Chapter

Dane Rudhyar’s Vision of Dissonance

Carol J. Oja

in Making Music Modern

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780195058499
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865031 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195058499.003.0007
Dane Rudhyar’s Vision of Dissonance

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Noise was but one tool for modernist composers in the early 20th century. For many, the principal challenge came in devising alternatives to the tonal system on which much Western music had been based. One particular group of Americans—the “ultra-moderns”—took this mission especially seriously. Including composers who spanned a range of styles, the ultra-moderns seized experimentation as their rallying cry, and dissonance as their ideal. One facet of the ultra-moderns' music—especially that of Carl Ruggles, Henry Cowell, and Ruth Crawford—has been largely forgotten over time: the degree to which they associated dissonance with spirituality. In this realm, the French-American composer and philosopher Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) became their quiet leader. Although Rudhyar's perspective represented only one part of ultra-modernism in the United States, it was influential for a time, and affected the way some of the most difficult strains of new music were being composed and perceived. All in all, Rudhyar fused an abundant array of ideas and influences into a distinctive vision of American dissonance.

Keywords: Dane Rudhyar; dissonance; composers; ultra-modernism; modernist music; spirituality; new music; United States; theosophy; tone

Chapter.  5704 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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