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What Are the Characteristics of Contemporary Music?



Contemporary music is a type of classical music that was invented right after World War

Two. It was described as post-tonal compositions after the death of Anton Webern, well-known for his atonal music composition from the Second Vienna school.


Due to our ever-shortening attention span due to internet stimulation, contemporary music has become less structured compared to before. Contemporary music is defined by the circumstances in which it is composed, performed, or made available for listening.


What is Contemporary Music?


Many people have difficulty describing contemporary music because it often breaks the rules of conventional musical compositions such as tonality and rhythm. Contemporary music can be classified as atonal with percussion lines. There are different types of contemporary from different parts of the world.


When is the Period of Contemporary Music?


Contemporary music started in the 20th century when musicians stepped away from atonal sounds or relied on scales or chromatic compositions. They began to experiment with complex time signatures, complex rhythms, and melodies that don't always follow along with the tonic to the dominant axis.


It does not mean that contemporary music is limited to hip-hop, jazz, or pop just because these genres were composed after 1950. It also isn’t limited to any one genre but represents the music that is still being composed today. Contemporary is an everlasting art form, that will continue to stay popular for quite some time.


What are some of the defining qualities of contemporary music?


These are the following characteristics of contemporary music and not all of them are present in every composition:


  • Pitched percussion

  • Electronic instruments

  • Orchestral instruments

  • Harmonic chord progressions

  • Chromatic and atonal melodies

  • Complex rhythms

  • Greater use of woodwind, and brass

How Pervasive is Contemporary Music?


Some people consider classical music (after 1750) as contemporary music. There are similarities between classical and contemporary music in that they both incorporate complex harmonies and chord progressions.


For those who do not consider contemporary music as classical, they would say that contemporary music is not always tonal, has complex melodies, and relies more on rhythm and percussion compared to harmony and orchestration.


Today’s contemporary music is integral to people’s lives. It represents emotions and ideas that help connect people through a means of expression. Contemporary music is continuously evolving as each generation brings its own flavour and sound to this ever-growing genre.


Contemporary Music Composers


Some of the more famous contemporary music composers are film score composers such as Philip Glass, Ennio Morricone, and John Williams. These three composers have worked on some of the most memorable movies in modern times: Star Wars, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.


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