1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

20th Century Composers


During the 20th century there were many innovations on how music was, created, performed and appreciated. Composers were more willing to experiment on new music forms and used technology to enhance their compositions. To learn more about the music of this period, check out these profiles of 20th century composers.

1. Milton Byron Babbitt

He was a mathematician, music theorist, educator and composer who was a prominent supporter of serialism.

2. Samuel Barber

An American composer and songwriter of the 20th century whose works reflected European Romantic tradition. Some of his famous compositions are "Adagio for Strings" and "Dover Beach."

3. Bela Bartok

Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
A teacher, composer, pianist and ethnomusicologist. His mother was his first piano teacher; he studied at the Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest. Among his famous works are "Kossuth," "Duke Bluebeard's Castle," "The Wooden Prince" and "Cantata Profana."

4. Alban Berg

An Austrian composer and teacher who adapted the atonal style. He was a student of Arnold Schoenberg; his early works reflected Schoenberg's influence. However, Berg's originality and creativity became more evident in his later works, especially in his two operas: ""Lulu" and "Wozzeck."

5. Luciano Berio

Italian composer, conductor, theorist and educator known for his innovative style. He is also instrumental in the growth of electronic music. Berio wrote instrumental and vocal pieces, operas, orchestral works and other compositions using traditional and modern techniques. His major works include "Epifanie," "Sinfonia" and the "Sequenza series." "Sequenza III" was written by Berio for his wife, the actress/singer Cathy Berberian.

6. Leonard Bernstein

An American composer of classical and popular music, a music educator, conductor, songwriter and pianist. He studied at two of the finest educational institutions in the U.S.; namely Harvard University and Curtis Institute of Music. Bernstein became the musical director and conductor of the New York Philharmonic and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. One of his most famous work is the musical "West Side Story."

7. Ernest Bloch

Ernest Bloch was an American composer and professor during the early part of the 20th century. He became music director of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory; he also taught at the Geneva Conservatory as well as the University of California at Berkeley.

8. Benjamin Britten

A conductor, pianist and a major English composer of the 20th century who was instrumental in establishing the Aldeburgh Festival in England. The original venue of the said festival was at Aldeburgh's Jubilee Hall. Eventually, the venue was moved to a building that once was a malthouse at Snape, but through the efforts of Britten, was renovated into a concert hall. Among his major works are "Peter Grimes," "Death in Venice" and ""A Midsummer Night's Dream."

9. Ferruccio Busoni

Italian/German composer and concert pianist of the 20th century. Aside from his operas and compositions for the piano, Busoni edited the works of other composers including Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt. His last opera, "Doktor Faust," was left unfinished but was later completed by one of his students.

10. John Cage

American composer of the 20th century known for his innovative, avant-garde ideas of creating and appreciating music. Many consider him a genius, though there are those who think otherwise. One of his most famous work is 4'33"; a piece where the performer is expected to remain silent for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.