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The 20th century was marked with many dramatic political, economic and social events. There was the Economic Depression (1929), World War I (1914-1918) and II (1939-1945), the Holocaust (1941-1945), the Russian Revolution (1917) and the rise of Stalin, etc.

I talked with my uncle yesterday about this nostalgia blog and apparently he doesn’t like sighing for old periods, especially the 20th century. “What is it to remember?” he said. “The wars? The millions massacres of innocent people? Slavery? Or maybe poverty?”


It is undeniable that when we look back, there is this tendency to highlight the detrimental events of a situation and say ‘we’re better the way we are now’. But there was some beauty in it, as there is in every period we’re experiencing – even if at times is hard to find it. There will be a point where next generations will sigh for 2015, because there is something in it that won’t be found again in the future.

Definitely artists have left most of this beauty in the chapters of history and contributed to what is considered good quality art nowadays. In Music, there are some legendary figures who have left an indelible mark and they are one of the reasons worth to look back again and again!

Dmitry Shostakovich



I like calling him The God, but that is a bit unfair because there were other composers equally as massive as Shostakovich. I just like him very much I guess!! Influenced by Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Hindemith and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich’s style mixed trends of post-Romanticism and neo-classical. We can see this unique style in his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934). His orchestrated work includes symphonies, with the Symphony No. 1 (1924–25) rising to prominence, concertos, ballets, operas even scores for films.

Whenever I daydream, I usually have his music as a soundtrack to my stories. Especially whenever I dream I’m in a Victorian-style ballroom with my loved one dancing, Waltz No. 2 is the perfect song:

Duke Ellington


Utan bildtext. Anm. Pianon Leenden

My mom brought back from the States two albums from Duke, The Far East Suite (1967) and one with live performances. I discovered him around my early teens, shuffling my mom’s CDs and making fun of her music taste, but Duke was not someone to make fun of. He was like, RESPECT! Although his presence is considered essential in the history of jazz, Duke referred to his genre as American music, rather than jazz. He composed thousands of songs for movies and stage plays, received a Grammy Award for his Lifetime Achievement and a Pulitzer Prize for his contribution in music after his death in 1999.

It Don’t Mean A Thing (1931), Take the “A” Train (1930), Mood Indigo (1930), I Let a Song Out of My Heart (1930) and Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (1930) are my most favorites, but because I’m in a mood for something not heard a lot of times before, here is The Single Petal of a Rose (released to the general public in 1976).

George Gershwin



Another mastermind of the 20th century, George composed the score of many films such as Shall We Dance (1937) and A Damsel in Distress (1937), stage plays and Broadway musicals like Funny Face (1927), Rosalie (1928) and Let ‘Em Eat Cake (1933). His most famous compositions are Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American In Paris (1928). He also received a Pulitzer Price award after his death in 1998 for his contribution to American Music. Like Quincy Jones said “Gershwin took jazz off the streets, dressed her up and took her to the concert hall”.

I first heard his Rhapsody In Blue – with minor alternations of course to match the mood of the story – in one of the segments of Disney’s Fantasia 2000 and it was love at first sight. Ralph Grierson plays the piano. I couldn’t find a decent copy of the video, so here is a link where you can enjoy!

Philip Glass



Another genius of this century, Philip is among the composers who developed minimal music along with Terry Riley, Steve Reich and La Monte Young. His numerous works include a variety of symphonies, concertos, soundtracks and theatre music. Since I am mainly familiar of his works in films, I discern Kundun (1997) – a film about Dalai Lama with brilliant music, directed by Martin Scorcese – The Qatsi trilogy directed by Godfrey Reggio {Koyaanisqatsi (1982), Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002)}, The Hours (2002) and The Truman Show (1998) for which Glass collaborated with another composer, Burkhard Dallwitz and both winning a Golden Globe for Best Original Score.

Philip’s work in Kundun always gives me the goosebumps:

Igor Stravinsky


83 year-old Russian composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971) conducts the New Philharmonic Orchestra during a concert of his work at the Royal Festival Hall, London, England, 1965.

83 year-old Russian composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky conducts the New Philharmonic Orchestra during a concert of his work at the Royal Festival Hall, London, England, 1965.

Another influential personality with respected compositions, Igor created the music of three ballets for which he earned worldwide recognition: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). Other works include operas like The Nightingale (1914) and Oedipus rex (1927), symphonies {Symphony in C (1940), Symphony in Three Movements (1945)}, concertos, etc. He also received two Grammys in 1962: one for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Stravinsky: Movements for Piano and Orchestra and Album of the Year for his conducts The Rite of Spring and Petrushka.

I first heard Rite of Spring in Fantasia (1940). It’s breathtaking how they blend this song around the formation and early days of the world! Similar to Gershwin, I wasn’t able to find a good link, so watch it here.

Benny Goodman



One of my favorite jazz singers!!! The King of Swing co-operated with giants like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, along with his band he performed in films like Stage Door Canteen (1943) and A Song Is Born (1948) and, of course, brought about swing. Writer Donald Clarke in his book The Rise and Fall of Popular Music (1995) stated about Benny that “it is clear in retrospect that the Swing Era had been waiting to happen, but it was Goodman and his band that touched it off”.

I can’t get enough of Sing, Sing, Sing (1937)!!!!!

Glenn Miller



Glenn goes always side by side with Benny. Like, whenever I talk about Glenn, the next person I talk about is Benny. And vice versa. His music is one of the few tints we can remember from WWII (you hear that uncle??). Glenn and his band met with big success and songs like In The Mood (1939), Moonlight Serenade (1939) and Pennsylvania 6-5000 (1940) were number 1 in music charts. His plane disappeared in December 15, 1944 while on his way to France. His body was never found.

But, like every deceased composer, he continues to live through his music.

For the end, I give you some Stardust (1943) in your hands for good luck and wish you a lovely week ❤

(The song was originally composed in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael, but Glenn’s cover is amazing, isn’t it?)

Any favorite composers of the 20th century? Who you consider an influential figure in music and why? Leave me a comment 🙂