With Schoenberg’s adventures in atonal music now a century old, and with the experimental music composer John Cage now officially sanctioned by the BBC Proms, the aim of this module is to ask, simply: what is music doing now, in the latter part of the second decade of the 21st century? What creative concerns unite or divide contemporary composers, and to what extent do they build on or depart from the innovations of 20th century modernism? Is there a shared sense of political, economic, and cultural background against which composers respond and react? Is ‘new’ or ‘contemporary’ music more global now than it was in the twentieth century, or do Europe and America still dominate? And what does ‘contemporary music’ actually refer to: when did ‘the contemporary’ start, when will it end, and what musics does it include and exclude?
Each class will address a different theme in contemporary music, focusing on (but not guaranteed or limited to): composition and improvisation; language and voice; multimedia and post-medium art; musical systems after serialism; globalisation and the internet; music and the body; and changes in the relations between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. Seminars will focus on discussion of texts, scores, videos and other media, and you will have the opportunity to learn through the creation or performance of a work of contemporary music.
Assessment: A compilation of listening diaries, a creative project or essay and in-class presentation (1,750 words or equivalent) and a 2,250-word research project