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Modernism matters

Most people are tempted to consign musical modernism to the lumber room of history. Music still needs the modernists' spirit of adventure

By Ivan Hewett   June 2000

Almost half a century ago, Arnold Schoenberg, the man who for so many epitomised the horror and ugliness of modern music, died in Los Angeles. He had brought to music previously unknown emotions of panic and terror, and had dissolved the comforting security of the old forms and harmonies into a disconcerting dream-like fluidity. During the 1920s he set out to order the new musical world with the so-called “12-note technique.” But having launched a musical revolution, Schoenberg flunked it. That, at least, was the view of the 26-year- old Pierre Boulez, who greeted the news of Schoenberg’s death with…

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