This chapter surveys major developments in the history and theorisation of music across the first half of the twentieth century. Schoenberg’s interpretation of musical dissonance facilitates discussion of Schoenberg’s own innovations in musical composition, and those of composers with whom he is associated, including Webern. Efforts at ‘modernising’ music other than Schoenberg’s are next considered under the rubrics of pitch (and pitch division), rhythm, timbre, timbre and instrumentation: key figures in these discussions include Ezra Pound, Stravinsky, and Luigi Russolo. Béla Bartók’s activities as both an ethnomusicological archivist of ‘folk’ music and a composer, lead into sustained discussion of sound recording technologies such as the gramophone, and their use to both preserve and (countervailingly) substantially inform the music they record. One musical genre decisively inflected in this way is jazz, which the chapter explores via a range of period commentary, both pejorative and positive, and in discursive contexts ranging from the musicological to the sociological. The theme of music’s ‘writerability,’ via musical notation and other means, is a theme throughout the chapter; the chapter concludes with discussion of how jazz, blues and other musical genres are treated by literary writers, including Langston Hughes, Hart Crane and T. S. Eliot.
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