Influences | Medieval Influence | Medieval Era | Classical
Composers of the twentieth century and up to the present have often been drawn to the music of the medieval and Renaissance periods. A relatively early example is Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971), who became interested in the fourteenth-century technique of hocket and in the harmonic experiments of the Italian composer Carlo Gesualdo (c. 1561–1613). Hocket has since inspired many composers, both modernist (Harrison Birtwistle, b. 1934, for instance, in his Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum, 1984) and minimalist (Louis Andriessen, b. 1939: Hocketus). The canonic processes of Ockeghem find their way into the Requiem of 1963–65 by György Ligeti (1923–2006), and even the ‘Caput’ plainchant melody turns up in Unsichtbare Farben (‘Invisible Colours’) by Brian Ferneyhough (b. 1943). The possible list is extensive and includes neo-tonal composers like Arvo Pärt (b. 1935, who draws on the music of Perotin), Steve Reich (b. 1936) and Alfred Schnittke (1934–98). The diversity of styles is perhaps surprising, but composers are often drawn to the same music for entirely different reasons. Perhaps the common thread engaging their fascination is that so-called ‘early music’ suggests alternatives to the principle of thematic development (structuring music by the development of themes) that is typical of most tonal composition: for example, considerations of sonority, texture or notation.
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