Present-Day Classical

How classical music broke free from all restraints into the modern era.

In the last installment of our series on Classical Revolutions, we left off with serialist composers and Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 debut of The Rite of Spring, a ballet that, with its dissonance and abandonment of any predictable structure, incited audiences to near-riot. In the May issue, our fourth and last installment in the series explores where music went from there.

Composers including Oliver Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Harry Partch, Györgi Ligeti, and later, John Cage, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass took the experimental approach of serialist composers and others like Stravinsky and pushed the boundaries even further, taking serialism into new territory (Oliver Messiaen), inventing tonal ranges outside of the standard octave (Harry Partch), incorporating analog technology (Steve Reich), and skipping standard definitions of a musical composition altogether (John Cage’s 4’33”).

Explore Harry Partch’s music in this video:

Watch a performance of Györgi Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna here: