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A trip through the 20th century music

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How to take advantage of the musical achievements of the 20th and 21st century

How to take advantage of the musical achievements of the 20th and 21st century.


Recently I was listening to Game FM on winamp and while I was doing the dishes I suddenly heard a modern sound composition passing by with all kinds of Hoketus like techniques.
I went to my computer to see if the channel not suddenly changed to a modern classical channel. To my surprise I was listening to a part of the soundtrack from Sim City 3000. A beautifull minimal composition for marimba an clarinet was passing by. It reminded me of the music of one my professors called Louis Andriessen.

While I continued doing the dishes (yeah I am a good husband) it made me think of the fact how dynamic and enormously wide the spectrum of game music is.
In a series of small articles I would like to point out some important musical happenings in the 20th and 21st century and how it is related to some game music aspects and how we can use them.

Why you might ask? I think we all have our knowledge and strong and weak points. With this writings I hope to contribute a bit with the knowledge I have (and lack) so that we all can learn from it and see what we can do with the amazing achievements that are made by the great masters from last 120 years of music like Stockausen, Schoenberg, Debussy, Stravinsky, Xenakis, Varese, Glass, Adams and loads and loads of other composers who are not mentioned yet, but for sure will be.

We can learn a lot from them, even if it is knowing that you absolutely don't want to do what they have did and this article is for all who are interested in reading a bit about them and join on an amazing journey through the wild wild life of the 20th century!

Enjoy the ride!

Chapter One: A brief overview

The history of the music of the 20th Century can be roughly divided as follow:

1: Impressionism (1870-1910)
2: Neo-Romantism (1910-1923)
3: Futurism (from 1913)
4: Free atonality (from 1923)
5: Neo-Classicism (from 1920)
6: Musique Concrete (from 1949)
7: Serialsm (from 1950)
8: Microtonal music (from 1950)
9: Aleatoric music (from 1963)
10: Minimal music (from 1970)
11: New complexity (from 1980)
12: Post-modernism (from 1980)
13: Contemporary music (from 1990)

The history of the 20th century music is quite complex. A large variety of movements quickly followed after each other. The 2 World Wars caused a tremendous schism in the development of the music. After the Second World War the cold war continued in musical life as well. Serialism against Minimalism, Aleotoric against Stochastic, Electronic against Acoustic, but also West against East.

The gap between the public and the composer became bigger and bigger. Art became a way of life and stood for itself and the opinion of the public was not the most important anymore. The composers of the 20th century are not the adjutants anymore. They became individuals that stood up and were not afraid to reflect their opinion to whomever that wanted to listen (or not).

Music became extreme, music became isolated sometimes, but most of all music was suddenly everywhere and for everyone available. Music for the "mass" and music for the "elite". The distinction grew and grew within every movement till the late 70's and had some reflection in the early 80's with the rise of the new complexity introduced partly by Brian Ferneyhough. For a long time it was a "wanted" effect.

From the 80's composers tried to bundle some of the achievements of the 20th century and tried to connect again to the public. Composers like John Adams and later on Gorecki and the more famous Arvo Part are good examples. Most of these composers have their origin in the serialistic movements, but left this behind. Even the more extremes like Stockhausen, Ligetti and Boulez went towards these trends.
Beside all these movements non-Western music became a big influence as well. Music became plural.

The 20th century is one of the most fascinating periods and with so many achievements that we simply cannot ignore it. We have to benefit from this rich past that is so close, but sometimes so far away.

In the following chapters I will take a deep dive in the variety of styles and movements.



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