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The Most Important “Isms” of Music in the 20TH Century

Updated August 12, 2022

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The Most Important “Isms” of Music in the 20TH Century essay

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Neoclassicism, impressionism, primitivism, and nationalism. They are all important movements that play a big role in the history of music. Neoclassicism is an ism that teaches about music in history. It takes the style and traits of music from past century. In particular it takes the traits of classical music from the 18th century. It takes such traits from Mozart as symmetry, and abstraction. However there is still some simplicity in the works of neoclassicism composers. Stravinsky is a neoclassical composer; he has more moderation in his music than a composer of the 18th century.

Impressionism is another important one that was actually not just in music. It was a trait that could be found in pieces of art as well. Impressionist artists could be considered realists. They would see and understand the art in a world of reality. The works of these artists and composers takes imagination to grasp. They are works that are said to have no boundaries.  The work of impressionism started with the French in the late 19th century. An example of an impressionist composer would be Debussy. His works are very hard to follow and have quite sounds.

Primitivism is another ism, which concentrated on primal sounds. They come from African heritage. The sound of the music is very unpredictable and wild sounding. The rhythms usual go up and down. It is tough to understand the purpose of the composer. Nationalism is a type of ism, which is associated with the French and German. It all started in the later 19th century.

The people were starting to become more aware of the heritage and identities as being part of a nation. Stravinsky is a composer of nationalism. In following the genre he composed folk songs based on national understanding and pride. One composer who has modernism in his work is Varese. In some of his pieces of music Varese combined a number of “isms”.

There can be heard traits of both, impressionism and primitivism. Due to the unique rhythmic traits in Vareses works it is obvious that they can be considered a primitive piece of work. The sound is irregular, they are very unpredictable and hard to follow. Some of his works have tribal characteristics about them. They defiantly seem foreign to the area where Verese was coming from. His works can be considered somewhat wild.

Impressionism however is also very apparent in the works of Verese. His use of technology and everyday sounds is very apparent and is what gives him the traits of impressionism. He changes the views of many by showing them that a simple everyday sound can be changed it to a piece of music. The use of both styles of modernism in his work makes it very interesting and different.

It is not something that is found in many composers. His work can be considered timeless, some of his music is even considered a masterpiece. It is for sure that because of the uniqueness in it, it will be forever remembered in time.

The Most Important “Isms” of Music in the 20TH Century essay

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The Most Important “Isms” of Music in the 20TH Century. (2018, Nov 03). Retrieved from