Theories of Musical Composition in the 20th Century

  • Finished Projects

This editorial project began in 2003 and aimed to publish a substantial panorama of the main compositional theories of the 20th century. While certain theoretical corpora have been broadly published and commentated (e.g. Schoenberg, Xenakis, Boulez, Stockhausen), others, just as important for history and the musical aesthetic, remain relatively unknown due to a lack of available introductory texts. Until this book, neither musicians nor musicologists did have a comprehensive reference source on the fertile relationship between composition and theory during the last century.

Even so, the fertility of this relationship was a determining factor in the development of contemporary music, and particularly of computer-music. Crossing historical musicology, discourse analysis and musical analysis, the volumes edited by N. Donin and L. Feneyrou were intended to fill the void with a collective reference publication on the compositional theories of past century—a century characterized by a profusion of writings by artists, aesthetic manifests defining musical techniques and technologies, and research carried out on compositional systems.

Sixty international specialists have come together to address, on one hand, compositional theories specific to an individual or a school—from Schoenberg to Hindemith to Carter to Rihm —and on the other hand, the categories and problems that surfaced throughout the century such as algorithmic music, musical theater, live electronics, or spectralism. Theoretical corpora unknown in French, sometimes unpublished, are presented alongside the most widely explored themes by musicologists during the past 40 years.

The contributions offer a synthetic presentation, both technical and historical, of these notions and/ or doctrines, based on the most current knowledge about the articles, manifests, etc. on the composers studied. The level of diversity of the participants reflects different aspects of 20th century musicology, from Philippe Albèra to Elena Ungeheuer, from Angelo Orcalli to Richard Toop. Éditions Symétrie published this two volumes, 1 900-pages book, in 2013.

IRCAM's Team: Analysis of Musical Practices team

Start date : 2003 / End date : 2013

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