Contemporary Classical Music Terms

On the right a sound synthesizer, on the left ...Image via Wikipedia

Some Contemporary Classical Terms

The last half of the twentieth century to present day has been affected immensely by technology and globalization. In other words, the clearer definitions of the terms "classical music", "world music", "electronic music", "popular music", and "western music" have been blurred immensely. Typically, in the US at least, classical composers can usually be distinguished by their training and the medium they compose for the most.

Here are some different terms:

  • Contemporary classical music: Art music (of any country) that uses compositional practices from the last few decades
  • New Music: Art music from living composers
  • Electronic music: Any music using electronics (can be popular or classical music)
  • Electroacoustic music: Typically art music including electronic and live components
  • Film music: Music composed for film
  • Soundscape: Typically electronic music which imitates a specific sound environment, real or imagined (ex. nature)
  • World music: Antiquated term referring to nonwestern music
  • Digital Music: Electronic music using digital electronics (ex. computer)
  • Avant-Garde Music: Usually art music that is considered cutting edge and not mainstream
  • Experimental Music: Another name for avant-garde
  • New media: Visual art term that deals with television, film, video, web design, and any emerging type of media
  • Multimedia: Works often incorporating standalone audiovisual elements
  • Intermedia: Works often incorporating interdependent audiovisual elements
  • Interdisciplinary: Works crossing disciplines (ex. dance and video, music and paintings, etc.)

And this is just a small sampling of what is happening in the world of classical music. I consider my own work intermedia, where each element needs the other elements to work. Most of my works are either electronic with video or large scale electronic works with video and live performers. Occasionally I include actors or performance artists (visual artists who incorporate dramatic elements into their art). A few of my works have had dance. My first forty or so works were strictly acoustic, then I began experimenting with electronics and was hooked.

Check out the American Music Center. Thousands of living composers have their bios, articles, and music available on the AMC. You can find almost anything and they have some amazing insights into contemporary classical music.

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