. Russia had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939, enabling the latter to make substantial territorial gains in Finland and Poland. However, the two powers quarrelled over the fate of Bulgaria, and German forces invaded Russia in June 1941. Ultimately Hitler's campaign proved as ill-fated as Napoleon's had done, foundering during the debilitating siege of Stalingrad over the winter of 1942 to 1943. Meanwhile, Hitler continued to pursue his goal of Aryan supremacy, using concentration camps as a means of implementing a horrific policy of genocide against the Jewish race and groups such as Gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled.

The United States entered the war in December 1941, following the surprise attack by the Japanese air force on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour. Their economic and military might helped turn the tide against the Axis powers. The conquest of Italy began in the summer of 1943, while the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944 marked the start of the Liberation in the north. In the east, the struggle showed signs or lingering on, until the United States devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the new atomic bomb. At great cost, peace had been achieved, but no one could feel secure about the future.

The Modern Age

With the end of World War II, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union rapidly deteriorated. The absorption of Eastern European countries into the Soviet bloc revealed Stalin's expansionist ambitions; tensions were further increased by the Korean War The proliferation of nuclear weapons added to the general climate of fear Elsewhere the world was being reshaped: India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Burma achieved independence; the state of Israel was created; and a Communist government took power in China. The Treaty of Rome marked the first steps towards European unity. In Africa black nationalism accelerated decolonization, finding an echo in the burgeoning Civil Rights movement in the United States. The 1970s witnessed the growth of international terrorism on the one hand and the American withdrawal from Vietnam on the other; it was also a time when environmental issues gained importance throughout the Western world. In the 1980s, while Islamic fundamentalism grew steadily, Soviet Communism collapsed, transforming the map of Eastern Europe and awakening ancient antagonisms, particularly in Yugoslavia. The Middle East remained a source of potential conflict.

The world made giant strides in technology, notably space exploration and miniaturization. In the I 960s computers came into regular use. Wealthy consumerist society inspired the images of Pop Art in the work of Lichtenstein and Warhol. It was the age of a new youth culture; the rebellion of the young against their parents' values was reflected in literature, fashion, and popular music.

In music it was a time of experimentation. The principles of serialism were extended in the work of Boulez and Stockhausen, while Cage focused on the random element in music. Other developments included electronic music and minimalism; a more orthodox tradition survived in the mainly operatic work of Britten, Tippett, and Henze.

The end of hostilities in 1 94d was greeted by many Europeans with a mixture of. relief and despair. Peace brought the realization that the continent faced political and economic ruin. Indeed, as the horrors of the concentration camps were revealed, it seemed that the moral foundations of European civilization had been undermined.

The reconstruction process was slow and painful, and nowhere more so than in the political arena. The first steps towards a settlement were taken at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, a few months before the end of the war. The Allies made plans for the creation of the United Nations, which it was hoped would prevent the outbreak of any further global conflicts. At the same time, the Allied leaders (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) also discussed the shape of postwar Europe. Their decisions, it later transpired, were overly generous to the Soviet Union.

                                                    Pablo Picasso. Guitar "I love Eve". 1912


The beginning of the Cold War

After the war Europe rapidly divided into two camps. As early as March 1946 Churchill delivered his famous, prophetic speech at Fulton, Missouri, in which he talked about an "Iron Curtain" partitioning the continent between the Baltic and the Adriatic. The Soviet Union had made huge territorial gains as a result of the peace settlement and soon filled the power vacuum that had been created by the dismemberment of Nazi Germany. Satellite Communist governments were installed in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Albania, with a coup in Prague in February 1948 adding Czechoslovakia to their number. Meanwhile, civil war raged in Greece, raising the possibility that it, too, might be swallowed up by the Eastern bloc.

The extent of Russian ambitions was exposed by the blockade of Berlin in June 1948. Though situated on East German soil, Berlin remained under the administration of the tour major powers (the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union). Now, as Soviet forces severed road and rail links, the West was left with two options: either abandon the city or supply all its needs by air. The Allies adopted the second course of action, and the subsequent "Berlin airlift" continued for almost a year, until the Communist authorities relented. No one could now be in any doubt that a "Cold War" between East and West had begun. The invasion of South Korea by Communist North Korea in 1950, leading to military confrontation between the United States and Communist China, heightened East-West tension still further.

One of the immediate causes of the Berlin blockade had been West German monetary reform, which had successfully stabilized the Mark. This, along with much of the recovery of Western Europe, was stimulated by the generous aid package proposed by George Marshall, the United States Secretary of State, enabling Western economies to grow more quickly than their eastern counterparts, highlighting the differences between the two Europes.

Western recovery entailed widespread state intervention and nationalization. The French government took control of the services and industries that had been seized by the Nazis, while Britain nationalized the coal mines, railways, and the Bank (it England between 1946 and 1949. The Western nations also tried to break down the trade barriers between them. In April 1948 the Organization for European Economic Cooperation was set up. an early European Economic Community. The latter was eventually established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome.


Music in the postwar world

Moves to rebuild the economies of Western Europe were echoed in the cultural field. Germany made efforts to counter the censorship that had prevailed under the Nazi regime. Immediately after the war Karl-Amadeus Hartmann began the "Musica Viva" series of concerts in Munich, which reintroduced to German audiences the work of Stravinsky, Bartok, and the Second Viennese School. Building on this, in 1946) Wolfgang Steinecke founded the International Summer School in Darmstadt, using it as a vehicle to promote new music. The teachers at Darmstadt resumed their prewar preoccupation with scrialism, although they showed less interest in the work of its pioneer, Arnold Schoenberg, than in that of one of his pupils, Anton Webern. This was all the more remarkable in that most of Webern's output was not available on record before 1957.

The true value of the Darmstadt School was its scope. Olivier Messiaen taught there in 1949, and there began his Mode de valeurs et d'intensites. from 1949 to 1951. This was a key piece in the development of "total serialism", a form of 12-note composition that extended beyond pitch to cover such areas as rhythm and dynamics. Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhauscn, both students of Messiaen's, also began lecturing at Darmstadt in the 1950s, while the same period witnessed the very different approach of John Cage, who gave a series of classes in 1958.

Cage's interest in Zen Buddhism and the I Ching led him to introduce an element of chance into his compositions. His Imaginary landscape No. 4 of 1951 entailed the manipulation of the frequency and volume controls on 12 radio sets. The composer's directions to the "performers" who turned the knobs were quite specific but, of course, the resulting cocktail of sound varied according to the programmes that were on the air.

In 1937, a similar summer school - known as the Berkshire Festival - was held at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts, which would also become an annual phenomenon. At Tanglewood, the most prominent lecturer was Aaron Copland, who was chairman of the faculty until his retirement.

The composers and students at Darmstadt were not alone in wanting a fresh beginning. Those who were young then — a generation that included not only Boulez, Cage, and Stockhausen but also Jean Barraque, Gyorgy Ligeti, Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, and Iannis Xenakis - took their bearings from the modernists of the early twentieth century: Webern, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg. Slightly older composers, notably Messiaen and Elliott Carter, joined the same endeavour. A gap opened between the "avant-garde" and traditionalists such as Shostakovich and Britten.

At the same time a whole new way of making music came into view. During the late 1940s in Paris, Pierre Schaeffer and others pioneered musique concrete, an experimental technique using prerecorded natural sounds on tape as raw material for a musical composition. Edgar Varese, the Franco-American composer, would become a noted exponent. Musique concrete was the forerunner of electronic music, in whose development Stockhausen was to play such a prominent part.


Nuclear power, the space age, and the threat of war

The early postwar period was an age of austerity, but also a time of great technological advances. The American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 had put the subject of atomic energy centre-stage, adding to the climate of fear during the Cold War. Apprehensions increased when it became clear that both the United States and Soviet governments had developed the hydrogen bomb. This resulted in the formation of protest groups such as CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) in Britain.

While the amis race was the most worrying aspect of the Cold War, the conquest of space became another symbol of East-West rivalry. Here, the Soviet Union won most of the early plaudits. In 1957 a dog became the first living creature to be propelled into space. Four years later, Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in the spaceship Vostok I, and in 1963 Valentina Tereshkova was the first female astronaut. This contest reached its climax in 1969 when the Americans Armstrong, Aldnn, and Collins set foot on the moon.

The space race produced many beneficial side-effects. The need for highly sophisticated yet also highly compact, computerized equipment stimulated research into the whole field of miniaturization. In the musical world this hastened the appearance of both the transistor radio and the tape cassette machine. Music became a portable commodity.

The Cold War continued into the 1960s, and in the early years of the decade a series of incidents threatened to bring the United States and the Soviet Union into direct conflict. In May 1960 an American U-2 pilot was shot down while flying over Soviet territory. Then, in 1961, the United States supported an abortive invasion attempt by Cuban exiles against the Soviet-backed regime in С Alba. In 1962 Cuba was at the centre of world attention once again when President Kennedy set up a naval blockade of the island following the discovery that Soviet missile bases had been installed. For six days the prospect of war loomed ominously, until the Khrushchev administration agreed to dismantle the weapons.

The new youth culture

In spite of these crises, the repressive atmosphere of the postwar era was ending. In Britain, the production of John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger in 1956 signalled the arrival of the "Angry Young Men", a group of dramatists and novelists who challenged the moral and social values of the older generation. Their anger was fuelled by the disastrous Anglo-French military assault on Egypt in November of that year and the subsequent humiliating withdrawal.

In the United States this air of rebellion developed a new youth culture. The word '"teenager" had been in use since the 1920s, but only in the 1950s did the spending power of young adults enable them to develop a lifestyle that was quite different from that of their parents. Their heroes repudiated the spirit of wartime discipline and self-sacrifice. Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road (1957) inspired the bohemian attitudes of the "Beat Generation." Meanwhile, teenagers could also admire the blend of rebelliousness and overt sexuality in film stars and singers such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard.

The new youth movement expressed itself through pop records and fashion, with a period of intense creativity in the 1960s. Britain was in the vanguard of these experiments. In Liverpool the Beatles created the "Mersey sound", which helped to transform the music industry.

The young were not alone in having more money at their disposal. Standards of living in the West rose dramatically, creating a genuine consumer boom. People spent their money on luxury electrical equipment, on newly affordable foreign travel (the tourist industry achieved spectacular growth), and on cars. Their spending was encouraged by advertising that appeared on the new, fast-developing medium, television.

The mass-produced imagery that accompanied the rise of consumerism was the inspiration for Pop Art, flourishing in the United States and Britain between the late 1950s and the early 1970s. Roy Liechtenstein painted large-scale reproductions of comic strips, Claes Oldenburg produced giant replicas of hamburgers and chocolates, while Andy Warhol exhibited silk-screen depictions of soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. By translating these everyday objects and mass-media images into the language of "serious" art, Pop artists blurred the distinctions between commercial and fine art, bringing into question the role of art itself.

                                                         Marc Chagall. The Fiddler. 1912-1913



New developments in music

This interest in radical experimentation and pluralism had its parallels in the musical world in the 1960s and 1970s. Many composers and performers began exploring new instrumental possibilities, such as playing chords on woodwind instruments or producing all kinds of scraping, scrubbing, whispering, harsh sounds from the violin and cello. Percussion instruments gained in importance, whether used within the orchestra or alone. Electronic transformation might be added.

Music also became more theatrical. Some avant-garde composers began writing operas; more looked for different, unconventional ways of bringing music and theatre together, often on a smaller scale. If not theatre, then older music could be brought into play. Berio, in the middle movement of his Sinfonia (1968), had the parallel movement from Mahler's Second symphony running all through, earning quotations from throughout musical history since Bach.

Also, in response both to the rise of rock music and to growing contact with Asian and African music, there came the growth of minimalism, in which one basic pattern is repeated again and again, providing a static, mesmeric quality reminiscent of Eastern forms. Noted exponents of this kind of music were Philip Glass and Steve Reich. At the same time, a more orthodox tradition survived in the work of Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, and Hans Werner Henze, whose operas achieved considerable success.


Civil rights, the new technology, and the environment

The United States had no overseas colonies to shed, but it shared some of the racial problems faced by the old imperial powers. The ugly confrontations in 1957 between blacks and whites at Little Rock, Arkansas, highlighted the evils of segregation and acted as a spur to the burgeoning civil rights movement. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, civil rights activists pressured the government into passing a mass of new legislation.

The message of the civil rights campaign was largely conveyed through mass marches and public demonstrations, and its eventual success testified to the growing power of the media. The speed with which news and opinion could be transmitted to them afforded the citizens living in democracies a greater influence than the ballot box. Television brought the horrors of the Vietnam War directly into American sitting rooms, compelling politicians to hasten their search for a solution. Similarly, it dwelt on every detail of the Watergate scandal that forced President Nixon out of office in 1974.

On a more destructive note, the glare of publicity also led to a sharp increase m terrorism after 1970. Atrocities such as the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics (1972), the hostage crisis at the United States embassy in Iran (1979-80), and the IRA bomb attacks in Britain in Hyde Park, London (1982), and in Brighton (1984) were all carried out in the sure knowledge that the world's press would record the events.

Qualms about the effects of new technology increased still further in the 1980s, when the advent of video recorders, computer graphics, and satellite television summoned up the spectre of a "global village", threatening to submerge the richness and variety of individual cultures. However, they also presented world issues to the widest possible audience. In 1985, for example, the Live Aid conceit, watched by one billion viewers in 152 countries, raised -£40 million for the victims of famine m Ethiopia.

Environmental issues also came to the fore in the 1980s, as scientists warned of the dangers of pollution and the depletion of the ozone layer. The need for international cooperation on such matters was illustrated clearly by the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986, which spread high levels of radiation over much of Europe.

Had the Chernobyl accident occurred at the height of the Cold War, the political consequences might have been devastating. However, by the mid-1980s the tension between East and West had begun to ease. The appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet leader in 1985 ushered in a new era of detente under the label of glasnost (openness). An important arms control agreement was signed in 1987, and in the following year Soviet troops began to withdraw from Afghanistan, where they had conducted a fruitless war since 1979.

After that, there was a rapid pace of change. The Iron Curtain rusted rapidly away in 1989 and the Berlin Wall was opened in November that year. In 1990 the formerly Communist eastern part of Germany was reunified with the western part. In 1991 Soviet territories on the Baltic, to the west, in the Caucasus, and in Central Asia all became independent states.

For a while there was great hope, but the change from Communism to aggressive Capitalism produced opportunities for the few and hardship for the many. Also, the loss of a powerful, centralized regime reawakened many old nationalist rivalries that had lain dormant since World War I. As Yugoslavia divided along ethnic lines, civil war broke out in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992—5) and Kosovo (1996—9), ended in both regions only by implanting large peacekeeping forces. Conflicts have also troubled Russia (fighting a long battle against the Chechen people), Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Stability elsewhere has been the grim advantage of dictatorship, though the newly self-governing countries of eastern Europe established parliamentary democracies, and most of them joined the European Union in 2004.

Meanwhile, the Middle East remains a potent source of unrest. The state of Israel, founded in 1948, has been in persistent conflict with both its Palestinian inhabitants and its Arab neighbours. Saddam Hussein, who became president of Iraq in 1979, fought a long and inconclusive war with Iran (1980-88) and invaded Kuwait (1990). In the Gulf War (1991) American forces repulsed him but failed to spark the expected revolution, and in 2003 a second assault was mounted by a coalition principally of American and British troops. Saddam was overthrown, but the country's future remains cause for concern.

One possibility is a variety of the Islamic theocracy that took over Iran in 1979, when the westernizing monarch, the Shah, was replaced by a high-ranking cleric, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Identifying "the west" as the source of all local problems (including the existence of Israel), "Islamists" across the Muslim world steadily gained support, and one terrorist organization, Al Qa'eda, delivered a startling blow to the United States with its attack on New York's World Trade Center in 2001.


Music today

Whilst humanity continues to stumble forward, technology is delivering a bewildering array of tools for the modern composer. So great is the choice that orchestras, instruments, even the performances of dead musicians, can be simulated. Add the creative aphrodisiac of freedom and you have an army of talent largely depressed and frustrated at the lack of career progress.

Those who have successfully raised their profiles have plugged into the machinery of stardom normally reserved for contemporary musicians. For classical talent this is a mercurial mission, for the "serious" music world views аll manipulation as suspect even though its own superstars, such as Herbert Von Karajan, drew on its powers. There are equal dangers in being seen too manufactured and thus ignored by young aspirational fans looking to the classics. Hard as a composer wishes for success to be judged on creative output, it is now critical to make one's presence felt — the very same mission as for those who have gone before.

                                                    Marc Chagall. The Falling Angel. 1923-1947


post modern 

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