The Keyboard in London

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We (Mike Lurie, Greg Dunbar, Lauren Buono, Shawn Riley & Bryn Coveney) are a group of students studying abroad in London for the semester from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. This blog is to document our class experiences in "The Keyboard and it's Role in London Society" course, which is being taught by Diane Birr at the Ithaca College London Center, in South Kensington. Our studies focus on keyboard instruments (the Virginal, Harpsichord, Pianoforte, Piano, Organ, Electronic keyboard) and explore how these instruments are historically interwoven with the personal and social fabric of London society.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

20th Century English Composers

20th Century Music
Twentieth-century music broke away from conventional theory in almost every aspect. Melodies were no longer tonal.  Instead, they were many times quite elusive and could not easily be sung.  Rhythms were irregular and unpredictable.  Polyrhythms were included and can be likened to cross rhythms that previous composers, such as Brahms, used.  Chord structures are never fundamental as in previous music.  Polychords, tonal clusters, and chords based on fourths are frequently used.  Dissonance became a key factor in 20th-century music and was used to create unexpected endings, and on the whole, made the music sound more mystifying or fantasy-like.  Most importantly was the change and experimentation with tone color.  New colors were added by breaking away from traditional instrumentation, exploring new instrumental techniques, and at times, incorporating multiple percussion sounds.  All of these factors created mood and variety, yet contributed to continuity in the music.  During the 20th century, many English composers incorporated these techniques in their works.  A selection of some of England's most important 20th-century composers follow.

Ralph Vaughn-Williams (1872-1958)

• Composer, arranger, conductor
• Born in Gloucestershire, died in London 
      & is buried in Westminster Abbey
• Considered the greatest English composer since Purcell
• Studied at Trinity College, Cambridge
• Later he studied at RCM & eventually became 
     a professor there
• He possessed a deep love for folk-songs and carols
• His music has a great deal of power, nobility, and
     expressiveness, considered very "English" sounding

Frank Bridge (1879-1941)

• Composer, arranger
• Came from a musical family in Brighton
• Studied at RCM as violinist & pianist
• Recieved a 4 year composition scholarship at RCM
• Teacher (of Britten), orchestral player (in London's top
     symphonies), & chamber musician
• His music is late-romantic idiom, string quartets are
     distinctive and harmonically advanced

Arnold Bax (1883-1953)

• Composer, arranger & poet
• Born in London to a rich family from Hampstead
• Studied at RCM with Corder and Matthay (piano)
• Corder introduced him to Liszt & Wagner's music, 
    which influenced Bax's compositional style
• Music blended Romanticism, Impressionism and strong
     Celtic, as well as some Russian influences

William Walton (1902-1983)

• Composer, arranger, conductor
• Born in Lancashire to a musical family,
• Died in Ischia, Italy
• Was a chorister at Oxford
• Left Oxford without a degree & went to London to live
     with a family of poets
• Viola concerto premiered by Hindemith, Cello Suites 1-3
     premiered by Rostropovich
• Crown Imperial for Kind George VI
• Growing popularity in England until Britten

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

• Composer, conductor, pianist
• Born in Lowestoft in Suffolk & died in Aldeburgh
• Composed since 5, studied with Bridge at 11, where he was
     introduced to Bartok and Schoenberg), then went for
      further studies at RCM
• Wrote many operas, the most popular is Peter Grimes
• Received many awards including the Companion of
     Honour in 1952, and became a member of the Order of
     Merit in 1965
• Performed with and composed several works for his
     friend and partner, tenor Peter Pears
• He, along with Pears and Eric Crozier, founded the
     Aldeburgh Festival

Information provided by Lauren

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