Modern music: the grandest and most spectacular works

Ever since WW2 ended, there has been an obvious need for dramatic and spectacular music. This helps us cope with the dramatic changes that the world wars and the cold war brought about. Music has the power to make expressive statements. Even though minimalism can be nice, we always seem to come back to those comprehensive, larger-than-life works. And sometimes, we are just more entertained by the whole concept of more is more. That is why this week, we decided to list some of the grandest, most captivating modern music works.

Grand modern music examples

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93

Shostakovich’s 10th symphony from 1948 is, according to experts, a portrait of Stalin. Especially the incredibly dramatic and intense Allegro, which begins in fortissimo and has 50 crescendos, but only two diminuendos. Musicologists claim that the Allegro depicts the anger the composer felt towards Stalin.

And he was right to be upset. The dictator ruled the country with an iron fist. When he died, so many hysterical people turned up to mourn at his funeral, that the authorities used tanks to try and keep them away from the procession. Unfortunately, hundreds of people were crushed to death.

Stockhausen: Licht

Light: The seven days of the week is the full English name of Stockhausen’s opera cycle Licht. It contains seven operas, one for every day of the week, and was a long-term project that Stockhausen worked on between 1977 and 2003. Each day’s music is inspired by traditional mythology related to that weekday. Monday is the moon, Tuesday is Mars, Wednesday is Mercury, and so on.

Stockhausen believed that each day of the week has an intuitive meaning we are unconsciously aware of. He tried to portray this in his operas. There are also religious themes intertwined, with characters such as Eve, Michael and Lucifer.

Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus

If you ask Harrison Birtwistle what he thinks about chronological order, he will probably shake his head and ask you to look up The Mask of Oprheus. This opera explores the myth of Orpheus by breaking it up and looking at the contradictions that appear in different versions of the story. The stage features different areas where different parts of the action take place. And to make it even more complicated, there are three different versions of the three main characters.

Musically, the opera is innovative and contains elements of electronic music. Each act has its own electronic ‘aura’, which is always present in the background, although sometimes inaudibly. The entire opera is full of constantly new impressions that may get a bit overwhelming, but never lose their fascinating element.

Davies: Eight Songs for a Mad King

Can a monodrama, featuring only one person, be any good? Yes! Simply include a mad king, like the one in this work, and things can get very interesting! Music, screaming, and musicians in large birdcages mixed with complete madness makes this one-man show something you must experience! Comes complete with the smashing of a violin! Other than the obvious humor, there are a lot of serious moments, too, and they are exceptionally difficult to perform.

Glass: Einstein On the Beach

Imagine a five-hour avant-garde opera without intervals and plot. Now imagine that it’s all about Albert Einstein. Not simply as a biography, but rather as the almost mythological image we have of him, a major representative of science and intelligence. Einstein On the Beach is as experimenting as an opera can get, and has three environments: a train, a court, and a spaceship. The ‘70s were definitely a captivating decade!

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