The 20th century soon brought a reorientation of the musical composition and the perception of sound. In Vienna, A. Schönberg found after the dissolution of the previous harmonic norms for atonal sounds and around 1920 for the twelve-tone technique, a development that his students A. von Webern and A. Berg, who with his opera Wozzeck (1925) were the most important opera composer of his Time is considered to be creatively modified. Inspired by them are inter alia. the works ofB. Blacher and W. Fortner, to whom P. Hindemith a system of free tonality (free tonal music) opposed. Following on from the musical youth movement, he formed a musical style that was freed from romantic subjectivism and aimed at the ideal of pre-classical craftsmanship. With a completely different impetus, however, H. Eisler developed new forms and means, especially in vocal music, and became, alongside P. Dessau, the most important representative of music with revolutionary content. K. Weill also pursued a socially critical, humanistic direction.
Especially in Germany in 1933, the composers recognized too late that these efforts to create “German” music could be instrumentalized and that an alternative interpretation of the term, no matter how much it was shared by influential groups of musicians, was no longer possible. Wherever crimes and barbarism were to be justified in the “German” name, there was no longer any possibility of proclaiming any other connotation of national factors. It was the conviction of the virulence of the tradition of “great art” that prompted a large number of composers (if not party members) around 1933 to come to terms with the National Socialist rulers, who were simply not believed to be a “great one.” «History emphatically misused German art and music for their own purposes. Unable, degenerate music).
The stronger was 1945, recourse to methods twelve-tone composing as an explicit statement of the new beginning, the same is often recorded from or conflict with traditional techniques, a restocking: so with the decided anti-twelve-tone W. Killmayer; with P. Jarnach, W. Braunfels, C. Orff and W. Egk, who renewed the music theater; with E. Pepping and H. Distler, who gave Protestant church music new impulses, and with H. W. Henze, who next to A. Reimann belongs to the central composer figures in the second half of the 20th century. Writing in an individual personal style beyond all schools, they, like V. D. Kirchner, shaped the contemporary opera in particular.
In contrast, the composers of the serial music developed since 1950 (G. Klebe, H. Lachenmann, N. A. Huber) as well as the electronic (K. Stockhausen, Y. Höller) and electroacoustic music renounced essential elements of the traditional musical composition such as theme and development, and ultimately also on closed form. This resulted, inter alia. on collage techniques as with B. A. Zimmermann, R. Riehm and H. Zender as well as on new types of notation up to musical graphics. The search for new clay materials and compositional methods was increasingly also empirical and experimental. This applies e.g. B. for the aleatoric, which leaves the execution largely to the interpreter and thus to random, improvisational design. Sometimes the handling of given elements is left to the computer (computer music). Further impulses come from spatial sound effects (R. Gehlhaar) and alienated speech sounds. Live electronics have become an important part of the way new compositions are performed.
As representatives of a New Simplicity, W. Rihm and M. Trojahn, who composed in an expressive, postmodern style, drew attention, while D. Schnebel carried out sonic experiments and P. M. Hamel developed his concept of “integral music”.
The avant-garde circles in the 1970s devoted themselves particularly to multimedia art with the most varied forms of musical actions (J. A. Riedl). Since the mid-1970s there have been efforts by a younger generation of composers who are trying to overcome the post-serial and aleatoric compositional processes, which they consider to be insufficiently informative, by turning to new expressive music of an expressive, sometimes lyrical kind, whereby also tonality-related harmonic structures as well as non-European and jazz elements should be included (W. Heider, H.-J. von Bose et al.). In addition to the pure instrumental music (especially by Kagel) the scenic music (instrumental theater) i.a. by H.-J. Hespos and H. Goebbels further developed.