The Sound and the Fury: A Century of Music

Series 1 - 2. Free for All

Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

This series does a great job of explaining how 20th-century composers set out to expand music, but in the process left the public behind. The catch is that when the programme gives us, say, a short snatch of incredibly spiky Boulez, it sounds almost comically inaccessible.

But we get a lucid account of how the avant garde evolved after the Second World War from an array of contributors, including Boulez himself (in rock-star sunglasses), Harrison Birtwistle and George Benjamin. The latter says feelingly of serialism – which replaced the traditional scale with a system giving all 12 notes equal weight – β€œIt became an orthodoxy. It became almost a form of totalitarianism.”

About this programme

2/3. Exploring the effects totalitarian regimes had on music during the 20th century, including Germany's prohibition of pieces written by Jews, African-Americans and communists. Plus, how a new generation of European composers such as Stockhausen ushered in avant-garde experimentation. Featuring contributions by Pierre Boulez, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Peter Maxwell-Davies, Harrison Birtwistle and John Adams.

Cast and crew


Ian MacMillan
Series Producer
Ian MacMillan