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Influential Composers Of The Late 20th Century

Composers’ techniques matured throughout the 20th century, as did listeners’ ears.Thus, it becomes progressively harder to pinpoint influential musicians.One must distinguish between those simply continuing the modern tradition, and those truly breaking barriers.

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Robert Dick, dubbed “Hendrix of the flute” is one obvious boundary-breaker. (Dick)Born in New York City, Dick’s studies at the School for Music and Art were supplemented by lessons with acclaimed flutists Henry Zlotnik and Julius Baker.He attended Yale, receiving a B.A. in 1971 and a composition Master’s in 1973.

Dick’s most notable contribution to music is his revolution of the flute.He realized the flute’s limited color palette and one-note-at-a-time capability was incompatible with “an environment where the pace of change is accelerating…The flute sound of the future will be yet more powerful and colorful…” (Dick).Inspired by world music, jazz, rock, and electronic music, Dick made accessible the colorful extended technique spectrum: jet whistles, harmonics, throat tuning, multiphonics, whisper tones, circular breathing.Dick did not INVENT all these techniques.(Circular breathing has been a long-established tradition—especially for Bulgarian kaval flutes and Rajasthan’s Narh flutes).But, it is through Dick’s advocacy that these techniques are becoming accepted practice.His tutorial method books have been hailed “the definitive instructor” (Dick).

Circular Breathing for the Flutist provides detailed analysis of the technique, visual aids, and step-by-step instruction that focuses on developing correct embouchure before applying more detailed coordination.After only 6 months of daily 10-15 minute practice, f…

…t to his/her time.Rent, the modern version of Puccini’s La Boehme, unabashedly brings hush-hush issues of AIDS, drug addiction, and homosexual relationships to the forefront, without alienating audiences.He juxtaposes poignant melodies and clear harmonies with jarring subject matter and explosive characters that choose to revel in love, pain, and survival.Larson’s contribution shows that being artistically cultured does not mean ignoring reality.

Of the three New Yorkers mentioned, Copland was most influential.Without his pioneering music in the early half of the century, American music might never have established its own flavor.Without his advocacy of advancement in the second half of the century, techniques such as Robert Dick’s or Jonathan Larson’s might not have had such a strong base on which to be established nor been accepted by ever-maturing audiences.

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