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Course Catalog > Courses: Summer (Online)

How to Listen to 20th & 21st Century Classical Music  

**This course will be taught via Zoom. We send Zoom links one week before the first class and one day before the first class. We also watch for late registrants to make sure you get the link.**

For many classical music lovers, much of the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries can be very daunting. In this class we will explore some of the main trends in music of the past 120 years. We will learn about the techniques and outlooks of the composers. We will listen to music for traditional and electronic instruments, as well as music which uses acoustic instruments in non-traditional ways. In our final session, internationally known composer Ann Callaway will be with us to perform and discuss her music and answer questions about how a twenty-first century composer works.

Week by Week Outline
Week 1: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: The breaking open of 19th century musical conventions. This work literally caused riots when it premiered in 1913. Stravinsky explored completely new ways of using rhythm, melody, and orchestral sound.

Week 2: The Second Viennese School: Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. These pioneers created a musical system in which every note of the scale was equally related to every other, thus breaking down the hierarchies of older musical systems and leaving some listeners wandering in the wilderness.

Week 3: Early ventures in electronic music: Messiaen and Varez. Long before modern computers, these composers were reveling in the new sounds made possible by means of electronic technology.

Week 4: The edges of music: the experiments of John Cage.

Week 5: The minimalism of John Adams and Philip Glass: The new simplicity. In the later twentieth century these composers reacted to the extreme complexity of the music which preceded them. They created scores of hypnotic beauty from a bare minimum of shifting harmonic patterns.

Week 6: The composer in her own words: Music of and conversation with Ann Callaway.


How to Listen to 20th & 21st Century Classical Music

Meeting Schedule

Th 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
6/10/2021 - 7/15/2021 (6 Meeting Days)


John Prescott



Note: Class in session.