composition for the 20th century

no but imagine this: the grisha trilogy…. as a ballet. it’s already got the russian aspect. it’s steampunk so it’ll have incredible costumes. it supposedly takes place in the early 20th century so the orchestral composition would be stunning. not to mention, the darkling and alina have that sorrowful relationship where they contrast one another but still bear the same burden which reminds me of swan lake. okay I’ve said my piece, someone please make this happen now.

Girl Writing (1917). Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862-1938). Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tarbell’s compositions of the 20th century reveal the strong influence of 17th-century Dutch masters like Jan Vermeer, whose interiors capture similar moments of calm domesticity. In this intimate scene, the artist’s daughter glances up from her writing, her gaze engaging the viewer. This fashionable figure in modern attire is a striking contrast to the Colonial Revival furniture that surrounds her.

10 neoclassical composers who will blow your mind

Written by Ramona Curmi

These classical wunderkinds prove that contemporary music isn’t always spiky, melody-lite and inaccessible to the average music lover. 

Hailing from the country that has more musicians per capita than any place in the world, Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic composer and electronic producer. His work draws influence from minimalism and baroque, and uses classical orchestration with electronics to build ambience. His elegant sound swells with emotion, haunting the soul and evoking feelings of melancholia.

Composer and pianist Max Richter has an immense portfolio. He’s composed countless film scores, collaborated on albums with 90s drum and bass legend Roni Size, written an opera, composed albums of his own heady blend of post-ambient soundscapes and electronic atmosphere, and most recently has Recomposed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Winter III is his favourite movement from the album, and we agree - have a listen.

Nils Frahm’s musical influences are diverse. He was trained in piano by the last scholar of Tchaikovsky, and grew up listening neo-classical and jazz legends like Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt and Chick Corea but was also heavily influenced by the trance sound of the 90s. Frahm’s curiosity for creating new sounds led him to apply delays and analogue synthesizers to his solo piano works, to layer and blend a unique brand of classically-infused lush, emotional soundscapes.

A multidisciplinary artist, Mira Calix’s work moves from ambient electronica and sound+art installations to classical instrumentation for small orchestras. Having released music on the Warp label since 1998, her early music tends towards electronica. Recent years have seen Mira incorporate classical orchestration into her work for installation pieces, film soundtracks, theatre and opera.

Oliver Coates plays the cello and produces electronic music. He’s collaborated with contemporary artists, bands and ensembles like London Sinfonietta, Mira Calix and Boards of Canada, Johnny Greenwood, Goldie, Massive Attack and Sigur Rós as well as more traditional composers such as Thomas Ades. His music can move from drone-like industrial sounds, toward ambient treatments of classical instrumentation, peppered with micro electronics.

Eluvium, aka Matthew Cooper, is a man of many monikers - each incarnation of his musical self renders an intricately different sound. His symphonic guitar pieces have been compared to the work of Brian Eno, with twinges of Aphex Twin-esque electronics. Working an experimentally, minimal vibe, Eluvium’s music infuses wailing guitars, emotive pianos and classical instrumentation to create ambient washes that send shivers up your spine.

Hauschka is a German experimental pianist and electronic producer who specialises in the art of the ‘prepared piano’, that is, treating the hammers and strings in order to produce a desired sound. His compositions are reminiscent of composers Erik Satie or Philip Glass, taking classical techniques and seamlessly blending them with pop and electronic sensibilities. Check out this beautifully produced video of a prepared piano in action.

Another multi-talented composing wunderkind, Nico Muhly spent six years working with Philip Glass and has collaborated with myriad popular artists from Bjork, Grizzly Bear and Antony and the Johnsons to Sufjan Stevens and, believe it or not, Usher. He’s written for a number of films and just recently composed a full opera. He commonly blends traditionally composed classical for small ensembles with electronics.

Ólafur Arnalds is a multi-instrumentalist and producer from Iceland who composes music primarily for strings and piano, mixing them with loops and beats. Often cited alongside contemporary Nils Frahm, Arnalds music is as sweeping and emotive, but he came to the neoclassical genre in a slightly more roundabout way. He was commissioned to write for strings and piano when fellow rock musicians heard his solo demo…and the rest is history. Arnalds has been writing and producing solo albums since 2008, has written for film and recently collaborated with the above-mentioned Frahms.


An American chamber music group, Rachel’s is heavily influenced by the sound of 20th century classical composition including, most notably, the work of British composer and film scorer, Michael Nyman. The result is a dark fusion of classical and experimental sounds. Sadly, Rachel’s founding member, Jason Noble, passed away in 2012 of a rare form of cancer.

For my next article I decided to switch it up and present a larger-scale work. This is a 10-minute orchestral work which I wrote in the beginning of this year which I will likely turn into the first movement of a symphony, though the rest has not yet been written.

In writing this, I wanted to create a large-scale work that would fit the traditions of a first movement of a symphony, but have a more gentle style the typical fanfare-like beginnings. I was not inspired by any particular composer, but in hindsight I see influences from composers such as Tchaikovsky and Strauss.

Written based on simple sonata form, this piece’s primary theme is based on the motif of a dropping tone from B to A, which is soon developed by the oboe gentle disjunct rhythmically ambiguous melody, which is then repeated and further developed by the flute. After a quite dramatic set of build-ups and diminuendos, the piece takes a turn for the chromatic with a bridge section marked Mystérieusement which leads us to the second theme, a simple B major melody accompanied by a quieter countermelody.

The point at which I start the development section is up for debate – I abruptly interrupt this second theme to provide a climactic Majestueux return of the first theme followed by a dénouement in which the orchestra highlights the tonic key with a serious of D major chords in semibreve/whole note and triplet rhythms. One could also argue, however, that my development begins with the clarinet/viola duet at bar 106. One should remember when analysing a piece that a composer neither analyses their own piece while writing it nor limits themself to the restrictions of a specific form.

The development lasts a relatively short amount of time by my standards, but to make up there is quite a lot more elements of development in the exposition and recapitulation sections, especially with regard to the first theme.

At the end, I suppose you could say I failed at avoiding the fanfare-like style, with a massive melodramatic fanfare-like ending. To my defence, however, I did say I only wanted to avoid the fanfare-like beginnings.

Richard B. ( @you-had-me-at-e-flat-major )

Made with SoundCloud
Developer Retrospective: The God of Crawling Eyes

It’s been a while since I did the last one of these, and Jimmy’s progress is a bit slow right now because I’ve been grading lots of essays, so why not talk about another one of my oldies?

What is The God of Crawling Eyes?

When I first found out about, it happened to be around October and had a little Halloween horror game contest that was about to start up, so I figured entering it would be a good way for me to make myself known to the community and maybe stir up some interest in A Very Long Rope.  I had about a month to crank out a game, and I ended up producing The God of Crawling Eyes in about three weeks because of work.  I had no clue that horror games had a thriving community, so the game that I spent the least amount of time on ended up being my most played.  Here’s some stuff I learned from the experience:

Nobody on the Internet cares about your development time.  Nobody cares about your limitations or if this was your first game.  If your game somehow manages to break outside of your bubble of friends and fellow devs, everyone is going to judge it based on its own merits and weigh it against every other game that exists.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make games to learn and grow, but if you put something in a public forum, people might just end up playing it, and you’re going to need to develop some thick skin; luckily, I’d put my work on the line a bunch in creative writing workshops, so I was used to being under the magnifying glass, but I could see how a younger dev might not be emotionally prepared to have their work dissected by strangers.  One of the most shocking things for me when putting The God of Crawling Eyes was that, within a week or so, I saw someone on Youtube playing it and translating it to German.  It’s easy to forget that The Internet gives you a potentially global reach.

Work within your own limitations.  Experimenting is great, and I think that you should stick your fingers in every part of making a game, but when you’re making something that’s expressly for other people or you’re working against a hard deadline, it’s time to use your past experience to make the best game you can.  One of the smartest decisions I made with The God of Crawling Eyes was keeping everything in black and white.  I built the game around a character who was color blind, so there was a clear story reason for it, and it allowed me to get around my weakest area of game dev (art).  Tiles were pretty simple, and character sprites and face sets were simply generated sprites that got thrown into MS Paint and saved as monochrome.  It ended up looking pretty decent other than a few things here and there (I would have cleaned up the giant monster dog sprite, for instance), and it let me focus more on showcasing my strengths.

Never underestimate knowledge.  Like, seriously: if you’re younger, just learn things.  Hell, if you’re older, you shouldn’t neglect learning new things, either.  And, I don’t just mean learn about game dev; you’ll be surprised how often you can reach back into your knowledge base and pull out bits and pieces and synthesize them into something interesting.  You find ways to use what you know–it’s just how your brain works.  A lot of people scoff at math, for example, but using math and, more importantly, the logical way of problem solving that math teaches, will help you do some really interesting stuff in game dev.  For The God of Crawling Eyes’s soundtrack, I was able to think back to what I learned in a 20th century composition course I took in college and pull from texture/density and 12-tone music.  Those aren’t forms of music I would have been exposed to in a normal setting, and the soundtrack kind of makes the game.  Now that I’m working on Jimmy, I’ve been influenced by way more.  It took me a while to get the track I’m working on now heading in the right direction, but what started making it click was thinking about having essentially two different songs playing simultaneously, which is something Charles Ives was doing forever ago and something I didn’t think I would ever use, but here I am.

Spend a long time in the planning process.  I was on a deadline, so I planned out The God of Crawling Eyes in about five/six hours.  Since I didn’t think about the amount of people who would actually play the damn thing, I wish I would have taken another full day to hammer out some stuff.  I would have designed the early game to have more gameplay to better teach the players how the game operates, for instance.  Or, I would have made the lengthy dialogue-heavy scenes skippable and added more to the game in terms of the effect of your choices so as to further underscore the theme and give players more to chew on for multiple play throughs.

Telegraph the properties of interactable objects to your players.  For the most part, I think that the gameplay side of The God of Crawling Eyes is a little rough around the edges but gets the job done, but there are some things where people got stuck that I wish I would have handled differently.  The big one is that, at one point, you have to push a file cabinet in front of a door.  I made the player have to push an object earlier in the game, but I should have made them push a cabinet for some reason.  If a character was looking for a key or something, and I made a shining spot that you could see peeking out from under a file cabinet, players would naturally push the cabinet and “cabinets can be pushed” would be filed into the backs of their brains.  I guess that probably a better way of putting this is “keep player psychology in mind.”

I think that’s about it for this one!  The God of Crawling Eyes was a pretty short game that was mostly in my safe zone, so it didn’t have as much impact on me as A Very Long Rope, but it was still an interesting experience that opened me up to the horror side of the RPG Maker community, which is something that’s coloring my work on Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass in a more nuanced, interesting way.  I’m super grateful that the community picked up The God of Crawling Eyes and gave it a play!


Single release Depeche Mode‘John The Revelator | Lilian’ 5|6|2006

John the Revelator/Lilian” is the 2nd Double A-sided single released by Depeche Mode and are both from their 2005 album Playing The Angel. While the Depeche Mode track known as “John the Revelator” should be considered a novel composition written by Martin Gore, the song has its origins in an early 20th-century gospel/folk song famously performed by Son House, blind willie johnson and later by such acts as The Holy Modal Rounders, The Blues Brothers and John Mellencamp, with each new version adding or ignoring the original lyrics if not the original context. Similarly, the Depeche Mode track employs several elements of the namesake including the call-and-response chorus (“who’s that shouting? John the Revelator”)

Highest Chart Peakings: #1 Denmark and  #2 Spain

The Remixes of the single includes some stunning versions, but also a breathless taking ‘Bare Version’ of the PTA album-track ‘Nothing’s Impossible",

link via youtube;

The Reader (c.1914-1915). Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940). Pastel.

Vuillard retained an Intimist sensibility for his entire career; even when painting portraits and landscapes, he instilled his compositions with a sense of quiet domesticity. In the early 20th century, when European art was influenced by the development of avant-garde styles such as Cubism and Futurism, many critics and artists viewed Vuillard as conservative.