Sometime soon somebody will have to come up with a new term for this period which
essentially encompases the 20th Century. Stravinsky
and Debussy where among the first 'modernists', but
to describe the music these composers wrote upto 100 years ago as modern seems to
stretch the term.
As with other art forms, the modern period began as composers began to break down the
traditional boundaries that had surrounded their art for several centuries.
Debussy challenged the traditional harmonic language of music by introducing new scales such as the
whole tone scale and the octatonic, whilst also radically shaking up the formal layout of his
music - no Symphonies or 3 movement Concertos for Debussy, but more a flexible
and fluid approach. Stravinsky, in ground-breaking Rite of Spring (1913) conducted
a similar attack on the tradidional 4-square approach to rhythm.
He split up beats into uneven 'additive' chunks, and was
highly influential on composers throughout
the rest of the Century.