20th Century music is defined by the sudden emergence of advanced technology for recording and distributing music as well as dramatic innovations in musical forms and styles. Because music was no longer limited to concerts, opera-houses, clubs, and domestic music-making, it became possible for music artists to quickly gain global recognition and influence.
Twentieth-century music brought new freedom and wide experimentation with new musical styles and forms that challenged the accepted rules of music of earlier periods. Faster modes of transportation allowed musicians and fans to travel more widely to perform or listen. Amplification permitted giant concerts to be heard by those with the least expensive tickets, and the inexpensive reproduction and transmission or broadcast of music gave rich and poor alike nearly equal access to high-quality music performances.
In the early 20th century, many composers, including Rachmaninoff, Richard Strauss, Giacomo Puccini, and Edward Elgar, continued to work in forms and in a musical language that derived from the 19th century. However, modernism in music became increasingly prominent and important; among the most important modernists were Alexander Scriabin, Claude Debussy, and post-Wagnerian composers such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, who experimented with form, tonality and orchestration. Busoni, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Schreker were already recognized before 1914 as modernists, and Ives was retrospectively also included in this category for his challenges to the uses of tonality. Composers such as Ravel, Milhaud, and Gershwin combined classical and jazz idioms.
Late-Romantic and modernist nationalism was found also in British, American, and Latin-American music of the early 20th century. Composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Aaron Copland,Carlos Chávez, and Heitor Villa-Lobos used folk themes collected by themselves or others in many of their major compositions.
In the early decades of the 20th century composers such as Julián Carrillo, Mildred Couper, Alois Hába, Charles Ives, Erwin Schulhoff,Ivan Wyschnegradsky turned their attention to quarter tones (24 equal pitches per octave), and other finer divisions. In the middle of the century composers such as Harry Partch and Ben Johnston explored just intonation. In the second half of the century, prominent composers employing microtonality included Easley Blackwood, Jr., Wendy Carlos, Adriaan Fokker, Terry Riley, Ezra Sims, Karlheinz Stockhausen, La Monte Young, and Iannis Xenakis.