The 20 Most Influential Composers of the 20th Century

(A personal perspective)

(no specific order)

1. Claude Debussy -  revolt against German Romanticism; use of alternate scale forms

2. Maurice Ravel - (as above); more daring with dissonance; a great orchestrator

3. Erik Satie -  the "prophet" of simplicity; began movement away from pretentiousness and sentimentality

4. Paul Hindemith - put into practice the teaching of progressive theories of music education

5. Igor Stravinsky - reacted against Post-Romantic chromaticism;  his innovation of polytonality; his willingness to grow and change as a composer

6. Béla Bártok - incorporation of folk tunes/modes; his innovation of polymodality

7. Arnold Schoenberg -  atonal-expressionism - no distinction between consonance and dissonance; his 12-tone method

8. Anton Webern - extreme brevity/compression/economy; unusual instrumentation

9. Alban Berg - humanized the abstract procedures of the 12-tone technique

10. John Cage -  prepared piano; explorations with silence;  indeterminacy; unconventional philosophy of art and music

11. Edgar Varése - emphasis on rhythm and percussion;  sound masses; divergence from melody and harmony

12. Karlheinz Stockhausen - total serialization; electronics; spatial modulation

13. Nadia Boulanger - influenced many composers as a composition teacher

14. Pierre Boulez - his activities as a conductor allowed him to promote contemporary music

15. Philip Glass - an early minimalist; additive rhythm process;  innovations in music for the stage

16. Steve Reich -  innovation of "phase shifting"

17. Aaron Copland - reemphasis on traditional musical vocabulary;  composing in the "American vernacular";  incorporating subjects and styles that were strictly American

18. Benjamin Britten - a dynamic force in contemporary opera

19. Leonard Bernstein - contributions to the American theater; advocate of an "American opera" style; use of multiple meters for     theatrical dance

20. George Gershwin - incorporation of jazz into other mediums (orchestral, opera)