Search for a new sound in the 20th century
The current search for timbre moves to other areas and is associated with the emergence of two completely new ways of making music for the European history of music. The first of them was called the “ensemble of soloists.” In such an ensemble all the instruments of the symphony orchestra (or most of them) are presented, but in a single copy; in most cases, such a team is led by a conductor. Unlike an orchestra, there is no traditional division into “accompanists” and “regulators”. Each of the musicians is able to play very complex parts both on the main instrument and on various kinds (for example, in the order of things, for example, a situation where a flutist plays a large flute, piccolo, alto and bass flutes during one composition).
Since its inception, this type of ensemble has gained enormous popularity in music practice and a vast repertoire, the lion’s share of which can already be considered classical music of the 20th century. One of the first works for such a composition was the Arnold Schoenberg Chamber Symphony op. 9 (1906). It was followed by a boom of chamber symphonies and compositions for compositions of this kind (with or without vocals) that did not pass Russia either: Chamber symphonies by Roslavets and Popov, Schoenberg’s “Lunar Pierrot”, Stravinsky’s “Tale of the Soldier”, Webern Symphony op. 21, etc. It is rather difficult to say what was the root cause: the new ideas of composers, the interest of performers or the new economic conditions that compelled authors to write for modest compositions during the period of two world wars. Probably, as always happens when a new significant global phenomenon appears, a number of factors acted.
I must say that until now the ensemble of soloists remains the leading composition in modern music. Among the most famous groups are the French InterContemporain (created by Pierre Boulez), the German Ensemble Modern and MusikFabrik, the Austrian Klangforum Wien, the Dutch Schoenberg Ensemble …
The musician of such an ensemble is called upon to replace an entire group of a symphony orchestra. Thus, the instrumental practice of the 20th century does not develop “in breadth”, but “in depth”, that is, it does not go along the path of increasing the number of tools, but along the path of deepening the possibilities of each of them. So, musical instruments develop a technique that allows, on the one hand, to compare the sounds of different instruments to each other and, on the other hand, to “liken” similar, identical instruments or even the same instrument in sound.
Accordingly, special demands are made on the musician: he must be an excellent ensemble, be able to communicate with the conductor and perform parts of an almost solo difficulty level. It is hardly possible to demand such an orchestra from the musicians, but the ensemble of soloists is a great opportunity for the performer to show all his skills, and for the composer to realize the most daring ideas in the part of each instrument, including those related to new playing techniques.
In a separate subgroup, you can select the area for creating new tones by introducing musical instruments into the design. This way is connected not with a new way of playing, but with an attempt to make changes to the instrument construction: a prepared piano, a disassembled clarinet, connection of parts of different instruments, etc., that is, “instrument-making” by performing means. The origins of such tricks can be seen, for example, in the use of mutes in strings and wind instruments.
The second important direction in which active timbre searches appeared in the 20th century is connected with the development of electronics. The latter made it possible to create both new types of sound synthesis and new (non-mechanical) methods for its amplification and transformation. Initially, the inventors of electronic instruments sought to create new unusual musical instruments. The very first of them is a huge optical “organ” telharmonium, invented already in 1897 by the American Thaddeus Cahill. Subsequently, a variophone, trautonium, theremin, Marteno waves and others were invented. Then it turned out that the form of a “musical instrument” is not necessary for creating electronic sound and is more likely to be a design subject. This “design” of sound production is closely related to the category of performance that electronic music called into question shortly after its occurrence. This was reflected in the emergence of a new, mainly studio, rather than concert form of music — the author’s phonogram and the associated tape music genre (literally “tape music”, that is, an composition originally created for recording on tape and its subsequent reproduction). Such works were created in large studios, which played the role of a giant musical instrument.