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Modern Music and After Paperback – 16 Feb 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 474 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition (16 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019974050X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199740505
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 3.3 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


continues usefully to draw attention to a wide range of works and concepts (BBC Music Magazine)

About the Author

Paul Griffiths is an acclaimed writer on contemporary and classical music whose books include A Concise History of Western Music and The Penguin Companion to Classical Music. He is also known as a librettist (Elliott Carter's What Next? ) and novelist. In 2002, Griffiths was honored by the French government as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

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Format: Paperback
This is pretty obviously THE book on music in the second half of this century. My own copy's pages are much thumbed, and I've used Griffith's desciptions as a guide to build my CD collection. The glaring omission (there was bound to be one at least) is Lutoslawski, one of the century's greatest and most enjoyable composers, who gets barely a mention. To Griffith's great credit, on the other hand, is his championing of Barraque, who's sometimes not even mentioned in other histories. Finally, though I think Griffiths is right to devote so much space to the big theoretical composers (Boulez, Stockhausen, Cage, Babbitt) he sometimes forgets that their music isn't always the best (Cage is barely a composer at all--more of a philosopher who makes his point with sound-events). Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maitre, for instance, is given too much prominence--it sounds really dated now (listening to it, you can just about see the Beatnicks clicking appreciatively, wearing their black berets), while the great music of Lutoslawski or Dutilleux, for instance, is barely discussed because it's less theoretically advanced. Still, Griffiths' descriptions and explanations are about as good as anyone could hope for, and the overemphases and omissions I mentioned are inevitable in writing a history like this. Like I said, this is still THE book on the subject.
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Thorough, interesting, and beautifully written as everything by Griffiths is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great survey from Boulez to present 3 Jan. 2013
By Paul J. Jacobs - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a trained musician and avid classical music fan who is turning my attention and tastes to modern composers and found this textbook extremely useful. There was a minimal amount of subjective characterizations by Mr. Griffiths that I really appreciated. He focused more on objective technical innovations and accomplishments made by various composers which really helped me understand what to listen for. It is a broad survey book covering around 60 years and does have a strong focus on Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio, and Ligeti. More than anything I now have a much better grasp on why I like particular composers and not others, and am excited to take the next step in going more in depth with particular ones that appeal to me.

On another note, I have been one of those classical music lovers who has kept my interest in the "Romantic" style. Saying that, I have never been so excited about classical music than now because new music feels alive and exciting and I've had enough of the continual repetition of very old and dead music. In my opinion, the extremes of total serialism are very hard to appreciate and probably turn many people off from new music. But since the 1960s post advant garde movement I have found an incredible amount of compelling and exciting music to focus on. Anyone who claims to be a classical music fan needs to read this book or one like it and bring modern musical language and the composers who write with it today back into the mainstream concert halls.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on both the music and the social dynamics 25 May 2001
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
MODERN MUSIC AND AFTER should really be kept in print, though the market may be small, as it is the best book on the subject. It serves, among other things, as the best record guide to the post-war avant-garde that I've found, although since '95 it has become somewhat outdated.

Griffiths imbues the story of the serialist avant-garde with high drama. The hero of his story is Pierre Boulez. Messiaen is the mentor, and Stockhausen the brother, a source of friendly but intense rivalry. Schoenberg is the father figure who Boulez "kills" even as he carries on his tradition, but of course crediting Webern. The history gives a palpable sense of the excitement of this avant-garde circle, which came together at Darmstadt. Cage and his zen anarchism presents a radical challenge to the integral serialist Project, and begins to explode it.

This takes us through the 1950s. The second part of the book is equally good, as the linear sense of progress unravels in the 1960s and '70s and fragmentation sets in. A fascinating development which Griffiths documents, but does not comment on, is the resurgence of sacred music as the secular avant-garde disintegrates. The Estonian composer Arvo Part is but one example of this trend, what might be called the reassertion of the pre-modern in the context of the post-modern. The third section is not as good, and resembles other similar books in being more an encyclopedia of entries on various composers and trends. There doesn't seem to be much alternative to this for now, but it's interesting to imagine how the present period may be reconstructed in light of future developments...

In his introduction Griffiths laments the loss of a sense of shared criteria for evaluating the diverse music of the moment. But of course books like this contribute to the construction of those criteria! Peter J. Martin's SOUNDS AND SOCIETY (see my review) is an excellent analysis of how music evaluation is socially constructed -- there are no objective, inherent qualities, and so something like writing a book or even posting reviews to a website serves to shape the reception of the art. An interesting topic to pursue would be the divergent paths of Boulez and Stockhausen, with the former becoming an esteemed conductor and not only championing the avant-garde, but also turning back to the once scorned romantic tradition, while Stockhausen followed an increasingly idiosyncratic path and became a revered figure for the 90s electronica movement, a "Father of Electronic Music"!

MODERN MUSIC AND AFTER is indispensable for anyone trying to understand the rich complexities of contemporary composition. I recommend Morgan's TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSIC (see my review) for the pre-WWII period, and Gann's AMERICAN MUSIC IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (see my review) for greater detail on the postwar U.S.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and insightful 19 April 2014
By Ken Foster - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent thoughtful and insightful take on music after 1945. Should be read with a history of electro-acoustic music set. Does not make too many assumptions about the value of the music and let's the reader decide the complex value of the compositions covered.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Am Teflon When I Read This Book 8 Nov. 2013
By DaveHwriter - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I failed to get gripped by this work. And mind you I read everything I can find on 20th century music. The writing and analysis are good. But the book was boring to me. Seemed like more of a long fan letter. I gave it my neighbor, who is a drummer and has the musical chops to understand the technical stuff. he never thanked me.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only history to address a lot of this 8 Oct. 2011
By demo - Published on
Format: Paperback
Most of the books I've found about post WWII composed music are either narrowly focused (like Joan Peyser on Boulez -good, just about worshipping Boulez most of the time) or intent on dismissing "total serialism" and its aftermath (Important to note that "total serialism" was abandoned by its primary practitioners -Boulez, Stockhausen, et al- within a few years of its inception). Even if the plethora of compositional concepts that flooded the world of composed music after total serialism ran its brief course have proven too abstruse to reach wide audiences or have proven (in many post Cage examples) to be too ephemeral to generate much more than transitory "happenings", a great deal of intelligence and discipline has gone into ways of thinking about and organizing sound. It would be sort of tragic to let all those investigations go to waste as many historians (Richard Taruskin in his final Oxford volume, for example) would.

No jazz here, no film scores, no pop, just composers and how they approach the work of organizing sound.

Pretty thorough and engaging. Not recommended for those who think Reich, Glass, and Riley are the summit of musical thought.
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