Lecture 31

The American Sound; Ultra-Modernism—       The Next Generation

From Schoenberg I learned that tradition is a home we must love and forgo.                —Lukas Foss


music in the postmodern age

In this lecture, we hear how 2 of the most important American composers of the mid-20th century, William Schuman and Samuel Barber, along with Copland, helped to create the “American” sound; 

then we look at examples from the next generation of ultra-modernists

Topics covered:

  • the American sound
  • William Schuman, Chester from New England Triptych
  • Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings
  • John Cage
  • prepared piano
  • indeterminacy (aleatoric or chance music)


  • hear and distinguish the "American" sound
  • appreciate the experimental spirit and understand the means to produce the new sounds of John Cage


  • watch lecture 31 (in multiple parts for quicker download)
  • review previous chapters, as necessary
  • read textbook, Chapters 28 and 27, respectively
  • As you are reading your textbook, go through the Listening Exercises in textbook sequence, listening to the examples provided.
  • regarding developing listening skills: you should be in the habit of developing your listening skills early in the game - the assignments will get more complex through the semester and you may find yourself unable to keep up. As simple as these early assignments may seem to some of you, they will help to keep you on the right track, and help you develop the skills required for a greater appreciation in listening to music, including the music that you listen to for your own enjoyment. Of course, those objectives are in total sync with the success you hope to have in this class. Remember that your ability to recognize the music on your CDs will be tested and will, of course, impact your grade. 

Audio / Video lecture

you know the drill

Lecture 31.1

The American Sound

This space awaits a future lecture segment (31.2) 
Do not panic. There is no segment missing.
31.3 Post-Modernism 
Ultra-Modernism — The next generation