The final episode of The Sound and the Fury broadcast on BBC Four on Tuesday 26 February 2013. Following the turmoil of totalitarianism and war, Easy Listening looks at how post-war composers began to bring back elements of rhythm, metre and harmony to music.
The series concludes with the focus shifting to the United States in the post-war years of the 1950s and beyond. Beginning with arguably the most notorious work of 20th century classical music, John Cage’s ‘silent’ composition 4’33”, it looks at how a series of maverick Americans re-invented the sound of classical music into a more simple form, bringing back harmonies and rhythms that made it increasingly popular with audiences across the world. It also examines how this music found its way into a spiritual realm, with the strain of pared-down religious composition that came to be known as ‘holy minimalism’.
From the Maverick concert hall in Woodstock, New York to an Orthodox cathedral in Estonia to a car park in Peckham, south London, the story is told by a stellar line-up of contributors including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams, Arvo Pärt and John Tavener.
There is still time to catch up with previous episodes. Free for all looks at how the freewheeling modernism that had shocked, scandalised and titillated audiences in the first two decades of the 20th century comes under state control. Initially, many practitioners thought the totalitarian regimes would be good for music and the arts. What followed in Germany was a ban on music written by Jews, African-Americans and communists, while in the Soviet Union there was a prohibition on music the workers were unable to hum. In the USA, many composers voluntarily embraced music for the masses.
The weekend of 2-3 March sees Berlin in the ’20s and ’30s at the Southbank Centre, with events and talks from 10am-6pm.
The Rest Is Noise year long music festival is a major collaboration between the Open University, the Southbank Centre, BBC and London Philharmonic Orchestra. The academic consultant for both the Festival and The Sound and the Fury series is Dr Ben Winters (Music Department, Open University). Find out more on our dedicated pages on OpenLearn.