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01.28.14 Baby's First: Music That Isn't Terrible11.22.13 Stages On Life's Way
11.03.13 Are You Metal?10.08.13 My 20th Century
10.04.13 Burzum Ranked09.26.13 What Do You See In Jazz?
09.25.13 Desert Island Discs

My 20th Century

As my interest in classical music grows stronger and stronger I am harder pressed to point to contemporary or modern works that I not only believe to be worthy of note, but also genuinely love. Here's my brief guide to 20th century artists that make my hair stand on end. Though attempt is made at historical analysis/consideration the base for all this is, of course, purely subjective. Enjoy

Urban desolation, fatalistic melancholy. Not the healthiest music to listen to, but certainly really damn good.
Electric Doom Synthesis

Violent and mystical deconstructivism in constant evolution and total alienation.
33Angelo Badalamenti
Twin Peaks

A contemporary version of the great tradition of the "suite:" disparate elements melded carefully to craft a coherent whole.

Music with the stillness and majesty of a quite lake, a winter forest. The Georg Trakl of metal.
31Judas Priest
Unleashed in the East

If rock music ever had the potential to be anything even remotely meaningful, then it is all perfectly condensed into 70s Judas Priest.
Trans-Europe Express

Pop music redeemed through thematic brilliance, Socratic irony and subtle eschatology.
Onward to Golgotha

Cavernous, impressionistic, disturbing and nihilistic, Incantation grasped the ideas and spirit of the original death metal bands yet made music that was entirely their own, using every element available to them as a genuine compositional tool.
28 Ralph Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on "Greensleeves"

Bridging the gap between the worlds of klassichemusik and volksmusik, Vaughan Williams' tales of pastoral idleness and rural awe are all the more emotional and profound in our decaying post-industrial world.

I'm sort of breaking the rules here by including a 21st century band, but they are too good to ignore. This band has shown the places metal can still go with majesty and expertise in craft. The poor commercial decision of placing a swastika on the cover of their greatest achievement may have cost them a career, but I doubt they care.
26Current 93
Thunder Perfect Mind

The only band from the whole neofolk movement to do something beyond simply writing Nazi pop songs. This band's whole career feels like one enormous conceptual undertaking. There is irony and beauty in the fact that so modern and deconstructivist an idea is used as a vehicle to powerfully address the spiritual woes of our era.
Last CD Before Doomsday

Funeral doom had incredible amounts of potential, after black metal fell many of us considered it quite naturally as the next step. Somehow, after its greatest band released its greatest album, it fizzled out, was invaded by people who didn't get it, and died. Said album remains a testament to its glory, which lay primarily in the way it used slowness as a tool for unparalleled ideas in melodic development, in order to evoke a sorrow that was profound because it was impersonal, almost metaphysical.
24Howard Shore
The Lord of the Rings Symphony

Film scoring is an interesting medium, and this man is its best practitioner.
Tago Mago

Improvisation works when the musicians involved are conscious of the end goal of their endeavors. And when they're really, really, really good.
22Sergei Prokofiev
Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67

Savage and theatrical, forward-thinking yet traditionally minded, and most importantly, deeply conscious of the importance of structure. Why weren't more composers like this?
Far Away From The Sun

Unendliche melodie anyone?
20 Sergei Rachmaninoff
The Isle of the dead, Op. 29

Stravinsky be forever damned: this is neoclassicism.
19Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians

Perhaps the "traditional" composer who best understood what minimalism could do.
Horse Rotorvator

Cold, machine-like and nihilistic, industrial's peak.
17Celtic Frost
Morbid Tales

Hellhammer/Celtic Frost are the band that emancipated metal from its roots in rock and the blues, leading it more than once through the brand new paths it could explore. Free from the communal aesthetic and the context of parties and large venues, Tom G. and co. made metal into a genre that didn't just pretend to be dark and disturbed.
16Brian Eno
Ambient 1: Music For Airports

He realized that minimalism and modern recording equipment were made for each other, and along the way managed to create some shockingly austere evaluations of modern life.
15Fates Warning
Awaken The Guardian

Mixing heavy metal's modal melodic potential with progressive rock's complex structural mechanisms, Fates Warning made metal filled, like the best myths, with the innocent awe of heroism, pure, powerful and strangely anachronistic.
14Morbid Angel
Thy Kingdom Come

With rock music finally abandoned, Morbid Angel set to work crafting labyrinthine, Lovecraftian epics of supernatural horror and metaphysical awe.
Death In The Blue Lake

The master of musical surrealism.
12Tangerine Dream

A new kind of motific development for a new kind of music. A genuinely psychedelic experience: transporting and transformational.

Few artists have ever excelled so much in capturing an atmosphere through a simple motif as is Varg Vikernes. As admirable as his compositional ability is, the "riff" is his true art, a principle he reinterprets and transforms masterfully to create some of the most evocative music to come from a popular context.
10Benjamin Britten
Four Sea Interludes from 'Peter Grimes', Op. 33a

Far more of an impressionist than he would care to admit, Britten is proof that the Debussy angle had a lot more to it than met the surface. Violent, confused and disoriented, Britten's music is the testament of a society shaken to its core by a subconscious realization of its impending downfall.
9New Order

This entry seeks to include Joy Division, but there's a reason why New Order is selected instead. Though Ian Curtis' power and charisma is undeniable, New Order is the proof that the magic of Joy Division was largely the band behind him. Austere and contemplative reinterpretations of pop music, soaked in a melancholic and detached vibe, the tunes this band crafts almost justify all the atrocities popular music had produced before them (and would produce after them, often under their "influence".) Perhaps one of the few sincere artistic evaluations of urban reality.

Contemplative minimalism perfected by a misanthropic Norwegian amateur. Oh, the magic of a post-industrial world. The Sort Vokter album is definitely included in this evaluation.
The Burning World

Apocalyptic, psychedelic, violent and ruined: possibly "rock" music's greatest band.
6Maurice Ravel
La valse

Though partially to blame for music's democratization, Ravel's magic lay in his capacity to take any element, no matter how base, and craft majestic art with it. A futurist musician if there ever was one.
5King Crimson
In The Court of The Crimson King

Though King Crimson is my favorite project of his, this entry should really be for Robert Fripp. The man has traversed it all, and his understanding of music as a language is prodigious.
4Alban Berg
Lyric Suite

Atonality and serialism were too final and fatalistic to lead to anything constructive (thus to art music's current state of flux), but Berg somehow managed to craft intense beauty from these elements, quite unlike the cold hostility of his peers.
3Jean Sibelius
Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82

A man who gave the classical formats enough fuel to run for another century, if anyone had cared to listen.
2Klaus Schulze

Schulze adopted modern instruments and the format of the album consciously and understood the potential they entailed. Perhaps no other post-WWII musician has been so adventurous and brilliant. The musicologist Charles Rosen has said in his book "The Classical Style" that truly great composers can be measured by the amount of control they exert over every element of their work, no matter how tiny. If so, then Schulze ranks amongst the greats.
1Claude Debussy
Pour le piano, L. 95

A visionary, a man who truly looked beyond. Ives' famous unanswered question was answered before he made it: Debussy. If his contemporaries had understood the sheer weight of the possibilities his music implied the 20th century may have been very, very different. Historical importance aside his best pieces are beyond this world.
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