Monday, April 3, 2017

Music and Art Through the Ages: Part 7: The Modern World

Welcome to our last stop on this whirlwind ride through the history of music and art. We started back with Ancient Greece, and here we are at the last port: the Modern World!  Modern music and art is so broad that I could spend twelve posts about all the different forms classical music took in the modern ages. Instead, I am going to narrow in on some of the things I find most important.

Minimalism and Phillip Glass
Composer Philip Glass, Florence 1993

Minimal music is a style of music that, as the name applies, is minimal in nature. That could be interpreted in a number of ways by composers. It could have repetitive melodies, harmonies, and rhythms; a drone or steady beat; limited instrumentation; short text; and/or a reiteration of phrases. It is an experimentation by the composer and performers. Typically the harmonies are consonant and don’t clash with each other in order to give it stability and a more minimalistic quality. One of the best known minimalist composers is Philip_Glass.  He wrote an opera called Einstein on the Beach which is a great example of minimalism. You can hear a drone, repetition of text, simple harmonies, and consonance in the harmonies. I love to put this music on in the background. I find it calming.

Another example of Philip Glass’s work is the music from The Truman Show, which he composed. My favorite is “Truman Sleeps”.
Atonality and Arnold Schoenburg
Composer Arnold Schoenberg, Los Angeles 1948

One of the more interesting styles of modern music is atonality, which is just a piece of music that lacks a key. To most people it sounds awful, but there is a lot of theory and intellect involved. Arnold Schoenberg developed a twelve-tone method, which can also be called serialism. It is a method of using all 12 notes of a chromatic scale evenly, so there would be no favoritism of a certain note. In most music, the key of the piece would be dominate. If the piece is in D, you would hear a lot more D’s being played than any other piece.  You would also not hear many of the notes that are not in the D scale. In the twelve-tone method, all notes are played the same amount so you never hear a key or center for the music. One of his early pieces, after working out his twelve-tone method, is this string quartet. Listen, not for harmony cohesiveness, but rhythm cohesiveness.

Abstract Expressionism and Jackson Pollock
To see a picture of Pollock’s work, please check out wikipedia.
I find Abstract Expressionism to be very similar to atonality.  It was a breaking down of what art was thought to be and becoming something completely different. Not everyone likes abstract expressionism, but it was new and something that had never been done before. It grew out of post WWII era in America and Germany. It was about an intensity in emotion and revolutionized art for the modern world.Jackson_Pollock was a very influential artist in America. He moved away from the easel and started to use new ways to create art. He dripped, threw, stained, tore, and used imagery and non-imagery. Not only did he use paint, but he would throw grass, cigarette butts, and other random things on his paintings. It opened up a new world of expression and he influenced other artists to make breakthroughs of their own.

Pop Art and Andy Warhol
To see a picture of Warhol’s most famous work, Campbell’s Soup Cans, go to Wikipedia.
Pop_art is exactly what it sounds like. It is a step away from fine art and a cohesion of art and popular culture and images. Typically it takes images used in advertising. It can be comic strips, advertising campaigns and collages. It began in the 1950’s in Britain and the United States. One of the best known pop artists from America is Andy_Warhol with his Campbell’s_Soup_Cans.
  1. Let your kids experience the strange sounds of modern music. Let them compose their own modern music using “instruments” from around the house- smack tin can, hit pots, shake rice in an Easter egg, pluck rubber bands on a tissue box, etc.
  2. Painting like Pollock! I suggest doing this project outdoors, or spreading newspaper out to protect your table and/or floor. Also wear old clothes and use washable paint. To be accurate in how Pollock painted, get a large piece of paper and spread it out on the floor. Take paint and attack the paper. Drip paint, spray paint, fleck paint, rub paint, put on pieces of other materials, etc. Be creative in how you create the project. Have fun with this project!!
  3. Let your student come up with an advertising campaign for a real or made up product. Have them create a visual component as well as a sales pitch for it to work on persuasive writing. Let them be creative- is it a new candy bar aimed at Martians? Maybe a show for frogs that give them an extra bounce?  Just focus on the art part and writing something short to highlight what makes the product so desirable.
I hope you have enjoyed our art and music filled time travel over the past few months. My kids loved being the guinea pigs, and I hope your students enjoyed the projects as much as mine did!

Past stops:
Part 1: AncientGreece
Part 2: MedievalTimes
Part 3: Renaissance
Part 4: Baroque
Part 5: Classical
Part 6: Romantic

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