Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Western Music in Context

SKU 9780393929201
The music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in its cultural, social, and intellectual contexts.

Joseph Auner's Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries explores the sense of possibility unleashed by the era's destabilizing military conflicts, social upheavals, and technological advances. Auner shows how the multiplicity of musical styles has called into question traditional assumptions about compositional practice, the boundaries of music and noise, and the relationship among composer, performer, and listener. He also shows how composers and their works have played important roles in defining ideas of nation, race, and gender, and thus in shaping the modern world for better and worse.

Western Music in Context: A Norton History comprises six volumes of moderate length, each written in an engaging style by a recognized expert. Authoritative and current, the series examines music in the broadest sense—as sounds notated, performed, and heard—focusing not only on composers and works, but also on broader social and intellectual currents.

1. Introduction: A Sense of Possibility

Part I: From the Turn of the Century to the First World War

2. Expanding Musical Worlds at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
3. Making New Musical Languages
4. Folk Sources, the Primitive, and the Search for Authenticity

Part II: The Interwar Years

5. New Music Taking Flight after World War I
6. Paris, Neo-Classicism, and the Art of the Everyday
7. The Search for Order and Balance
8. Inventing Traditions

Part III: The Second World War and Its Aftermath

9. Rebuilding amid the Ruins
10. Electronic Music from Magnetic Tape to the Internet
11. Trajectories of Order and Chance

Part IV: From the 1960s to the Present

12. Texture, Groups, Loops, and Layers
13. Histories Recollected and Remade
14. Minimalism and its Repercussions
15. Border Crossings

Like the other volumes in the series, Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries brings a fresh perspective to the study of music by emphasizing social, cultural, intellectual, and political contexts of the music. Joseph Auner looks far beyond the notes on the page or the details of composers’ lives to embrace audiences, performers, institutions, and social settings. For example, the text shows how the "tangled chaos" of unlimited possibilities available since the early twentieth century has energized composers to re-imagine what music might be.


Numerous themes unite the entire Western Music in Context series into a rich yet coherent narrative and help students tie together what they learn about music history, including:

  • The role of gender, race, and class in musical culture
  • Music and national identity, including the Americas and eastern Europe
  • The role of technology in composing and disseminating music from the advent of notation to the digital age
  • Music for public and private consumption
  • Relationships among composers, performers, and audiences
  • Music education for composers, performers, and the general public

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