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Various musicians of the 20th and 21st century have had different attitudes towards the use of consonance and traditional tonality where music is played in a key. Most of them suggest that they enjoy their music when played in their own musical styles. However, they have their conclusions varying from one type of musical genre to the other. The ultimate aim of this paper is to examine the different views and attitudes of composers towards consonance as well as the attitudes in historical context.
The American jazz is one of the non-European influences on twentieth-century composers of music. Musicians were charmed by syncopate rhythms and get along with quality as well as by the sole tone colors of jazz bands. The composers of jazz music in 20th century seemed to enjoy the consonance and tone systems of the music and therefore majority of them had positive attitudes towards the use of keys (Douglas, 2002). However, different views have come in during the period of 1920s after the emphasis on brasses, woodwinds and percussion jazz elements that had been used in early Debussy’s cakewalk of Goliwogg as from the children’s corner suite of 1908 and the Ragtime of Stravinsky, which was from the soldier’s tale of 1918. The new jazz age with different works such as the creation of the world, 1923 by Darius Milhaud who is a French composer and the 1926, Piano concerto by Aaron Copland, the American composer had their music ignoring the consonance and the tones used in older days before 1908.
They had their new systems of jazz music, which they termed as ‘music of our age’ (Lake state publication). The Jazz idioms of America represented certain type of musical nationalism which was termed as search for an ‘American sound’ while for the European composers ‘music of our age’ in jazz music represented tone colors and rhythms that showed musical exoticism. This made several jazz composers of the older periods before 1908 to change their musical systems to suit into the new systems whereby in the 1920 to 1930 period, the famous composer George Gershwin was forced to change his system from the consonance and key usage to the use of popular elements within ‘classical’ forms. These new elements came out clearly in his Rho psady in Blue (1924) and the Opera I’ orgy as well as Bess (1934-1935). Note that these new system was as well seen in other Jazz composers of older days who changed to suit the new classical system.
The other musical system that saw massive change of their musical style is the famous pop music. In the earlier days before 1908, pop was soft music that encompassed harmonies, rhythms, melodies and tone colors but everything changed gradually when the new system of the 20th century which was referred to as the characteristics of twentieth-century music where the composers only concentrate on tune of the music to give it flavor (Middleton, 1990). This is the period when the pop music started fading and it changed to hip hop music. It was mostly classical music that was educative and with important message for the community. Most of the composers used the system of chorus and verse where they got a chance to express their feelings and views through rapping. This was their own musical style which has been growing intensively and in the twenty first-century it has a new image.
Most of the hip hop composers of the earlier days (1800) used to pass certain important messages that had a lot of significance to the community and this same system was seen in early twentieth century where the composers passed crucial messages to the community (Douglas, 2002). In twenty first-century, everything has come out differently as the hip hop music has depict another image. It changed from the famous old school hip hop genre to new school hip hop. Nowadays, the hip hop composers concentrate on praising themselves concerning their wealth and what they pose. They do not focus on passing important message that can be of help to the new generation or the community, they normally sing concerning drug use, money, sex and their possession (Middleton, 1990). This is what they call their new style of modern music which is only focused on entertainment and not educating. Some of the categories under the 20th and 21st century hip hop music genres include Gangstar hip hop, underground hip hop, alternative hip hop and crunk or snap music.
20th and 21st century changes in musical systems
There are other more types of music that have seen massive changes from the earlier 1880s to early 1900s. Some of the groups include rock music, blues, punk, country music, Saul, salsa and so on which have seen massive changes in the twentieth and twenty first-century. These are the periods of wild technological change where human race is driven from machine age to space age where the computers are the tools of choice in musical endeavors. In 18s and early 19s, most of the music was played lively with live bands and it was educative to the community as it passed important message (Lake state publication). In 20s and 21s, the computers produce the music and there is very limited live performance experienced. All this came to existence due to the change in attitudes towards the consonance that actually made the live performance great! In early 20th century, there was the scene of artistic revolution; where the revolution was against Romantic emotionalism, against European over-refinement, revolution against art symmetry and the revolution against consonance and tonality.
It is at this period that the composers began to stress on self-expression and music as a technique rather than as a feeling expression. These attitudes have made several abstraction in music and art as well as to a long period of change to the new styles for composers and their audiences. The revolution movement lead to evolution since the rate of change was surprising. When it came out clear about the direction of art and music, the composers rushed to take it to its current critical mass. The change of attitude towards consonance made the scene to change from polyphonic modality to the homophonic idea and major-minor system. It required several years to change from the open fifths, fourths and octaves to stress on thirds and sixths, then to the chord and its extensions up passed the harmonic series (Douglas, 2002). This means it was doing away with the consonance system because it was highly associated with octaves, fifths and fourths along with the harmonic series. Thus, it proved that the modern composers of 20th and 21st century had different attitudes towards the consonance and tones in music.
Some of the composers that are well known worldwide include John Adams, Malcolm Arnold, Luciano Berio, Benjamin Britten, Gavin Bryars, John Cage, Aaron Copland, Phillip Glass, Paul Hindemith, Gustav Mahler, Carl Neilson, Erik Satie, Arnold Schoenberg among others. These are the people who brought the characteristics of twentieth century music which was revolution against the consonance and tonality in music. They are the people who introduced pure entertainment in music by coming up with the classical system. The rhythms became polyrhythm, melody became asymmetrical, harmony extended to the upper harmonic series whereby the tonality moved to polytonality and later to atonality which is the recent. It is at these periods when the serial technique and the twelve tone system were invented where the dissonance was sharpened by orchestral colors (Lake state publication). The dissonance evolved from consonance where the quarter tones and special effects were developed. This is now the pure modern music where the computers remember, prints and assimilates the collective artistic knowledge where it later creates the master works of the future.