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Modern Music and After

Third Edition

Paul Griffiths

Publication Date - February 2011

ISBN: 9780199740505

480 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A fully revised and updated edition of this definitive study of music since the Second World War


Over three decades, Paul Griffiths's survey has remained the definitive study of music since the Second World War; this fully revised and updated edition re-establishes Modern Music and After as the preeminent introduction to the music of our time. The disruptions of the war, and the struggles of the ensuing peace, were reflected in the music of the time: in Pierre Boulez's radical reformation of compositional technique and in John Cage's development of zen music; in Milton Babbitt's settling of the serial system and in Dmitry Shostakovich's unsettling symphonies; in Karlheinz Stockhausen's development of electronic music and in Luigi Nono's pursuit of the universally human, in Iannis Xenakis's view of music as sounding mathematics and in Luciano Berio's consideration of it as language. The initiatives of these composers and their contemporaries opened prospects that haven't yet stopped unfolding.
This constant expansion of musical thinking since 1945 has left us with no singular history of music; Griffiths's study accordingly follows several different paths, showing how and why they converge and diverge. This new edition of Modern Music and After discusses not only the music of the fifteen years that have passed since the previous edition, but also the recent explosion of scholarly interest in the latter half of the twentieth century. In particular, the book has been expanded to incorporate the variety of responses to the modernist impasse experienced by composers of the 1980s and 1990s. Griffiths then moves the book into the twenty-first century as he examines such highly influential composers as Helmut Lachenmann and Salvatore Sciarrino.

For its breadth, wealth of detail, and characteristic wit and clarity, the third edition of Modern Music and After is required reading for the student and the enquiring listener.

New to this Edition

  • Discusses the music of the fifteen years since the publication of the previous edition
  • Addresses the recent and enormous burgeoning of musical scholarship focusing on the latter half of the Twentieth Century
  • Includes a new fourth part: "After Postmodernism: the 1990s and 2000s"


  • Provides the most comprehensive study in English of musical composition from 1945 on
  • Offers a keen examination of how important composers have responded to the constant flux of their cultural environs, both socially and technically
  • Griffiths is considered by many in the field the finest writer on modern "classical" music in the English language today

About the Author(s)

Paul Griffiths is an acclaimed writer on contemporary and classical music whose books include A Concise History of Western Music and The Penguin Companion to Classical Music. He is also known as a librettist (Elliott Carter's What Next?) and novelist. In 2002, Griffiths was honored by the French government as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.


"Recommended for all libraries serving music programs at the undergraduate level or higher. There is a wealth of information here, and few write as knowledgeably and engagingly on new music as Griffiths." --Fontes Artis Musicae

"Griffiths has done an outstanding job of making this music at least intellectually accessible. It is our job as listeners, if we seriously care, to seek it out and try to encounter it on its own terms. Highly recommended for libraries with sections on new music, composition, music theory and contemporary aesthetics/philosophy." --Music Media Monthly

"Modern Music and After remains as close a definitive survey, study, guide and analysis to its field as there is; it can be recommended without reservation. The standards of scholarship and authorship are indeed high....Production standards, are of course, high; and the price is beyond reasonable -- that alone should convince you to buy this third edition, even if you've read the earlier one(s)...the updates and referencing are significant. For a comprehensive, readable, authoritative, entertaining, lively, open-minded and all round well-written book on the development of music in our time, there is no better." --Classical.net

"Recommended for all libraries serving music programs at the undergraduate level or higher. There is a wealth of information here, and few write as knowledgeably and engagingly on new music as Griffiths." --Fontes Artis Musicae

Praise for the first edition:

"Griffiths is excellent about a whole host of composers he admires....Any reader, enthusiast or specialist, will find much to interest and provoke. This book is probably the best of its kind in English today."--Ian Pace, Tempo: Quarterly Review of Modern Music

"Griffiths is so fluent, so practiced a writer in this field that it is understandable if the closest he gets to sceptical disengagement is in suggesting that a composer leaves critics, and even musicologists, lost for words." --Arnold Whittall, The Musical Times

"[A] marvellously thought-provoking and engaging text."--The Musical Times

"A must for the student, and also for the general reader."--The Times

"As impressive for its accuracy, as for the clarity, acumen, and wit of its writing." --Classical Music

Table of Contents


    1. Rational and irrational: western Europe, 1945-50
    Paris, 1945-8 - The young Boulez - Boulez's Second Piano Sonata - Other stories - Musique concrète - Variations: Nono

    2. Silencing music: Cage, 1946-52
    Rhythmic structuring - Towards silence - Around Cage

    3. Total organization: western Europe, 1949-54
    The moment of total serialism 1: Darmstadt 1949 and Darmstadt 1951 - Interlude: the patrons of modernism - The moment of total serialism 2: Paris 1952 - The human voice 1: Nono - Electronic music - The human voice 2: Barraqué

    4. Classic modernism and other kinds: the United States, 1945-55
    Schoenberg - Carter - Babbitt - Home-made music - Wolpe - After silence

    5. The Cold War

    6. Extension and development: western Europe, 1953-6
    From points to groups - Systems of organization - Le Marteau sans maître - Sound and word - ...how time passes... - Statistics


    7. Mobile form: 1956-61
    Cage - Stockhausen and Boulez - Boulez and Berio - Barraqué - Exit from the labyrinth

    8. Elder responses
    Stravinsky - Messiaen - Varèse - Symphonists and others

    9. Reappraisal and disintegration: 1959-64
    Questioning voices: Ligeti, Bussotti, Kagel - Stumbling steps: Kurtág - Listening ears: Cage, Young, Babbitt - Exploiting the moment: Stockhausen - The last concert: Nono


    10. Of elsewhen and elsewhere
    The distant past - (The imaginary past) - The distant or not so distant east - Quotation - Meta-music

    11. Music theatre
    Opera and 'Opera' - Music theatre - Instrumental theatre

    12. Politics
    Cardew - Rzewski - The composer in the factory

    13. Virtuosity and improvisation
    The virtuoso - Virtuosity in question - The electric musician - Improvisation

    14. Orchestras or Computers
    Ochestras - Computer Music

    15. Minimalism and melody
    New York minimalism - Minimalism in Europe - Melody

    16. Ending


    17. Holy Minimalisms
    Pärt - Tavener and Górecki - (Messiaen) - Ustvolskaya

    18. New Romanticisms
    Rihm - Schnittke, and the hectic present - Gubaidulina, and the visionary future - Silvestrov, and the reverberating past - Symphony? - Feldman and loss - Lachenmann and regain

    19. New Simplicities
    Cage, or innocence - Denyer, or outsiderness - Kurtág, or immediacy - Holliger, or extremity - Sciarrino, or intimacy

    20. New Complexities
    Ferneyhough - Finnissy - Charged solos

    21. Old Complexities
    Carter and the poets - Xenakis and the Arditti Quartet - Nono and listening - Stockhausen and Licht - Birtwistle and ritual - Berio and memory - IRCAM and Boulez

    22. Spectralisms
    Radulescu and Tenney - Grisey - Vivier

    23. (Unholy?) Minimalisms
    Reich - Andriessen

    24. Eclecticisms
    Kagel et al. - Donatoni - Bolcom and Adams - Ligeti


    25. Towards mode/meme

    Rootless routes: Ligeti - Memory's memorials: Berio and Kurtág - Remade modes: Adams, Adès, Benjamin - Pesson's past and Pauset's - Traditions' tracks: around Zorn

    26. Towards the strange self
    Act I: Schneewittchen - Entr'acte: Kurtág's Beckett - Act II: Luci mie traditrici - Entr'acte: Birtwistle's Celan - Act III: Three Sisters - Entr'acte: Kyburz's no-one - Act IV: Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern

    27. Towards transcendence
    Gubaidulina and Christ - Haas and darkness - Harvey and the Buddha - Grisey and rebirth


    28. Towards change?